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Oscillator

Oscillator

Notes, thoughts, and news on synthetic biology.

Starters: Fermenting With Finger Yeast

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Nico and Charlie's first sourdough, by {link url="http://flic.kr/p/jGty5Y"}Wayne Marshall{/link}

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!

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

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