Growing Your Own Yeast

The other day, I ran out of yeast. For most people, this probably wouldn’t be a big deal. For me, it was hell. I love making my own bread. To put it into perspective, I think I’ve bought two loaves of bread in the past nine months and I eat bread every day.

My lack of yeast got me thinking: could I grow my own yeast so that I would always have it around? The answer, according to Google, is YES. Let me tell you, this made my day.

I spent half an hour or so looking up different techniques. Some required pineapple juice, which I didn’t have on hand, so I immediately eliminated those. On The Fresh Loaf, one of the BEST sites for bread making, I found this handy tutorial on how to start your own bread starter.

It seemed easy enough. You just mix flour and water together a couple of times during a week and BOOM: you have starter. You just need a pint sized or larger container, water, and flour. I didn’t have any Tupperware large enough, so I used an old pickle jar. I go through pickles like crazy, so trust me when I say I’ve ALWAYS got one lying around. As for the flour, I didn’t have rye (boy am I just improvising today!) so I used some whole wheat flour I had on hand. For the water, I used the only non-chlorinated water I had lying around: distilled.

I followed all the instructions and ended up with a starter! It’s not very sour yet, but it’s allowed me to make the pictured sourdough challah. If you want to try this bread, here’s how I made mine:

Sourdough Challah

Ingredients

  • 140g milk
  • 1 T butter
  • 9g salt
  • 18g sugar (can double for a sweeter bread)
  • 10g wheat germ (optional)
  • 10g poppy seeds (optional)
  • 225 g flour
  • 8g yeast
  • 100g starter (100% hydration)

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and warm the milk to about 115 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients, then add starter and liquids. Mix and knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Let the bread rise until doubled (takes an hour or two).
  4. Deflate the dough and cut into three or four pieces (depending on if you want a triple or a quadruple braid). Roll the pieces of dough into strings a foot to two feet long and pinch together at one end. Braid the dough and seal the remaining end with a pinch.
  5. Let the dough rise a second time.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.

Now, if you don’t have any yeast lying around, you can make this bread with no added yeast. The first rise will take a lot longer, though. You’d want to mix and knead the dough the night before so it has a few hours to rise.

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