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EdibWasa Winter 2014 : Page26

thE art oF wilD yeasT by carlY giLlespiE T 26 here are a lot, and I mean a LOT of schools of thought around sourdough, wild yeast, com-mercial yeast, ferments and pre-ferments, and just about everything that is bread baking. After doing some research I found close to a zillion forums, article comment sec-tions, and websites dedicated to complaining/begging for help with wild yeast collecting, rock-hard loaves, recipes that were titled sourdough, but didn’t use a real sourdough starter—the shame! So, I was a little intimidated to write about this elu-sive art, since most of my bread baking has involved sourdough starters that were gifted to me or pre-ferments like bigas or sponges. However—after all this research, along with some trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that gathering wild yeast isn’t as hard as we think. It just requires patience and the ability to follow the rules (this is probably why I often fail). Let’s talk for a moment about the aforementioned pre-fer-ments—bigas and sponges. Bread recipes that call for shorter fer-mentation times and use commercial yeast are referred to as pre-fer-ments or starters. Pre-ferments are a combination of flour, water and yeast mixed together and left to sit so they develop flavor and gluten strength. If left to ferment too long the yeast and bacteria can con-sume all of the sugars causing the bread to lose its… oomph. Because preferment recipes use commercial yeast to make starter, they are not true sourdoughs to the purists and often don’t live up to the complex flavors of a true sourdough. For those that find traditional sourdough too sour, and prefer a more delicate fla-vor, pre-ferments are great. Both methods offer quite a bit more flavor than your average loaf, so maybe try a little of both and see what you think. Baking is like gardening—it requires some experimentation. Sourdough loaves, unlike pre-ferments, use sourdough starter (levain, barm, or mother) as the sole leavening agent. Sourdough starter is a long fermentation of wild yeasts and bacteria cultured in a mixture of wheat or rye flour and water. A single ounce of organic wheat flour has almost 364,000 yeast cells and 8,960 Lactobacilli. When flour is combined with water these naturally occurring wild yeasts and lactic bacteria drive the fermentation process. The lacto-bacilli gobble up maltose (sugar) and convert it into acetic and lactic acids, the wild yeast prefers other sugars so do not compete with the bacteria; they produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. This is what gives sourdough its unique flavor, lift, texture, and increased shelf-life. This process is incredibly complex and takes about a week of feeding to produce a starter able to make bread, and another two if you plan on using the starter as your sole leavening agent. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the sourdough process, you may have just said to yourself – “a week of feeding?!” Yes, at least a week of feeding to create a seed culture, then a lifetime of feeding to fully mature and keep your sourdough culture alive. I know that sounds like a lot, but sourdough starters aren’t for the weak-willed and in the words of the immortal Julia Child, “nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should”. edible W ASATCH Issue 15

The Art of Wild Yeast

By Carly Gillespie

There are a lot, and I mean a LOT of schools of thought around sourdough, wild yeast, commercial yeast, ferments and pre-ferments, and just about everything that is bread baking. After doing some research I found close to a zillion forums, article comment sections, and websites dedicated to complaining/begging for help with wild yeast collecting, rock-hard loaves, recipes that were titled sourdough, but didn't use a real sourdough starter – the shame! So, I was a little intimidated to write about this elusive art, since most of my bread baking has involved sourdough starters that were gifted to me or pre-ferments like bigas or sponges. However – after all this research, along with some trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that gathering wild yeast isn't as hard as we think. It just requires patience and the ability to follow the rules (this is probably why I often fail).

Let's talk for a moment about the aforementioned pre-ferments – bigas and sponges. Bread recipes that call for shorter fermentation times and use commercial yeast are referred to as pre-ferments or starters. Pre-ferments are a combination of flour, water and yeast mixed together and left to sit so they develop flavor and gluten strength. If left to ferment too long the yeast and bacteria can consume all of the sugars causing the bread to lose its. . . oomph. Because preferment recipes use commercial yeast to make starter, they are not true sourdoughs to the purists and often don't live up to the complex flavors of a true sourdough. For those that find traditional sourdough too sour, and prefer a more delicate flavor, pre-ferments are great. Both methods offer quite a bit more flavor than your average loaf, so maybe try a little of both and see what you think. Baking is like gardening – it requires some experimentation.

