Over the last few months I have really taken an interest in wild yeast. Sure, those yeast packets you get from the store are fine, but the idea of catching something locally and enjoying a unique flavor just to your area is just too appealing to me. Everyone has heard of sourdough bread from San Fransisco and the reason why you cannot get that anywhere else is because of the natural yeasts and bacteria native only to that area. These impart unique flavors to the breads from that region.
Now there are thousands of sourdough bread recipes, but one thing they have in common is a starter. Isn’t that annoying when you see that and you don’t have one? I mean, it basically stops you in your tracks. Well I have been expiramenting with making my own for a while and the results are incredible. Here is a look at my somewhat wet starter that I just fed today:
Yeah, it isn’t pretty, but it is alive! So how does one go about catching their own yeast and making a starter?
I can only tell you what I did, but you will find there are a lot of techniques out there, but for me, this is practically fool proof.
Take 1 cup of rye flour (the least processed you can find) and 1 cup of warm water. Mix them together in a large bowl and on a warm day, place it outside and cover with a towel. If it is a cold time of year, you can also leave this inside. There is probably less yeast inside, and if you have been using store bought yeast a lot, chances are, this is what you will catch. Don’t worry, wild natural yeast will take over. You want to put it somewhere safe. You don’t want the dog to stick his nose in this. 🙂
Bring it inside at night or if it looks like it is going to rain and in the morning, feed it again with 1 cup of rye flour and 1 cup of warm water. It should be about the consistency of a wet oatmeal.
Pretty soon you will notice some bubbles forming in the starter. Early on there will only be a few, but every day (providing you feed it) there should be more until eventually you can just tell, something is living in there!
Once it is really going, you no longer have to leave it outside or cover with a towel. A loose cover will be fine. If you notice fruit flies or anything, then use a tighter cover. The starter should begin to smell yeasty, beery, alcoholy, and also begin to get a sour cream type smell. Your close! Let it go for another day until it really begins to froth up. You should now be ready to use in your recipes.
Remember, wild yeasts will rise slower than the commercial yeasts you buy. It also will want to rest longer. When you taste your first home made sourdough bread, you will be sure that it was worth the wait!