Ingredients for a fine handmade pizza

This article was written for a UK audience – we will soon publish this article in American English for the US audience, with links to US vendors for some of the essentials you are going to need.

Although pizza dough is just flour, salt and water with a little leavening agent – if you use plain flour, table salt, cold freshly drawn tap water and an old dog end of yeast the chances are your product will be rubbish. If you use stringy cheap as cheese tinned tomatoes, expect a stringy sauce the will slop sauce over your best shirt, and get between your teeth.  If you use bad cheese, it won’t become suddendly wonderful after baking. No – resolve to use pretty good or the best ingredients, if you can afford them, because them the success of the end result is dependent upon you developing your pizzailo skills, and you can’t blame the ingredients.  Using the same ingredients again and again means you get a chance to hone your skills without experimental variation scuppering the learning process.  As a matter of principle, you should also tour your region’s best pizzerias sampling many pizzas with family, friends and work colleagues because its all about the journey – and there’s no better form of learning than social eating. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their ingedients and watch their processes and skills, let them show off!

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Here’s one I made earlier: Blue Cheese & Black Olive

The Water – Draw the tap water into a jug or pan the night before, and let is stand overnight (loosely covered) to allow any dissolved chlorine to escape – then use a cheap kitchen thermometer and some boiled water to bring the water temperature up to 26-28ºC

The Salt – Get some unrefined sea salt.  I use ground Sel de Guerande from Le Paludier. It is already fairly well ground so dissolves in water quickly.  I tend to add it dry after I’ve begun to mix the dough, without issues.  Table salt has all sorts of nasty additives as you’ll have read about in our blog post “The Salt of the Earth“.

The Flour – I used to think flour was flour was flour.  Well – it isn’t.  There are more varieties of wheat flour available than there are countries in the world, and many more grain species than wheat. It is safest to do what the Italians do which is to start with Caputo Blue “00” flour (it comes in 1kg and 25kg bags) which is relatively “soft” and will give you an elastic dough, and learn to do good pizza with that.  The move on to Caputo Red and others.  I think good starting points also include Barillo “00” and other Italian “00” flours.

The Yeast – Of course it would be nice if we all made sourdough pizza bases.  I bake 50 loaves of bread every other Friday, including mostly sourdough.  But when I’m cooking up pizza from scratch even I do not reach the heady heights of homebrew sourdough pizza bases.  Just use Doves Farm Quick Yeast – it should be £1.50-3.50.  It works really well – you need about 1 teaspoon per kilo of flour.  We are not all Franco Mancy, but they are.

The Tomatoes are also all important.  Buy some tinned San Marzano tomatoes. These are sweet saucy sauce tomatoes that melt into instant pizza sauce when squeezed through your fingers. San Marzano tomatoes are grown near the base of Vesuvius near Napoli and are an essential component to creating the best pizza that you can.  Very good Italian tomatoes are an alternative – but please do try these before you resort to that.  I’ll leave you to choose the cheese. Good luck!

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Building my Wood-Fired Brick Oven – Part 3 – Laying the Blockwork Table

This is the third part of my “Building my Wood-Fired Brick Oven” post series, which is all about laying the blockwork structure on which the “table” will be supported.  It is on this concrete table you will build the oven hearth, the bricks on which you will cook.  The first post was about digging the hole for the foundation, and the second post was about
laying the foundation slab.

A wood-fired oven is usually built on block_arrived_pile_strapped_up_2013-02-07 16.00.23.jpga fairly sturdy support. I think the most conveient way to do this is to create a 3-sided structure out of concrete blocks, and to either lay a piece of made to measure concrete on top, or pour a concrete table into formwork on top.  By concrete block I mean aggregate concrete blocks.  The blocks I used weigh around 50lbs each, so you need orange rubber builders gloves to avoid shredding your hands.

