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.