Fresh Start(er)

 starter
While the nation and pratically the world is basking in the glow of the inauguration of a new President and the opportunity for a fresh start, my mind wanders to a fresh start of a different kind.  Rather, a starter to be exact.   And, I wonder how many of you have not only baked with and maintained a starter, but actually started one.
By definition a starter is a natural leavener developed by capturing wild yeasts in a dough or batter simply consisting of flour and water.  Starters can be made from so many things, I think the one with which I had the most fun I used apples and raisins.  As a matter of fact, we find starters so facinating, we went so far as to name our beloved bakery after the french word for a starter, Levain.
A starter can be used to totally leaven a bread or in conjunction with a fresh yeast, which can give a baker more control over the rising process.  A starter, or levain, if well maintained and fresh, will not only add a different dimension of flavor to your bread, but also to the crumb and crust of loaf.  Beginning a starter is not difficult and really fun.  Here’s how:
 No real measuring needed (love that):
 In a plastic or stainless bowl combine flour and water to make what should resemble a thick paste.
 Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for several days. 
 Continue to observe the mixture as it begins to breakdown, become a bit watery and bubble.   That bubbling is mixture becoming a starter!  It is eating (so to speak), digesting and giving off gases; thereby growing.  You can maintain the starter by “feeding it” flour and water, stirring and recovering.
 Next week, what to do with your new pet!
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