[picture: pizza at our house made with natural yeast dough]
Hello world :)
Hundreds and hundreds of you have gotten free, non-sour natural yeast starts from me and Melissa, who is my co-author on The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast: Breads, Pancakes, Waffles, Cinnamon Rolls and Muffins. We give starts away, at no cost, to anyone who asks for them in the U.S. and Canada. If you want one, go here:
We believe our cookbook is the first natural yeast cookbook to be published in the U.S. in more than 60 years, and the book is being called “ground-breaking." Natural yeast flattens the glycemic index, takes away heartburn and acid reflux forever, helps prevent or reverse gluten intolerance and, in some cases, full-blown Celiac’s disease, turns natural phytic acid into an anti-oxidant, controls allergies, and turns flour into a yeast that is both pre-biotic and pro-biotic. Natural yeast is amazingly healthful and free -- I know it sounds like a multi-level marketing pitch, but yeast was invented by God and has been used to make bread for more than 6,000 years -- until we traded natural yeast for synthetic, laboratory created yeast in 1984 (I've now learned that yeast was genetically modified even before 1984.)
Many of you have emailed me to say how much you love baking with the natural yeast, and we are grateful for that. Some of you have emailed with questions and struggles. There is a learning curve to using natural yeast. It is very different than the laboratory-created yeast that has been in grocery stores since 1984. But with a little instruction, natural yeast quickly becomes easy to use. Once you have gotten your free dried natural yeast flakes from me, here is what you do:
Step 1: Trust the process! The yeast you get from me will be a tiny "dust" or "powder" or smashed flakes. Some of you have been concerned that you are not getting "enough" -- but hundreds if not thousands of people have now successfully used this "dust" to start yeast. So don't panic when you see how small the amount is. It will come in a see-through plastic packet. Pictured on a spoon, it will look something like this:
[picture: natural yeast flakes on a spoon]
[picture: flour and water mixed with yeast flakes)
Step Three: Let this sit on counter for two days. At the end of two days, you may or may not see visible bubbles. Either way, don't worry.
Step Four: Add 3/4 of a cup of lukewarm water and a cup of flour to what is in your jar. Let it sit on your counter until you see bubbles, which could be in a few hours or may take a day, depending on temperature etc.
However, if you DON'T see bubbles after 24 hours, remove half of what is in your jar and add 3/4 of a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to what is left in your jar. This time, MAKE TWO CHANGES:
Change One: Use water a bit warmer than you used last time.
Change Two: Warm the jar periodically (once an hour is preferable). You can do this in several ways. You can turn your oven on its lowest setting for about one minute, then turn it off and put your jar inside. Or you could lay the jar in a crockpot and turn it on low for a minute and turn it off, leaving the jar in side. Or lay your jar in a toaster oven on warm, turning the heat off after about a minute. Or even put your yeast jar inside a bowl of warm water for a couple minutes. Whichever of these steps you choose, repeat about once every hour or two, until you get bubbly yeast.
If, after 12 hours, you still don't see bubbles, repeat this step again until you do. DO NOT put your yeast in the fridge. I've gotten letters and emails from some of you who are not seeing bubbles after the first grow-out, and you are putting your yeast in the fridge. Don't do this! Putting it in the fridge slows the growth down tremendously! Remember that yeast is a living thing, and must be fed to be happy and grow. Just keep repeating step four until you see bubbles, using slightly warmer water each time (but never scalding hot!). And remember, if there is a layer of liquid on top of your yeast after it has sat four 24 hours, you are not using enough flour! When you feed it next time, increase your ratio of flour to water.
If you DO see bubbles, your yeast is ready to use!
However, because it has been out on the counter for so long, it is likely beginning to go sour. Here's how to make it go "sweet":
Step Five. Scrape the yeast from the jar, until only a residue remains. See photo.
[picture of the same jar of yeast, with yeast removed, and only a residue remaining.]
Step Six: Wash about half the residue out of the bottle and let it go down the drain.
