Capturing Wild Yeast

You don’t need the handy dried yeast in a packet!!!

Did you know that?  I didn’t until earlier this year when I heard about “capturing” wild yeast.  That’s right.  You grow your own in a starter.

Cool, huh?  Although this project has sat on the back burner until just recently, I’ve been quite enthralled with the idea.

The first step of baking with your own captured yeast is to go about “capturing” it.  It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds.  You just need to have some patience and be able to remember to feed it every day.

What this is in actuality is sourdough bread.  You ferment flour and water to create a sourdough starter that leavens your baked goods.  I’d always thought of sourdough bread as the yummy but very distinctive tasting “San-Francisco-style” sourdough.  I didn’t realize that you can use sourdough starter to make lots of different breads.  I foresee lots of experiments in the future!

Why Grow Your Own?

  1. For me, the #1 reason is cost.  I cringe every time I have to grab a jar of yeast at the store.  The price just seems so incredibly high for such a small jar and I do a lot of baking so they don’t last that long.  I love the idea that (if properly taken care of) I can have my own yeast on hand indefinitely.
  2. I love feeling self-sustainable when I have the knowledge to create something from scratch.  Even if I forget to feed my starter and end up killing it, I know how to create another one . . . and it’s really not hard!
  3. The coolness (or maybe, geekiness) factor.  How many people do you know make their bread with captured yeast?
  4.  There is a lot of speculation out there that the micro-nutrients in your fermented sourdough starter is better for your body than the isolated commercial yeast.  The established starters contain not only yeast but healthy bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, which contributes to digestive health.  Also, the bacteria is responsible for the depth of flavor that you get when you bake with sourdough.

What You Need

  • Jar
  • Clean Spoon
  • Wheat Flour
  • Rye Flour
  • Water

This makes a traditional sourdough starter.  If you’re wanting to try to make a whole wheat bread, I recommend using 100% wheat flour for the starter.  *NOTE*  The best temperature to grow your starter is around 70-80˚.  Too hot and you run the risk of bad bacteria contaminating your starter.  This actually happened to me on my first time around with this during the hot summer months.  If it’s colder than 70˚, your starter might just take longer to get going.

Day 1

Mix together 1/3 cup wheat flour, 1/8 cup rye flour and 1/4 cup water.  I found that unless I put a lid on or covered with saran wrap, the mix tended to dry out on top.  Let sit for 24 hours.

This was taken 24 hours after I had mixed it up. As you can see, not much happens during this first day.

Day 2

Add 1/3 cup wheat flour, 1/8 cup rye flour and 1/4 cup water.  Stir well.  Let sit for 24 hours.

We’ve got a little something! The bubbles are a good sign.

Day 3

Add 1/3 cup wheat flour, 1/8 cup rye flour and 1/4 cup water.  Stir well.  Let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4

Discard most of the starter, leaving a couple tablespoons in the bottom.  Then add 2/3 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water and mix well.  I was busy this day and didn’t get a chance to take pictures but it looked a lot like Day 3.

Day 5

Again, discard most of the starter, leaving a couple tablespoons in the bottom.  Then add 2/3 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

Day 6

Yes, you know by now – discard most of the starter, leaving a couple tablespoons in the bottom.  Then add 2/3 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

Now that’s some happy yeast.

Day 7

Sing it with me now . . . discard most of the starter, leaving a couple tablespoons in the bottom.  Then add 2/3 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

I was really late feeding it this day and it was past it’s prime but it was fine and still active once it was fed again.

Day 8 and After

You don’t want to use your yeast until it’s at least a week old.  Give the yeast and good bacteria time to take over any bad bacteria that might be present in the beginning.  It is also developing the complex flavor that makes it delicious!  Once you get to this point, you’ll notice the pattern that a few hours after feeding your starter becomes bubbly and basically doubles in volume.  You’ll get a nice froth.  Consider this the “peak” performance time for the yeast.  This is the prime time to use your starter in a bread recipe.  *Make sure to feed your starter again after using some for your bread!

Since I’m new to this, I’m starting with sourdough recipes that others have shared online.  You can also substitute your sourdough starter for yeast in your existing recipes.  Substitute 1 cup of starter for 1 packet of yeast called for and make sure and adjust the other ingredients to accommodate the extra ~1/2c. of water and ~1c. of flour.  I’m looking forward to trying this in my favorite wheat bread recipe to see how it turns out.  Stay tuned!

To store your captured yeast:

With the lid on, place your jar in the fridge.  You should try to refresh it about once a week to keep it active but I’ve heard that they’ll take a bit of abuse if you forget for a couple of weeks.  When you know you’ll be wanting to use it, take it out of the fridge and refresh a couple of times, about 12 hours apart to get it active again.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve tried this twice, with varying results. A couple of times it was amazing, and the other times very dense (I know the type of flour you use makes a big difference). But the method of growing the yeast was slightly different. I’m going to try this way and see how it works out. Thanks.

  2. This is really cool…. I might have to try this as well… 🙂
    Have you tried baking with it yet?? I am wondering how well it works….

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