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Can You Drink Yeast Water?

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jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Can You Drink Yeast Water?

This week, I have been reading Sandor Katz's wonderful book, The Art of Fermentation. For most part, the book is not about bread, but as bread is mostly about fermentation, the book is helping me a lot in understanding what happens in the dough   and when growing yeasts.

Last night as I was reading the book again, I had a revelation: you can drink yeast water. And in fact, a lot of people are doing it already--they just have a different name for the drink!

Or what do you say? This recipe for fruit mead from The Art of Fermentation looks just like the one I used to start my yeast water (except that I used some black tea in it at first):

 Mead is honey wine. It can be flavored in infinite variations, and many of the fruits and other botanical flavorings you can add to it also serve as sources of yeasts and yeast nutritients.

[...]

My typical proportion, measuring by volume, is 1 part honey to 4 parts water. For a lighter mead (or if I'm adding a large amount of sweet fruit), I'll dilute each part honey with 5 to 6 parts water.

[...]

Thoroughly dissolve honey in water by vigorous stirring or shaking. Be persistent if necessary. Leave the vessel capped, or cover it to keep flies away; any covering, from a cloth to a tight-fitting lid, is okay. 

[...]

Stir or shake, vigorously and frequently, several times a day for a sustained couple of moments.

[...]

After a few days of frequent stirring, you will start finding the honey water with bubbles on the surface and an effervescent release when you stir. [...] Keep shaking and stirring a few more days and the bubbles will build into a formidable force.

 

...and so on. The instructions continue to explain how you can then further process the mead to get more alcohol and a more refined taste by aging the drink. 

From all of this,  I'm ready to equate yeast water = fresh mead.

Another revelation from this section of the book (to me) was that the purpose of the shaking is to get oxygen into the mix so that yeast cells can multiply.  

S. cerevisiae and many other yeasts, much like the cells of our bodies, are capable of both anaerobic fermentation and oxidative respiration. In the oxidative mode, yeasts grow and reprodue much more efficiently but do not produce alcohol. Vigorous stirring stimulates yeast proliferation by providing aeration.

 

I still don’t have all the answers, especially for the difference in bacteria between sourdough and yeast water, but this is getting interesting--and soon, I’m going to start a new batch of yeast water, this time with the idea of drinking most of it and baking only with the remains…

--- 

And then to my most recent bake, with sourdough and yeast water.

For a long time already, I have been baking most of the bread we eat at home, so when this summer we bought a toaster and my wife and kids started buying toast bread from the store, I knew I had to do something about this. Buying toast bread (of all things) was diluting all my credibility as a real bread home baker! ;)

I have been experimenting with different bread recipes for a while now, but wasn't satisfied until I finally found txfarmer’s recipes again. Although I had seen and admired them before, I had never gotten around to trying them before now. And I had never worked the dough for 40 minutes before either. Doing this, as suggested by the recipe, made all the difference!

The bread is soft, delicious and has a fine, sweet and a little sour taste that I enjoy. 

My older son says he likes it but still prefers the storebought with no taste at all… So, maybe next I’ll try to do this without any sourdough. Let’s see! 

I’m not going to rewrite the whole recipe here as you can get it from txfarmer's blog. But I made a few changes, which may or may not be interesting. So, here we go.

 The yeast water had been sitting in the fridge for about a week and gotten a lot of color from the fruit (peaches and grapes):

 

I used 100 grams of sourdough starter in one build (at 100 % hydration) and 200 grams of yeast water in two builds (100 % hydration) and reduced the amount of milk accordingly. Also, the original recipe used milk in the starter as well. I used water as yeast water comes with its own water… 

Final dough:

  • 100 g sourdough starter, refreshed about 8-10 hours before mixing the dough
  • 200 g yeast water starter (built in two steps during the same 8-10 hours)
  • 450 g bread flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 120 g egg whites
  • 6 g salt
  • 160 g milk 

I’m very happy with the results and will definitely be making some variation of this bread again. Next, with some darker grains, maybe a bit of rye or at least wholegrain wheat.

