Home » cooking » The Story of Wild Yeast (a.k.a Sourdough Starter)

The Story of Wild Yeast (a.k.a Sourdough Starter)

mmmm. bread.

IMG_1844.jpgSince the air is chilly and our furnace has decided to not warm us, I decided that today would be a fine day to bake. The warmth from the oven and the calories burned from rushing around the kitchen did prove well to keep my fingers and toes with feeling.

Last week I shared the recipe for my Basic Bread (pictured above), with the promise to feed your bread cravings more this week and delve into the topic of sourdough.

Let me first start by saying that bread is the most basic of foods. It has been around for ages-literally! The very first mention of bread that has been found dates back to Biblical times, Genesis even. Of course, the first forms of bread were unleavened, meaning they were flat and dense. As man experimented with foods, the discovery was made that when a mixture of flour and water is left out for a few days it begins to create a gas. This mixture then when added to a recipe of bread dough causes the bread to rise-enter in leavened bread.

We call this change: fermentation, and it results because of what we have named yeast. Yeast is actually in the air around us all of the time. The white stuff that accumulates on the tops of apples or other fruit is wild yeast! So when the flour and water mixture is left out, yeast from the air is attracted to it. Yeast loves the wheat flour because it is sugar-and yeast thrives on sugar!

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While you can now buy yeast commercially, once-upon-a-time, the only way to make a yeast or leavened bread was by keeping a sourdough starter. This starter was so cherished that it was passed down as an heirloom! This type of yeast can be kept alive indefinitely as long as it is fed and kept in it’s preferred temperatures.

There is lots of really great information I could ramble on about sourdough starter and its benefits, but there are also many many great books on the subject. Instead, I will just list the books on my kitchen shelf at the end of this post. The same goes for the process that wheat should go through in order to become a nutritious part of our diet. Wheat has really gotten a bad reputation the past couple of years, and that is largely because we have forgotten how to be slow in our processes in order to allow our foods to fully benefit us and become digestible. My friend Esther Emery had some video time with our other friend Angela who has been teaching us all how we can come to a full appreciation of wheat through adding back in the steps that have been removed through commercially processed wheat or bread. Check out their video here.

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My sourdough starter was recently resurrected from certain death. This household has been a crazy whirlwind of all things that take all time. Which resulted in the neglect of my starter. I was doing so well at caring for it, I even took it on a two week trip this past summer! That is where it ended and was forgotten. But, thankfully I have this really great book (listed below) that walked me through what I needed to do to save my wild yeast. I will be honest, I was not a believer that it could be saved. But after following the step-by-step process over the course of a week, my stater is alive and happy in my refrigerator once again!

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This bread was made with natural wild yeast. I used my tried and true Basic Bread Recipe but omitted the commercial yeast. Instead, I used two cups of my sourdough started. When you do this it does add extra liquid not accounted for in the original recipe. You have two choices on how to combat this. A: reduce the liquid by about a cup or B: add more flour.  My chosen method is usually B. The only reason I might choose A, would because I don’t want to increase my dough yield. But with a family a 9, having more dough is never a problem-especially when it is this delicious!

The next thing that is different when baking with wild yeast vs. commercial, is that it takes longer to rise. I have read however that you can reduce the rise time of sourdough bread made with wild yeast by increasing the amount of starter-but I have not experimented with that yet. I am actually very happy to mix up our family bread before I go to bed at night, tuck it into the bread pans covering it with a clean towel, and turning off the kitchen light until the next morning. Yes, this particular method can result in the bread taking up to 12 hours to rise. I only do one rise, as soon as the dough is mixed and kneaded it goes right into the greased pans. The first time I experimented with this method I kept checking to see if it had risen yet, and I was certain that my wild yeast was not alive and happy as it should be to rise bread. But when I returned to it in the morning it had indeed turned into the perfect loaf, ready to bake. To bake, I have been following the advise in Nourishing Traditions (listed below) to bake it at 350* for 1 hour. It comes out beautiful every time! And what a wonderful thing to have the bread for the day done an hour after I have pried my eyes open.

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Not a fan of sourdough? That’s okay, this method could still work for you. If you are using your started at least every other day I have found that the bread is not very sour. Now, if you do enjoy a good sour bread-you should take out the amount of starter for your recipe and let it set for a couple of hours before you use it-or even over night. Adding that fermentation time will give you a more sour bread.

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Right now as I type, this lovely ball of dough is rising upstairs and waiting for me to turn it into  yummy dinner rolls to go with our tummy warming vegetable-beef soup that has also been simmering on the stovetop all afternoon! The rolls where made with my sourdough starter, but due to the time-frame in which I needed them to be edible, I added a wee bit of commercial yeast. My family will be glad that I did, I think they would prefer to eat dinner at 6p.m. not 1 a.m.!

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And in the morning we will get to dive into this bowl of pumpkin muffins that baked and warmed the kitchen today. If I had starter that needed used, I could have put some into this batch of muffins as I sometimes do, but today my starter was busy enough. There are 32 of them, even so, I will need to stand guard that there are some leftover after breakfast for snacking on later. We love muffins around here!

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Don’t forget to check out the titles below and to go watch the awesome video my friends put together! 

Thanks for being a friend!

Heidi

Both of these books can be found easily on Amazon:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (she has a few other titles on my book list as well)

Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast Recipes for Whole Grain Health by Melissa Richardson (she also has another book: The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast of which she recommends reading first if you are new to sourdough. I may get it in the future. The one I ordered is because I was interested in the listed recipes-but it proved to me much more valuable since it saved my starter from being thrown out!)

Check out Esther on her other channel and also on her website as well. She is an amazing woman!

Next week: The benefits of Pig Fat and Porridge……trust me

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