Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stalking the Wild Yeast

    Lately I've been taken with a desire to learn how to bake bread. I've always been a big bread fan. I loved all of the different breads I tried in Italy and I really love the "artisan" type breads you can buy now like the pane pugliese they sell at Costco.  However, I'm quite certain that the bread would taste much better if I were able to make it myself.  Also, I don't like the idea of my quality of life being linked to closely to the continued existance of Costco

    I decided to take my budding obsession to the public library where I checked out a book entitled "52 Loaves".  The author was extremely obsessive (not merely mildly obsessive like me) and went on a one year quest to learn how to bake a particular type of bread that he really liked. He baked a loaf of what he called "peasant bread" every week for an entire year.  His journey of discovery included, among other things, trips to Morocco and France, a homebuilt outdoor clay oven, a week of baking school at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, a week of baking bread in a French monastary, and the capture of his own home grown sourdough starter known as a levain.  While I'm not planning on taking a class at a fancy hotel in Paris, I do think the idea of capturing my own yeast culture sounds pretty cool. Everything is better homegrown.

    So where does one go to hunt for wild yeast?  Fortunately, I didn't have to go any further than my backyard as wild yeast grow in abundance on many types of fruit.  The instructions in the book suggested using a couple of apples.  One of the apples is cut up into one inch cubes while the second apple is peeled. This is place in a jar with about a cup of water. If tap water is used it has to be poured into a jar and left open for 24 hours before use so that the chlorine can offgas.  The mixture is stirred daily and after three days it should be a bit foamy.  At that point the water is strained off and some flour and more water are added and Voila, you are a yeast farmer.  Needless to say my little science projects are sitting on our kitchen counter as I write. I'm at day two at the moment.  In order to hedge my bets I'm also trying a similar experiment using some of my grapes.  Linda has developed a great deal of patience over the years with my numerous hobbies.  This has stood me in very good stead in this latest endeaver.  I think she feels this is pretty harmless compared to the possible construction of an outdoor clay oven in the backyard.

1 comment:

  1. It probably smells better than homemade vinegar, too :) I can't wait to see the results! PS Those chicks get snarky when they are hungry.