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Cultivating bread yeast…

Posted Mar 24 2010 12:00am

In making my bread, I use Fermipan Red, a Dutch yeast which gives excellent results without imbuing the bread with an offensively yeasty taste (as with brewing, the yeast should contribute to the finished product, not dominate it).

I used to buy it in Liverpool, but as I can no longer go there due to health problems, it’s become increasingly hard to find (I have a couple of online sources, but it’s not cost-effective. I bought it from Matta’s, in Bold Street. They now have an online store, but it features just a small part of their stock and my favourite items – Fermipan and their own-brand fine sea salt (excellent stuff) – don’t feature. Damned if I can understand that.

Some months ago, I experimented with culturing a viable yeast from the sediment in bottle-conditioned beer, which was a success, though not worth the work (but see below) and, as I’ve just started to make a loaf, I thought – Why can’t I culture Fermipan?

I could make a stiff sponge, inoculated with a hefty dose of yeast and a good dollop of malt extract. When the sponge has fermented for a few days, I can make it stiffer by working in some more flour, form it into balls, roll them in bran to stop them sticking together, flatten them, and freeze them.

Then, to make bread, I can defrost one or two balls (some experimentation will be needed), defrost them, work them into a new sponge and leave at room temperature to reactivate. It can then be put in the fridge for a day or two, like a normal sponge.

I can’t think of any reason why that shouldn’t work. Nor can I imagine why it didn’t occur to me when I had the beer yeast though, of course, I can always repeat the process and do so.

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