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Yeast captured from the air and bent to the will of mankind to create bread!
–Yeast captured from the air and bent to the will of mankind to create bread!

It seems like every recipe for bread starts with 2 packages of active dried yeast. It came as a revelation to me that there is yeast all around us in the air. Don’t believe me? Go to the kitchen and assemble the following:

Equipment:

  • 2 quart mixing bowl
  • Plastic cling wrap

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water or whole milk
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Time: 5 minutes to start + a lifetime of maintenance

Serves: Potentially millions. Start fishing now and you could give Jesus a run for his money.

Process:

  1. Mix the flour and water in the bowl then cover it with the plastic wrap and leave it on the counter out of direct sunlight.
  2. Every morning your job is to grab a fork, stir the mixture and then cover it again.
  3. Within 2 days you should start to see little bubbles forming. You have now cultivated yeast. It should smell sour. 

That’s it.You now have a sourdough starter. And like it or not, you are now a slave to the yeast beast. Care and feeding of the yeast beast is pretty simple. You can pop it in the fridge if you are only going to make bread now and then or you can simply leave it in the same place you made it if you are going to be a habitual bread maker.

If you leave it in the fridge: Remove the beast from the fridge and set it on the counter out of direct sunlight at least 24 hours before you plan to make bread. Once per month and every time you make bread (more on this in the sourdough loaf post) you will need to feed the beast by adding a half a cup of flour.

If you leave it on the counter: You are committing to baking bread every week. Keep the beast covered with plastic wrap and give it a stir every morning. This is just a quick couple of swirls with a fork, not a full on whisking operation. With every recipe of bread you make you will remove a cup or so of starter and then feed the beast with a half a cup of flour and the return of a half a cup of yeast from the sponge (more on this in the sourdough loaf post).

NOTE:
If you get pink liquid or pink fuzzy stuff growing on it,
you should throw this beast away and start over.
This is a very bad thing.

This is the easy part. Soon we’ll explore how to bend the yeast beast to your will to create the tasty loaf of bread in the background of the picture.