My bread bakers have been busy! These are loaves they baked from my previous post for No-Knead…
Homemade yeast? It’s called Yeast Water or Wild Yeast Water. What IS Yeast Water?? It’s bread starter — like sourdough starter minus the maintenance. Keep reading and I hope you become as hopelessly hooked as I have to this long-rise, easy-knead, artisan style bread baking. It’s the next best thing to…. sliced bread!
Long before the terrible spring of 2020 when active dry yeast and flour were coveted commodities, I was baking with wild yeast Water. This magic water was shared by my friend Jennie Schacht. She showed me her jar of golden water which she called yeast water. I said, “Yeast water what??”. She said, “Trust. It will work”. And it does!
I’ve never had a failed loaf of bread made with yeast water. the Water is always ready to use without regular feeding or wasteful discard from keeping sourdough starter alive. This magic water stays alive in the refrigerator for months without feeding. it also makes excellent sweet rolls and pizza or flat bread.
What is Yeast Water?
Yeast Water or Bread Starter Water, is wild yeast captured in liquid form. It can be made from plants including edible flowers and herbs, grains, and a variety of produce, like apples or beets. My choice for making yeast water is raisins and dates. Dried cherries work great too.
What does Yeast Water Look Like?
The jar marked golden is made with golden raisins. The center jar was made with natural raisins or ‘dark’ raisins, and is in the refresh stage so two dates on the bottom. When the water is fully fermented the fruit floats. The water on the right was made with dates. I always use dates for refreshing raisin or date water, just because they are easier to remove than a bunch of raisins. For cherry water I refresh with dried cherries.
Is Yeast Water Like Sourdough?
Yes and no!
Yes — Yeast Water works like sourdough starter: Yeast Water (Bread Starter) leavens bread dough like sourdough.
No — Yeast Water is not like sourdough starter: Yeast Water does not need regular feeding and re-starting like sourdough. And, there is no messy wasteful flour discard. The water keeps refrigerated, always ready to use.
Does Yeast Water Have a flavor?
The Wild Yeast Water that I make does not add a specific flavor, nor have I noted difference in flavor or performance between raisins, dried dates or cherries. What Wild Yeast Water does do, is bring out complex flavors of grains or any addition of nuts or seeds in the bread. It does not add sour notes to bread like sourdough starter, but it can be used in a ‘preferment’ (like a levain or poolish) to produce sour-like background notes. The longer the preferment ferments, the more the sour notes are enhanced. Preferment is used in my recipe below.
Is Yeast Water Easy to Make?
Yes! Just fruit + water + time. I still find the process incredulous. To prove it works anywhere, I’ve made Yeast Water multiple times away from my home kitchen. Photo here is a close-up of the active yeast water I made with golden and dark raisins at my daughter’s home in Arizona.
How to Make Yeast Water
fermentation takes 5-8 days.
- Combine 500gr water and 80gr dried dates and/or raisins or dried cherries in a quart-size jar. Sometimes sugar is added, but I haven’t found it necessary.
- Put a double ring or leak proof lid on the jar and leave in a draft-free place ideally 75-80F. At 70-75F but it will take a couple days longer. Your oven with the light on can reach 75-80F in an hour or two but do not leave the light on as it could get to 100F which is too hot. And do not turn the oven on!
- Twice a day, vent and close the lid, followed by vigorously shaking the jar. Then remove the lid to release any pressure. In 5-8 days, bubbles and yeast molecules should form and the fruit floats to the top. A sign that it’s ready is the water smells slightly beer or kombucha-like. Now you’re ready to bake with the water!
- Leave the fruit in the water and refrigerate until most of the water is used, which is about 6 loaves of bread.
See pdf for full instructions and how to refresh. If the water is kept longer than a month or two the fruit will disintegrate. I usually strain the water to remove the fruit or skins if it gets too cloudy.
VARIATION: Dried unsweetened cherries without oil also work very well and make a delicious flavored kombucha-like water. Continue as directed and refresh with dried cherries instead of dates when making more water.
How to Use Yeast Water
Below is my basic long-rise artisan bread recipe with Yeast Water (YW). If you’re familiar with the popular New York Times No Knead Bread recipe, that one is also a good first recipe to bake with yeast water. I’ve written how to adapt that recipe to yeast water in my Easiest Ever No-Knead Bread. Or use other recipes like those in my favorite book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish, and substitute YW for the dry yeast by replacing 100 to 200grams of the total water with yeast water. The amount can be adjusted based on time and temperature for rising. IE: for warmer room temps (above 75F), use a little less YW vs tap water; cooler room temp use a little higher percentage YW, and expect a slightly slower rise.
This recipe is my adaptation of Ken’s formulas, using his recommendations for mixing, folding, shaping, and baking.
Get in touch if you have any questions along your Wild Yeast Water experience! I love to chat bread baking 🙂
Yeast Water Artisan Bread
- Cast iron or enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven that withstands 500F oven.
