This week's guest editor is Chad Robertson, the man behind San Francisco's über-popular Tartine Bakery. He'll be walking us through how to make one of the Porridge Breads from his latest book, Tartine 3, and sharing bits of baking knowledge along the way.
Today: Chad talks to us about the importance of growing and maintaining a good starter -- it's the first step to making his signature loaf.
Bread baking is all about managing fermentation, and the starter and leaven are integral to this process. Leaven imbues both flavor and form to the final loaf. I have found that a “younger” leaven with very little acidity is ideal. Here, it lends a sweet, almost nutty undertone rather than the sour, vinegary notes often associated with sourdough breads. In order to manage wild yeasts and bacteria, you must maintain a consistent routine and “feed” your starter regularly, thereby “training” it to be active and predictable. Feed it once every 24 hours, ideally in the morning, and watch it rise and fall throughout the course of the day.
The leaven is a portion of your starter. When the leaven is ready, it will float in water, a testament to the internal carbon dioxide activity. The leaven should smell sweet, in an overripe fruit sort of way. Ultimately, the leaven imparts a nuanced depth of flavor to the final loaf of bread and helps give it its springy form.
625 grams white bread flour
625 grams whole wheat bread flour
Slightly warm water
Photos by Chad Robertson