While I'm not baking these days, I'm thumbing through all my baking books. I have a few as it is a passion of mine. As I mentioned in another post, I have "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book". I love this book as it's a lot of whole grain goodness, easy to follow directions and healthy. One of my kid's favorites from it is a blueberry muffin recipe which I have converted into a mini chocolate chip muffin recipe. It's like a healthy cookie - each one is made with zero fat (except what's in the chocolate and egg), wheat germ and whole wheat and it's delicious (also is good as the blueberry muffin recipe too). From that book I also make my whole wheat Christmas stollen which everyone loves. There are also some great recipes for yeasted breads, but here is where it gets tricky. They specialize in making a desem - a type of wild yeast starter.
I remember reading through the book when I got it 16 years ago and feeling like, "Whoa, you can do that?" and "How and why?"
Later I added some other baking books which are quite good, King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, some cake books, Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, a few coffee table bread books which look pretty, but are mainly fluff, and then recently checking out from the library Amy's Breads. I have a list of others I want to check out too.
The more you get into breads and the more you read REAL baking books, the more you realize, you need a starter for those bakery tasting breads, but every time I read about them, I get confused and intimidated. They go by all different sorts of names and I'm sure some are the same while others are different - soakers, bigas, Poolish, desem. From what I gather (could be wrong) starters and desems are captured wild yeasts (instead of using commercial yeast) and soakers, bigas and a Poolish are different forms of prefermented starters using commercial yeast. Have I lost you yet?
Anyway, I have now read about 5 different ways to make a starter, I've looked at pictures online, I've read blogs on their development, yet I am completely intimidated. All this talk about hydration, different bacteria taking over at different times, etc. ACK!!! Brain overload. Yet... I'm itching to start one. I really want to be able to say, "I can create my own starter from scratch and make artisan tasting breads!" and how cool is it to say, "This mother starter is 10 years old (or more)."
Of course, I need to decide which one to do. I could go with Peter Reinhart's way of doing it, but there's something conceited about him that turns me off (Plus he borrowed the pineapple starter idea). Add to that, in the book I have, it's quite obvious the book deal came first and then he was scrambling to get his recipe right while working on the book... doesn't inspire confidence. In the book I'm reading right now, Amy's Bread, the make a simple flour and water starter, but I've heard those can get moldy quite easily. And then a bread forum favorite starter is the Debra Wink starter which started out from trying to figure out why so many people were having the same problems with Peter Reinhart's starter recipe in "The Baker's Apprentice". She is/was a perfect person to figure this all out - she's an avid baker AND a microbiologist - BINGO! I like her! (What's with me and smart people?)
If you like to know WHY things happen, you simple must read these articles. I've linted to article one, but at the bottom of that page it links to part two which also includes her formula. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1
So, that's the formula I'm going to follow. She designed the formula after figuring out what's happening at all stages of the fermentation at the microscopic level - totally cool!