My baking focus has lately been predominantly on my sourdough starter maintenance and maximizing fermentation, and I’ve made some of the best bread I can remember (all the bread pictures in this post were made with this starter). This is somewhat a continuation of my Managing Starter Fermentation post that I wrote quite a while ago, but pinpoints on followding my process of initial feeding, watching the rise to peak, building a levain and finally discarding a portion of my sourdough starter over the course of a day.
This entry is a short interlude that doesn’t contain a bread formula, but rather, an accompaniment to just about any of the loaves baked here. I ate this with a recently baked whole wheat loaf made with fresh milled flour, my sourdough waffles and also my go-to white sourdough formula but I’m also eager to try it out on my walnut levain. Ricotta is incredibly versatile and you can find recipes abound, but as I’ve recently discovered it tastes far superior to store bought options when freshly made at home with good quality milk.
Fall is coming, actually, it already arrived at the doorstep and asked to come inside. It doesn’t quite feel like it just yet but I see the signs: long and brooding shadows, squash and apples at the market, trees changing from dark green to slightly orange and red, and of course that innate desire to make food with a hearty slant to it: whole wheat sourdough, butternut squash risotto, soup, whole wheat pasta and an apple pie or pear tart. I absolutely love my 100% whole wheat sourdough recipe, I’ve made it many times at this point, but given the transitory nature of fall something in-between was calling, something not quite all of one, but a mix of several. Besides, there is plenty of room on the spectrum between a pure white and a pure whole wheat sourdough, maybe a fifty-fifty or forty-sixty. I like that, a fifty-fifty.
This entry originally appeared in the seventeenth issue of Bread Magazine.
“You’re so crazy,” I heard my wife whisper in the background as I unearthed the great red beast from its box marked “Extremely Heavy.” The beast, a GrainMaker Model No. 116 hand cranked mill, was carefully packaged and shipped across the country from a small place in the Midwest where everything was made and assembled by hand. It exuded quality and craftsmanship. As I placed the large, shiny apparatus on my kitchen counter I tried to hold back my excitement and eagerness to start baking with fresh milled flour.
I have childhood memories of my dad trying desperately to grow fig trees in our backyard here in the dry and hostile desert. Every couple of years he would plant a new tree, watch as it would grow a few seasons, shed some fruit, and then inevitably a cold winter would come along and take all that hard work like it never existed. Nowadays each winter he covers his fig trees with burlap and Christmas lights that are ever-on (yes, it’s true) to keep them warm. A true Italian Christmas tree, if you will. They seem to live a bit longer but they definitely do not thrive like they do in a temperate climate.
With all this reminiscing, and since I talk about my dad I wanted to give you a mental image of him and us back then, you’ll have to bear with me through the next photo…