Comments

varda's picture
varda

I experimented for awhile with raisin yeast water, and at times it smelled so intoxicating that I was tempted to drink it when I removed from the refrigerator to bake with.  I guess I should have, as I never did very well baking with it.      Your results look terrific.  -Varda

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

I know the feeling! I was tempted too, and soon, I think I'm going to give in to the temptation and see if it tastes good at all :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

sandwich bread.  perfect crust and crumb.  I like combining YW and SD strters to ge the best of both worlds too.  Don't know if I do though.  For an even more luxurious sandwich bread, you can use cream instead of milk like teketeke (Akiko) does in her Japanese White Sandwich Bread.  It is so soft and ....creamy.   here

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/22482/japanese-white-sandwich-loaf-raisin-yeast-water

Glad your boys enjoy your fine baking!

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Yeah, I noticed txfarmer is also using cream in some of her sandwich loaves. I'll have to give it a shot.

I'm also thinking of trying a regular yeast based sandwich loaf, but working the dough as thorougly as I did with this recipe... Just to see what comes out of it. :)

There is so much to experiment with, even after these years spent baking bread...

Cheers,

Jarkko

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Jarkko,

Not sure if you have seen this loaf developed by Syd but it uses IY and a water roux. Asian Style Pan de Mie  Looks daunting due to the time involved - 3 days - but mixing times are very brief the rest is time in the refrigerator.  My family LOVED this loaf.  Varda also baked this loaf and her write up is here.

Just a little something to add to your reading list and baking list :-).

Take Care,

Janet

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Last year I discovered a gallon jug of mead in the basement, that I had forgotten.  It was made before we moved here, 21 years ago.  We had a little trouble getting the cap off, but the mead is fine.  It tastes like dilute Scotch-and-water.

 

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Shows the power of fermentation (as in alcohol) in preventing food from spoiling... :)

beslayed's picture
beslayed

Using "barm" (the scum on top of brewing beer/wine/mead/etc.) is an old way of getting yeast, commonly employed, for instance, by the Anglo-Saxons.

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Yep, I had read about this, but somehow didn't associate yeast water with mead before reading the recipe... But, I'm not sure if there is barm in mead, at least haven't found any of it in my own experiments yet.

Is it more of a beer related thing?

baybakin's picture
baybakin

barm (in alcohol making) usually references the 'Krausen' the very active yeast that forms on the top during alcohol ferments.  Ale yeasts (which most historical british beers are) are often called "top fermenting" yeasts because they form this thick yeast layer on top of the fermenting wort (term for beer not yet fermented).  Wine and Lager yeasts don't form much of a krausen or barm, hanging out on the bottom most of the time, but I've found some that form a modest krausen before they drop. 

I haven't brewed a beer since I moved a bit ago, but when I do, I will definatly be scooping some of the krausen off the top to make bread, probably with some spent grain (what's left of the sprouted barley after the sugar extraction process).  If you'd like to try baking with beer yeast (beer yeast has been bred for flavor, as opposed to CO2 production) head to your local home brew store and pick up some active dry yeast, SAF sells a few kinds actually, safale-04 and safale-05 are both very common in the home brew world, the former being an english strain (Whitbread ale) and 05 is an american ale strain (Sierra Nevada).

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

making I used to make some hops SD starter with some of the fresh hops I was throwing into the beer mix.  It is really a very nice starter with a taste like no other and worth trying out if making beer.

baybakin's picture
baybakin

That sounds awesome, I'll have to try that out.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

you can make hops yeast water and use that to ferment the beer.  It really is a very good yeast for ales.  Very few home brewers go to such lengths, but it is a natural for YW bread makers to do it.

baybakin's picture
baybakin

I can see some breweries doing this, "wild ales" are all the rage currently, at least, up here.  I've done a few batches of cider with yeasts I've harvested off of apples, and one off of peaches.

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Great book tip.  THANKS jarkkolaine!  I just read the Amazon writeup and some reviews.  Wow, what a goldmine.  Top o' my Wishlist now.  Forward by Michael Pollan -- there's a reputable endorsement if there ever was one.  Does Katz talk about terrior at all?  I ran across an entertaining bit of anecdotal 'science' on food microbial terrior in a special Food Issue of an odd magazine called something like Just Peachy a while back, in which the author (a Harvard microbiologist -- faculty - not; postdoc? maybe) compared salami (!) surface fermentors 'captured' in different US cities.  Portland OR captured the greatest salami microbial biodiversity and Oakland CA captured the least (sorry baybakin :-), if I recall correctly.

