Lately, yeast is hard to find. I’ve been looking for it in every store and have had little luck in finding it. I was able to get a hold of live cake yeast at one point - but not since then and I wanted to keep baking so I needed another solution.
There are a few of alternatives to yeast. I have tried baking soda and baking powder, and although both of these can work as a substitute, for me they don’t replace yeast. So I set out to make my own starter and I have been happy with the results.
When you think about it, people have been baking bread for 100s of years without commercial yeast. A natural (wild) yeast starter is not only easy, it doesn’t have all of the chemicals found in commercial yeast.
Here are the steps I used to create the starter:
Part 1 - Raisin water
I tried to create the starter using both plain water and raisin water. I found the raisin water to be more effective because it not only jump starts the process, it creates a starter with a pleasant wine-like smell.
Ingredients / Tools:
1 Box of raisins
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 cup water 1 small jar with a lid
1. Mix a box of raisins with 2 tbsp sugar. Put it in a small jar and add water. (I use bottled water). Seal tight and let it sit.
2. After 2-3 days, the water will darken and the raisins will float. Strain and keep the water.
Part 2 - Creating the Starter
Ingredients / Tools:
Flour 3 tbsp flour
Raisin Water 2 tbsp
Water (bottled or tap)* as needed
Mason Jar with lid
1. In a large mason jar with lid, add 3 tbsp flour to 2 tbsp strained raisin water. Mix well. The consistency will be very thick. That's OK.
2. Put the lid over the jar but do not seal it, leave space for air to get in. Discard the remaining raisin water.
NOTE: If you are using a mason jar with a metal clasp, remove the rubber seal on the top so the jar is not airtight.
3. Mix 3 times a day with a fork.
4. Every morning discard some of the starter and then add 3 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp water and mix well with a fork. If I will be using the starter the next day, I may do this at night too.
4. After a few days, once large and small bubbles form, it has doubled in size and has a pleasant smell - it is ready. It should have a pleasant wine like smell to start (because of the raisins).
5. If baking often it can be kept on the counter, it not, keep it in the fridge and wake it up (by feeding it flour and water) the night before using.
Use Bottled Water or Tap Water?
Whether you should use tap water or not depends on the water. There are many people that have great success with tap water and many can only use bottled water. For me, baking is often experimenting with different options. Even when I follow a recipe, the results could vary based on the temperature of the room, the humidity level, the minerals in the water, etc. I tried tap water once and the starter smelled very bad and had to be thrown out.
Water on Top of Starter (Hooch)
Every so often you may see a layer of water on top of the starter. This is called Hooch. Simply pour it off or mix it in (for a more sour flavor) and then feed the starter.
What Type of Flour Can You Use for a Starter You can really use any type of flour. Some people think bread flour is the best. I have been using unbleached flour for my starter and I can use it with any type of flour for baking.
Converting recipes from dry yeast to yeast starter are necessary because it is not quite one packet of dry yeast to 1 cup of starter. For me (so far) it has been easiest to find recipes that use a yeast starter instead of dry yeast.