Friday, February 1, 2013

A new Pet

I'm trying a new experiment. One of the things that I work towards on a regular basis is bringing all my various skills close to home. A big part of my prep plan is SHIP (SHelter In Place) rather than SHOW (SHelter Out in Wild) now that we have a young'un. And a big part of that plan is having food sources within walking distance.

I can grow a garden- I learned that last summer, and I'll be growing it a bit this year, and see what I can eke out of it. As it stands, we are still eating last summer's zuchinni, which I froze as it came ready. Meat is a little trickier- that'll be a barter situation at best, right now. And bread...

Oh, bread! I don't know if this is clear, but I love baking bread. Normally I'm a lousy baker, because I'm not real good at following recipes, but bread is a different story. Its a little bit alive, a little bit flexible, and a whole lot of satisfying. My new pet is a yeast culture.

In a technical sense, this is not a true sourdough starter. True sourdough has a level of lacto bacteria (related, I think, to the makers of sauerkraut), which is what makes it 'sour' tasting. My starter, on the other hand, is domestic. My goal is to see if I can maintain a yeast culture from a regular batch of bread.

To get it started, all I did was add a little water and scrape down the mixing bowl I made my last loaf of bread in. Next, I gave it a little flour and put it in a jar. Three days later, I have grown it from a tablespoon or so into about a quart of starter.

This stuff grows FAST! Because of the amounts involved, and the way the yeast processes things, starter increases in a geometric progression. Start with a quarter cup, which doubles by itself, then match it on the next feeding. Now you have a whole cup, which doubles to two cups. Feed it two cups, and those 4 cups double to eight cups. This is why its recommended to use or discard half of your starter with every feeding, else you would soon be adding flour by the bag and have starter measured in barrels, not cups. So, since the initial few feedings have gone well, I'm going to try my hand at baking with it. I'll let you know how it turns out!


  1. I home brewed a few, well actually many, years ago. Different topic, but at what temperature range are you keeping the yeast? If the power goes out in the winter, will it slow down or die? I'm assuming the yeast cells will go dormant, but I don't have any hands on experience with that yet. Also, you are only adding yeast? No sugar or glucose for the yeast to feed on? Lots of questions! Thanks for the post, and I'll be giving this a try on my next batch of bread. Oh!, and how do you measure the culture to add to your new dough when you bake? I'm sure you could make a Q&A out of my ramblings....thanks again.

  2. I actually baked the first loaf with it today- turned out delicious. I'm going to get a full pic post (because its fun to see fresh bread) going, maybe tomorrow. But as far as temps and feeding, I want to make this as low impact as possible. All I add to the starter is flour and water (today I scraped the mixing bowl back in as well) and I am keeping it on the counter. Because we have Danger, and the bedrooms in the house are a little cool, we keep the house at 72*. And thats it, right now. Just a jar, sitting on the counter. When I baked today, I used 1 cup of active 'fed' starter, 1 cup of water, 1/2 Tb each salt and sugar, and about 4 cups of flour- it made one large round loaf. As I understand it, the starter can be stored in the fridge for up to a week between feedings- I put away my first split to test that theory. Let me know how yours turns out, too!