Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bread Baking Babes Versus The Baker's Apprentice

This month's adventure in yeast let us put the wellies away and made us drag out the sourdough dictionary to figure out the difference between starter, barm (not used usually in association with sourdough breads), and the difference between wet and firm starters because we took on Peter Reinhart's Poilane Style Miche from his classic cookbook The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.


First, let me tell you that I made this bread three times: once using the recipe that our kitchen of the month, Sher gave us a couple weeks ago that used an almost exclusive rye/wheat flour combination during the barm and firm starter stage; once using the same recipe but using Bob as my starter, and finally exactly as written by Peter in the cookbook.

I really enjoyed playing with this recipe, despite my private griping on our blog and amongst ourselves in email. Probably the number one thing I liked was comparing the differences between the three starters, especially when they reached the firm stage.


I'll give this recipe it's due, this process results in a really nice firm starter. I've always had much better success with more liquid starters than with firm starters but this firm starter was so nice that I kept a wedge from Sher's version to use in future breads.

I really noticed the sour profile of all three starters as quite different as well. Peter's starter was quite sour. Sher's adapted starter was sour but with the overtone of whole grains, and finally Bob had a mild sourness. Of all the three, I liked the bread made with Bob the best, followed by Sher's version of the miche and finally Peter's original version.

When it came to baking, I had the most trouble with the recipe from the Baker's Apprentice as well but I don't think this was the recipe but rather that the day I made the Miche, it was more like November in temperature and humidity than middle May. I had the windows open during the morning and by the time it came for the dough to rise, the temperature in my kitchen was hovering in the upper 50's.

The loaf that was prettiest was Sher's.


I'm not sure why but the loaf baked up perfectly and I do admit, this was the best slashing of a risen loaf I've ever done. The loaf that was the ugliest was the original recipe, again I'm pretty sure this had quite a lot to do with extreme slow rise the bread had over seven hours.


Bob's loaf was nice and had a good rise but my slashing technique was awful.

One thing was constant with all the loaves and that was the crust. We all agreed that the crust was overly tough and hard to cut and chew through.

So, did it taste like Poilane's Miche? It has been a very long time since I've had a loaf from Poilane so I can't say with exactitude but I would say it was close but not completely spot on. The loaf made with Bob was the most mild and based upon the results when I took all three loaves into work: Bob was gone by 11am, Sher's by 1pm, and I ended up tossing 1/3 of the loaf made with the original recipe out to the sea gulls the next morning, Bob's loaf was favored by my work colleagues.

Will I be making this recipe again? Probably not as I wasn't bowled over by any of the breads and I found the crust to be a detriment to the bread. However, I do love the firm starter that resulted from all three "barms". As an aside, we couldn't decide if this was the same as a Mother Starter or a Daughter Starter, I say Barm = Daughter Starter since I consider the seed starter to be the Mother starter but you say potato and I'll say "pahtoto". Regardless of the name, the firm starter is lovely and for that reason alone, I'm glad I gave this bread a whirl, all three times.

(Note about no pictures of Bob's bread, I baked this during the time I was having difficulty with my digital camera and unfortunately the pictures I lost during the reset process where the pictures of Bob's bread)

If you want to have your own starter comparison and be a Bread Baking Budd this month, visit Sher at "What Did You Eat?", our wonderful host kitchen for the recipe she adapted for whole grain or you can visit our founder, Tanna for the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Finally, if you want to you use your own "Bob", "Dick", or "Sally" or whatever your starter is named, head over to Karen of Bake My Day to see how to use your own wild yeastie! You will have 14 days from yesterday (I'm a day late in my posting) to bake the Poilane style miche and email Sher with your results to have a nice badge to put on your blog!

Also, if you want to make your own starter to do this bread because you want a milder version of the bread, here is a link to the first post in my Sourdough Starter series; where you will find the recipe and process for making your own "Bob". Or, you can sort the posts here at The Sour Dough by the "sourdough" tag. A big bonus if you use this starter is you will have a head start on being a Bread Baking Buddy because Your's Truly here is the host kitchen next month and I can pretty much guarantee we'll be using my starter for the bread (wink-wink)

Oh and one last thing, make sure you check out the lovely ladies who baked the Miche this month: A Fridge Full of Food (Glenna), Bake My Day (Karen), Cookie Baker Lynn (Lynn), I Like to Cook (Sara), Lucullian Delights (Ilva), My Kitchen in Half Cups (Tanna), Grain Doe (Gorel), Notitie van Lien (Lien), and What Did You Eat (Sher)