The Power of Yeastwater
In addition to the most common dough-leavening methods like sourdough, lievito madre and commercial yeast, baking with wild yeastwater, although already very popular in the very ancient past, is something like the ultimate trendy wave in terms of baking naturally leavened bread. Water, sugar, fruits (vegetables, blossoms or herbs) – this is all you need for setting up this 100% natural and extremely flexible dough-leavening power tool. As plenty of my #brotokoll recipes are based on wild yeastwater, I will support you continuously in this section with insights, hints and further information on that thrilling topic.
Do you have specific questions or issues regarding wild yeastwater? Contact me via the contact form. I am happy to help you.
The advantages of setting up, maintaining and using wild yeastwater for baking completely naturally leavened bread are more than obvious:
- The setup is easy, more or less foolproof and nearly without limitation in terms of creativity.
- The expenditure of time for maintaining an active yeastwater is extremely low
- Highly active yeastwater conserves its activity over weeks or even months
- Yeastwater allows you to easily build extremely powerfull pre-doughs, such as Poolish or Biga
- You did not succeed so far in building a powerful Lievito Madre? Wild Yeastwater will be your success tool.
- Don’t worry about vacation and leaving your wild yeastwater alone. Conserving its power is simple and much easier than in case of sourdough.
- Especially respecting long time fermentation there is a huge benefit while working with wild yeastwater: whereas sourdough based breads easily catch a stronger acidic taste when fermented too long – the timeframe for long fermented yeastwater breads is much larger before they taste acidic.
Instead of dealing with theory and literature based analysis – let’s jump directly into the most important and exciting part: The setup of your first wild yeastwater. Everything you need and the easy way how it works, is demonstrated in this short clip.
Fruits, vegetables, herbs, blossoms
This is the one of the most creative parts, while working with wild yeastwater. The setup phase when you decide what exactly to choose for fermentation. Almost everything growing on trees or any harvestable plant can be fermented – thus suitable for setting up wild yeastwater (please make sure prior to fermentation, if your herbs and especially blossoms or leaves are edible). In terms of fermentation success and also for health reasons I recommend using organic and untreated vegetables or fruits. All units and ratios as mentioned in the video are just approximate values – for example it is not necessary to use exactly 200 gramms of blossoms (which would be a lot). Just make sure that you have an appropriate ratio of water/fruit and fruit/sugar.
While using herbs, leaves or blossoms, you will have to increase the amount of sugar, as these don’t with a sufficient sugar level in order to feed the growing wild yeast during the fermentation process.
The only limitation in terms of fermentation-creativity is set by mother nature. I guess you don’t have neither time nor ressources to ferment your whole botanic surrounding area. Breadbaking means connecting people. In order to ensure baking success and satisfaction, all kind of shared experiences within the baking community are important and highly valuable. When it comes to wild yeastwater I’d like to highlight the inspiration and work of Pilar M. Torres and her Facebook group “Fermenting and Baking with Wild Yeast and Waters”.
The following fruits are not suitable for being used as wild yeastwater. You are able to set up the water. Unfortunately, once the dough is built with the respective yeastwater, these fruits will destroy gluten due to special enyzmes:
- Kiwi (eventually)
Bottles & lids
It may be fun watching, but the pressure which is built during the fermentation process within the bottle can quickly
become dangerous. For that reason, I explicitly recommend using plastic bottles or special fermenter lids for setting up and maintaining wild yeastwater. A plastic bottle makes it so easy – it even lets you feel the progress of fermentation. If there is no resistence when you press the bottle, it is time to release the pressure and to perform a first dough-leavening test (from now on store your bottle in your fridge). Make sure to shake the bottle during the whole fermentation time (as well as prior to every time you use it) as the wild yeasts are accumulated at the bottle’s bottom.
Make sure that while setting up your yeast water, the ambient temperature is neither lower than 25 nor higher than 29 degrees Celsius. The ideal temperature, based on my personal experience with a proofer, would be around 27 degrees Celsius – ensuring fermentation and yeast growth.
Once your yeastwater is ready, as well as after every single use, store the bottle in your fridge to prevent further fermentation.
How to use
Let’s get to the most important section: how and where to use wild yeastwater? Whenever I am working with yeastwater in my recipes, I just use it for pre-doughs. There are simple reasons explaining why: At first, yeastwater needs much more time for leavening a dough than commercial yeast. So, a very well fermentd pre-dough ensures a fantastic starting position for the main dough. And secondly, replacing the whole water in a recipe by wild yeastwater often leads to a crumb that tends to have the consistency of a chewing gum.
In addition to special yeastwater based recipes like here in my #brotokoll, it is easy to transform any recipe into a yeastwater edition. For example:
- Poolish: whenever you find Poolish as part of your recipe, simply replace the water amount for the Poolish by yeastwater. If the main dough requests commercial yeast – skip that yeast entirely.
- Biga: whenever you find Biga as pre-dough of your recipe, simply replace the water amount for the Biga by yeastwater. If the main dough requests commercial yeast – skip that yeast entirely. Your Biga (= stiff starter) will get even more powerfull if you let it rise for a couple of hours (or until it roughly double in size) at roomtemperatur and let it rest for 48 hours in fridge. You’ll be surprised!
- Sourdough (e.g. 100% hydration – equal parts flour and water): just replace the requested water amount by yeastwater, skip the starter amount and commercial yeast (if requested)
Combination: sourdough and wild yeastwater are the perfect match. However a combination of yeastwater an commercial yeast will have negative effects on fermentation, gluten and crumb. My recommendation: let it be
No matter what you tend to use: wheat, spelt, rye, semola…every kind of flour is suitable for building a powerful dough with wild yeastwater.
R . I . P Wild Yeastwater
Everything comes to an end – and starts with a new beginninng. After every single use, you can certainly fill up your bottle with water or even add some fruits. The normal feeding process which I personally apply, as shown in the video, is more than sufficient (a teaspoon of sugar once a week). I recommend you to conserve the fermented fruits – this is the ultimate wild yeastwater power kick. I am not exaggerating at all! Either shortly before the remaining amount of your yeastwater goes towards zero or much earlier: you can mash that fermented fruits and use them for building a biga (method by Claudio Perrando). Just mix mashed fruits and flour (ratio 1:1), let it rest for 3-4 hours at room-temperature or until it has roughly doubled in size and let it ferment well covered in fridge for another 48 hours. Just have in mind that you might need to add some additional water to your main dough.