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Can you make your own yeast for bread baking?

 
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Kimbo Baugh wrote:Experimentation is the best way to go. A good starting point is a 1:2:3 loaf - 1 part leaven/starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour (by weight). For salt, use 1% of the entire dough weight, or 2% of the weight of the flour.


I've captured my own yeast/starter from raisins using a method from Twitter.  The guy I got the method from is @shoelaces3, a biologist that Seamus Blackley follows.  Shoelaces3 is now experimenting with lentil flower and fig yeast starter!

I am not into kneading (not only hurts my wrists, but it's boring) so I've been making no-knead bread for about a year using store-bought yeast.  The bread is okay, but it's not sour -- and sourdough is my holy grail.  

My home-made starter works very well, and the dough I'll bake shortly is smelling quite tangy -- but I've learned that dough smell doesn't necessarily mean sour bread.

So many challenges:  making a good starter and keeping it going; making decent no-knead loaves with starter instead of store-bought yeast; making tangy sourdough no-knead loaves using home-made starter.
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Emilie McVey wrote:I've been reading through this thread wondering if it it is possible to use gluten-free flour to make a starter!  Thank you for this  
I gave up gluten-free bread baking many years ago bc all I ever produced were bricks.  But if I could make the equivalent of crackers or naan by using a starter, maybe I could at least try that.

(I'm doing a detox fast this week, so maybe I ought to belooking at a different thread.... LoL)


I did for a good long while, too, but then I discovered this excellent recipe (I most often made the seeded version). Now, I haven't eaten glutinous bread since late 2006, I think, so it may well be that I've forgotten just what it's like, but I found this GF sourdough bread to be wonderful, with a nice crumb if not exactly lofty. If you have an oven, I would endorse these two recipes wholeheartedly -- once you're done with your detox fast, naturally, or for anyone else reading this who's interested in making GF sourdough bread.

Those two recipes do have an awful lot of ingredients, though, so for those who don't have all those things in their pantry, know that all you really need to make some kind of GF sourdough is one or two kinds of GF flour that you like or just happen to have, salt, and water. Masa harina is always the bulk of our breads because we have several large sacks of it in a 55-gallon drum, and I use smaller quantities of brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, buckwheat flour, teff flour, oat flour, sorghum flour... I'm probably forgetting some. They all work, so I use what sounds good to me in the moment. And if you have one of the "mucilaginous" things in those recipes (psyllium husks, chia seeds, and flax seeds), even better, because then you can hold onto a better crumb. The best results I've bad with our stovetop flatbreads so far has been when 1) I finally dug out and added some psyllium husks (I had been adding some chia seeds sometimes, without such noticeable results), and 2) I think I had the woodstove hotter than usual. The outside of the bread browned faster and it seemed to catch and hold the rise inside the crust better, much like what is supposed to happen (as far as I understand it) when you bake a loaf of bread in a pre-heated enameled cast-iron dutch oven. I didn't mix the psyllium husks with water and add them in separately like in the recipes, I just combined them with the flours, salt, starter, and water (or in this case, vegetable and mushroom broth), formed it into a round and left it to rise in a stainless steel bowl under a towel (I have a banneton and I didn't even use it!!) most of the day before breaking off smaller pieces and toasting them in the greased, preheated cast-iron skillet that night.
 
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Thanks for this timely thread! I just discovered a forgotten bag of French organic wheat flour in the cupboard. It's not enough for baking anything useful, it'd make like one breadroll... but I can use it to make a sourdough starter! (I used to have two, one with rye and one with wheat, but I left them to languish in the fridge during a long trip and they turned black and les than appetizing.)
I have a wheatflour problem here in southern Mexico. The flour is either organic but wholewheat and sawdust-texture, or it's white flour but cheap and gluey, or it's not wheat but stuff like coconut, amaranth or oats. So i'll see what I'll be able to whip up under those constraints.  
 
