Monday, November 19, 2012

Captured Yeast Update

My house is fairly cool this time of year- one of the joys of heating with wood, but not yet really cold enough to really heat with wood.  Keeping the fire from sweltering us out is a balancing act that usually leaves us with 3-4 hours in the night with no fire at all.  As a result, my kitchen cools off in the night, and my yeast experiments are probably moving a bit slower than in a house with more stable temperatures.

However, they are moving.

The Dawson City Sourdough Bread is the first in the oven.
I started the starter last Wednesday, and three days later there was a faint, but pleasant smell, evidence of bubbling, and a pale yellow layer of alcohol. I mixed the batter and left it to rise and double.  There wasn't enough starter to follow the recipe exactly, only 1.5 cups.  I added another cup of flour and another cup of water to my 'dirty' starter jar to begin again.

I waited all day, and the mixture did bubble, but it never doubled.  I left it overnight.  Sunday morning it looked bigger, not doubled, but bigger.  I proceeded with adding more flour, and waiting again.  It looked like it had risen a bit by the end of the day, and I attempted to punch it down.  It really didn't move.  It was a cold, heavy mass.  I rolled it out anyway, and put it into loaf pans.  I left it to rise overnight.

This morning it didn't look like it had risen at all, and I popped it in the oven to bake for the birds.  And there before my disbelieving eyes, it rose.
However, it smells and tastes like playdough.  I hope the birds like it.

Next up, the mother of potato starter- that's what I'm calling it. 
I started this one on Friday morning.  It's been bubbling along nicely on the kitchen table.  This morning it had a clear layer of liquid- presumably alcohol.  I added a cup of flour to wake it up.  It started bubbling up again within minutes. It's now mixed and fed, so I wait for it to rise.

I started another potato starter on Friday morning as well.  It's the yeast starter 1, halfway down the page.
It's in the cupboard with the yeast water and Dawson starter.  Left- raisin yeast water- cloudy, raisins floating, no bubbles.  Middle- tea yeast water- cloudy, floating, no bubbles.  Right- potato yeast water- cloudy, settled on the bottom, no bubbles.
Left- tea again.  Middle- Dawson City sourdough starter part two- with a layer of alcohol already forming.  Right- pine (spruce) needle yeast water- clear, half floating, half settled, no bubbles.

There is a pleasant, fruity smell when I open the cupboard, although it's not strong enough to say which jar is the cause.  These aren't supposed to be ready until Wednesday or so.

The Dawson City Starter, fed on Saturday, should be ready for another go on Tuesday.  The Mother of Potato Starter should be ready to try again on Thursday.


  1. Thank you for experimenting and reporting.

    When I have something that does not need to cool, I put a cloth or three over it just to retain the heat. Depending on size and location, I also turn a plastic box over it, put it in a bucket and loosely place the lid on. Moving the item to a different, warmer, locaton also helps.

    My house cools dramatically at night.

    1. I put tea towels over anything left sitting out, just to keep the dust off. The whole house cools overnight, there really are no warmer spots currently. It's ok though, now that I know the yeast wasn't dead, I'll just have to be patient and give it more time to rise.

  2. Hi, i've just discovered your blog. Marvelous. I am curious if you ever had any luck with the spruce yeast. I'm thinking of a similar venture myself. :)

    1. I did not, though I probably gave up too soon, and was neglectful in my efforts. The potato yeast starter was the easiest to get going, and I will probably start another one this fall/winter.

    2. I just started 3 jars. Pine, Spruce, and apples. I really hope one of the evergreens takes off so I have a winter sustainable yeast source. If not, I will try wintergreen or labrador tea. Thanks for responding! :)