Hey everyone. So, first I want to say thank you to all of the people who took the time to send me sweet notes of sympathy. Losing my baby girl has been the single hardest thing I have ever had to endure (and I have endured plenty). Thumbelina was my partner for 16.5 years, and losing her has changed my life profoundly. Rather than simply feel shattered for her loss, I've gone inward to look at our time together and extend my absolute gratitude to her for being a teacher, a guide, a best friend and the love of my life. It has been an honor to be her custodian, and frankly, now that she's no longer here, I wonder if, rather, she has been mine. I have needed her as much as she has needed me, make no mistake. She was a beautiful ray of light, my little bean, and I wish for one more day, just one more, to tell her what she has meant to me, because 16.5 years just didn't seem like enough time.
These days I'm a zombie half the time. I went to the farmer's market Sunday and I swear I couldn't tell the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber, my mind was so occupied with thoughts of Thumbelina. I have been keeping myself busy with my clothing line, which has helped keep me from descending into total despair. A few days ago, I decided to bake bread. This is where you come in, dear reader, and in a moment you will see why I needed to share this post tout de suite.
How many of you, in a slumber, have gone to mix up your levain, only to realize that you've actually mixed up the dough instead with your 12g nugget of starter? Show of hands. I can't lie. I have done this on more than one occasion, and in the past, I have just scraped the dough mistake into the trash. But this time I decided to see what would happen if I just went ahead. Let me clarify: on levain day, I plopped 12g of starter into my bowl, with 360g of water and 500g of flour (50g of spelt + 450g BRM all purpose). As soon as I started squishing up the mass, I caught myself. Seriously, Francis-Olive!? Wake up girl! I was about to toss it in the bin and just mix up a batch of levain, but instead, I decided to let it ride. Why not? I just lost my best friend. I'm floating on fumes, what have I to lose? A few grams of flour and smidge of time?
Here's what happened next: bread. Honest to god, BREAD, and a damn fine loaf at that. This loaf, from 12g of starter. That brings me to the power of your starter. Love it well, friends, I know you do. This loaf is a testament that it can do amazing things if you love it and take care of it.
Here's what I did:
I erroneously mixed up 12g of starter with the flour and water as mentioned. I let the dough go for 7 hours, room temp, untouched. After 7 hours, I added my salt -- oh, and here's what it looked like before I added the salt (10g):
Then I did a 5 hour bulk with turns, lets say, every half hour for the first 3 hours, and refrigerated for the last hour and a half or so because it was warm here.
Man alive. Bread. From a bit of starter the size of a brazil nut. Incidentally, the final fermentation was 18 hours, and the bake as usual, 500 deg. lidded for 15, 475 deg. lidded for 15, and without the lid for the final 30, also at 475 deg. This cuts out 7 or 8 hours of levain time, and makes a mild loaf with a shattery crust. I actually baked two loaves so we could do a side-by-side taste test, the second loaf I did up the usual way with a proper levain and the same weights of flour and water as our 12g bread. The proof, we all know, is in the flavor and texture, and honestly, we could not tell the difference between the two, and my BF actually said he liked the 12g best. Both had super tender crumbs, shattery crust and gorgeous flavor. Neither sour. And no one would ever be the wiser if I presented them with this 12g loaf.
I have to admit, Thumbelina ate half of the bread I've baked this past 9 years, probably more. I never bought store-bought dog treats. Ever. She got bread and peanut butter or just plain bread for her snacks, and she loved it. Feeding her was a joy. The bread would come out of the oven, I would slice it, you know, the sound of that first crunchy slice, and she would come charging from the deepest slumber and stand at my knee in satisfied anticipation. She always got the first slice. Always. A huge slice. The best slice. The heel. And she would go tearing off with it, devouring it in moments. In less than an hour, she and I would have absolutely gone through half the loaf. These are memories of her. My Thumbelina Bean. My precious girl who had cancer for 8 long years and never knew a moment of pain despite. She died in my arms naturally, and she rests on a gorgeous ranch in Santa Barbara with wonderful friends and their dogs and horses and chickens running amok. She lived in heaven on earth here with me, and she is living the dream of all dog dreams for the rest of her wiggly little eternity. I miss her so. I love her more than I could ever describe. Make this bread. She made this accident happen. If I had not been so tired, so overwhelmed by grief for losing her, I would not have this to share.
Be well, friends, and love those in your life more than you think you can bear. I hope you have the same happy accidents with your 12g breads.
To the staff of life, and to Thumbelina Bean, who made mine a life worth living for as long as she could.