Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dolphins and Pain au Levain

I found a wonderful article recently on, which discussed scientists research into ways to communicate with alien life. The Wild Dolphin Project in Florida trains for this possible future discussion by trying to communicate with Dolphins. The groups studies dolphins from an anthropological perspective, considering things such as, are the dolphins more responsive if humans communicate "good manners" by swimming in formation with the pod first and whether they recognize a sense of self. The project sounds fascinating, and the article quotes scientists who ultimately conclude that we are not ready for extraterrestrial contact because we cannot even effectively communicate with intelligent life forms on our own planet.

Trying Again!
Now, armed with my understanding of baker's percentages and obsessively weighing my ingredients, I decided to try Bread Cetera's Pain au Levain recipe again. I have never succeeded with this recipe, but with a few tweaks I decided to conquer it. I wanted to use my unbleached flour sourdough starter, which has been neglected because the whole wheat starters are faster-acting and happier than it. See the results here.

One of the interesting things that I found in Lisa Rayner's book, Wild Bread, was an incredibly helpful graph that shows what sourdough starter should look like over time (Rayner 35). Since I did not want to copy her page, I decided to try to make my own. I forgot to take the most recent picture, but this is an approximation of what starter looks like:
Directly after being fed.
Half way through the rising process
Next, the starter would rise even more and become increasingly spongy.
Final Stage of the Process
Although this is a different starter (my white Portland starter), you can see the change between this and the previous set. This is when you should feed it. After that the starter gets a dark layer of alcohol (hooch) on top of it. This means that there is not enough food and oxygen for the starter to keep feeding. You can feed it at this point if you let your starter sit too long. Pour off the hooch first, then feed it. I am going to try to make the graph that accompanies this as well as adding the rest of the pictures.

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