With spring in my step, there is even more hope for my bread. Despite the first arrivals of spring greens, I have not been diverted from my bread fixation. I haven’t stopped experimenting since I got back from bread boot camp. I’m getting good with the various doughs, judging what’s right given our noble but wonky organic unbleached bread flour from the Moulin Bleu, my temperamental (never hot enough!) oven and the timing of our days. I’ve added a stone to my oven, invested in proper pans and a thermometer that works. I’ve gotten to know my Hobart on a new level and my favourite countertop is now the wooden block, best for slapping dough against; I’m constantly covered in flour. In fact, there is flour in every crack and crevice of my kitchen now. I’m reconsidering my black wardrobe.
However, as my bread tests move along, I have still not settled on one type of dough or starter for my baguette. I’m happy with my flavoured breads (mushroom bread and wild herb fougasse for instance) which involve very different, but simple enough doughs. They are already flying off the shelves at the market, where I do a fresh bread day on Saturday, frozen the rest of the week. But when it comes to making not so plain, plain bread, it gets a little more complicated. When you want sour tang and some chew, that proper airy texture, all the variables take on a greater importance. It seems that it really comes down to the starter for flavour. So, I’ve got old doughs and ferments that I’m playing with, but my new obsession is my natural starter named ‘Leonard’.
I’m convinced he will give me good bread once he’s matured some. And yes, I am tending to him way better than my plants - making sure he’s fed, not too hot or cold. He’s now a week old and he’s been fun to nurture. It seems second nature when it comes to a baby levain. It’s clear to me now that this is the kind of mother I was meant to me. It’s easy to love a levain when you love bread. Plus: low maintenance, no diapers, a kid that gets its legs in weeks - after which you only need to feed occasionally, and he will keep giving back indefinitely if you are moderately good to him. It’s still early though. He better perform. C’mon Leonard.
Just in case, I’m starting a new one under slightly different conditions, this time with a more masculine name, hoping for vigour and a different character. I’m thinking wisdom and an artistic sensibility is less what a starter needs than pure strength and an unbridled surge of activity. Open, diverse and complex, but under control, all somehow harmonious and balanced, with a bit of magic – that’s what I’m after. What a game. Why not make it a bit of a competition between guys?
I haven’t found the proper name for the new guy yet - not that it really matters I guess. But treating it like the little sphere of life it is and giving it importance in my life with a name can only help. I think François would like ‘Rambo’ or whatever I call him to come out on top; he is jealous of Leonard as it is. I will take all the help (and fun) I can get out of my crazy ambitious bread regimen. Besides, this stuff does make for good dinner conversation at the end of the day. In certain circles like ours, anyway.