|There is froth in there|
Inspired by Valerie's efforts on s/v Letitgo, I have made now two batches of baguettes, and will soon be graduating to the use of a levain.
What's that you ask (rhetorically)? Why it is a natural leavening, consisting of a culture of yeast and bacteria. You might have heard it called "starter" or "sourdough starter".
How do you make it? (Aren't rhetorical questions great?) It really couldn't be easier. No really. You mix flour and water in equal proportions and leave it out on the counter to spoil. That's it. Give it a shake once a day or so. The yeasts and bacteria that are in the air everywhere, that are in every breath we take, and who were here on the Earth long before we were, will colonize the medium.
But wait - how do you get the right yeast and the right bacteria? This is one of those rare, rare situations... No matter which yeasts and which bacteria initially colonize the medium, there will be new arrivals every day. Eventually, the strongest, fittest ones will survive and dominate, pushing the others towards local extinction. And in a truly weird twist of nature, no matter where you are in the world, it is these same battle survivor species that are the ones you want. It's almost as if dandelions were the desirable species for yards. You'd scrape off your yard, and yes, eventually it'd be carpeted with a beautiful green and yellow display, with no effort on your part.
So in my levain, the early colonists are busy building homes, and the battle is just beginning. Now that there is life in there, I will periodically dump half of the levain and replace it with fresh flour and water. The colonists need food, after all.
In a couple of weeks it'll be ready for use in bread making.