Beth Wilder
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Emilia Andersson wrote:Thanks for this timely thread! I just discovered a forgotten bag of French organic wheat flour in the cupboard. It's not enough for baking anything useful, it'd make like one breadroll... but I can use it to make a sourdough starter! (I used to have two, one with rye and one with wheat, but I left them to languish in the fridge during a long trip and they turned black and les than appetizing.)
I have a wheatflour problem here in southern Mexico. The flour is either organic but wholewheat and sawdust-texture, or it's white flour but cheap and gluey, or it's not wheat but stuff like coconut, amaranth or oats. So i'll see what I'll be able to whip up under those constraints.  


Ooh, I'd love to play with the amaranth flour! We haven't yet been able to harvest enough here to make flour out of. Oat flour works well in my experience. I haven't had good luck with coconut flour. I'm jealous of what you have available! If you play with any of those for sourdough bread, would you please let us know how it goes? Curious minds want to know. :)
 
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Lif Strand wrote:

I am not into kneading (not only hurts my wrists, but it's boring) so I've been making no-knead bread for about a year using store-bought yeast.  



Similar problem, I have a bad shoulder that acts up if I knead. But if you can find a sturdy ice cream churn, I've found they do a surprisingly good job at kneading bread dough. I have these little hand-cranked ones that are meant for making a single serving of ice cream, I think they were 50 cents each at a garage sale. But they're just the right size for a 1-2 person loaf. And they hold the dough well enough I can crank it while doing other things around the house. I just take my dough with me.
 
Lif Strand
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:...if you can find a sturdy ice cream churn, I've found they do a surprisingly good job at kneading bread dough. I have these little hand-cranked ones that are meant for making a single serving of ice cream, I think they were 50 cents each at a garage sale. But they're just the right size for a 1-2 person loaf. And they hold the dough well enough I can crank it while doing other things around the house. I just take my dough with me.


What a fantastic idea!  I will look for one.  Thank you!

Added:  What make/model works for you?  I have never seen a small hand-crank ice cream churn at a garage/yard sale, but I admit I don't go to too many.  However, I found one online with a one pint capacity made by Norpro.  I bet I could find one on eBay.
 
Emilia Andersson
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Kimbo Baugh wrote:You can also create a yeast water using water, sugar or honey, and fruit/herbs/flowers. I do this often. The procedure is very similar to creating a ginger bug or a naturally carbonated drink.

500g water
50g fruit (raisins or dates work very well, make sure they're organic)
27g of sugar or honey

Mix that all together and put it in a jar. I usually use a lock top jar. Shake it and burp it twice a day (CO2 will build up - if you do not burp it, it might explode!). When it is very active, which should only take a few days, it will be ready for baking. Mix the water together with some flour (I go for about 30g of flour and 30g of the yeast water), put it in a jar, and let it sit. It may take a day to rise as it gets used to eating the flour vs. sugar or honey. When it triples, you now have a leaven you can use to leaven your bread with.

Note that if you're using a recipe that calls for instant yeast, this stuff will leaven your dough much slower since it is wild yeast. Also, be sure to subtract the flour and water amounts in the leaven from the flour and water amounts in the recipe.



We just received a bunch of organic blackberries, already mushy so priority for eating. Over here we have to sterilise fruit and vegetables that'll be eaten uncooked, so that's what I did before realising they would be prefect for trying this levain lark... I´ve now got them in a jar with water and honey and we'll see what comes out.
 
Emilia Andersson
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Beth Wilder wrote:
Ooh, I'd love to play with the amaranth flour! We haven't yet been able to harvest enough here to make flour out of. Oat flour works well in my experience. I haven't had good luck with coconut flour. I'm jealous of what you have available! If you play with any of those for sourdough bread, would you please let us know how it goes? Curious minds want to know. :)


Thanks Beth! I'm very bad at not complicating simple recipes so I nearly always chuck in some weird flour in my baking... resulting in breads that are always a little bt of "hard work" to eat. Amaranth flour works fine but being gluten free doesn't do the fluffy bread thing.
 
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I didn't see anyone post this method, but I recall reading of an old method (from Poland, I believe) where they would have a designated wooden dough bowl. It was never cleaned and I would assume the nature of wood would absorb some yeast, as well as the small flecks of dough that dried on the sides would innoculate the new dough as it was made.

