When the weather is frosty, as it was this morning, I like to make bread. Bread is one of my favourite foods, but I have an ulterior motive for baking bread when it’s cold outside. Our house is old, draughty and the heating system barely takes the ice off the rooms. So I like to supplement our heating with warmth from the oven as I bake.
As you can see from the photo above, I use a cane banetton to proof my dough. It’s a great way to support the dough and it also gives your loaf a nice swirled design. I started a wild yeast starter (or sourdough starter) last summer. Even if I’m not making sourdough I always include a ladle full of my wild yeast starter in my dough with the “normal” yeast. I think it’s nice to personalise your bread with your own yeast that you’ve “captured” from the wild. A wild yeast starter sounds daunting, but it’s really simple to make and simple to keep alive. Here’s how I made mine, and what I do with it to keep it happy.
Sourdough / Wild Yeast Starter
Yeast needs sugar, warmth and moisture to reproduce, so here’s how to grow your own little yeast pot.
To start :
150g of flour and 250ml of warm water. I use spelt flour, you can use any sort, but spelt or wholemeal is best because white flour is a bit slow to get going. Whichever you use, it doesn’t make a difference to your final loaf. You’ll need a non-metallic container with a lid, I use a Tupperware pot. Make sure there’s enough room for it to grow & bubble up. So go for something four times bigger than your initial batter. Mix the flour and water together and then whisk for as long as you can stand!. If you’ve got an electric whisk use this, the idea is to get as much air into the mixture as possible (because the yeast is in the air). Put the lid on, then leave somewhere fairly warm. Keep checking it, at some point you’ll get bubbles or holes on the surface. How long this takes depends on how much air you whisked in, how much wild yeast was hanging about in the air and the temperature.
When you see nice big bubbles or holes on the surface, feed your starter by adding another 150g of flour and another 250ml of warm water. Put the lid back on and leave it somewhere warm again. The next day, check to see if you have more bubbles/holes on the surface. When you do, you can start the maintenance feeding.
Tip out half the starter and replace it with 150g of flour and 250ml of cold water (note it’s cold now). Put the lid back on and leave somewhere coolish. Repeat this step every day for a week, then you can put the starter in the fridge and do this step once a week. I sometimes leave mine for two weeks. You can tell when it’s getting desperate for another feed because the smell changes from nice yeasty smells to something that has a little tinge of acetone to it. Remember though, to take it out of the fridge the day before you want to use it so it’s active and bubbling again.