Wednesday, May 09, 2001


as promised, today i'm starting a pain de campagne rustique, a bread made with natural leavens.

many recipes for this kind of loaf start with a firm dough. however, i prefer a more liquid starter, one of equal parts flour and water. i start with 4 oz. flour. and i mean oz., measured by weight on a scale. i can't emphasize this enough -- weigh all of your ingredients, even the liquids! get yourself a nice scale if you need one. there are many kinds at many price ranges.

so here's my starter recipe:

2 oz. organic rye flour
2 oz. organic whole wheat flour (neither bread nor pastry, just regular all-purpose whole wheat)
4 oz. water

i advise that you don't use tap water, which has chlorine. and that might inhibit the natural yeasties we are trying to capture from the air. i personally use evian or volvic water. don't laugh! some believe you should make this starter in a non-metal bowl with a wooden spoon, as well. many have told me it doesn't make any difference, so see what works for you.

i beat this mixture together for a quick 200 strokes in a medium bowl and then cover with plastic wrap. put it in a warm-ish (somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees) place for 24-48 hours. in the winter, it will definitely be 48 hours. in the summer, in nice warm humid weather, however, it could be as little as 24 hours.

how do you know when it's ready? the starter will have risen slightly, or even doubled. it will have a light froth on top, and be filled with tiny bubbles throughout. if you were to stir it gently, you might even see a heavy layer of liquid on the bottom, known as "hooch." the starter should smell tangy, like buttermilk, or a wet dog, but in a pleasant way.

if it smells horrible, then you've caught some nasty beasties with your good yeasties. at this point, most people toss the starter and try again. this isn't always necessary, since most of the time but not always the good yeasties will engage in a darwinian struggle with the nasty beasties and win. on a few occasions, the yeasties will lose. so the choice is yours. if it smells bad -- your entire kitchen will just stink unbearably -- you can take the safe route and toss the starter, or trust in darwin and continue on. you might say it's a test of non-faith. . . .

posted by fortune | 12:07 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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