All Things Bread No. 21

Hello Friends of Sourdough.
I’m not going to address the events of the last week except to say that I have found refuge and solace, a sense of purpose and meaning thanks to Saher, Sofie, Sourdough and my dear dear friends. 

Next, a correction:  News of Birch Cafe’s demise is greatly exaggerated! In my last newsletter I reported that Birch Cafe had shut down. Well they haven’t shut down, they’re simply up for sale. You can still order their bread for curb-side pickup in Al Quoz via Deliveroo! (Thanks to Saher Bakery’s own Sourdough Secret Field Agent, Codename Istan-boule, for the intel)

In today’s All Things Bread we revisit the spiritual side of baking bread and in Bread Briefing we take a closer look at the float test. 

Welcome New Subscribers!!
This newsletter has 3 sections :
1. All Things Bread is a discussion of things I’ve been reading and watching in the world of bread that I’d like to share with you.

2. Bread Briefing : In flying we say Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The briefing is essential to proper preparation. So Bread Briefing is where you’ll find relevant operational briefings, each one covering an important aspect in baking.

3. The Bread Library
This is a ‘Permanent Section’ at the bottom of each newsletter. This makes it easy to find and reference. It has 3 parts: 

Starting Your Sourdough Starter is where you can find my Quick Guide to starting a starter culture and answers to your starter questions.

Your First Loaf is a Quick Guide that will take you from Starter to Leaven to Loaf!
RESOURCES is where you’ll find the blogs, websites and books I wish I had when I was starting out!

All Things Bread
In newsletter No. 18 I spoke about the healing and meditative effects of sourdough making, and with everything that is swirling around us at the moment I felt the need to bring it up again.
Bread reminds us of the cycle of life and re-incarnation. The wheat berry is watered, it swells and germinates. It springs into life and grows into a tall, strong plant that in due time will bear its own ear of wheat. The very definition of life. 
Along comes the farmer, scythe in hand (or, you know, this thing) and harvests the wheat, ending it’s life. 
Off the wheat goes to be threshed and milled. It is now transformed into flour. The baker’s hands turn the flour into a dough. The dough bubbles and grows, now it is alive.

Shortly the dough will go into an oven thats been fired up to be as hot as it can be. Once in the oven, the dough hisses and expands and tears along the scores that the baker made. After it crosses a certain temperature, all the life that was inside the dough ceases. It is now transformed into bread.
We take this bread and we eat it at our tables, sharing it with our loved ones. It nourishes us and gives us life, completing the circle. 
I am so grateful to my bread practice for everything it has given me.

Bread Briefing

The float test is the second easiest way to determine if your leaven is ready to lift up your dough and give it life. It is the second best way to tell if the starter is active enough to be ready to make bread with.

What’s the easiest and best way? That would be to get to know your starter, who you named Leonardough DiCaprio, so well that you know Leo’s ready just by looking at the extent of his rise in his jar.

” A mature starter floats once it’s risen to its maximum / peak. But what if it’s tested before it’s full rise? Will it fail the float test? ” 

The answer is that the starter will still float if it is within 10 or 20% of it’s maximum. In other words the float test gives you a “range” within which the starter is good to use. 

To put it another way: the starter will still float when it is not yet at it’s peak ( but say within ~10%?) and will still float when it has peaked and now falling ( ~10%?) The only way to catch it at it’s absolute peak is to use what in aviation we call the ‘Mark 1 Eyeball’ ie, you simply judge it visually.

So is failing the float test a sign that the starter is not yet mature or, not active enough at the time of the test?

Can be either! Even a mature starter won’t float:

1.  If it’s just been fed or 

2. If it’s fallen after running out of food.

That’s all from me for now, the rest of this email is the permanent section: The Bread Library