In the last 6 months I have dedicated much time and energy to making my own bread, pizza, focaccia and traditional holiday baked goods like panettone.
I have been making pizza and focaccia at home for many years, but usually would make the very thin one that you normally eat in Rome because I could make it simply with dry yeast.
My baking has taken an interesting turn when I decided it was time to make my very own natural yeast, also known as “sour dough starter”. This has been an interesting challenge and it has made a world of difference to my baking! As the yeast you make at home is alive, it needs obviously attentions to keep it this way, that means refreshing it with flour and water at least every 2 weeks if kept in the fridge, or at least every day if kept out of the fridge, though the good news is, that once it has reached a decent age, you can freeze it.
So, how do you make and keep your very own live yeast?
I have chosen the “liquid type” as easier to handle and keep and the procedure to prepare your own is as followes:
- 50gr of raisins
- 100 gr of water
- 50gr of strong white flour
In a slightly open jar that you will leave in a dark cupboard, put the 50gr of raisins and the 100gr of water. Leave the jar there with the lid always slightly open for 5 days
Filter the water and throw away the raisins, put 50 gr of the water in a clean jar and add 50 gr of flour, mix very well with a spoon, leave the jar just slightly open as this mixture has to attract natural bacteria from the air. Let the mix stay in the cupboard at room temperature until it doubles its size, in case it does not rise after 2 days, add extra 50gr of water and 50 gr of flour and wait an extra day, in case nothing rises, you might need to put it in the oven with the light on at 25°C for a night.
Once the yeast has doubled its size, take a new clean jar, put 100 gr of your new yeast, 100 gr of flour and 80gr of water, cover and leave at room temperature for 6 hours. Once event this has risen and doubled its size, revive it once again by taking 100gr of yeast, 100 gr of flour and 80 gr of water, put this in a air tight jar and put it in the fridge. Your yeast is still a bit too acid to be used and give a good taste, you can do so, but stick with simple breads like ciabatta, it will take you at least 3 weeks where you will revive it once a week for it to be usable and be really nice for more complicated baking.
So the hard part of making a really good bread at home is really the yeast. I have named mine “HUGO” as it does feel like I have another pet in the house! But the satisfaction and the flavour of the bread done with your own yeast are really worth the challenge! I now make bread at least once or twice a week and am capable of reproducing most breads, my home oven works just fine for them!
If you want to learn more about bread making with sour dough starter I do recommend amazing book Crust by Richard Bertinet