Demeter's Harvest

Demeter's Harvest

Come, O lady resplendent with gifts, queen Dêô, bringer of hôrai,
both you and your daughter, the most beautiful Persephone.
Think kindly and grant, in return for this song, a rich means of livelihood that suits the thûmos.
And I will keep you in mind throughout the rest of my song.
- Homeric Hymn to Demeter, trans. Gregory Nagy

I wanted a classic name for my rye sourdough culture. I hung out with some classics majors in college, so I guess something wore off on me. I looked to Greek mythology and found a very fitting choice: Demeter, goddess of grain.

While I was visiting my parents for an extended time, I left a little bit of Demeter behind with my housemates in case they wanted to experiment with baking. When I returned, I found that the culture had been fed with bread flour rather than rye. This was a new starter, and there’s only one choice for a name: Persephone.

Demeter and Persephone have quite distinct personalities. Cultures fed with glutenous flours are very bubbly and stretchy while cultures fed with flours low in gluten, like rye, are still quite active but only have a few large bubbles at the surface and are less elastic. Both have a sour smell, but I would describe Demeter as pungent while Persephone is a bit milder.

I wanted a bread that honored both Demeter and Persephone. I decided on a bread featuring spelt, rye, and poppy. I opted for three separate overnight starters/soakers: a liquid levain with spelt and Persephone, a stiff levain with rye and Demeter, and a soaker of rye chops, poppy, molasses and rye whiskey. The bread is intensely flavorful and smells great.

The following is a WIP, but it’s good enough to share:

Demeter’s Harvest, v1.1

Total Weight: 1400g (198.45%)
Prefermented flour: 30%

Ingredient List
421g Bread flour (60%)
140g Spelt (20%)
140g Rye (20%)
526g Water (75%)
70g Rye whiskey (10%)
14g Molasses (2%)
28g Rye chops (4%)
14g Poppy seeds (2%)
14g Salt (2%)
21g Sourdough culture (3%)
3g yeast

Liquid Levain (100% hydration)
140g Spelt
140g Water
15g Sourdough culture (Persephone)

Stiff Levain (80% hydration)
70g Rye
56g Water
13g Sourdough culture (Demeter)

70g Rye whiskey
14g Molasses
28g Rye chops
14g Poppy seeds

Final Dough
421g Bread flour
70g Rye
330g Water
14g Salt
3g Yeast

Build the levains and soaker and let sit for 12-16 hours. When you build the dough, mix the dry ingredients listed, then add the water to your levains and dissolve. Leave a little bit of water for the yeast if you are using active dry yeast. Add the dissolved levains and soaker to the dough, mix by hand until you have thoroughly hydrated the flour. The dough doesn’t need to be smooth yet. The dough is ready for a 3-hour bulk rise.

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, 120 minutes, then wait for the third hour to be up. Divide into two, let rest for about 10 minutes, then shape. I let this do a final proof for about 50 minutes. Bake at 475F for 30-35 minutes, steamed for the first 20.

It’s a dense bread, but still had a bit of spring to it. Very yummy.