The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking solely with natural leavens

BPaff's picture
BPaff

Baking solely with natural leavens

My bread baking journey started when I strolled through a bookstore on my break at work and found a bread book on sale. Every recipe in the book called for sourdough starter. This was my first introduction to naturally leavened bread. I never really knew of it before. I had of course heard of sourdough bread but never really liked sour bread. That’s just what I thought all sourdough breads were, sour. I was certainly sceptical of the recipes, figuring they’d all have that funny sourdough taste. What I didn’t realize was that not all sourdough breads are sour. 

A sourdough is just naturally leavened bread, and in fact was they way all bread was made before the introduction of commercial yeast. Bread was made with just flour, water and some salt. That’s it. That sort of planted the seed in my mind that I only wanted to bake breads using a natural leaven. I don’t however want to make just regular sourdough breads. I want to make all the traditional French and Italian and other European breads the way they were made before commercial yeast. I would love to figure out how to adapt all these recipes that always call for yeast or pre-ferments with yeast. 

Im pretty comfortable working with all the basic pre-ferments (poolish, biga, levain). Many of the traditional French and Italian bread recipes call for poolish and biga, which are always yeasted. I’m wondering if anyone has delved into this at all, essentially how to make natural poolish, or natural biga. I suppose those would basically be a wet and firm starter, respectively. So could those be used in place of a yeasted poolish/biga, the confusion lies in that these preferments I often find are in large amounts of the final dough%.

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

you might try your local library to see if you can find The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz - it primarily explores the "old" recipes of village bakers throughout Europe.  You will find lots on this site on sourdough -  all varieties - and one board is dedicated just to sourdough which will address many of your questions. 

BPaff's picture
BPaff

The book looks fantastic and is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking into. Definitely at the top of my list for my next bread book!

EdenValleyBaker's picture
EdenValleyBaker


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Im no exspert but I make baguettes with my starter, recipe calls for a poolish 250g flour and 250g of water and something like 5g of fresh yeast. I just use 200g of flour and 200g water and add 100g of my active starter at 100% hydration and it works just as well.

 

BPaff's picture
BPaff

Right so essentially replacing the poolish with a regular levain. My concern is ending up with something sour as the poolish in the original recipe, I would assume, is a large portion of the final dough. Also you have quite a bit of mature starter in your levain, how do you find the flavour?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

from the time of the Pharaohs was made with wild yeast but not sourdough.  The Ancient Egyptians made beer and bread.  They would scrape off the foam from the brewing beer that contained wild yeast and use that to make bread.  For thousands of years this is how most bread was made and eventually commercial yeast was derived and made from brewers barm.  This is why most bakeries were right next door to breweries and many times in the same building.

Sourdough is ancient as well but since it was labor intensive, took a long time and was more expensive to make a bread few people liked bcause it was sour.  it was made by people who did not have access to brewers barm; travelers, pioneers, rural folks and those that did not drink for religious reasons. 

But today is the golden age for sourdough bakers.  Even though a tiny proportion of bread is made with sourdough, lust like always, the art of making it has never been more cutting edge and pioneering than today - we are so lucky.

Yes there are many who make yeasted barm bread today like they were for thousands of years - especially those of us who also make beer:-)  But I much prefer to make SD starters and resulting levains, either wet or stiff to make breads that are sour as can be!

Your quest is a great one and I highly recommend it since so many of us here are doing the same thing!

Welcome and happy baking - can't wait to see your loaves as you discover your path to great breads from around the world.

BPaff's picture
BPaff

That’s very interesting a about the ancient uses of yeast. I am definitely try to remain as open minded as possible. I am not totally opposed to using yeast. If I’m able to use only natural leavens for all breads, that’s my goal. If all natural leavens are going to give me sour bread, then I’m willing to cede to commercial yeast. Overall, it’s about producing great tasting bread, which is something different to everyone. I just thought it would be a nice philosophy to bake as naturally as possible. But to me it’s not worth producing a bread that I don’t like just because it adheres to the philosophy.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

A natural yeast made from fruits.  It is kept like a SD starter but it has no flour and has no LAB so there is no sour to the resulting bread.  I use YW all the time, I have 2 of them. Fig and Apple YW, that I use to make breads that I do not want to be sour.  They are tucked in the fridge for weeks at a time and make great breads with no sour at all.  It sounds like the perfect thing for you to use since you don't like sour bread - just  like most people throughout history.  You will never have to buy commercial yeast again.

I also make many breads that have a sourdough levain and a YW levain.  The YW cancels out much of the sour and that too might be an option for you.  I also put YW in heavy SD breads since it has the ability to open up the crumb in heavy breads and can produce explosive spring and bloom

Type YW Primer into the search box on this site to see how to make YW and see various breads made with it.  You can also type yeast water into the search box and see hundreds of bread people have made with it

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Dabrownman is far more of an  expert, but for quite some time I have only made bread using wild yeast, aka sourdough.   The "sour" in sourdough can be a bit confusing, because most recipes do not produce a sour taste, and in fact I have spent a great deal of time trying to encourage the sour , because that is a taste I appreciate.  In general, manipulation of  percentage of starter, time in bulk fermentation, and time and temperature and hydration of starter refreshment will all play a role in sour.  It has been my experience that there are many roads to sour , high percentage of starter, with a low hydration starter, maintained at 83 F or above, will get a sour tang.  Here is some more info on the variables  https://brodandtaylor.com/make-sourdough-more-sour/   

BPaff's picture
BPaff

Great link, thank you