When laying block there are two main ways to go: you can either lay them like brick, using mortar in between them, or you can lay them on top of each loose_blocks_2013-10-30 09.49.01.jpgother – and pour concrete into the holes to form concrete cores.  The latter method can be made stronger by inserting lengths of rebar prior to pouring in the concrete.  Remember – concrete sets by a chemical reaction, not the same as drying – so it doesn’t matter some concrete will never see the light of day.  In my project I used mortar, and learned to lay block by watching youtube videos, and used spirit levels.  I wouldn’t recommened doing that, as if you are laying block for the first time, your mortar thicknesses will vary by more than the inter-block variation, so you will introduce error.  Better slap some mortar down where you are building, and lay the blocks in place – then mix and pour a bunch of concrete into the cores – quicker, but more expensive for you and the environment. Before I started, I tried to get an idea of how it would look by laying the bricks out.  Abthree_layers_concrete_armchair_2013-11-10 11.55.07out one if four blocks is going to be a “splitter” with readymade  blocks with asplitting line built in.  You can see one on the right in the picture at the top of this page.  To split block you need a 3-4lb lump hammer and a brick bolster, and you tap it hard vertically on either side of the readymade split until it breaks.  Just make sure to do it on a hard surface, like the foundation.  I split most of mine on an old sleeper. You can see the nearly finished structure on the right.  About 6 more blocks to lay.  The beauty of the 3 sided structure, is that your wood-storage structure is immediately below the oven. The fullsteel_mesh_2013-11-24 15.37.12pile_of_bricks_as_insurance_for_collapse_of_plinth_2013-12-30 16.34.05 brighty finished structure is pictured below, ignore the steel mesh I was just storing them there.  But they are cut to size for the next part, which is to reinforce a concrete plinth which will be poured onto formwork above the concrete block support structure.

I did not take photographs of the structure of the conrete plinth, but I will write down what I did.  Firstly I screwed battening onto the inside of my structure, just below the level of the top of the blocks, and dropped a cut-to-size piece of MDF, filling in the gaps with offcuts and this and that.   This provides the surface onto which the concrete will be poured.  Then I created a frame out of 6×1 inch reclaimed planks, which I attached to the outside of the structure, effectively forming a lip beyond which the concrete could not leak down the sides. I did two main pours, firstly a 2 inch concrete pour to form a base structure which would hold a much heavier layer. This contains a piece of steel mesh.  A few days later I lay three lintles across the structure, one at the front, one in the middle and one at the back.  Between the lintels I lay pieces of steel mesh, and a further steel mesh layers across the top. I used a strong concrete mix for this “table” because it would have a big job to do later on.  Holding up a dome made of hundreds of half-bricks.  I used  C35Pmix, being a mix of 1 part portland cement, 1 gravel and 2 of sharp sand.  I used Wickes Sharp Sand (£2.30 a bag) and Mastercrete Original Cement (£6/bag) both of which weigh 25kg per bag.  The table weighs about 800kg and contains upto 12 bags of aggregate, 12 bags of sand and 6 bags of concrete. I used reinforced lintels which is further over-engineering, just make sure you get the size, as you don’t want to be (attempting) to cut these.  Once poured, I laid a tarp over my structure, and wrapped it around with bungee rope.  Once set – it is probably true that you could survive in the structure if a tank was dropped on it – but then – that gives comfort because you’ll be building a bloody great fire in a structure on it, and it wouldn’t be very nice if it collapsed.  For better or worse, these things will survive all of us.

 

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The Salt of the Earth

My microbakery, the White Horse Bakehouse, does not use industrial salt in its products, I use only Sel de Guérande, which in my opinion qualifies as The Salt of the Earth. I never use Table Salt at home, except in cleaning. You can see some slightly ground Sel de Guérande, and some coarse Sel de Guérande in the photograph I’ve included below, I use the one on the left in baking or grind the coarse version in a mill.  The first thing you will note is that sea salt shouldn’t be clear or white, it should have a colour (gray in this case).  The crystalline and pure white “sea salt” flogged by supermarkets and marketeers just isn’t the real deal folks – but table salt is the pits.
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While table salt is 38.8% sodium (being about 99% sodium chloride, most of the remainder being chlorine), the Sel de Guérande I use is about 35.2% sodium, that’s about 10% less sodium. Sel de Guérande is a particular kind of sea salt made in France. It is sel gris, meaning gray salt, because it is the product of sea water evaporation powered by the sun – so it retains all the minerals in sea water. This means it also contains magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, sulpher, zinc, iodine, flourine, cadmium and iron.

