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Here is where my obsession started.

The baker and author of this book also loves surfing so we are sympatico from the beginning.  He makes artisan bread in San Francisco and tells you how to do it at home.  Preferably from a “wild yeast starter” aka “sourdough leaven”. Well how could I possibly resist? Complicated? Dedication and obsession required?  I’m all over it!  

The process…from the book “A culture is created when flour & water are combined and the mocroorganisms – wild yeasts & bacteria present in the flour, in the air and on the baker’s hands – begin to ferment spontaneously.”  I kinda feel like a microbiologist! Scientists are my heroes so this is great.

We start

Basically you mix up half white and half wheat flour. This will be used for the starter and for later feedings.  I mixed up the flour with warm water in a jar with my hand, until the consistency was like a thick batter. (He doesn’t give proportions, I had to discover that on my own) Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a cool place for about 5 days. Smell it every day. Yes your nose is very involved in this process.  Also start to look for bubbles forming.  I was very anxious during these first few days. I was worried that it wasn’t working, that I did it wrong, that it would be rotten. Don’t worry. It is a natural process that should work regardless of your anxiety!  The smell will be yeasty and then more sour as it gets closer to being ready. He describes the smell as stinky cheese, but I’ve smelled some very stinky cheese in France and this wasn’t even close!

Sucess! Bubbles!

 There may be a layer of dark water at the top, or a crusty darker layer, this is normal. When you get to this stage, dump out about 80% of the mixture and feed it.  Feeding:  equal amounts water & white/wheat flour mix. Add to starter, mix it together and re-cover and let it sit again. Repeat this process every 24 hours, about the same time every day. (Didn’t I say dedication?) You will notice that after the feedings, the starter will rise up and then collapse after a few hours and there will be bubbles.  It will be fresh and flowery smelling in the beginning and then get more sour as the day progresses.
He uses it at the fresh and flowery stage for a more delicate flavor in the bread. If you like a more sour flavor in your bread, use an older starter.  I really suggest you get the book, or research online about wild yeast starters because actually using the starter in a bread is an entire process on it’s own.  I will be posting the bread I made (which turned out beautifully) in another post….maybe tomorrow.