Natural Starter

The last year & ¾ of my time in Seattle – I was in production baking – specifically artisan bread & breakfast pastries for a great local, sustainable organic brunch café. As you can imagine, I often came home with baked goods, whether they were extras, fun experiments, day-olds, imperfect, whatever. There was no shortage of bread in my household.

Now that I’m no longer baking bread on a daily basis, it pains me to buy a loaf of bread. Initially the notion made me turn my nose up in disdain, wondering when the bread was baked, how fresh was it really, scouring the ingredient list & getting nostalgic about the bread I used to make by the dozens. I don’t mean to be such a bread snob, but it’s hard to go back once you’ve been there every step of the process, from mising (it’s definitely not proper, but by “mising“, I do mean to make the mise in mise en place, a progressive verb (; ) out the ingredients, initial mixing of the dough, autolysing, mixing it again, folding the dough after a rise, then bouling, resting & finally forming the dough into bâtardes. Without getting too overdramatic, in short, I tend to sort of quickly meditate throughout each step & one of the extremely satisfactory feelings I have, is when I turn the loaves: the opening of the oven door, the whoosh of heat, steam & scent of baked bread emanating out. The crusts that fissure the bread, splitting at the scores left by the lame. It’s a beautiful thing, culminated by taking the hot loaves out of the oven, dusting off the encrusted excess flour & setting them out on the cooling racks. Happiness.

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Anyway, as you can imagine. The call to start baking bread at home.. for the home; was strong. But what sort to make? An extremely versatile bread staple in our household is sourdough bread. After browsing starter recipes, I found this one. I’m on day 4 of building my starter & I am really excited. Whenever I feed or stir the starter while my fiancé is around, he wrinkles his nose at it (mostly out of jest; he’s been in the industry cooking for nearly a decade & he’s never had the interest or patience to bake), whereas I excitedly crow over the yeast/bacterial activity. I mean, what a beaut!

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This is how my budding starter looked this morning before changing the hydration levels. I truly love the process! It’s as simple as 13g (½ oz.) of flour & 27g (1 oz.) of water, stirring, keeping it covered & storing it somewhere warm to encourage activity. I’ve been storing the starter (I haven’t named her yet, any recommendations?) above the fridge (it’s been cool lately, I’m gunning for optimal warm spots in the kitchen). I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress of my starter; she’s bubbling along quite nicely. I look forward to using her in bread (:

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