I've recently had an idea to try making "active yeast." I believe the yeast must be flash-frozen to prevent it from going dormant and taking a while to reanimate. I think they use a spraying method commercially, but I wonder if a slab of stone or metal could be frozen and an active liquid culture smeared thinly on it to freeze instantly. It could then be scraped off with a scraper or razor and frozen or dehydrated in a freezer.
 
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Wooden dough bowls (or rather troughs) were used in Germany as well.


Your story about yeast and bacteria surviving in the cracks sounds quite convincing.

Anecdote:
My mother had a book on baking bread in the 80ies that was a bit awkward (I think either English or American, translated to German) because it used complicated methods to make what we would call normal bread (leavened with sourdough). Anyway, what stuck with me was that the author made experiments about leavening the bread, first with dough she took off from a yeast dough, then using smaller and smaller quantities of that "old" dough. In the end she tested with crumbs and still got results!
Well, in theory the baked crumbs would not have any surviving microorganisms, but what happened here is that apparently the kitchen area was saturated with wild yeasts and it was easy to get spontaneous sourdough starter.

On a side note, I am currently using an hybrid sourdough rye-wheat (or rather wheat-rye) that is very mild and active and is quite versatile.
 
Beth Wilder
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Jordan Holland wrote:I didn't see anyone post this method, but I recall reading of an old method (from Poland, I believe) where they would have a designated wooden dough bowl. It was never cleaned and I would assume the nature of wood would absorb some yeast, as well as the small flecks of dough that dried on the sides would innoculate the new dough as it was made.


Yeah, this is such a cool thing. There are similar practices in much of the world. For example, in our area, devoted unglazed ceramic ollas (pots/vessels) have been used repeatedly for particular yeasty ferments, such as colonche (fermented prickly pear soda or hooch), mezquitatol (mesquite hooch), etc. -- usually liquid, as far as I've read or seen, less bread-y. I've kept devoted wooden spoons before and I've been promised at least one olla to ferment in one of these days, but I haven't had a chance to try a devoted porous vessel yet. Oh, except! The cotton fabric lining my wicker banneton probably collected sourdough yeast each time and paid it forward to the next batch; maybe even the wicker itself. I seem to remember reading something about that when I was looking up how to clean them.
 
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Kimbo Baugh wrote: I find that the % of whole grain and length of time the dough ferments factors in. Whole grains will make your sourdough a lot more sour.


I think you pointed to the main factors. I'm a very simple baker, and although I don't bake bread, I've been making whole wheat sourdough waffles for decades.  The batter gets nice and bubbly, but I rarely notice much tang. Granted, my loose recipe does include a half-teaspoonful of baking soda, which would offset some tang while increasing loft. The length of time I let the batter work seems to be the main variant in tang. I also don't understand the obsession with starter recipes. Over the years, my starter has suffered neglect at times, to the point of seeming death, but all I need to do to get a viable starter again is to discard about half of it and add flour and water. Leaving it out for a day or two at room temperature (I normally refrigerate it between weekly or bi-weekly waffle sessions) is all it takes to have a bubbly starter again.

I suspect that making San Francisco-style sourdough bread takes more effort, but basic sourdough baking is undemanding. I've even substituted white flour a couple of times when I was out of whole wheat, and the batter wasn't obviously affected. The next morning I just scooped out the cupful I reserve for starter for the next batch and carried on.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Lif Strand wrote:

Ellendra Nauriel wrote:...if you can find a sturdy ice cream churn, I've found they do a surprisingly good job at kneading bread dough. I have these little hand-cranked ones that are meant for making a single serving of ice cream, I think they were 50 cents each at a garage sale. But they're just the right size for a 1-2 person loaf. And they hold the dough well enough I can crank it while doing other things around the house. I just take my dough with me.


What a fantastic idea!  I will look for one.  Thank you!

Added:  What make/model works for you?  I have never seen a small hand-crank ice cream churn at a garage/yard sale, but I admit I don't go to too many.  However, I found one online with a one pint capacity made by Norpro.  I bet I could find one on eBay.




