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March 8, 2010 in breads, how to, vegan, vegetarianleave a comment

whole wheat levain, day 4 and on

whole wheat levain, day 4

Some of you have been expressing…concern…as to what happened with the whole big levain/sourdough plot. I’ll tell you what happened. A winter storm happened. Unripe levain happened. Flat bread happened. And a possibly unconnected but mysteriously coincidental horrible sinus flareup happened.

By day 4, I had a feeling the levain was ripe and active. Compare the above pic to day 3 and see how much the yeast activity made the levain rise in 12 hours. So I put it back into its normal container and fed it again that evening and planned to bake whole wheat sourdough the next day.

When I checked it in the morning, I frowned. It had been near the north window in the kitchen, and a winter storm had blown in overnight, winds howling from the north. The area where the levain had been sitting was extremely chilly. Worse, the leavain didn’t look active. It wasn’t bubbly or beginning to exude the brownish liquid that it does when active. It had been too cold, there by the window.

f*** it, we’ll do it live!

Sorry about the somewhat obscure reference to Bill O’Reilly being an asshole.

But like a dumbass I pushed those worries aside. Making sourdough would take a six-hour block of time, and I had scheduled my day specifically to allow for that. I’d make whole wheat sourdough bread come hell or high water, dammit!

Of course, my inflexibility was my downfall. The bread rose sluggishly, my clumsy attempts at brotform substitutes seemed inferior, and the two loaves baked into delicious-smelling, heavy discs of whole wheat sourdough.

With trepidation, I gingerly sliced a sliver of bread from one end once it had cooled. The taste? Wonderful. It was mellow and not outrageously sour; just a hint, the barest hint, of tang. So what if it was fairly leaden? I could still eat this stuff.

And eat it I did, and took it to Mom and Dad’s that night to have with tomato soup. Dad liked it and ate a ton (it probably felt like a ton, too) and so did I.

has your face ever tried to explode away from your head?

The next day I woke up, and wanted to sever the left side of my head from my body. Everything hurt: my jaw, my cheek, my ear, around my eyeball, even my left temple. Everything on the left side of my head was in excruciating pain. Ibuprofen didn’t touch it. The pain knocked me entirely out of commission. It was bizarre and horrible and I’d highly recommend it as a torture technique.

I self-diagnosed a flareup of a sinus infection I thought I’d kicked last fall. Only this time, for some reason, every sinus on the left side of my head was affected and pissed. Off. The next day the pain had subsided a bit, and the day after that it was pretty much gone. It hasn’t come back.

I don’t want it to come back. I’m worried that something about the wild yeast in the sourdough affected my sinuses and made them try to kill me. I don’t want my sinuses to kill me. I want to try this sourdough still. But now I’m afraid to.

So for now, the big sourdough plan is on hold. I am keeping the whole wheat levain alive in the fridge, feeding it weekly. Maybe once I forget how my sinuses felt, and how they took up arms and tried to kill me, I might try baking with it again.

whole wheat levain, refrigerator maintenance

Once you’ve developed an active whole wheat levain, you don’t need to feed it twice daily unless you’re baking with it regularly. This starter can be stored in the refrigerator and fed once weekly to keep it alive. Adapted with permission from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains.

Once a week, remove levain from the refrigerator and discard all but 2 ounces. Add:

    4 ounces whole wheat flour
    4 ounces cool water

Mix well. Let it sit at room temperature at least a few hours before putting the levain back into the refrigerator.

Two to three days before you plan to bake with the levain, remove it from the refrigerator, keep it at room temperature, and resume twice-daily feedings.

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