Mother Yeast is the secret for an extremely soft and tasty piece of bread. It is a real live organism that not only feeds on water and flour, but that also “breathes” in the air from the environment in which it lives.
The tradition of Pasta Madre, which literally means “mother of dough,” involves creating a yeast starter completely from scratch. You then culture it yourself to use in lieu of store-bought yeast for homemade bread baking.
Dating all the way back to 1500 BC in Ancient Egypt, yeast starter making eventually found its way to Europe where it flourished during the Middle Ages. Today, it is still practiced by both amateur and professional bakers alike, many of whom nurture decades-old yeast starters that their respective families have passed down for generations.
Although some prefer to abide by their own special recipes, which can vary in producing liquid or solid end results, flour and water are the basic ingredients. The batter leavens for nearly a week and must be “fed” daily for the yeast to develop.
How to Make Mother Yeast
Fancy recipes aside, pretty much anyone can whip up a yeast starter without difficulty.
- In a bowl, place 30g of unbleached all-purpose, rye or whole wheat flour
- Mix in 30 ml of bottled water
- Cover with a damp cloth and let sit
- Feed the mixture twice daily for at least five days by adding 30g of flour and 30ml of water
- Some choose to include a sweet component, such as a tablespoon of honey or sugar from the second day onward
- To test the dough’s readiness, drop a small piece of the mixture in water and if it floats, it’s good to go
- Once the starter has been activated, place some plastic wrap on top, and leave out for one more day
- Then pour the starter into a jar and place it in your fridge
To Keep Mother Yeast Alive
To keep mother alive, it will need to be fed weekly. One cup of flour is all it takes, and you just stir it in and place it in the fridge. If you’re making bread every week, you won’t have to do this since you’ll be replenishing the starter anyway.
Start a Yeast-starter Legacy!
If you’re feeling ambitious, perhaps you can initiate a yeast-starter legacy of your own to pass along to your children! In addition to the glory that comes with being able to boast, “I made it myself,” a perk of preparing a homemade yeast starter is the development of lactobacillus bacteria, which creates an acidic environment and therefore repels superfluous organisms, except for strains of acid-tolerant yeast that are crucial for the starter to thrive.