Monday, January 23, 2017

Fluke is not a fish :)

Interesting coincidence (fluke) or whatever, I was just reading back through old posts and discovered that every year about the middle of January I start getting Spring fever. Or itchy feet, cabin fever, whatever you call it. I start planting, going outside, digging in the snow, demanding that spring come NOWNOWNOW! Buying seeds. Or trees. Oops.

I have so many plans! I want spring to come so I can get started, but mostly I want spring to come because I can plant my feet in the dirt and give a huge sigh that I'm back where I belong.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


This year, just as a test, I decided to grow dry beans inside. It wasn't a rousing success--only three plants came up and only three pods off of two of the plants. No big deal, I wasn't expecting much. The two kinds of beans I planted were Great Northern White and Pinto. The pods all looked the same, so I assumed I had only one kind of bean and I was anxious to see what I got.

However, I just pulled a mostly dry pod off one of the plants and opened it up.

What I have are the color and shape of the Great Northern White, but with the markings of the pinto. I know it's just a fluke--what I probably got are pinto--but it's interesting.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Using wild yeast for bread

Using wild yeast isn't as simple as capturing it. Maybe it doesn't like being imprisoned. Who knows?

Initial post on capturing wild yeast here.

Each variety of yeast has its own personality and its own needs. I made yeast from four different kinds of fruit--apple, orange, plum and raisin. The initial "feeding" was done with flour I'd milled myself, and I'd grown the wheat. On that one, apple and raisin did the best with apple ahead. Plum just sat there, sulking. Orange raised, but wasn't outstanding. When I did the second feeding I used white flour since I ran out of the other.

Raisin went crazy, doubling in size in less than six hours. Apple sulked at the change in diet and orange just tagged along, riding on the others' laurels. Plum was still sulking from the first offense. I immediately used the raisin to make a small batch of bread, and fed it again.

I had the original liquid left over, and since orange and apple showed no sign of fungus I dumped the leftover fruit and made another starter for those two "flavors" of yeast.

Here comes the tricky part. I hadn't measured the water precisely, but the original was about the same amount for each. When I added flour and water for the starter I measured it, putting in 1/4 c of flour and 1/4 c of water each time. So theoretically they all had the same amount of water to start, within a teaspoon or two. When I put the starter liquid in the starter jars, I measured it at 8 ml (almost two teaspoons) for each jar.

I used half a cup of starter with my "raisin yeast" bread loaf. I cut the recipe in half so I used 1 1/2 c of flour and 1/2 c of water since the starter was liquid as well. The dough was dense, dry, and resisted kneading. I added water a little at a time until it was the right consistency, and let it rise overnight.

I decided to get rid of the "plum" starter, since it wasn't doing anything, so I added 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of soaked up the water and was messy-sticky. I had to add flour.

Then the apple starter and the orange starter from the original bottles. The orange starter came out in a lump, the apple starter came out soggy, with lots of water in it. So I added 1 1/2 c of flour to the apple starter, and added both flour and water to the orange starter. The orange came out perfect, the apple needed slightly more flour.

The only real difference between them all was the yeast culture--precisely the same amount of culture, the same amounts of water and flour, but the outcomes were entirely different.

The raisin loaf is dense, with a soft crumb and a crunchy crust. Because of the wheat flour used in the original feeding it has a wheat flavor. The wild yeast didn't seem to make a significant difference to the taste. But the smell! Oh, my. I would bake every day just for that smell!

The plum loaf was definitely sourdough, but with a faint fruity taste that doesn't linger. The crumb is light but dense.

The orange loaf was dark and crunchy, with a flavor that's difficult to describe. It smelled really sour going into the oven, but coming out the taste wasn't even sourdough but completely different. The texture is almost like a cake rather than bread, but not dense--just a little stiffer than I'm used to bread being. Almost like focaccia.

The apple loaf is very light in color and has a very mild sourdough flavor, but again it's different from any sourdough I've had before. The smell is fruity but there's none of the fruit flavor. It isn't dense, but the crumb is strong and resists tearing. The crust is extremely chewy.

I could get addicted to having bread that has a different flavor every time I bake.

Based on this test, the rankings of the 4 types of yeast are:

1 Raisin
2 Apple
3 Orange
4 Plum

Monday, January 2, 2017


I've always thought that yeast is boring. I mean, you take it out of a bag--boring. It's a uniform color and it makes bread rise. It's also a finite commodity--in an emergency, once it's gone, it's gone. But there's yeast in the air all around us. I've investigated capturing wild yeast but it's a long drawn out process and takes lots of resources--if you're baking bread every few days great, but if you get a strong culture it grows so fast that anyone else can't use it all and it dies. Or you keep feeding it and use all your flour just keeping the thing alive.

Then I ran across a mention of using fruit yeast. The white bloom on grapes, plums, etc? Yeast. There's yeast on every fruit and every bark and every leaf, just waiting. If I can harvest yeast that easily, then why bother keeping a culture alive? Start a new one every month or so.

I didn't have any fresh fruit to test my hypothesis (aside from oranges) so I used raisins from last year's harvest, a dried plum from last year's harvest, a piece of dried apple from two years ago, and a piece of fresh orange peel.

After four days bubbles were starting to appear in the water, and three of the four smelled "yeasty." The plum just smelled fermented. The raisins and plum had fungus hyphae in the water.

I took 1/4 c of flour and 1/4 c of filtered water and put them in jars with about 2 teaspoons (8 ml) of liquid from each bottle.

Less than 24 hours later the dough was already rising. The strongest (most bubbly) was apple, followed by raisin, orange and plum in that order.

Plum had bubbles but hadn't started mounding yet. I fed them another 1/4 c of flour and 1/4 c of water, put them in larger bottles and put them away again. The orange had a sour orange smell, the apple just a faint hint of apple, the plum just smelled like fermented plums, and the raisin like raisins. All had a yeasty smell. At this point I had cut out a week, possibly two, from the process of collecting wild yeast.

The original bottles had lost their "yeast" smell, with the exception of the apple which had a very strong yeast smell. I assume the bacteria and fungus had taken over the other three bottles.

The orange, apple and raisin had visible rising within a few hours. Raisin more than doubled in about six hours and overflowed its bottle so I used half to start a batch of bread.

Based on the test, this process is both simpler and more predictable than trying to capture a wild strain of yeast by setting your culture out on the windowsill or under a tree. Any fruit should work--if dried fruit several years old provided an immediate result, fresh fruit would probably be better. It also isn't necessary to have a full jar of mashed fruit--less than a tablespoon of each kind resulted in usable yeast growth within a few days.

Post on baking with this yeast