Well, this time, it didn't go as planned. The first batch of nuggets (luckily I had made three) had become infested with tiny black insects. All the bugs were dead (I guess levain bacteria are not what these beasties are supposed to snack on) but the nuggets were history.
As to the second batch, it didn't even have a chance to show its mettle. Since the house was pretty cold (I know, everybody is sweltering across America but I assure you, in the Northwest, we have natural air-conditioning and my house is nowhere close to overheating). So anyway it was barely 60°F in the kitchen and since I am now the proud owner of a warming drawer (something I had never seen or used before), I figured I would set the warmer at the lowest temperature and put the levain inside. I guess I should have read the manual before I entrusted my baby to this thing as it does get awfully hot, much more than I thought! To make a long story short when I checked on the levain an hour later, it was resting placidly where I had left it and when I opened the lid, it exhaled a doughy sigh that bore no trace of the wild aromas I am so crazy about!
Out came the last surviving nuggets. Needless to say, I was extremely careful with them. I treated them to a steady diet of high-extraction wheat flour and freshly milled rye and after 24 hours of what I assume was deep reflection on their part, they finally came back to life. When they woke up, they showed such vigor that within 48 hours, I was able able to bake, which was good since we have family coming to visit next week and I needed to replenish the freezer...
While all this was going on I was so frustrated that I decided to go back to an old workhorse, Jim Lahey's no-knead bread of New York Times and Internet fame, and give it another try, except that this time I used the same proportion of whole grain (a mixture of wheat, spelt and rye) as in my staple dough (the one I use for the rustic batard). This dough has a depth-of-flavor which we have grown addicted to and I wanted to see for myself how much was due to the freshly milled grains and how much to the levain.Well, now I know. The yeast-based miche (made with a dough that had fermented 24 hours after the initial mix) turned out just fine but the aromas were muted, barely perceptible. Nothing like the fragrant music we have grown accustomed to. I am not bashing yeasted dough: I love tasty baguettes and other prefermented breads way too much for that. I am just saying that this 24-hour bread came in very handy (it made great breakfast toasts) but that it wasn't the same, which means that I will happily remain on levain duty for the foreseeable future.