I have no idea what make and model these are. Any labels they once had have long since worn off. I took a look at the one Norpro has, and it looks like it would probably work.

While I was looking, I also saw the ones by Donvier. Those look very similar to mine, only mine are smaller. Same shape and same parts, though. I think mine hold a pint at the absolute most.

Ice cream is hard to stir when it gets close to finished. Anything that can handle that without bending or breaking is probably sturdy enough for bread dough.
 
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Jordan Holland wrote:I didn't see anyone post this method, but I recall reading of an old method (from Poland, I believe) where they would have a designated wooden dough bowl. It was never cleaned and I would assume the nature of wood would absorb some yeast, as well as the small flecks of dough that dried on the sides would innoculate the new dough as it was made.

Vikings used ornately carved wooden Totem Sticks to stir Mead.  They thought fermentation was the magic of Kvasir, the wisest man in the world but it was yeast on their magic totem.

 
Emilia Andersson
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Beth Wilder wrote:
Ooh, I'd love to play with the amaranth flour! We haven't yet been able to harvest enough here to make flour out of. Oat flour works well in my experience. I haven't had good luck with coconut flour. I'm jealous of what you have available! If you play with any of those for sourdough bread, would you please let us know how it goes? Curious minds want to know. :)



Follow-up post... this is taking an absolute age. I checked out Emilie's sourdough starter recipe and I'm now at "Day 3-8", and have been for the past ten days. How is this supposed to double in size if you take out half of it every day?
Both the wheat and amaranth starters bubble and smell sour, and have a little of that stretchy consistency, but nothing like the photos in that blog. The leftover jar in the fridge has a healthy buzz to it, but all three jars are basically a heavy flour sediment topped with sharp-smelling liquid, bubbles fizzing through it. The levain has been the most positive experience so far- the handful of blackberries in honey water turned into fizzy, slightly pink liquid. Now I've mixed it with a bit of flour and hope to work out how to bake bread with it. The blackberries came out of the levain looking pristine, so I chucked them into a new batch with a few peach slices.
A few days ago vigorous mold had started growing in the starter jars (not the levain) - but only on the sides of the jars where there were damp stains of flour mix. The sourdough itself wasn't affected - clearly it's too sour for mold to gain purchase. I threw out most of the wheat starter and started over with a bit of it in a new jar, but with the amaranth I just wiped the mats of mold off the insides of the jar.
Row-of-starters-26.4.jpg
Today's situation: overflow, wheat, amaranth, levain with flour, new levain.
Today's situation: overflow, wheat, amaranth, levain with flour, new levain.
Starters-day2.jpg
I started out with these. Wheat, amaranth, levain.
I started out with these. Wheat, amaranth, levain.
 
Beth Wilder
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Emilia Andersson wrote:Follow-up post... this is taking an absolute age. I checked out Emilie's sourdough starter recipe and I'm now at "Day 3-8", and have been for the past ten days. How is this supposed to double in size if you take out half of it every day?


Hmm. Which recipe is it that you're using? (Edited to add: Was it this one? I've never had a starter get elastic like that, but I've also never made one with white flour. Certainly gluten-free flours don't seem to do that. It could be that whole wheat flour doesn't either. Did you say your wheat flour is whole or white?) The way it doubles is that when it really gets good and active, it puffs up and suddenly takes up much more space because it has so much air in it as the yeast digest sugars and release carbon dioxide. (Edited to add: Emilie's first picture of the starter pushing the lid off the jar and oozing out is exactly what happens. With mine, it puffs up the muslin that I screw on the top of my jar using the ring, although only liquid makes it through the fabric to drip down the sides.)

Emilia Andersson wrote:Both the wheat and amaranth starters bubble and smell sour, and have a little of that stretchy consistency, but nothing like the photos in that blog. The leftover jar in the fridge has a healthy buzz to it, but all three jars are basically a heavy flour sediment topped with sharp-smelling liquid, bubbles fizzing through it.


