Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Experiments in Rye

It's not enough that I cultivated one wild yeast starter. After reading Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" I decided I'd better cultivate a separate Rye levain too. My first starter, a white wheat levain, was started with a high percentage of Rye since it has a higher ash content(good minerals & other yeast food)and possibly more wild yeast. After getting it started, though, I have fed it with High Gluten organic White Flour. So far, all the breads I have made have been predominantly made from White Flour, either AP or High Gluten. Now I want to try some high percentage Rye breads which seem to need to be leavened by the higher acid Rye levain that I'm building now. I'm on Day 3 of building and so far so good. OK, so I may have cheated and not followed Leader's exact process since I started with a piece of my white starter instead of capturing new yeast only with Rye Flour. But, I figure that pretty soon with the amount of Rye I'm using each day, it will be all Rye. I think by tomorrow it will be built to the point that I can start refreshing it on a daily or weekly basis depending on my baking schedule.

Since I like to be organized and track my progress, I'm keeping an Excel spreadsheet charting the daily progress of my starters. Some day, maybe even later today if I can figure out how to do it, I will put a link to the spreadsheet in here somewhere for anyone interested enough to check it out. For now, though, here's the idea in brief. I am keeping track of such things as the amount of starter:water:flour that I use in each daily refreshing of the starter. By the way, for those who don't know, refreshing is done to feed the yeast and allow it to keep propagating so I'll always have a starter to use when I want to bake bread. I also track the time of day, temperature at feeding time, 12/24 hour volume increase, flavor and aroma at 12 and 24 hours, and make notes about the bread that I bake each time I use the starter. With my wheat based starter I shoot for a 1:3:3 ratio and 100% hydration (equal weights in grams of water and flour). The Rye starter will be stiffer, about 80% hydration. Sorry, this is probably pretty dry reading for anyone who isn't obsessed with bread, but I'm doing this as much to explain it to myself so I can understand it better, as much as for anyone else's benefit. I promise there will be pictures and recipes coming soon, once I dig out the camera and have time to bake again. I guess I'd better get moving if I want to take part in the Bread Baking Day challenge for this month and do a festive bread of some kind.

Oh yeah, one more thing...reading about bread in the several books and blogs that I use, there is only a loose kind of consistency in the use of the words starter, levain, leaven, sourdough etc. I'll try to stick to using either levain or starter, and what I'm talking about is the wild yeast cultures that I've captured, cultivated and now maintain by feeding regularly and then use to raise or leaven my breads instead of commercial yeast. I don't have any problem with using commercial yeast, it's just a cool and fun and addicting little home science experiment to do it with something I've cultivated myself. Thanks to Susan at wildyeastblog for exhorting us to weigh our ingredients instead of measuring by volume! My bread baking efforts have improved radically since I took that advice.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Addicting... yes, I agree! I'm looking forward to seeing what you bake for BreadBakingDay.