Recently, I was thinking why there are more famous Master Chefs in the world than there are Master Bakers. A Michelin-starred restaurant cannot have poor quality bread to be earning a Michelin star. No way. But the issue here for me is: Can bread be a stand-alone meal, complete in all its nutrition, but more importantly, in its artistry and flair, technique, and satisfaction, such that once you have it, your body and mind do not desire other food?
Recently, also, with my post of the apple and molasses Swedish Rye Bread here at TFL and Sourdough Companion, Maedi and I were exchanging views regarding ying and yang of bread. In his view, ying and yang is manifested in each loaf we made either at the bread level or at how we enjoy the bread (with a topping on it, or with a meal or soup, etc.). When it is at the bread level, this could include building unique ingredients into the bread to create interesting flavours and textures. I said that, however, many experienced sourdough bakers seem to go for the "pure" flavor of flour in bread and, therefore, would play with fermentation potentials in flour rather than with the combination possibilities of non-flour ingredients. On page 145 of [i]Bread[/i], Master Baker Hamelman notes, "... it is my hope that every baker will learn the subtle art of fermentation - the truest skill of the baker - before exploring bread formulas whose ingredients mask the taste of fermented flour."
I don't intend to make a bigger discussion here than I am capable of. I can only say that, purist or not, I find both ideas attractive; ie, the idea of trying to let the true flavour of flour shine and the idea of building interesting ingredients into the bread for extra textures and flavours. This bread is my attempt on both front (fronts?). So, thank you, Maedi, for your thoughts and for crystalising my thoughts for me.
I wish my daughter were here to read my draft and help me out with whatever needs to be corrected with my grammar and sentences. She is only gone for a few days but I am already missing her. The very loud music of Van Morrison streams out of my tea room as I write. The music energizes me. I am in love with it and I can feel my heart throbbing, almost painful. My daughter would enjoy this music too. The boys are playing golf today. When they return, they will bring me fish for dinner tonight, as they always do.
Here is this bread:
[color=red][b]Pain au Levain with Herbs and Tomato [/b][/color]
This bread was very satisfying to make. I was surprised at how much oven spring I got and how open the crumb was, considering that this was a 68% hydration dough. What has helped me a lot is the understanding of at what stage I should take the starter to mix my dough. For the pain au levain style of bread that I make, I like to take it as soon as it domes. If it domes but when I touch it, it "shrinks" and flattens, the starter has gone too mature for me. No doubt it can still leaven dough, but I don't think it is at its most rigorous.
The crumb was beautiful but the lighting at the time when I took the photos did not allow the creaminess in color to show through. (It is a constant battle trying to have enough light but not too much at the same time to do justice for the color of the crumb.) The crumb had a very delicate flavour. The sour tang, while mild, is there. If I were to change anything, however, I would perhaps increase the rye and whole wheat flour components of the dough from 3% and 6%, respectively, to 5% and 10%, or even higher, in which case the hydration may need to be adjusted.
[b][u]for the dough[/u][/b]
[b][u]for the herb mixture[/u][/b] - or any herbs combination of your choice. Mince the following [b]except the tomato[/b]:
Total dough weight was 1320 g and overall dough hydration was 68%.
[b][u][color=red]Main points of my method[/color][/u][/b]
This levain bread was fun to make, satisfying for my mind and body -
As I was finishing the draft for this post, my husband walked into my tea room with a bottle of Mt Pleasant single vineyard Lovedale 1996 Semillon, his favourite. I decided that the fish would have to wait for another night. For now, all that I can manage is -
[b]A piece of today's bread with tomato, basil, olive oil, and Margaret River rock salt[/b]
A satisfying day for my mental and physical indeed.