When last we left “Mr. Blob” he has helped us to create a Pain de Campagne that I’m pretty proud of. The problem is that he needs daily feeding. Unfortunately, I need to lose weight, not to gain it, so I simply can’t bake bread every day. On top of that, I kind of owe the nice people who pay me for my broadcast expertise 50 or 60 hours of my time every week and who am I to piss off the boss. So, what can I do with my pet blob to make everyone happy?
Glad you asked! It’s actually surprisingly easy to keep up a levain culture when you don’t want to worry about it every day. Here’s the deal:
First, after you’ve made a bread (or just decided that you are burned out on baking; or stood on the damn scale and know exactly what happened to your once shapely bod; or, whatever) grab your levain bucket, scale, and a unperforated ziplock bag. Weigh out 300 grams of levain, toss it in the bag, zip it up, and label it with the date. This last part is important because it will only store in the fridge for around a month, max. If you find it 6 months later, ya ain’t got culture anymore – all ya got is a dead blob. So date it and do what I say at least once a month.
DON’T RINSE YOUR LEVAIN TUB! THAR’S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS! You don’t want to rid yourself of any of the work you did to build the culture. (Special Jewish note to keep with the blog theme: When Passover comes, treat it like the rest of your leavening but remember, if you sell it to some Rabbi, he may just not give it back!)
A couple of days before you are ready to bake (right, you need to know 2 days in advance that you need bread, ha!) pull it out of the fridge and it should still have some nice spongy bubbles in the bag. Like this:
Measure out 100g of whole wheat flour and 400g of white:
Put 200g of the levain into your (un-rinsed) levain tub, add the 500g of flour your just measured, add 400 g of 95 degree F water, and stir it all up. Cover the levain tub and what you’ve got should come to somewhere near the 1 liter line on the tub. This is a terrible picture but here’s mine:
24 hours or so later, just like when we first grew Mr. Blob, our high-culture dough Golem – lo and behold! It has grown back up to its old self; bubbly, frothy, and right around 2.5 – 3 liters. I was pretty darn excited when it worked, to be honest. But, ta da!!! Here he is.
A quick look from above reveals a beautiful sponge just like the original culture.
All of that was just “day 1”; but I said you needed 2 days. On the morning of day 2, feed the levain just like you do with any other daily feeding: keep 100g, throw away the rest; add 100 g wheat and 400 g white flour; mix in 400 g of 95 degree water; stir; cover; store. Seven or 8 hours later, you are all set to bake!