“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wild Yeast Sourdough

Several weeks ago, I visited the Annual Fruit Field Day at the University of Idaho's Extension Research Center in Parma. After hearing the presentations, we were invited to taste the different varieties of fruit that are researched and grown at the Center, and even encouraged to take some home. Now...I had just put up twenty pounds of peaches so I wasn't entirely interested in taking anything home that needed to be canned, dried or otherwise dealt with, but when looking over the table grapes with my friend Naomi, I decided to take home some Alborz and a few bunches of a grape called NY65. (There is a section of numbers that follows the period in NY's name, but I don't recall.). Especially this last grape, a dark, small fruit, densely clustered, had a beautiful dusty sheen on its skin. Wild yeast.

I just finished making the sourdough starter for this month's BBB's bread, the Brunkan's långa, when I had a brilliant idea. Well, brilliant.....I had heard that wild yeast could be used for sourdough starters. It seemed at the time a great idea, especially if commercial yeast was ever to disappear from the market, or if I found myself lost in the wilderness with a strong hankering for bread. No telling what my imagination can come up with, but the fact that wild yeast could be found in, well, the wilderness, was a very comforting thought to me.

So I made two batches. One with yeast for the Brunkan's langa, and one without yeast for the grape sourdough. Once mixed, I dumped a short bunch of grapes, unwashed and unrinsed, into the batter, covered the jar and let it sit on the counter.

Two days later, I had the most beautiful, bubbly and slightly sour smelling starter!

Feed your starter every other day with the same amount of unbleached flour and water. Best is to use spring water from a bottle, as tap water is often chlorinated or too salty because of the water softener. Organic grapes are going to be your best bet, and do not rinse, wash or otherwise handle the grapes too much. You want to make sure there's plenty of natural yeast on those grapes.

For the sourdough:

Day 1, morning:
Mix 1 1/2 cup (150g) graham flour with 1 1/2 cup (180 ml) water. Crush a grape or two on the cluster and dump the whole thing in the dough. About ten or twelve grapes are more than enough. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature.

Day 1, evening:
Add 1 heaping tablespoon (15g) graham flour and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of water. Stir carefully and make sure the sourdough does not coat large parts of the glass. It will dry up and possibly mold, affecting your sourdough, so pour the batter into a new, clean container if it's covered with batter. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature.

Day 2, morning:
Add 1 heaping tablespoon (15g) graham flour and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of water. Mix carefully. By now, the sourdough should be active (bubbly). Leave at room temperature.

Day 2, evening:
Feed the sourdough with another tablespoon of flour and water each, mix carefully and see if the bubbles remain. The starter should have started to develop a network of gluten, visible when you pull up a spoonful of the batter, and the smell should be slightly sour. Cover with film and place in the fridge.

Day 3
Your starter is ready to use. Scoop out one cup of starter. Feed the remaining sourdough with two tablespoons of flour and water, mix, pour into a clean container, cover and leave at room temperature.

For the bread:
1 cup of sourdough starter
2.5 cups of flour
1.5 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of active yeast
1 teaspoon of salt

Mix all the ingredients together, salt last. Depending on the wetness of the starter, you may have to add a little bit more water or flour, but you are looking for a fairly slack dough. Knead for a good five minutes, then shape into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes, then place in the refridgerator overnight.

Day 4:
Take the dough out, about three three hours before you are ready to bake. Punch down carefully, shape into a ball and place back in the bowl. Cover and let sit on the counter at room temperature. One hour before baking, heat the oven up to 450F and place a Dutch oven in the oven.

Punch the bread down again and shape. Let it rest in a well-floured towel until the dough has proofed. Place the dough in the Dutch oven, replace the lid and return to the oven for up to 25 minutes. Remove when golden brown. Cool on wire.

Ofcourse I sent my blog post to Susan at Wild Yeast for this week's Yeast Spotting!

1 comment:

  1. And to think I always assumed that the " white stuff " on the outside of the grape was dust or dirt. That is a great little tid-bit of information! And to know that it actually works is even better!