Table: Mineral content of some hand harvested Sel de Guérande from my cook shelf

Mineral      Content per 100g
Magnesium 420mg
Calcium 152mg
Iron 17.5mg

The lower sodium content of sea salt is partly because it contains more water, but also because it contains many other minerals essential for life. This contrasts with “table salt” which I do not use, which often contains an anti-caking agent agent sodium hexacyanoferrate and also as sodium ferrocyanide (E535) – see below, or even sodium aluminosilicate which contains aluminium that I suspect you’d rather avoid.  Importantly, when you take a pinch of table salt you pick up a greater weight of salt than a pinch of sel de gris, so you use less sodium if/when you season the food on your plate – this has something to do with the way in which pure sodium chloride crystals can pack together without much air between them I think, while the irregular mess of sel de gris contains more air.

Though the salt I use already contains less sodium, I am aiming for our bread to contain no more than the equivalent of about sodium chloride (common salt) during 2017. Around 17% of dietary salt comes from bread in the UK, so it is important to check that all your sources of bread do this. Guérande is a medieval town in the coastal region Loire-Atlantique in Brittany, Western France not far from Nantes.

White Horse Bakehouse uses a Sel de Guérande moulis, which is slightly finer than the coarse granular form in which sel gris is often times supplied, which means I do not employ a separate salt dissolving process when I make the dough. So, rather than sacrifice quality and nutrition to satisfy an industrial process, I select or adapt an appropriate nutritionally ingredient into a thousands of years old process.  Find out more about White Horse Bakeshouse on our Facebook Group.

Why I don’t use salt containing E535 – or “Sodium Ferrocyanide is not food”
These pale yellow crytasls are also used as a stabilizer for the coating on welding rods – and no, it isn’t food and I don’t think it should be in food – do you? The material safety data sheet for E535  clearly states it is extremely hazardous if ingested, and is a skin and eye irritant, toxic to blood, lungs, mucous membranes and can cause organ damage. It decomposes at 435ºC, so would decompose in pizza dough cooked at the recommended temperature 475-500ºC, releasing highly toxic fumes of cyanides/ferrocyanides. Best avoid.

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Real Bread bakeries in and near Oxford

Artisan Bakeries and Real Bread in particular is on the rise across the UK, but it isn’t always easy to find out where to get it. In and around Oxford there are a growing number of Real Bread outlets available, but as no-one had made a list – I thought that I should.

“Real Bread” actually means something: the bread must be made with flour, water, salt and a leaven (sourdough or yeast), rather than a bunch of dodgy additives you wouldn’t consume if they were offered to you as the white/grey powders that they are. In addition, “Real Bread” bakeries tend to have finer ingredients, and use naturally length processes which allows for fullsome flavour development. This is then reflected in the price.  Even so, bakeries are small margin businesses, and are difficult to break-even businesses until they have a little scale.  This means that if you want to hold on to good bread, you should support the bakeries that provide this in your community or risk things returning to the bland doughey bread desert of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The other cost of consuming industrial bread is the use of palm oil (eg. in Hovis and other many major brands) – bad for the environment, but the anti-mould agents in British supermarket bread are banned elsewhere and some scientists think the emulsifiers are linked to inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns and ulcerative colitis. If you are like me, and you’d rather take the precautionary principle and eat great tasting bread – focus on Real Bread. In this very brief review, I’m noting where you can buy Real Bread baked around here, comments and corrections welcome.

White Horse Bakehouse – This is my occasional only microbakery based in the heart of Iffley Fields, in the “Republic of East Oxford” producing just 20-30 loaves every week or two. Our Signature bread is the “White Horse Sourdough” which is probably the tangiest sour available in Oxfordshire. I bake bread on a stone hearth lined oven, and from time-to-time do specials in a wood-fired brick oven. I currently operate exclusively through a Facebook group, in which bread fans are informed when a bake is upcoming. Most of our products are organic. We have no shop front, so don’t waste your time looking for one! Join now.

Astons Bakehouse – A completely organic bakery supplying Oxfordshire and London, created by one of the founding fathers of organic bread baking in the UK. Amazingly produces organic croissant and pain au chocolat. Based at Sheepdrove Organic Farm near Lambourn, in the picturesque heart of the North Wessex Downs. Syd Aston’s bakery produces a lighter form of sourdough, which is proving popular here in Oxford. Available from Wild Honey on 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RQ, and 12 South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JL.  Extensively supplying many London markets, with particularly excellent sourdough from 400g loaves to 20lb pagnotas!   Aston’s has no shop front, but Syd has kindly let me visit by prior arrangement.

