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February 2018 Baking Schedule

The "Very Olde" starter, alive and over-bubbled

As we gear up for the second month of Ferment’s 2018 Bread CSA, I have a story of tasty consequence. On one chilly winter’s day not that long ago, I opened to the front door to find a packet wrapped in layers and layers of packing tape on the stoop. It contained, I was assured by the anonymous sender, a “very olde” bread starter of European provenance. Cutting thorough the packing tape freed a powerfully pungent odor and a messy, liquid starter in dire need of fresh flour and water. A couple of days later, it was alive and bubbly, and its acidic nose had turned into a pleasantly sweet, lactic smell. I made some further inquiries. “Very olde” turned out to mean almost ancient—I had come into possession of a three hundred and fifty—350—year-old sourdough starter that arrived on my front porch from seventeenth-century Naples by way of Venice and, I imagined, the tiny town of Lucca, handed down from one generation of bakers and pizza makers to the next. I did as all bakers do and used the leaven to make a loaf of bread, let the starter do its fermenting magic overnight, and cut it open for breakfast the moment it came out of the oven. The loaf had an almost ancient depth of flavor that multiplied the complexities of the flours and made us burst into song, fully at a loss for words.

I exaggerate only a little and confess to having used the starter for some of the January breads. For February, I’m committed to a taste test of sorts: I’ll bake with a different starter each week to see if there’s a tangible, discernable difference in flavor of the power of sour from one week to the next. So this is the February baking schedule: the first week features seeded breads leavened with my original homegrown starter. An older, similarly Somervillian starter I inherited from my special lady friend will leaven the porridge breads of week two. Unlike my original starter, which relied solely on Prospect Hill’s local bacilli, this one used grapes to help initiate fermentation; its flavor profile is a bit broader and rounder around the edges. Week three will feature the official debut of the “very olde” starter, put front and center by the extra-long proofing stages of the “Ploughman’s Loaf” and the “Somerville Sourdough di Lucca.” Cycle two of the 2018 Ferment Bread CSA concludes with something of an experiment: I’ll leaven the week four breads with a starter that hybridizes all three cultures. If it’s any good, I’ll call it the “Big Hybrid.” Take tasting notes and consider sharing them with me—I'd love to know what you think and taste!

Week 1

M Feb 5 Seeded Semolina

F Feb 9 Buckwheat w/ toasted Groats

Week 2

M Feb 12 Spelt Porridge

F Feb 16 Farro Porridge

Week 3

M Feb 19 Somerville Sourdough di Lucca

F Feb 23 Ploughman’s Loaf

Week 4

M Feb 26 Poilânesque

F Mar 2 Pain de Campagne

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