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the starter

November 28, 2010

Hello there.  This site will mainly be about my explorations of breadbaking.  This will include loaves, hearth breads,  flatbreads , breakfast breads,  pastries and so on.     Many of the breads  I’ve made have been and will continue to be influenced by the foods I grew up with in South Texas and the flavors and aromas in what is called a “southwest”  style , a very generic description if you asked me.  The techniques and procedures I use come  from any number of books in my collection.  In due time,  I’ll give credit to the authors .  My hat off to those master breadbakers who also write great authoritative books. I’m in complete awe of their work.   So no, I am not trained as a baker, but I do have the luxury of baking bread regularly at the private restaurant I am employed .  I also bake at home whenever the time allows or an opportunity presents itself, like when I expect friends or family over for a visit. That’s the perfect excuse to try out a new idea. I can get immediate honest  feedback.

This initial  post  reminds me of the  first and only sourdough starter  I’ve ever done.   I was a little reluctant to start it because alot more care and work was needed than the direct or indirect doughs  I was accostumed to.  Would I be able to keep it alive and thriving?  How would it fare in my bread?  How long would I keep it going?    One of my managers at the restaurant had asked me if I’d like to try out a European black bread recipe.  Sure I said , the challenge was a welcome turn from the breads I’d been making. I was ready to be disappointed at the sight of a no rise,  dense loaf coming out of the oven. The flavor I’d worry about secondarily. To my surprise the crumb and crust  were very satisfactory.  I was amazed at the complex flavors and nice toothsome texture.  To be sure, many steps and procedures were needed to build that memorable loaf, but it was well worth it.  You black bread aficianados know it can involve  sourdough starters, the cracking of rye grain, soakers,  and so on. If that bread had turned out to be a flop, at least  I would have learned a lesson or two.  With no master baker standing over my shoulder steering me away from disaster, I had to rely on previous experience to dauntlessly move me ahead.  There were several forks in that bumpy road. For one,  the amount of water called for seemed too much though I knew it to be a wet dough.  I cut back to the amount I felt it required and in the end it proved to be  a good call.  The manager, who comes from a Danish baking family,  gave me thumbs up on the bread. The other chefs and cooks also generously complimented me.  The restaurant ended up using it to serve with a pate’ .  In epilogue , the sourdough starter lived on to be used in a couple of  more loaves of different kinds of bread,  a cherry walnut loaf for one.  That loaf in a big way taught me to begin developing a baker’s intuition, gut feeling, whatever you want to call it.  At the moment I am focusing on bread with sponge starters and pre-ferments but the call of the wild sourdough is beckoning me.   I guess you can say this blog  called me so I can document my baking and so that I can  make sense of the why’s on all levels. Maybe it’s the wild sourdough in disguise calling me. I must admit, I’m still intimidated by it despite my initial success.  I intend to expand this very rudimentary blog  to include recipes , photos, and other elements to make it more user friendly.  Breadmaking more than many kinds other cooking tends to bring out the Plato , Mark Twain or whoever your own tendency is. Contemplating our situation is one way to pass the time while we’re waiting for the dough to rise or bake in the oven.  Imagine a saute cook  manipulating multiple pans in organized frenzy so that his sauces and entrees arrive on the plates  in perfect timing.  Chances are  he is not pondering  the meaning of life at the moment. Though I’m sure  that to many, sauteing is very second nature to them, and arriving at a eureka moment during the flipping of  pans  or adjusting a flame happens from time to time.   We can agree that making connections between seemingly disparate things or ideas is one way to understand the world at whatever depth or heighth you want to take it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rita Ricardo permalink
    November 28, 2010 4:28 pm

    Even though I do not cook or bake, I sense the deep connection that you have to both the processes and the products, and I find this inspiring! Health arises from such as sense of connection. May you always write and remain as connected to the subject of your writing, and in all endeavors that you may undertake.

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