Natural Bread Company – Baking in an Oxford City based Bakery, Natural Bread has three main outlets which are cafés in Oxford (29 Little Clarendon Street OX1 2HU), Woodstock (30 High Street OX20 1TG) and a shop in  Eynsham (1 Mill Street OX29 4JX). This is good solid sourdough, which is tangy and can be well toasted. Founded by William Black and Claire Véry, who also founded Appleton Farmers Market back in 2006. Their bread is also available in outlets including Appleton Community Shop, the Beetroot Pantry (Cowley Road, Oxford), GÄF (Magdalen Road, Oxford), The Postbox (Wolvercote Village, near Oxford), 2 North Parade (Summertown, Oxford) and the Barefoot Kitchen (Jericho, Oxford). William was my first bread baking teacher.

Modern Baker is at 214a Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7BY and bakes organic bread on the premises, which is also a little café.  Melissa’s place makes some of the usual craft loaves as well as pretty amazing products including two gluten-free loaves (yes, actually gluten free!), sourdough baguette, sprouted wholewheat, the superloaf (quinoa, chia and kamut) and a couple of rye loaves. Due to demand, the café will be expanding throughough the facility, and bakery will be relocating to nearby Kidlington still supplying its local shopfront.

Degustibus is an artisan bakery in Abingdon run by Dan Degustibus, which through distributors Silver Fork delivers to Oxford, and via the The Market Garden delivers elsewhere to certain villages in Oxon.  I’ve only eaten his bread via the Country Grains shopfront on Botley Road, Oxford – but he’s got some great fans.  It looks like his Aelfric Sour is one of a number of pure sour (ie. no commercial yeast added) – pictures here, the bagels look awesome and he does do a 100% rye sourdough (though it appears yeast is added in this case).  Also does a traditional range of farmhouse, bloomer and sandwich loaves which appear to be produced to a high standard.  Won a Muddy Stiletto award recently. Dan’s bread is available at North Parade Market on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays each month between 10AM – 2PM.

Bakergirl is a Banbury-based artisan bakehouse and barn café at Wykham Park Farm near Banbury (OX16 9UP), founded by ex-London bakers.  I haven’t visited this one – but the environment looks stunning!

The Old Farmhouse Bakery, Steventon
By far the most difficult to find, located through a farmgate across the village green in Steventon, next to a new houseing development. I have in the past become reliant on their delicious fresh Quiches. Founded in 1982, inspired by a desire to maintain the supply of Real Bread, the bakery utilizes a 77 year-old brick oven built in 1938. Their sweet treats and hedgehog rolls are particular good for kids. Also does farmers markets in Banbury, Summertown (Oxford), Didcot, Abingdon, Woodstock and Reading.

Marcopolo Bakery, Wantage
Marocpolo using locally sourced flour milled at Wessex Mill, and makes their bread available at their bakery shop, but it is also extensively available through other outlets South of Oxford, eg. Q-Gardens on Harwell Hill, but also available at Farmers markets in Oxford, Wantage, Malborough, Witney. Fairly traditional flavours, less than tangy sourdough, but bread that looks nice.

Another is Silvie which is a bakery café at 281 Iffley Road, in East Oxford which does a variety of good breads, including real bread made locally by Natural Bread Company and another local bakery, and developing its in house soda bread and others soon.  Then there’s Bannister’s at 245 Iffley Road, in East Oxford which does sell the odd basic loaf baked on the premises – however – I value them mainly for their legendary blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrups. Another good outlet is “Country Grains” café at 69 Botley Road, Oxford which sources its bread from German-style Artisan baker Dan Degustibus in Abingdon (Oxon) – I have heard that their brazil nut loaf is good.

Others bakeries worth a mention are GAIL’s in Summertown, but unfortunately their bread is baked in their central bakery in London and shipped to Oxford, and I’ve heard it includes additives – which may have been a good business model, and it is good bread – but the shipping of the bread adds time and delay – and it just isn’t what I mean by local produce.

Other bakeries of note which I think might not be offering “Real Bread” are Gatineau in Summertown, Oxford which has the most amazing tasting and spectacular looking bread and pastries, and the Maison Blanc on the Woodstock Road in Oxford – which I believe was Raymond Blanc’s first outlet in the UK.  If I’ve missed anything out, or got anything wrong – let me know and I’ll endeavour to update every so often.

