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Make Your Own Yeast

Active, bubbly, sweet-smelling wild yeast. Who needs instant?

Blame it on the Coronavirus!

That and the perplexing penchant of people to horde commodities they think may dry up. Toilet paper at first, then flour, bleach and sanitizer, face masks … and now yeast!

That all seems so long ago. There was never a real shortage of these items, just pressures on the supply chain! Flour seems to have made a return, along with hand sanitizers. Even face masks are in greater supply. 

But yeast … well, it’s still hard to get!

Hijacked supply of yeast

Professionals and serious home bakers are up in arms! The yeast supply has dried up, they say because legions of hobbyists are making enormous demands on the inventory. Using it to make bread to stave off boredom during these days of social isolation. They have “hijacked” the supply of yeast that professionals need to make their “daily bread.”

In the online baking forums, you’d think there was the smell of revolution in the air. Many say that instant dry yeast, which is often in plentiful supply, is going to service the whims of people just wanting to stay busy. Or to the profiteers!

One baker took out his frustrations on the yeast suppliers who, he said, should “earmark” a large part of the supply for bakeries, so “we don’t succumb to irrational behaviours; and we can have some he confidence in our sources of yeast.”

Companies who make yeast, one post said, were “contributing to the irrational behaviours by not putting forth efforts to communicate with and assure product to bakeries.”

Rediscovering sourdough

This poor fellow is understandably upset, but others are using this situation to reacquaint themselves with the time-honored practice using a sourdough culture to leaven their bread.

It’s a simple solution, one that may require a few adjustments to schedules and recipes. Still, it ultimately will produce great bread, both in terms of taste and nutrition.

Flour and water, that’s all it takes to get a good sourdough starter going.

And time.

A friend for life

You can’t make a sourdough starter overnight. Time and patience. But once it’s established, you’ve got a friend for life!

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for the sourdough starter we use at the Happy Monk Baking Company. We call her Bettina. And there is lots of her!

I’m thrilled to oblige these requests. I feed Bettina every day, and once or twice a week, use about a kilo of it to build the Happy Monk breads. 

There’s lots of discard. Almost every day, I remove two-thirds of the starter and replenish the supply with fresh flour and water. I put the discard into jars, which go into the refrigerator … until there is no more room! Some discard starter gets made into waffles or pancakes … or quick pizza dough.

And some of it gets flushed down the toilet. Sadly.

It’s nice to know that part of Bettina can go to a good home. Just as long as she’s fed and cared for!

It’s an awesome responsibility!

Try making your own starter

That’s one reason why I try to get people to make their own starters from scratch. By urging the naturally occurring yeast organisms to live in a culture of flour and water, you build a deep bond with the starter. Like it’s your own child.

You feed it every day … or most days. And when you open the container and see those happy carbon dioxide bubbles and get a whiff of the sweet smell, you know it’s content. You’re making it comfortable. 

If you neglect the starter, you won’t see as many bubbles. If you take a deep whiff of a hungry starter, the aroma will blow your nose off! It’s “hangry!”

But your starter can be really forgiving. If you stick it in the fridge and forget it for a week, you can still bring it back … and soon it will be its sweet-smelling self again. It’s a miracle! You see why I call it a friend?

Seven easy steps

I encourage you to try making your own starter. Google sourdough starter guides, and you’ll be inundated with hits. Allow me to suggest a tried and true site: The Perfect Loaf, operated by the blogger Maurizio Leo. His “7 Easy Steps To Making an Incredible Sourdough Starter From Scratch” is excellent.

Get going on it tonight, and by next weekend, you might be ready to make bread.

If you’ve got a happy, active sourdough starter and you feel ready to make bread, may I suggest you start with something simple.

Try a very basic sourdough loaf. Four ingredients, maximum: Flour, water, starter, and salt. You can add a handful of sesame seeds or oatmeal flakes to sprinkle on the crust, but that’s not essential.

Try this recipe from the New York Times. There are about 10 minutes of hands-on time and up to 24 hours of waiting. If you follow the instructions carefully, you’ll undoubtedly get a beautiful smelling loaf. It will taste great too. 

Try, try again

If it doesn’t rise as much as you like, don’t feel discouraged. Try the recipe again. Experiment, try something different.

Learning to bake any bread — sourdough or not — can be a long road.

Have you got the patience for it? If you love bread as much as I do, the trials and tribulations will pay off. Try to find success early, keep at it. Stay with the same recipe for a while until you’re ready to move on.


Happy Monk Tidings - December 14, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Fruit Sourdough Pan Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Year in Bread ... and Gratitude! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - December 14, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Fruit Sourdough Pan Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Year in Bread ... and Gratitude! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook

Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook
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Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab

Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab
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Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile] ...

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Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard!

Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard! ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 24, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: The Great Kind Mystery; SPECIAL NOTE: Mildrith needs an upgrade [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly.

It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly. ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc

Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc
...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he? ...

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5 thoughts on “Make Your Own Yeast

  1. There is also the unique terroir of one’s own yeast. In your case, the flavour of the Southlands.

    1. Mais certainement, c’est le terroir du Southlands!

  2. David, I would love some of your Betinna!!..I would love to experiment and make some bread.
    Thx. Laurel

    1. Go for it, Laurel!

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