This is what gives our bread life.
Levain: a fermented mixture of flour and water naturally cultured with yeast and bacteria.
Not so ordinary these days...we get it
To most people, the word Levain is a strange, mysterious word and identity. We don't blame you. Since the invention of sliced commercial bread (we would have to disagree that it was the greatest invention.), the existence, culture, and usage of Levain has been scarce.
Bread requires a leavening agent (in most breads: Yeast is the "fun guy" to thank) for it to get those very special bubbles and holes that well...make it bread. Otherwise we would just end up with a lump of cooked dough instead of the fluffy goodness we have come to enjoy. Traditionally, this was installed through Levain, as this special piece of dough batter "thingy" had the yeasty powers that would make bread possible. In addition to levain, bakers also ran down to the local brewery to collect the bubbly tops during beer brewing to bring rise to the more sugary, fatty, enriched breads (more on why later.)
However, since the invention of convenient "sprinkle in" yeast, or what we would call "Active Dry" or "Instant" yeast these days, Levain has been mainly ignored for it's tedious and meticulous feeding schedule, humidity control, and temperamental rising powers. With the incredible rising characteristics of this new yeast, a baker could whip up a loaf of bread in less than an hour, as opposed to eight to ten hours using the older method.
But of course with corner cutting comes downfalls. In this case: flavour. Bread dough is almost like wine, the mixture needs to ferment, age, hang about and just relax in nature to develop, and learn what it truly can be, and eventually... will be. This all takes time, more or so like raising a child. Originally, the dough just got the time it needed as it needed to rise before being baked anyway. But now, this "magical" yeast eliminated that time, and so it was eliminated in the process all together.
So brings an easier path to making bread, and as lazy human beings we are sometimes, it caught on and BAM! Say hello to the 20th century of bland, tasteless, pale sliced bread.
Meet our mother: squishy
Yup. 2003. The release of one of the greatest movies ever: Finding Nemo. The year also happens to be the year our Levain, or our "mother" was born. One day, as Felix, our owner and founder was feeding our levain, a family friend pointed out the dough was "squishy". With a reactive response due to just watching the movie, Felix replies: "I shall call him Squishy he shall be mine, and he shall be my Squishy." So, Squishy our Levain was born.