Denver sourdough

In case there's any confusion, this is the first of two separate batches of sourdough that proofed and fermented concurrently. One began after the other and their cycles overlapped. There are two identical mixer bowls. This one held sourdough sponge developed from a culture collected from the air in Denver, and the second one holds a sponge that will be baked on Wednesday. The Wednesday culture was developed directly from whole wheat grain and it is described in detail over a series of posts starting here.


Whole wheat being milled for Denver sourdough bread

finished milled whole wheat grain for Denver sourdough bread

bagged whole wheat flour milled for Denver sourdough bread

cold starter plunked into a jar for Denver sourdough starter cold from refrigerator for Denver sourdough bread

starter hydrated in a jar for Denver sourdough bread

starter covered with a towel over oven chimney to warm for Denver sourdough bread

starter fed and moved to new container now at room temperature for Denver sourdough bread

Following a series of feedings, doubling the amount of water each time until the culture peaked at the top of the jar, the starter was moved to this mixer bowl. At that point it no longer benefitted from assistance of helping warmth that was intended to hasten revivification. One final feeding after the above photo which again doubled the amount of water contained in the sponge, kneading in this machine, then three days fermentation in the mixing bowl placed in the refrigerator to retard the yeast. The sponge was removed from the refrigerator and unceremoniously dumped onto a floured working surface . It was too wet and had to be corrected with additional flour. That's a bit of a shame because that fresh flour is bland, and unaffected by the fermentation, although the culture would appreciate being fed again, if cultures are capable of appreciation, at any rate, the organisms used the refreshment flour for food. I'd rather the sponge be too stiff and corrected by additional water. If this happens again, I'll reinsert the hook and knead again thoroughly. This additional flour is causing minor problems with the shaped loaves.









A few years back this sourdough culture was collected over a period of a few days in winter. I'm imagining the airborne organisms being carried on Northern jet streams, lifted high into the atmosphere, blown across mountains, being pushed down low, sailing across treetops, speeding above towns, then finally landing in my bowl of slurry made of water and flour. Plunk. On the other hand, maybe they fell off the balcony railing. Clumsy dummen köpfen. At any rate these would be the aggregate survivors of extreme conditions. I'm assuming there were others that perished. But now these survivors have landed where they can return to active life and thrive. I encourage them. I know what they like and I give it to them, welcome them, induce them to reproduce maniacally with the promise of a profoundly abundant tomorrow. Their automatic responses are easily manipulated.

But first they must beat up the other sleeping organisms that will also reawaken that were already present in the flour used for the slurry where they landed though in lesser numbers and also in survival stasis and rejuvenated together in the same slurry, aroused by the same salubrious conditions. This should be easy enough since they outnumber them by the millions. Defeat them and slay them, or seduce and conscript them, one way or another, at first it's war. Or at least a dispute, at the very least a competition for resources. At any rate, certain strains or groups of strains will predominate.

That's how I visualize that, anyway.

But now they have thrived, they have lived it up and they have died, died the little death that is a long sleep so complete that they quite nearly lost their identities entirely, they withdrew from active life and held forth in diminished but hardened form, they were reawakened again and thrived again, multiplied in the various ways available to them, budding through both meiosis and mitosis and union with their counterpart identities or all by themselves. Then they died the little death again, thrived again, died again, and so on cycling like this for generations and for what on the microbial scale seems to be an age. None of the original organisms even still exist. If they haven't been baked they've perished along the way having extended themselves beyond their original selves which have long since collapsed somewhere at some time during their adventures. They perished completely as have their clones and their offspring and the clones of their clones and the offspring of their offspring on through generations. They've leavened dough, they flavored bread, they've been consumed, processed with that fuel, and been evacuated, as it were, or assimilated, and still through all of that, their flawless genetic copies of themselves persist in strains among those ageless unceasing cycles of survival, thriving, deep slumber and death. It's encouraging. The survivalist mechanisms of these microorganisms is exemplary.

As survivors of the freezing cold air, this culture, this particular combination of strains, is cold-enured. What that means to the baker is that cold storage fermentation will have hardly any effect on them at all. It will barely slow down these little guys. Bakers call that cold storage "retardation," but to this culture it means little more than a cool fermentation. This culture behaves differently than cultures collected on tropical islands and desert stretches. Because of having survived extreme cold and having been culled by that freezing this culture is stronger, faster, more virile, more tolerant, and frankly, more fun, than cultures that thrive and survive only when the going is easy. These are my observations, my experience, beliefs, and imaginings. Maybe some person with a microscope and a doctoral thesis on saccharomyces cerevisiae can come along and debunk all of this.

Oh, oh, oh, I just now remembered something funny. I described some of this to my sister and she would not accept it. She kept questioning the veracity with the most amusing incredulity. I said, "You can prove this to yourself if you like by causing the action to become visible." I imagined without actually knowing for certain. "In fact, you can even measure it."

We did something similar in science lab once. Its quite basic. The gas produced in a tube by photosynthesis is carried by an air hose to another tube with water, as the gas collects in the second tube it displaces the water and that displacement is measured. To measure the gas produced by the activity of yeast in a sourdough culture you can put a ballon over a jar of activated yeast and watch the balloon expand. Trouble was, I didn't have a balloon handy, but I did have prophylactics and those are similar to balloons. Close enough. Check this out, I made this anim before I developed my mad camera skillz:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Dr. F. Pacquette dropped by for a visit right when I had this going on the kitchen table. He asked me what I was doing then called me an idiot when I told him. We sat there talking facing each other with this jar between us on the table. The yeast was very active and filled the prophylactic rapidly. While we were talking our usual mix of seriousness and nonsense the balloon went from limp to slightly filled, to more full, more full, bending, more, straighter, straighter, more, more, boiiiing ! It looked for all the world like an erect penis and we cracked up giggling like school girls. I let the air out of the condom and it started again. Flaccid, inflated, more, more, more, more, boiiiing ! And we cracked up laughing all over again. This went on all afternoon. Every time that stupid-ass condom filled and went boing we cracked up all over again as if it was the first time, the final movement of broooong is what did it. Fred asked me to give him the experiment because he wanted to take it home with him. I knew he wasn't going to keep the yeast fed, he didn't have the patience for that. But how could I refuse?


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Nicolaseo, Rien de mieux que le referencement naturel.

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