18 June. Day 1: late afternoon - Creating the culture with equal parts whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose flours hand-mixed with water
Robertson stresses that the starter should be mixed with one's hands so the "wild yeasts and bacteria present in the flour, in the air, and on the baker's hands [can] begin to ferment spontaneously".
Once the first step of flour and water is mixed, it is covered with a cloth and left "a cool, shaded spot for 2 to 3 days".
20 June. Day 3: early morning - It's alive!! Nothing much happened yesterday but overnight, it rose and fell. And whoa!! It's really funky!! Robertson does say that it will "smell strong like stinky cheese". He ain't just whistling Dixie!
Yesterday some of the water separated and sat on the top. It's just a guess, but I think the sludge below bubbled up through that layer - the line of liquid is visible on the side of the container.
I removed 80% and hand-mixed (literally) equal parts of water and 50/50 wholewheat/all-purposed flour. It still smells just a little too cheesy for my taste. I'm guessing this is the Lactobacillus that shows up first. This is the kind of bacteria (supposedly benign, but it sure does stink!) that will NOT raise bread....
Here it is covered and raring to multiply and begin to develop into a starter.
21 June. Day 4: morning Last night around 21:30, I panicked that if I didn't add some flour and water, we would be awakened by a horrible stench and the sound of burbling in the upstairs hall. The culture was bubbling and smelled of yoghurt. So, without discarding any, I hand-mixed in 30gm of water and 30gm of 50/50 wholewheat/all-purpose flour mix. This morning the mixture was foamy (why oh why didn't I take a photo?!) and smelled strongly like yoghurt. I removed 80% to leave 50gm, then added 50gm water and 50 gm 50/50 wholewheat/allpurpose flour mixture. It now smells mostly like flour with just a hint of yoghurt.
22 June. Day 5: morning before feeding. Happily, all memory (almost) of the stench has gone and the sludge smells pleasantly of yoghurt. The other happy news is that it is bubbling and foaming nicely.
It also appears that the culture (soon to be a starter??) has risen and fallen in the past 24 hours.
After feeding 20% of the sludge, the leftover 80% destined to be discarded looked and smelled too inviting. T put it into pancake batter and made the best pancakes ever. I put goats cheese, honey and sliced bananas on my pancakes (no photo) and he had his with butter, syrup and perfectly cooked bacon.
23 June. Day 6: morning before feeding. Whaaaa??? NO foam?! Virtually no smell at all. Does this mean failure already?
But I panicked too soon. When I started removing 80% I saw that there was a skin and that below the sludge was bubbling and smelled a little of yoghurt. And looking back at the above photo, it was clear that it had risen and fallen. I'm thinking that tonight, I will build it up and attempt to turn it into an actual wild yeast starter.
Here it is on the shelf, just fed and watered, already beginning to bubble a little.
24 June. Day 7: In the morning, the starter smelled like yeast but in a sweet way. I mixed it with a good shot of flour and water to make an actual starter for bread. (We used the left-over sludge for excellent baking powder biscuits.) By early evening, it had doubled and still smelled sweet and lovely - a little like stewed apples.
The Float Test: if the starter floats, it's ready to be mixed with flour to make actual bread.
25 June. Day 8: The resulting bread. (Please look at more photos of Tartine Bread.)