I have found my struan

About one week after I checked out Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads book from the library, I decided to start my own wild yeast whole grain sourdough starter. I figured this was some easy business since people have been using wild yeast starters since the beginning of time. Oh, not so, my friends. My first try failed. I am going to point my finger at the vinegar bottle as the culprit. You see, I was trying to follow the ‘Pineapple Juice Method’ but I didn’t have any unsweetened pineapple juice (or sweetened for that matter). The reason for adding the juice in the first place is to raise the acidity level of the mixture so the leuconostoc bacteria won’t take over before the lactobacillus and wild yeast get a good start. I figured one acid was as good as the next and substituted a diluted acetic acid solution for the citric acid solution. After 10 days, all I had was a funny smelling slimy goop. I decided to start over. This time I used diluted lemon juice instead. After about 6 days I had definitely captured some wild yeast.

I nurtured it with care and when it came time to refresh the starter, I figured I could make a loaf of something. I chose a Rye Meteil, which I botched, but it was a good starting place. I think most of all, it helped cement into my head that I need to follow the recipe a little bit better. When it failed, I was a bit discouraged. The bread smelled great, looked fine, but tasted about like cardboard. Even with my ‘sourdough’ starter. I was planning to make it again to see if I could do it any better, but in the mean time, I took a chance and wrote an email to Peter Reinhart asking him if he had any ideas on what could have gone wrong. He responded very quickly with a very positive email saying that one thing I should check is whether or not I left out the salt from the final dough. That is very possible. As for the lack of sourdough flavor, I did not realize that this takes even more time for the starter to develop. Now at about one month old, my starter is just starting to get a rich sour smell and a mild sour flavor. So it may just take some more time. A big thumbs up for Peter. Great book and a great heart to help out a struggling wannabe baker.

The breads I have made out of the Whole Grain Bread book are only getting better. The sweet, almost nutty flavor of the breads is irresistible to me. All I can say is at least they are whole grain, so all the better to gorge myself on. The 100% whole wheat sandwich bread is a favorite, as well as 100% whole wheat bagels, which I tried recently. But so far, I think the most flavorful bread I have made from the book is the Multigrain Struan. Struan is a word derived from Gaelic meaning “the convergence of streams”. The bread’s multigrain recipe was originally made with whatever grains the harvest brought in. By weight, it is about 25% mixed grains. I used brown rice, cracked wheat, polenta and quinoa (my harvest was a half-hour playing in the bulk-foods section of WinCo). In the soaker I also used buttermilk, which really made the soaker have a quite questionable smell, but it turned out to taste terrific in the end. I also used wild yeast sourdough starter instead of the biga. I think I have found my struan. With the wealth of possibilities to change this recipe, it could very well be one tasty loaf after another. I am considering quitting my job and making homemade bread full time for the rest of my life. Much less stressful and much better tasting.

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