 

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A visit to a Wood-Fired Bakery in Kefalonia

Although not all aspects of our family vacations are oriented around baking – I feel that it is important to try the local bread and other bakery products where I visit.  Last year, in early June 2015, while on a family visit to Kefalonia, I had been asking around about whether there were any wood-fired bakeries on the island.  Indeed there was – I was told of an old wood-fired bakery in Agia Efimia, which is a little port town on the Eastern seaboard of Kefalonia, facing out toward the Southernmost tip of Ithaca.  Being popular with sailboat tourists, without port industry, the town may have lost some of its individual character in adapting to the needs of a homogenous class of middle-class European consumers, which differentiates it negatively from more residential Ionian ports of call.

However, the historic wood-fired bakery is Agia Efimia’s saving grace – making our two hour drive from the South coast well worth the effort. We arrived in the mid-afternoon, toward the end of a typical long day in the bakery. The husband and wife bakers were readying the bakery for the following day, in heat of around 30ºC, and yet still made the time for me to take a look inside the cavernous oven – with a pretty cast iron exterior.

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The wood-fired bakery in Agia Efimia (June 6, 2015)

A couple of notable features were the height of this old oven was low even for the current generation of bakers, it was lit by an electric lamp during baking observation, and has a simple ash grate to dispose of the products of combustion. The loaves, one of which is pictured below, appear to be baked in close proximity – and are of a sufficient quality that little variation in bread product are required. The oven appeared to be fired with one barrow of wood per day, which in daily use may be all that is required to reach heat.

I had noted in other Kefalonia towns bakers mentioning the use of wood, oil and gas to fire ovens had ceased, for various reasons – including Health & Safety or government directives.  Let’s hope this wood-fired bakery continues the tradition – as its the only reason I will return to Agia Efimia!  For those visiting Kefalonia, there is also a wood-fired pizzeria on the seafront at Poros, being Bello Pizza – purveyors of the finest pizza on the island in the opinion of a food fascist who has eaten there!

 

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Generating Steam in a Wood-Fired Oven

A question of steam…

On artisan bread baking forums, you hear time and time again that one of the keys to baking great crusty bread is steam.  Another key is of course a lot of heat.  So while the wood oven gives you the heat, how do you get the steam?  And why would you want it?

Firstly, there are the caramelization and Maillard reactions, which will cause the desirable browning of the outside of your loaves.  Unless the surface sugars of the dough are in solution (dissolved), caramelization may be more like incineration. Secondly, without steam, you will get a thick and dry crust, which is less desirable than the crackly and thin crust you can achieve with steam.  Thirdly, steam around the outside of the loaves will delay the hardening of the crust allowing the loaves to expand more in their first few moments on the hearth.

In fact, this early growth process is caused by steam generated inside the dough for three reasons – but especially the heat of the hearth converting dough moisture to steam at the surface at which the dough meets the hearth (the bottom of the loaf) . However, in a (nearly) sealed unit like a wood-oven with the door plugging the entrance, if you are baking a few loaves at once the dough will release a lot of moisture which will contribute a steamy atmosphere – so once baking is underway, you are going to have self-generated steam.  So the crux of the matter is getting moisture in the right places (i) before the loaves go in, and (ii) during the first few minutes as the crust forms.

I wet the surface of my loaves liberally with a £3 garden centre hand-pumped spray gun (right hand side), and once the loaves are in the oven the professionals use a hand-pumped pressure-spray like the one on the left.  Also available from a garden centre.

So while professional bakeries might sometimes use steam injection rack ovens which cost many thousands of pounds, you can get a great result using cheap tools from the garden centre.  I have another method using a £5 pack of lava rock in a steel baking tray.

Once the fire has been removed, I put my tray of lava rock in the oven to heat up as the oven temperature evens out, carefully depositing around 200mL of hot water onto the rocks while wearing a glove, at arms length.  I load the oven with my loaves at this point.

You can see the steam rising in this example.  Remember that very hot steam is mostly an invisible gas, and that steam is dangerous and can cause burns. This is especially important if you are opening the door to a steam filled oven. Moving forward I’ll be using a pressure sprayer to wet the lava rock, removing the danger another yard from myself…

I’m currently avoiding pressure spraying the hot brick surface directly in case I cause damage to it, though that may be overkill as a 300ºC surface will probably turn it straight to steam.

