Natural Yeast. Wild Yeast. Sourdough. Wild Sourdough.
Why should you even bother with natural yeast?
What exactly is growin’ in that jar of yours?
Before we get into the “how-to’s” of reducing that tangy flavor, let’s go over the basics of bread making.
- You make your dough by adding flour, water, 1-3 cups of natural yeast, salt & any extra goodies like honey, molasses, oil, herbs, spices.
- Your little yeasty friends get to work and within 3-8 hours (depending on the recipe) your bread has doubled in size. This is called the rising period. If you had used commercial isolated yeast culture (also known as Brewer’s yeast) it would have risen in a shorter amount of time, more like 30 min.-1 hour. But we don’t want to deal with that silliness, now do we? No ma’am! We want our bread to slowly rise, giving it the time it needs to break down all that badness (gluten & phytic acid) and open up all the goodness (vitamins, minerals & nutrients).
- You punch down that risen dough of yours and shape it into loaves. Or buttery rolls. Or cinnamon rolls. Or doughnuts. Or pizza. (Hint: This is where it starts to get good).
- You let it rise again (anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours) depending on what you’re making and how big you want it to go, and then BAKE that mutha’! Voila! The end!
The key to keeping your natural yeast starter alive is to understand how yeast works.
|Here’s my yeast. It needs to be fed. I had it in a previous jar that had about 4 cups of natural yeast in it. But I wanted to reduce it before I fed it. You can do that too if you don’t want tons of yeast.|
|To feed my natural yeast starter, I simply add equal parts water & flour to whatever I have. Here I had 1 cup of yeast starter. So I added 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.|
|I mixed it all together and was finished. Consider yourself fed my yeasty companions.|
|Why hello there carbon dioxide! I left my yeast on the counter in my kitchen. At room temperature, this yeast had brought itself to “readiness” in about 6 hours. If I had left it in the fridge, it would have taken a couple days to get “ready for baking”.|
- I start with whatever I have, or I simply reduce it to what I need. You can reduce to as little as 1/4 cup of natural yeast if you want.
- I feed it. You add equal parts or water & flour. If you have 1/4 cup of yeast, you add 1/4 c. of water & 1/4 c. of flour.
- I let it do it’s thang. You have the option to let it sit on the counter or in the fridge. But there’s a little catch if you store in the fridge. While it spaces out your feedings, the lower temperature slows the growth of yeast, but DOESN’T slow the growth of bacteria. This means you will have very sour bread UNLESS you take it out, grow it on your counter for a day and “power” feed it 3 times to dilute the bacteria.
- I watch for the bubbles. Bubbles are a good thing. Liquid is not. A layer of liquid means your yeast is starving and the bacteria is taking over. Don’t worry, you can still bring it back to it’s former glory. Just pour off that liquid and feed a couple cycles before using.