Those of you who are sick to death of the whole yeast and fermentation thing will be glad to know that the topic is winding down. But before I move on to the next type of leavening that I plan on talking about, I wanted to talk a bit about combining packaged yeast and wild starters. You can do it you know, and many people do. It’s a “best of both worlds”-type approach that has come under no small amount of criticism from the far fringes of the artisan bread movement, for whom making bread is a political act. For them, leavening and baking bread with a natural yeast starter is a gesture of defiance to the industrial food establishment. Making bread with pre-packaged yeast, well, that’s what the Man would do.
But for those of us who live on the planet Earth there are tremendous advantages in bastardizing (and no, that word is not a baking term) bread dough in this way. Adding commercial yeast to a naturally leavened dough (known in the trade as “spiking” a dough) is a great way to get both the full flavor of a starter and the lighter, airier texture that commercial yeast produces. I did that very thing when I made the above pizza for the wife’s birthday party last night (and yes, that’s a picture of a cold pizza Margherita…but hell I’ll still eat it), whereby I prepared a dough that was composed of roughly 20% barm starter, low-gluten flour, water and a little packaged yeast, refrigerated it overnight, let it sit for one and a half hours before shaping and baking the pizzas. The effect was quite nice, especially since I baked the pizzas up in my new behemoth brick oven (the 10″ pies took under a minute each).
I should interject that so far pizza is the only thing I’ve had the courage to make in the oven so far. Now that it’s finished but for the roof (still), I confess that it intimidates me more than a little. It may have taken three months to get it built, but it’ll probably take me more like three years to learn how to use it properly. In the interim I’ll be burning up a lot of good bread. I fear to start.