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Photograph: Generating steam in a wood-fired oven using lava rock

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On the Nature of Pre-ferments

One of the toughest things I’ve had to figure out when learning to bake is what should pre-ferments actually look like when they’re ready to use.  This goes for both the poolish or biga type ferments which are called for with certain French or Italian breads and pizza, but also for sourdough.  So I thought it might be helpful to take a few pictures for your interest, reference and constructive criticism.

Firstly, let’s think about poolish vs. biga.  Poolish is a wet pre-ferment, containing the same weight water and flour (ie. 100% hydration in bakers’ terms), it contains less yeast than a dough and should be left 12-16 hours to ferment prior to use.  Biga is a drier pre-ferment (70% hydration, ie. 70g water to 100g flour), which is in some ways a fermented dough.  As it is going to be left for some time, and the yeast will be slightly held back by the dryness.  For a day-before-bake pre-ferment, I use degassed tap water adjusted to 24ºC using boiling water from a kettle.  There is no salt in my pre-ferments.   I degass British tap water by leaving it overnight with a loose lid, so the chlorine can escape.

Just like a dough, your pre-ferment will grow.  Don’t forget to use a container bigger than your need (eg. 4-fold larger)

Poolish

A couple of days ago, I made a large poolish to prepare Pain Rustique for the local homeless shelter.

Example Poolish:

In this example poolish, I fermented 6.5kg of Shipton Mill strong white flour with  6.5kg of water, and 1tsp of Doves Farm quick yeast.  I actually mixed it together in a spiral mixer for about 1 minute and medium speed, and left it to ferment for 16 hours in a plastic beer container.  You can see from the “time lapse” photography, the poolish grew by about one quarter in the first 6 hours, and by the morning, had nearly doubled in volume. Stiffer pre-ferments will hold their structure better and can increase in volume several-fold.

Quite a few things are going on in a poolish, but among other things the flour particles are getting fully hydrated, the yeast is producing a lot of flavour, gas is being produced, and the fermentation develops the gluten.

But – how do you know it is “working”?  You will take the lid off your container, and it will almost be alive with movement.  Bubbles will be reaching the surface, and it will not be still.  If you give the poolish a stiff knock – quite a few bubbles will appear.  I’ve taken a photograph of a poolish this morning as a reference.

Example poolish surface:

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Rye Sourdough Mother

Now let’s take a look at a rye sourdough mother, of the sort you might use in Pain au Levain or 100% Rye bread.

Example Rye Sourdough Mother:

In this example, I’ve refreshed a rye sourdough mother.  I’ve taken about 10g of a rye mother from the fridge, and added it to about 100g organic rye (Cann Mills), and 100g degassed water.  I leave it on the counter overnight (17-19ºC) in this neat Sisteam plastic pot.  I’m mixing it up using a silicone spatula, in a polypropylene bowl, all of which makes cleaning up really easy.  You can see the air bubbles which have formed.  The mixture is really stiff, and doesn’t flow (over a minute).

Stiff Rye Sourdough Mother:

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This close-up shows my rye sourdough mother not flowing.  Interestingly, a more liquid rye starter will favour certain fermenting beasties over others – and can lead to a fall off in the number of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis which I tend to think of as a sourdough bakers replacement for Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  In my hands, a flowing rye sourdough mother leads to loaves which don’t hold their shape – that also flow outward, probably due to overpopulation of the ferment with bugs that digest gluten.

Liquid Levain

This is an example of a liquid levain, straight out of my fridge.  You can see that it flows.  This was seeded from my stiff rye mother, and its about 130% hydration strong white flour.  This is a liquid culture of yeast (funghi!) and bacteria, which will be a very different population to the stiff levain above.  My favourite Pain au Levain recipe utilizes both stiff rye mother and liquid levain mother, hence, maintaining the two cultures allows a more diverse set of microbes to ferment your bread.  At a later date, I’m going to blog on the diversity of microflora in sourdough mothers, taking academic publications and reviewing them in plain(ish) English.

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Waste and Want

On a domestic level, it may feel plain wrong throwing out spare sourdough culture, or the end of an unused poolish.  If you happen to be making pancakes, throw in some spare sourdough – it adds character.  If you are making a yeasted bread, consider doing the same. I find my poolish keeps fine in the fridge for a week, and on the counter fermented dough in a sealed box is fine for several days.  Likewise, you can easily reduce the volume of rye sourdough you keep to a minimum (eg. 100g) which also reduces waste.

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