Given the warm weather and my being able to stay home last week, I thought I should do the kefir experiment NOW rather than later. I wanted to be accurate and try this recipe again (minus the oil), using this time side-by-side: 1) an ordinary sourdough preferment, 2) a milk kefir preferment and 3) a water kefir preferment. The sourdough preferment being just a reference for tasting purposes. Didn’t work out as planned because the water kefir turned out to be far too weak to be used. So I proceeded with just 1) and 2).This is the sourdough starter preferment one with a round focaccia, which I had to make just cos my leaven was raring to go, and I had some sardine-flavoured oil leftover. [An aside on the focaccia: focaccias are such warm-weather breads, i feel! Since I’m always making sourdough ones—which can be a bit too chewy—warm proofing temperatures make up for it, giving loft and airiness. This time, I deliberately went very light on the oil, just to see what it was like. It was still all right! Especially since the lack of oil can always be compensated for by dipping at the table.]
Sandwiches for Bob to take to work using the sourdough preferment bread: Chianina bresoala we got from Italy on a bed of parsley mayo, and cornichon cucumbers on seaweed butter. This Bordier seaweed butter is not only tasty, it’s also beautiful with red and green flakes, and the cornichon cukes are one of the things I look out for at my market come summer. Sometimes I think Bob doesn’t know how lucky he is. The last time anyone packed sandwiches for my lunch was my mum…when I was a kid. But to be honest, it was also cos we had too much bread at home!
so all in all, didn’t quite carry out the experiment as I had wanted to. But took some things away nonetheless:
1. I am not liking the UHT milk we’re using now. Does the kefir? It ferments at an extraordinary speed. Thought it might be the hot kitchen, but even in the fridge it starts separating out in less than an hour, producing a very thin yet strongly fermented milk. It’s like having beer and milk with my muesli in the morning… Could that be a good hangover cure:) I bought some organic, gently pasteurised (is there such a thing?? It says “pasteurised in a bain marie”. What does that mean or change??) milk and we’ll give that a shot.
2. Even though it’s definitely fermented and active, when added to the flour, I’m still not getting a bubbly preferment. I’m not sure what’s wrong here. Is it the type of kefir??? Should I be more patient??? In the hot kitchen, even past the 12-hour mark, it was still watery and not puffy. It all seems rather thin. For example, I can’t imagine making cheese with the fermented milk kefir. It still leavens the bread all right. The bread proofed rather fast and I even did an overnight second proof in the fridge, but the preferment is just not what I recognize.
3.This time, there was more of a sourish tinge to the bread, either from the overnight proof or the warmer temp or the kefir or all of the above. When I asked ‘Objective Taster’ aka Bob about the bread, he said it’s a sweetish bread right? So the milkiness prevails.
4.I need to get the water kefir sorted out. They’ve been dormant since last summer so I’m not surprised that there is a lot of ‘flotsam’ among the active ones. I need perhaps to change the type of sugar as well. Back home they used to race up and down the jar, fizzling away like crazy. For fun, because I don’t have enough jars of strange growing things cluttering up the countertop, I decided to play at starting a water kefir leaven. i mixed equal quantities of the water kefir and flour. For the good part of the day, there was no sign of life, and then, in the evening, lo and behold, things were astir. Yesterday I fed it again in the morning, and when we got home much later than expected, it was as I had feared.
Pooling leaven that somehow managed to escape from a tightly lidded jar. Which, much to your disgust, I’ll admit I scraped off and tried. Quite yummy actually, fruity with a slightly beery (but in a nice way) taste. Once again, I find myself lurching towards another experiment when i’ve got tons of other things to try first. How goes a water kefir leaven? How will it evolve and how will it bake up? What type of critters lie within? Will the bacteria of the flour come to dominate in the end, such that it ends up much like an ordinary leaven? I’ve read that if one has different fermented stuff going on, they should be kept apart as the bacteria can circulate. Will the bacteria from the sourdough leaven hop across the pond, ‘contaminating’ and ultimately neutralizing and reducing everything to much the same thing?? How different is this from apple or other fruit yeast water? Now that is one path I’ve managed to resist going down. I have up till now steadfastly refused to read anything about apple yeast water, because I don’t want to get tempted to go start one!!!