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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.


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These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven. 
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
...

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It just needed a few more minutes. That was three hours ago. Saved my best for last!  #showusyourfuckedloaves

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The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though!

The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though! ...

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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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