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Starters: Fermenting With Finger Yeast

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Nico and Charlie's first sourdough, by Wayne Marshall

My friend Wayne and his daughters Nico and Charlie recently made sourdough bread with homemade starters containing wild yeasts and bacteria. They started with just flour and water, capturing microbes from the air that start chewing up the flour, making the bubbles and flavors that give the bread its texture and its kick. I love to see kids excited about microbes and I really love that they jump-started their fermentations with what they call “finger yeast,” microbes from their fingers that got into their starters as they were making it and giving it a personalized flavor! Here’s a great video of the girls talking about their experiences with baking and fermentation:

And here’s more on the process and recipe from Wayne’s blog:

Our own approach mixes as it departs from them all. We’re totally into starters and soakers and long fermentations and low kneading and hearty country loaves, but we’re hardcore about ingredients: we’re using 100% whole wheat flour (a lot of so-called whole wheat loaves are actually 70/30 or 50/50, with plenty of refined white flour to up the gluten ratio to better trap air and make the bread bubbly & springy); we’re also making “lean” breads (as opposed to “enhanced” with fats or sweeteners) — just flour + water + microbes + salt. It’s a challenge — for many, it’s long been a holy grail — but it feels elemental. And rewarding. Even when a loaf comes out flat, it still has amazing depth of flavor.

After mixing up their own soakers (water + flour, to help soften the bran and begin enzymatic processes) and starters (essentially, 60 grams of their cultures + 200g flour + 150g water) the night before, and letting them each go to work for 12 hours, they woke up and mixed their final doughs the next morning. I baked the loaves for the girls while they were at school, scoring each one with a first initial, and they came out just lovely — and were even tastier than they were beautiful…

We’re looking forward to future experiments with microbes — maybe future videos too. It’s been fun to learn about all this stuff together, and we hope some people might want to copy our experiments and share theirs with us. We’ll do our best to keep you posted on future things a-brewin’.

Make sure to check out the rest of the post for more photos and insights into fermentation. I can’t wait for future experiments!

Christina Agapakis About the Author: Christina Agapakis is a biological designer who blogs about biology, engineering, engineering biology, and biologically inspired engineering. Follow on Twitter @thisischristina.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Spironis 2:36 pm 02/7/2014

    Let us not forget your body cheese! Foraging through a million grams of kimberlite is well worth the effort if one gram is gem diamond.

    Discovery is a terrible thing. It penalizes managers who are rewarded for enforcing zero-risk process. The latter is fine for washing bottles prior to filling. It is not fine if you create new fillings. ISO900x assured every Large Hadron Collider magnet dump braze was voluminously-documented identical. Nobody asked if they were functional, other than one query submitted by reality. boom

    Link to this

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