A serious interest in baking bread recently became a passion.
Naturally leavened, meaning no added yeast. Bread using only leaven made from a simple starter, a culture of the wild yeasts and bacteria that are present in the flour and air.
In reducing a much larger conversation to a snippet, the first step is to swallow the metric frog. Bread baking is done by weight, not volume, so every ingredient is measured in grams and kilograms. The culture that becomes the starter is equal amounts of flour and water. Chad Robertson suggests combining 5 pounds each of white and whole wheat flour to create a flour blend. Of course, the scale of my home baking is much smaller, so I used 2 pounds of each, which I keep in the freezer.
Measure 100 grams of water into a clear bowl. Add 100 grams of flour mix, stir thoroughly, cover lightly with towel or lid and allow it to sit for 2-3 days. The culture will begin to bubble; a natural fermentation has begun. This will become your starter as you feed and train the mixture through daily feedings of bread mix and water.
It’s not my intention in one post to minimize the science and other action involved in creating a leaven and, subsequently, baking bread. It is my intention to plant the seed that if you have an interest in world-class bread, and you don’t mind implementing very simple daily activity to get it, you, too, can accomplish it at home.
I followed Chad’s feeding, fermenting, folding, shaping and baking instructions exactly over the course of two weeks. I was anxious to see how or if my result remotely resembled the Tartine product.
I baked the first loaf in a 500 degree oven. It’s the smaller loaf in the photo. I baked the second loaf immediately thereafter, instantly reducing the heat to 450 degrees, per his instructions; the larger and more well-defined loaf was the result. The loaves had substantial, crisp crusts and a fantastic, chewy hole-filled crumb.
Great bread is my favorite food category. I’ll be experimenting every week with other flour blends and different styles of loaves. The success of this experiment is a revelation; I can’t imagine not having naturally leavened bread (baguette, boule, Ciabatta, pizza dough, English muffins and brioche) at home.
Your effort will be generously rewarded.