Step Seven. Put a half to three-quarters of a cup of lukewarm water into the jar. Swirl it around to mix the water with the remaining residue of yeast. Remember, you want to grow it out with as little of the original yeast as possible, because this is what will keep your yeast sweet and new.
[picture of water mixed with a small residue of yeast.]
Step Eight. Add flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough.
[picture of the same yeast and water, this time mixed with flour to form a shaggy mass of dough.)
Step Nine. Let this sit on your counter for 12 hours, until is has visibly risen and has lots of bubbles, like this:
[The same yeast, 14 hours later. Notice the pockets of bubbles]
Step Ten. if there is still any hint of sourness, repeat steps 5-10.
Step Eleven. Now cook or bake. And when your jar is empty (because you used your yeast to cook or bake), repeat steps 5-11 again.
NOTE ONE: If you have not used natural yeast before, I STRONGLY suggest you start by making pancakes or waffles, because those are much easier than homemade bread, and it will give you chance to get a feel for working with your new natural yeast start.
NOTE TWO: Once you have turned your flake dust into bubbly yeast, the easiest way to keep your yeast sweet is to grow it in the fridge. I do this by following steps 5-8 above, and then instead of letting it sit out for 12 hours, I let it sit out for an hour or two, and then I put it in the fridge. After a day or two in the fridge, the yeast will begin to rise. The yeast can be left in the fridge for up to a week.
Q: The sample of natural yeast you gave me was dead.
A: Some of you have emailed me to say that the sample yeast I gave you was “dead”. First, let me say that I use the exact same yeast flakes to start my yeast. The flakes I gave you are from exactly the same batch of yeast that I use. And my flakes grow out every time. This should prove that your flakes are not “dead” but perhaps you need more help in learning the process of growing out natural yeast from flakes. If kept cool and dry, natural yeast does not die, ever, in its dried flake form. I repeat, natural yeast DOES NOT DIE, EVER, in its dried form. We know this because yeast flakes from the tombs of Egypt have been reconstituted and grown out. I have check this out -- it is a fact and not an internet rumor. When yeast is dried, it goes into stasis, which means that it is in long-term hibernation. It can be slow to wake up. Be patient, careful and exacting in following directions. If you threw out your sample because you thought it was dead, never fear, you can get another free sample by email m e at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: My yeast has turned brown.
A: You have used too much water. THIS IS THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF SO-CALLED “DEAD” YEAST. I cannot emphasize this enough. If your flour and water mixture was soupy, you did not use enough flour (see recipe above). Water is heavier than carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is what yeast creates to makes its bubbles. When natural yeast is mixed with flour, it (literally) eats the tannins, lignans, and glutens, and produces “bubbly yeast” as a by-product. If you have a soupy mix to begin with, the yeast grows out, the weight of the water squeezes the carbon dioxide bubbles out, and the yeast NEVER looks bubbly even though it has grown out. You can always tell if your mixture was wrong (soupy) because a layer of water gathers at the top of the yeast. This water has a brownish tint, due to oxidation of the yeast. If you had “dead” yeast that had a layer of brown water on the top, you used too much water. To fix it, take a teaspoon of yeast from the center or bottom of your "brown" yeast jar and follow steps 5-10 above.
Q: Since it is easier to start with live yeast instead of dried yeast, can I get some live yeast from you?
A: You can. I ship live yeast FREE with seed orders of $15 or more from my seed website, SeedRenaissance.com. This is the website where I sell my guaranteed-pure, never hybrid, never GMO vegetable seed. Check it out :)
Q: How do I make a backup dried yeast?
A: To make flakes from live yeast, use this recipe:
Step One: Put a piece of wax paper the size of a cookie sheet on your kitchen counter.
Step Two: Put a quarter-cup of wet natural yeast (at peak rise -- don’t use old yeast) in the middle of the wax paper.