This site, which I generally find to be good, says, "The dark liquid is a form of naturally-occurring alcohol known as hooch, which indicates that your sourdough starter is hungry. Hooch is harmless but should be poured off and discarded prior to stirring and feeding your starter. If hooch is forming on your starter regularly, increase the feeding frequency and/or move the starter to a cooler spot (70-85ºF), to slow things down."

Emilia Andersson wrote:A few days ago vigorous mold had started growing in the starter jars (not the levain) - but only on the sides of the jars where there were damp stains of flour mix. The sourdough itself wasn't affected - clearly it's too sour for mold to gain purchase. I threw out most of the wheat starter and started over with a bit of it in a new jar, but with the amaranth I just wiped the mats of mold off the insides of the jar.


Is it quite warm and humid there this time of year, including inside your kitchen? If so, and if your fridge stays dry and doesn't grow too much mold, I might switch your fermentation either there or, if you have another cool dry place somewhere, there. In past summers, I've often had to keep my starter in the fridge in between feedings or I just couldn't keep up with feeding and discarding and using it.
 
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We have a few sourdough threads, in at least one I described my hooch issues, they have been mostly resolved by refrigerating during all but the coldest part of the year, unless I'm doing serious baking (multiple recipes per day or days in a row) and then keeping it very thick when its not refrigerated.

Edited to add: Emilia, I was using the mobile version last night and wasn't able to see where you were but now I can see that my suspicions were right.... Tropical or semi-tropical sourdough is a bit more challenging. Other people are doing it (especially now) but it has different challenges compared with sourdough in North America or northern Europe.  I know for me levain starter was a real challenge, took me maybe three tries, finally got one loaf of bread out of it (and what a loaf it was.....), but then the starter immediately got that dirty sock smell and turned greyish black. My normal sourdough I feed with white flour, so I am not sure about the other issues with the different flour, but when you`re in a warmer place you may need to feed your starter various times per day (which is why mine lives in the fridge-- and even then goes to hooch in 24 hours). But keep looking, as other people surely are doing it, and keep trying.

One thing I read somewhere was to keep a rubber band on your starter jar to mark where you started. I don`t worry about the percent growth, just that it surpassed the initial level. Move the rubber band according to the level of starter in it, and that makes it easier to keep an eye on.
 
David Wieland
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Tereza Okava wrote:We have a few sourdough threads, in at least one I described my hooch issues, they have been mostly resolved by refrigerating during all but the coldest part of the year, unless I'm doing serious baking (multiple recipes per day or days in a row) and then keeping it very thick when its not refrigerated.


My experience with sourdough starter is that it's very forgiving. Mine is based on whole wheat and is only a cupful or so that I reserve from the unadulterated batter (for waffles) made with a previous cupful of starter. I typically use it every two weeks, so I refrigerate it between times.
After two weeks, there is some liquid on top, and I simply stir it in before mixing the starter with enough flour and water to give me enough batter for the waffles and the cupful refrigerated as starter for the next batch. The only time I discard a little (including "hooch") is when I've left it more than three weeks.
Perhaps gluten-free starter is finicky. I'm sure it's harder to make a loaf without gluten, and I don't have any experience with that.
 
Emilia Andersson
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Hello, and thanks for the supportive replies! It seems that posting their pictures online shamed my starters into foaming picturesquely. The levain and amaranth starters finally did the foam thing. I also realised what you've told me, that the persistent hooch means that my kitchen is on the warm side for the yeasts... I'm so used to thinking about our house as "cold" that I didn't put "barefoot and sunscreen weather" and "sourdough fermenting double quick" together.
The wheat starter is made with white organic flour, the amaranth-oat is something coarser, also organic. I was using this recipe: https://vanillaandbean.com/wprm_print/38075
but since then I found this one which seems a lot less finicky and more calmly reassuring, and starts off with 200 g of flour, rather than Emilie's 20 g: https://www.simonandschuster.com/c/sourdough-or-levain
In other sourdough news, I used the discard to make very tasty naan and breadrolls.
Now I'll move my starters into the fridge and plot my next baking move. Thanks to everyone!
 
