Professor Calvel’s (Sourdough) Starter

Professor Calvel’s Starter

After the Second World War, American GI’s returning from France raved about the bread they had enjoyed there. However, after that time, the quality of French bread began to decline. There are as many explanations for this as there are people doing the explaining. By the 60’s, French bread had become largely tasteless, bland, uninspiring and uninspired.

There is probably no one who had more influence on the revival of French baking than Professor Raymond Calvel. Professor Calvel not only acted as a cheerleader for the renaissance of bread in France, but also shared the techniques that allowed French bakers to again move up to the levels that had been taken for granted a few decades earlier.

One of the best baking books I have ever read is his “The Taste of Bread.” It inspires bakers to seek greatness. It offers the tools to help the baker get there. The only drawback to this book is that it is so expensive. If you can find a copy for less than $75.00, grab it, it’s a bargain.

In the book, Professor Calvel outlines how he makes a sourdough starter. It is worth mentioning that this is my prefered way to start a starter. It is quick and reliable. It takes him about 2 1/2 days. You’ll need rye flour, all-purpose wheat flour, dried malt extract (available from a brewing supply house or health food store), salt and water. Professor Calvel’s starter is quite dense. The common technique when starting a starter is to use 1 part of water to 1 part of flour by weight. Professor Calvel’s starter uses 10 parts of flour to 6 parts of water. As a result, mixing this starter usually involves energetic kneading.

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