Monday, May 15, 2006

Dan Lepard's Leaven

Every year, at some point, I start in to make a leaven for sourdough. The leaven or biga or starter or callitwhatyouwill goes well, frothing and cavorting and making merry in its jar, emitting more or less sour scents and heaving to be useful. I make the bread and put it to bake, on a stone/ not on a stone/ under a hood/ naked in the oven, and time after time it comes out heavy and close textured. I, after all that, swear it is the very twin of the superloaf from Poilâne, but I know in my heart that is not true.

This year I have two new books, one by Rose Prince (The New English Kitchen) and one by Dan Lepard (The Handmade Loaf). Rose Prince is the sister of Sam Clark, who with her husband, also Sam Clark (really), runs an excellent London restaurant called Moro, and they are the authors of the eponymous cookbook Moro. In it they detail how they make their sourdough bread, greatly praised by Rose Prince. It starts with a bunch of organic red grapes, 500g of organic unbleached strong white bread flour and 1 litre water. You need a rolling pin and a bucket and you have to feed it twice a day for two weeks. I stopped reading at that point but promise to return.

Dan Lepard is a baker and his book is lovely. He travels all over Europe and the Old Soviet Empire learning about bread from country people. His photographs show bread made in his home oven, which has exactly the same temperature problems as mine, and his bread is light looking with a good open texture and lots of holes. I have started in to make his leaven. Here we go:

Day 1
50g water at 20º C
2 rounded tsp rye flour
2 rounded tsp strong white flour
2 rounded tsp currants or raisins
2 rounded tsp live low-fat yoghourt

(actually I had sultanas so I hope they are all right)

Mix all together in a Kilner jar. Leave at room temperature (approx 20º C – I didn’t check the room temperature)

Day 2
50g water at 20º C
2 rounded tsp rye flour
2 rounded tsp strong white flour

Stir the above into the leaven, starting with the water. Cover and leave again at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 3
100g water at 20º C
4 rounded tsp rye flour
4 rounded tsp strong white flour

Method as above.

This will go on for 5 days in total. His instructions are incredibly detailed, to the extent that I am worried about the sultanas. The leaven should be ready for use at the end of the week, so next weekend I shall make a loaf with it and we will see the results.


Anonymous said...

Bakerina also speaks very hightly of D. Lepard. His books seem to be less available here. Got one from the library, but it didn't have much bread. I'm thinking of trying his crumpets.

I am always starting sourdoughs, using them for awhile, and then getting too lazy to look after them properly. I will watch yours with interest.

I thought sultanas were raisins. What are they? I think this is another one of my trans-atlantic-streaky bacon type confusions.

Liz said...

My sourdoughs always die after a short while through neglect. I should really have another go - the Kilner jar method sounds like it will be a lot more successful than my mixing bowl/cling film one, which is prone to growing mould.

Have you read Jeffrey Steingarten's essay on sourdough? It was so full of marvel at the complicatedness of it all that it's inspired me to give up; I'm convinced I'm never going to be able to achieve a proper open-textured loaf at this rate without a good stone, a steam oven and magical wild yeasts.

June said...

Sultanas are seedless and golden coloured; raisins are a bit bigger, dark brown and seeded; currants are not worth bothering about, but they get their name from Corinth in Greece, which is moderately interesting. Collectively they are all known as 'raisins'.

June said...

I think the Jeffery Steingarten essay is from his first book, the one I loaned to someone because I thought it was so brilliant and they never gave back to me. Harrumphhh. I do wonder if I should have run about the garden with the jar trying to catch wild yeasts but it seems to be working quite well at the moment. The Outlaw Cook has some interesting things to say about wild yeasts too. Steam oven - I think a plant sprayer works quite well, certainly makes a satisfying whishhhh!

Anonymous said...

Aha! We call them "golden raisins"

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