Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There will be bread

Well, no UPS job. It seems I was not the first to call back and so missed out. The immediate feeling of relief I felt at the news tells me it is probably for the best. Back to the quest I guess.

The start of my breads rotation was not auspicious. Our first task was to feed the levain. What seemed simple enough turned into disaster. For those who are not quite up on the terminology, a levain is a natural yeast starter similar to a sourdough starter. Basically you follow a procedure to build your levain "mother" and if you feed her and keep her happy she can produce for you indefinitely. There are claims by some bake shops to have levains or sourdough starters that are decades old. Anywho, to feed the levain you basically take a piece of the "old levain" and add water and flour to it and either use the remainder for bread or if it has acidified (become too sour) you discard it. Well, I weighed out the portion for our new levain and discarded the remainder in the compost while my partner weighed out the water. I then set about oiling a fresh container for the levain while my partner mixed the new batch. Checking in on her, she expressed some consternation at the consistency of the levain and wondered why it seemed so wet. Perhaps, she mused, I had not weighed the flour correctly? At this point I expressed that I had not weighed any flour at all, eliciting a face of greatest fear from her. Apparently she had grabbed what she thought I had set out as our weighed flour and what, as it turned out, had been someone else's flour...mixed with whole wheat flour...and salt...and commercial yeast...
At this point, the full gravity of the situation came crashing in on us, and our chef instructor. We had ruined the levain in the bowl (commercial yeast, and salt, and probably whole wheat flour will do that). The remainder of the levain was in the compost. Well, cover you eyes here all you squeamish folks. We pulled the mother from the compost. Yes we did. Sorry, I know its gross, but it would have meant a week, at least, without product. The chef washed it off and thank goodness it was on the top of the pile and not completely smothered in who knows what.. There was thankfully enough to begin anew. The moral of the story:

1. Mis en place your own shit or at least check with any partner you are working with that all ingredients are correct.
2. Don't discard any levain before the new one is started.

Sigh..at least there will be bread. Oh, and I got to stick my fingers into boiling sugar today. Flex!

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