I've been cultivating a little mason-jar ecosystem here for a few weeks, started with chopped up crabapples that came down with some branches I'd green-pruned in July.  With a squirt of honey and a few raisins every few days since, it doubles a 100% hydration of Rubaud flour mix in 8 h @ 77˚F.  Now to choose a formula with which to use it -- no shortage of inspiration in the TFL blogs!

Oh, and nice bread and photos.  A sure cure for your son's preference for storebought sandwich bread.

Thanks again,

Tom

 

baybakin's picture
baybakin

My ears, they burn!

I don't mind about the salami making, fermenting meats isn't on my list of to-dos quite as much as beer, wine, bread, veggies, mead, cheese, etc. 

I actually have the Katz book, and seen him speak/demo his saurkraut method, wonderful book for the basics of fermenting veggies/dairy products.  I did find it rather lacking in the bread department, but I always saw the book as more of a "basics" book, which is a wonderful introduction to many different forms of fermentation, and less of a manual.

I haven't tried capturing any wild yeast around here yet, and one might say that the oakland hills don't quite count as 'real oakland.'  I do know that there is loads of fruit growing on trees along most of the streets of my neighborhood, dusty with yeast (especally the plums, which are everywhere), so I'll probably eventually get around to attempting WY.

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

You're welcome, Tom! I am only about one third into the book so far, so I don't know what exactly will be in the rest of the pages. So far, location hasn't been discussed, but might be later in the book... He does mention that some of the yeasts come from the air, so that might be where location plays a role. I don't know though, some books say that yeasts come from the air, others say they don't, so there seems to be a bit of conflict here.

Looking at the table of contents, fermenting meat will be discussed at the end of the book. Looking forward to reading the rest :) 

Cheers,

Jarkko

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

They will ferment just about anything...  and drink it!   :)

Here is an article I stumbled across under the term "sturm" or Austrian yeast water.  Enjoy

 

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Thanks for the tip, Mini Oven! Very interesting article.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi,

Glad you discovered txfarmer's loaf.  Just give your son time and he will love these loaves.  I know mine do now.

Anyway, not sure if you read all the excellent writings here on yeast waters but here is a link that includes lots of links to other threads on the subject of YW.  It is a very thorough write up and will keep you busy reading for quite awhile :-).

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/23597/yeast-water-examples-photos-tfl-links-only

By the way, your loaf looks great!

Take Care,

Janet

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

I've spent a couple of nights reading some forum posts about yeast water here on TFL, but I'm sure there's a lot that I haven't read yet. Looking just at the number of links in that post, I know I'll stay busy for quite a while now :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

you save the old fruit when you refresh the YW.  Freeze it and put it into future breads.  My orange/ apple / cherry YW makes some fine breads using the old fruit and orange juice for the liquid.   I used Shaio - Ping's Orange Turmeric  SD bread and comnverted it to YW using the old fruit in the dough. 

My apprentice drinks YW all the time - no worries.  It might be a determined German thing though :-)

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Last time, I discarded the fruit... Next time, I won't :) Thanks for the tip! 

Cheers,

Jarkko

isand66's picture
isand66

Great post and wonderful looking loaf.  I don't have any kids, but my wife tends to spurn my bread sometimes in place of store bought crap so I know how you feel.  I just end up bringing in my second loaf to work and making a fellow worker happy!

Let me know how it tastes when you work up the courage!

Ian

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

I have been tasting a spoonful here and there today and yesterday to see how the flavor develops. It tastes pretty yeasty for now, but has a nice fruity touch to it... I guess Pete, in his comment below, is right: to get the best flavor, you'll have to ferment the liquid further after using some of it for rising bread. We'll see :)

Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi from Australia,

Of course you can drink yeast water.....just remember to add some hops, sugar, barley or malt fement it for a while, bottle it and let it have a second fermantation for 3 weeks and remember to call it BEER!!!!!!

Cheers.............Pete

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

That's a good tip. Serving something to people and calling it "Yeast water" might not be the most attractive marketing :) 

I guess you could ferment it without adding those extra ingredients too, at least according to Katz... But then it wouldn't be beer, but mead. 

Cheers,

Jarkko