Sourdough. It's the answer I've been looking for for years.
Recently, prior to the opening of my new restaurant, I've been experimenting with bread. I want everything served to have a link to the local surroundings. Not just a nod. But an intimate bond to the terrain in which it comes from. I have amazing organic stoneground flours to work with, unbleached and natural. I can use spring water from the hills surrounding, and sea salt from the coast not too far north. Where does my yeast come from? Most of it, in packets or begged over the bakery counter from my local supermarket.
How disppointing, that final, living link. The one cog in the machine that makes it all work. Tied to the supermarket.
Time to change all that. I've been meaning to nurture a leaven for a while now. Ever since I read about Steingarten's effort (in which volume I can't remember) on making a New York Sourdough. I love the elegance. The chance to hunt wild yeast. So much more ephemeral than picking a blackberry...
So. I did my research. Comparing various methods and recipes I set my starter going.
Mix. Feed. Rest. Feed. Rest. Feed. and so on.
I started it with four wild bullaces, with their natural bloom still chalky blue on the surface.
Day 5, it started to smell just like Edelweiss (a wonderful Weissbeer I'm rather partial to.) and also unfortunately a little whiff of banana, which my future wife was not impressed with.
Day 9. Every day now it foams up the side of the jar as if it wants to get out there and do stuff.
Day 10. Knead, Nurture, Wait. Shape. Wait. Slash. Bake.
Day 10. Eat some of the best bread I've ever made. Tangy, individual, irresistable.
If this leaven ever dies, I shall be mortifed (or I'll start it again using the sloes which are so abundant this year). My life has just become slave to a 500g kilner jar.