You can capture airborne yeast to make a homemade sourdough yeast starter. Yeast is in the air from many varieties of plants that make up the surrounding environment. Setting out a flour and water mix creates the perfect breeding grounds for these wild yeast strains. When wild yeast strains are strong enough to kill off bacteria and begin to thrive, the starter can be used to make multiple batches of high rising, freshly baked bread.
Things You'll Need
- 1/3 cup white flour (bread, all-purpose)
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) bottled water (drinking, spring)
- Kitchen thermometer
- Mixing bowl
- Thin kitchen towel
- 1 2/3 cup wheat or rye flour
- Plastic wrap
Open a small bottle of water and warm it in the microwave in 30-second intervals until it is just above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Test the temperature with a kitchen thermometer.
Combine the white flour and 1 tablespoon of the heated bottled water in a mixing bowl with your fingers to form a small ball of dough. Knead the dough inside the bowl for 5 to 8 minutes, sprinkling in slightly more white flour if the dough is sticking to your fingers.
Cover the bowl containing the dough with a slightly damp kitchen towel and place it in the warmest part of the kitchen for 48 to 72 hours. Ideal temperatures for the yeast starter are around 80 degrees. The dough is ready for use when it has crusted over and shows trapped bubbles in the interior when the crust is peeled away.
Peel away and discard the hardened outer crust on the dough ball and mix the remaining dough with 2 tablespoons of room-temperature bottled water and 2/3 cup of wheat or rye flour to form a firm ball of dough.
Place the damp kitchen towel over the newly refreshed ball of dough in the bowl and allow it to rest in the warm spot for another 24 hours.
Peel away the hard outer crust before mixing in a full cup of the wheat or rye flour and 1/4 cup of bottled water. Bring the ingredients together into a tight ball once they have been evenly incorporated.
Rest the dough ball covered inside the bowl for another 8 to 12 hours in the warmest part of the kitchen. When the wild yeast starter is done, it will stay dented when you press on it lightly with a finger.
Cut off small 1/4-cup sections of the dough to mix into breads and other baked goods. The natural yeasts from the starter will thrive in the new dough and cause it to rise. The dough ball will have a smell that is similar to stale beer.
Stretch a piece of plastic wrap across the bowl holding the finished wild yeast starter and slide it into the fridge until it is needed. The yeast will survive in the refrigerator for about three weeks, or longer if it is taken out and refreshed with new water and flour.
Tips & Warnings
- Try jump-starting a natural yeast starter by replacing half of the water with a natural fruit juice like pineapple or grape. The extra sugars give yeast more food for faster production.
- Chlorinated water will kill the wild yeast and bacteria that are essential to developing a usable yeast starter.
- Photo Credit Wholegrain dough image by Elzbieta Sekowska from Fotolia.com
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