The best breads are made with a natural yeast starter. Not only is natural yeast any easy way to have perpetual amounts of yeast on hand, it also helps breakdown the wheat to make the bread more digestible.
There seems to be a societal belief that you have to get a natural yeast, or sour dough, start from someone that already has one. In actuality, they are very easy to make.
Natural yeast is basically flour, water, and time on the counter. Yeast is naturally occurring in the air. If you’ve ever picked plums, elderberries, grapes, or other similar fruit, that white film that covers them is natural yeast.
I recommend using a glass mason jar to make your natural yeast. Cover it with cheese cloth to keep bugs out but let air in. I often use a wooden spoon, whisk, or butter knife to stir mine. Make sure to stir thoroughly. Adding air to the starter helps it to thrive.
What’s the difference between a natural yeast starter and a sourdough starter?
Guess what?! Natural yeast and sourdough starts are basically the same thing. The only difference is that you get to neglect the sour dough start more. Natural yeast starts are feed most days or kept in the fridge to avoid over souring. If you want it to be more sour, then just leave it on the counter more or don’t feed it as often.
Can I use any type of flour for my natural yeast starter?
Any grain based flour will work for making a natural yeast start. Most natural yeast experts often feed their starters with unbleached all-purpose flour. Sometimes starters maintained with whole grain flour will develop an off flavor or become spunky with time.
In the video I got started with whole white wheat, but I generally feed it half the time with white flour. This seems to work well for me and helps to maintain a pleasant flavor.
What type of water should I use?
Unfortunately most people’s drinking water is chlorinated. If this is you, then you will want to purchase filtered water or get a water filter, like a Berkey water filter, for the water used in your natural yeast starter. Berkey water filters not only remove chlorine, they also remove heavy metals that can also damage your starter.
Chlorine not only kills microorganisms in the water, it also kills yeasts and beneficial bacteria that make the natural yeast starter thrive.
I keep trying and it isn’t turning out?
It is often recommended to get a start from a friend. Ive personally never found it difficult to get a natural yeast starter going, however some climates or environments may make it more difficult. Getting a starter from someone you know gets you setup with a start that already has an abundance of yeasts and beneficial bacteria established.
You can often get natural yeast starters, or sourdough starters, from your local bakery, a friend, or online specialty shops.
What if my natural yeast starter gets black liquid on the top?
If a black or dark gray liquid develops on the surface of your natural yeast, you have probably neglected it. It will mostly likely also have a stronger sour smell.
Simply drain off the dark liquid and then make sure to feed it everyday until the smell mellows to your desired sourness.
What if it turned green or blue?
In this case it is time to let it go. Toss your natural yeast starter and try again. Sometimes things can be collected from the air that you don’t want. Thankfully nature has a way of warning us.
Natural Yeast Starter
- 1/4 cup flour wheat, spelt, rye… any type works
- 1/4 cup water
- Mix flour and water together in a quart jar.
- Cover with a cheesecloth.
- Leave mixture on the counter for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, add another 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water to the mixture.
- Leave on the counter for another 24 hours.
- Continue this process until the start becomes bubbly.
- After you see bubbles continue to feed for two more days and leave on the counter.
- This process should take about a week.
- Your start is now ready to use. If you are not ready to use it, simply cover with a lid and put in the fridge.
- Make sure to feed your start at least once a week, and after every use. I like to feed mine the day before I plan to use it, to guarantee it is nice and bubbly.
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