I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It has to do with yeast.
Every since this coronavirus pandemic hit the world, much of the internet exploded into a whole slew of sourdough starter how-to’s.
Everyone and their grandmother is making starters, growing their own yeast, and baking bread.
What happened to the gluten-free movement anyway? Those who aren’t Celiac, are they still following the wheat-free diets? I mean, there’s no yeast, few eggs, and the flour is getting low…everyone is stress baking, is what I’m hearing.
I don’t know. All I know is this whole thing about sourdough got me curious.
And since I’m stuck in the house with my tribe day in and day out without much variety, I figured, why not try and make some myself?
Like many people, I read books on bread baking.
I also scoured the internet and consulted all the so-called experts. I read, and read some more. Then I watched some clips.
After a while, I started getting a little stressed. They were talking about things like exact measurements, using scales and not measuring cups, water had to be filtered, flour had to be of a certain type, yada yada YADA.
The entire thing is ridiculous. Do you think back during the World Wars people had access to exact measurements, refined flours or consistent temperatures?
They just did it the natural way. Mix flour and water, cover loosely, wait.
It either fermented, or it didn’t.
And that’s what saved me from a nervous breakdown. (ha)
Snarky side note: this is the stuff they should teach in school.
Here’s what I discovered during my in-home yeast-making experiments:
You do not need a scale. I have a scale, an electronic one. I did not use it.
You can use water from the tab. It doesn’t matter how much chlorine is in it, all you do is boil it in a kettle (or on a stove top), and let it stand overnight. That’s what I did, and I had no issues.
You can use all-purpose flour. That’s what I have in the house, that’s what I used. I also had some whole wheat flour left over and used some of that, too.
No need to use dried fruit. A guy from India said on twitter to use a piece of dried fruit in the starter. Dried fruit, unwashed, has yeast on its skin, and can help jump-start yeast production. I found this interesting but, given the corona cooties these days, decided not to use any dried fruit in my starter. Go ahead and do it if you want, and tell me your experience with it.
Measurements do not have to be exact.
I realize this is a bit of a controversial topic as almost all recipes talk about exact measurements. I’m just outlining my personal experience here…
The first time I followed exact measurements in a recipe, the dough appeared way too sticky. Dry even. It didn’t look like that in the picture. I added more water, and hereby realized that the measurements do not have to be that exact.
After about 4 days, the whole wheat jar started to bubble and smell somewhat sour. It wasn’t off-putting, and smelled a bit yeast-y. I concluded it had to be yeast production, so I scooped some out into a bowl.
I now had half the fermented flour still in the original jar, and some in a bowl.
I fed the jar a scoop of flour, some more water, stirred it with the back of a wooden spoon, and left it to do its thing again on the back corner of a warm counter.
Note: Adding water a bit at a time until the consistency is stir-able is something you learn how to do over time. You don’t want it so liquid-y that it pours, but you don’t want it so sticky that it forms into a ball.
The starter in the bowl got turned into bread dough. I left it covered in a bowl to rise after kneading it for a few minutes and didn’t know what to expect. Either it had active yeast in it and rose to double its bulk, or not.
It rose. Not quite double but bigger than original dough. Which means the yeast was active and working.
Which is why I’m saying, it’s not that of an exact science. I mean, I’m no baker and here I have perfectly eatable bread.
You can wing it, like I did, and do, and it still works. It may not be sourdough bread (you need rye flour for that, I think), but it’s bread. Or pizza dough.
Just be imaginative and figure it out. If you’re like me you have some extra time on your hands while locked down indefinitely.
I know some of you bake proper bread, and it looks delicious. This was more of an experiment to see what all the fuss was with this yeast shortage we suddenly seem to be having, and it was something to do while stuck in lock-down.
Go ahead and share your experiences! See you in the comments.