Step Three: Put another sheet of wax paper over the top of this. You now have a sandwich of wax paper and yeast. Use your hands to squish the yeast between the sheets of wax paper. Pull the sheets apart and put them, (face-up, of course) on the racks in your oven. Do NOT turn the oven on. They go on the oven just to keep the wet yeast away from stray floating hair or flies or anything gross that you don’t want in your yeast. Leave the wax paper in the oven for one to two days until completely dry. If you don’t squish the yeast very thin, or if you use more than a quarter-cup, the yeast could take up to A WEEK to dry, so follow the recipe carefully if you want dry yeast in one to two days.
Q: (from an email to me) "Can I get a start of your yeast that you offered in your blog post? I actually got a start from you before, but it developed mold on it so maybe I let is sit out too long."
A: UPDATED ANSWER: Let me just say that when I originally wrote this post, here was my answer: "Natural yeast does not go moldy. It cannot because of the acid content. This is documented in our new cookbook." I assumed that people who were complaining of mold were actually seeing what the break-making world calls this the "brain." (see below). But then, in the spring of 2013, one day I ran out of flour and was in a hurry and I grabbed some whole wheat pastry flour I had purchased, and I used it to grow out my yeast, and the next day, the jar was filled with disgusting mold! I could not believe it. This is the first time I've ever had mold in my natural yeast, ever. So now I guess I can't say natural yeast doesn't go moldy! So don't use pastry flour. I suppose this is also possible with white flour, but I don't know because I don't use white flour (because it is metabolized by the body exactly as though it is white sugar -- very bad for you). It has also been pointed out to me that perhaps natural yeast could go moldy in places with high humidity. I live in a very dry desert, so I suppose this is possible. At any rate, if you get real mold (and not just brown water or a brown "brain" layer, as explained below) then take that dried yeast back-up that you created (you did, right?) and use it to start over again. That is what I did.
Now, about the "brain." I hate that term. Not exactly a term of art! Anyway, it means that the top of your yeast has gone brown. This is because natural yeast oxidizes, exactly the way a cut banana turns brown, or an apple, or a potato. It is NOT mold, and it is not dangerous. It does mean your yeast has gone sour. You can still use a teaspoon of this yeast in the recipe above to re-sweeten your yeast.
Q: My bread is a brick! Help!
A: A couple of answers. First, when adding yeast to a recipe from our cookbook, use yeast at or near peak rise. This will help. Second, the kneading is ENORMOUSLY important. So...
Tips for kneading BY HAND: Knead 250 times by folding the dough in half. Then, let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then knead another 250 times. Then let the dough raise.
Tips for kneading BY MACHINE: Use the lowest gear possible. For example, on the Bosch, use setting one only. Knead for five minutes. Then turn off the machine and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then knead for another ten minutes, and let it raise.
If you are having trouble, here is a brand-new recipe for bread:
NEVER-FAIL NATURAL YEAST BREAD RECIPE
(copyright 2013 Caleb Warnock. This recipe MAY NOT be shared in any way without express written permission.)
This recipe makes one loaf.
Step One: Put 1 1/3 cups warm water in a large bowl.
Step Two: Add ONE TABLESPOON of natural yeast, one teaspoon honey, one tablespoon olive oil and stir.
Step Three: Add three cups whole wheat flour, and one cup of bread flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir with a Danish dough hook (or with your hand) until just incorporated.
Step Four. Begin to knead the dough by hand, folding firmly in half 250 times.
Step Five. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Step Six. Knead another 250 times.
Step Seven: Place dough in greased and floured bread pan. Warm the jar periodically (once an hour is preferable) FOR SIX HOURS. You can do this in several ways. You can turn your oven on its lowest setting for about one minute every hour. Or you could put the pan in crockpot if yours is large enough and turn it on low for a minute and turn it off, leaving the jar in side. Or put your pan in a toaster oven on warm, turning the heat off after about a minute. Or even put your loaf pan inside a casserole dish of hot water for a couple minutes every hour.
Step Seven. After six hours, your bread will have risen some, but may not have doubled. Don't worry about it. Simply put that loaf pan in the oven on 400 DEGREES for ten minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Enjoy!
Thanks everyone! -Caleb