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Just a little update:  I kept feeding my starter but didn't get around to baking bread so my levain is a month along and wow does it make tasty bread.

I used an uncovered cast iron frying pan on 450 for 50 minutes and it was a little moister than I like in the center.  

Next time I'm going to use my covered cast iron dutch over to see if I can get more of a rise.

I used 2 cups of organic spelt flour and 1.5 cups of unbleached flour with 3 cups of water.

Didn't grease the pan.

What I would do differently.  I put the dough in a bowl for the second rise so I had to dump it into the pan, next time I will do the rise in the pan to get a prettier top.

The crust on this is delicious.  I feel like a Roman Centurian when I'm eating it.  It's so filling I can see why the Romans called spelt the marching grain. I usually eat 2 or three bowls of stewed lentils but yesterday I ate a very small bowl and a hunk of this bread slathered in butter. I was so full after eating I felt a little queasy.
IMG_5002-(1).JPG
Spelt and Flour
Spelt and Flour
IMG_5004.JPG
Dusted pan with flour before baking and it came out without sticking
Dusted pan with flour before baking and it came out without sticking
IMG_4998-(1).JPG
Wet and sticky, had to get really sloppy with extra flour
Wet and sticky, had to get really sloppy with extra flour
 
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Scott Foster wrote:Just a little update:  I kept feeding my starter but didn't get around to baking bread so my levain is a month along and wow does it make tasty bread.

I used an uncovered cast iron frying pan on 450 for 50 minutes and it was a little moister than I like in the center.  

Next time I'm going to use my covered cast iron dutch over to see if I can get more of a rise.

I used 2 cups of organic spelt flour and 1.5 cups of unbleached flour with 3 cups of water.

Didn't grease the pan.

What I would do differently.  I put the dough in a bowl for the second rise so I had to dump it into the pan, next time I will do the rise in the pan to get a prettier top.

The crust on this is delicious.  I feel like a Roman Centurian when I'm eating it.  It's so filling I can see why the Romans called spelt the marching grain. I usually eat 2 or three bowls of stewed lentils but yesterday I ate a very small bowl and a hunk of this bread slathered in butter. I was so full after eating I felt a little queasy.



How much the bread rises is a matter of how strong your starter is, how much gluten the dough has developed and how you bake it.

For the starter: It should double after max 6h after the last feeding, if not keep discarding/feeding.
For the gluten: This is highly dependent on how much protein your flour has and how long you knead it.
For the baking: I suggest you let it rise in a proofing basket (if you don't have use a bowl, put a kitchen towel inside, flour it and then put the dough). Put the dutch oven in the oven at least 45min before and let it heat up. Then before baking you just open it, put the the dough in, score it (this is extremely important otherwise the crust forms to quickly and blocks the dough to rise) with a razor blade or sharp knife), close the lid, let it in for 20-25min, then remove the lid and let it bake until desired color.

This should help getting a better raise for your bread. Can't wait to hear more updates!
 
Tereza Okava
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Covering your pan will make a tremendous difference in rise (at least in my experience).

I have a dutch oven with a tempered glass top, it has a hole in it for steam, and I found that if I put a sheet of aluminum foil under the lid to block that tiny hole, the results were markedly different with the steam trapped inside. And definitely don't forget to slash the top.
 
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This is a great thread, full of awesome info!
I'm still new to fermentation (<1 year), but have been doing lots of experiments using "wild" yeasts (sourdough, vinegar, poultry grain, pickles, etc). On the sourdough starters, I have one from wild yeast that started as a "Amish friendship bread" starter, but has kind of "evolved" as I play with different flours/sugars, plus a "traditional" starter I began with store bought yeast. Originally I was using the AFB starter for sweet breads and the traditional for savory breads; but the one made with wild yeast is always more active and produces better results, so I've found myself using it for almost everything and kind of just maintaining the other one in the refrigerator, with the discard going to the pigs or in the poultry grain bucket.
I don't really have anything useful to add, but wanted to share my experience and say thanks for the great info and ideas shared. There's lots of stuff mentioned that I'm excited to try with my own bread making!
 
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