Sourdough loaves, unlike pre-ferments, use sourdough starter (levain, barm, or mother) as the sole leavening agent. Sourdough starter is a long fermentation of wild yeasts and bacteria cultured in a mixture of wheat or rye flour and water. A single ounce of organic wheat flour has almost 364,000 yeast cells and 8,960 Lactobacilli. When flour is combined with water these naturally occurring wild yeasts and lactic bacteria drive the fermentation process. The lactobacilli gobble up maltose (sugar) and convert it into acetic and lactic acids, the wild yeast prefers other sugars so do not compete with the bacteria; they produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. This is what gives sourdough its unique flavor, lift, texture, and increased shelf-life. This process is incredibly complex and takes about a week of feeding to produce a starter able to make bread, and another two if you plan on using the starter as your sole leavening agent.

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the sourdough process, you may have just said to yourself – "a week of feeding?!" Yes, at least a week of feeding to create a seed culture, then a lifetime of feeding to fully mature and keep your sourdough culture alive. I know that sounds like a lot, but sourdough starters aren't for the weak-willed and in the words of the immortal Julia Child, "nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should".

HERE'S HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN WILD SOURDOUGH STARTER AT HOME!

Ingredients:
Organic rye or whole wheat flour
Bread flour
BOTTLED OR DE-CHLORINATED WATER

1 quart Mason jar with ring
Wooden or plastic spoon (do not use metal)
Plastic wrap
Glass mixing bowl

MAKING THE SEED CULTURE, DAY ONE:

As with all fermentation – before you begin, make sure that everything you are using is super-duper clean. Combine 120 grams flour (either the wheat or rye) and 120 grams water in the mason jar. Stir until flour is moistened and a stiff dough forms, if there are still loose flour particles add a little bit more water. You should have about one cup. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a cool place – about 65º F for 48 hours.

DAY TWO:

You won't notice much change.

DAY THREE:

The starter should have the consistency of a thick batter –hopefully with some surface bubbles. Remove about half of the starter and give it to a neighborhood chicken. You should have about 120 grams left. Feed the remaining starter by stirring in equal parts flour and water – 60 grams each. Cover the starter and let it sit for 24 hours at 70º – 75º F. You should see some bubbling by this time. After 12 hours your starter could increase in volume by one and half times and should have lots of bubbles.

DAY FOUR:

Repeat process from Day three. Your starter should be about 240 grams or 10 fluid ounces in volume.

DAY FIVE:

You might have an active starter! If your starter has increased in volume to three or four cups, is doming and starting to recede, you have an active starter. (If your starter has not reached this point follow directions for Day three until it shows this activity.)

If you have an active starter, feed it – as in previous steps – removing about half of it and adding equal parts flour and water. You should now have one cup of active starter. Cover it with plastic wrap at room temperature until it almost doubles. Keep the starter in your refrigerator and continue to feed it three times a week. After two more weeks your starter should be a fully mature sourdough culture with a more developed and multifaceted flavor. At this point you can switch to once a week feedings. Always bring the starter to room temperature before feeding.

By continuing to feed your starter with equal parts water and flour you are creating a starter that is what's referred to as 100% hydrated. Starters can be kept looser with more water or stiffer with less, but a 100% hydrated starter is a good place to start as it can be added to most recipes without throwing off the balance of wet and dry ingredients.

Once all your hard work has paid off it's time to get baking. The basic bread recipe on the following pages is easy and delicious. Just substitute 1/4 cup of starter for the dry yeast.

Read the full article at http://www.onlinedigeditions.com/article/The+Art+of+Wild+Yeast/1627996/195548/article.html.

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