- 6 quart cambro bucket or very large bowl
- Digital thermometer
- Gram scale is preferable to measuring cups
- optional: dough scraper; plastic shower cap
- optional: Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer BROD & TAYLOR FOLDING PROOFER (brodandtaylor.com)
Preferment – make 12-24 hours before mixing Final Dough. This means up to 48 hours before baking.
Final Dough – start 24 hours before you want to bake the bread
- 700 grams white bread flour (~5-1/2cups + 2Tbsp) all-purpose flour also works, I prefer the slightly more structured texture with bread flour.
- 200 grams whole wheat flour (~1 cup + 2Tbsp)
- 550 grams tap water or filtered water (~2-1/3 cups) or 600 grams water for softer/moister crumb
- 100 grams Yeast Water, shake before measuring (~1/2 cup minus 1Tbsp)
- 18-20 grams salt (~5 tsp. Kosher salt) Less salt as low as 12 grams or to your preference. Other salts can be used such as gray salt or fleur de sel. Table salt can be used and is 3 tsp per 18grams.
- Step 1) MAKE PREFERMENT 24-48 hours before you want to bake bread.Stir together the 100 grams 90-95F Yeast Water and 100 grams whole wheat flour. The mixture will be thick enough to nearly hold a chopstick straight up for a couple seconds. Let stand at room temperature (62-75F) until at least doubled in volume with a slightly domed top. A very active water could double in 6-8 hours, but plan on about 12 hours. More or less time depending on room temperature and yeast water strength.Once the preferment doubles, use or refrigerate for up to two days. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
- Step 2) MAKE DOUGH 24 hours before planning to bake bread. In a 6-quart container or bowl, stir together the flours. Combine the tap water (or filtered water), and Yeast Water in a bowl or 4-cup measure. Heat to 90-95F (in my microwave this takes 60-75 seconds).
- Stir together the flours and warmed Yeast Water mixture until all the dry and wet are just combined. No need to knead! Let stand 20-30 minutes or up to 1 hour. This is the autolyse stage which hydrates the flour and starts to activate the enzymes and the gluten forming proteins, improving the dough's ability to stretch and hold shape.
- Now pour the preferment and the salt over the dough.
- Begin the mixing by lifting and folding the dough over and scooping up from the bottom of the container. Then pinch across the dough making chunks, then refold over itself until all the ingredients are combined. This usually takes me 2-3 minutes.
- Let the dough rest 30 seconds, then do a couple more folds and let it relax into the bowl. Cover the container (plastic shower cap works well) and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Ideal temperature is between 70-80F. If less than 70F, expect the dough to take a lot longer to proof.
- Step 3) FOLDING: Now you'll start the series of three folds every 30 minutes (the time doesn't have to be exact, even an hour is ok). Here's how to fold: lift an edge of the dough as far as it will go pulling gently, then fold it over itself. Do this 4-6 more times around the bowl to make a smooth-ish ball.
- The dough tightens with each stretch so the last time it barely stretches up. Cover and let rest again about 30 minutes. Repeat the stretching 3-4 times at interval of about 30 minutes, which will take about 2 hours. Don't stress if you let it go longer, just not more than 3 hours.
- Step 4) PROOFING (also called bulk fermentation): Now cover the bowl and let it do it's thing. Time will vary greatly from 4 or 5 hours to 8-10 hours depending on room temperature. I set the container on a cloth, not directly on the cold countertop. Or, in a proof box such as this folding proofer and set the temperature to 75F. If I need it to go faster because of my schedule for shaping, then I use 78-80F. Up to 85F would be ok, but I prefer the lower temp which adds to flavor development.
- Be patient! Dough should double about 2 to 2-1/2 times the original volume. Look for a slightly domed top and some bubbles on the surface. Also use the finger poke test by coating a finger with flour and indenting about 1/2-inch. Look for a slow rise back with the hole slowly enclosing. If it springs back immediately, it needs more time; if it doesn't spring back at all it is over-proofed.
- Photo below is top down view of well-proofed dough. Domed with visible bubbles.
- Photo below is very active dough; probably over-proofed. Over-proofing weakens the gluten which tends to reduce the final rise (called oven spring) during baking. It may be a denser bread, contrary to expectation of making a lighter bread from such big bubbles. This dough still made delicious loaves!
- Gently scrap the dough out of the container onto a floured work surface.
- Flour the center top of the dough and cut in half with a dough scraper or knife.
- Step 5) SHAPING Make 3-4 gentle stretch and folds to shape each piece of dough into a rough ball. Let rest 20-30 minutes. The dough should expand and bubbles form on surface. Then turn and tuck with hands or one hand and a bench scraper, moving around the ball several times to form a smooth and taught ball. Use little or no flour allowing the dough to create tension on the work surface. If the dough is very sticky, wet hands can help shape better than flour. The dough will become more taught, and bubbles will form on the surface as the dough is rounded into a ball. Prick any very large bubbles as they tend to burn during baking. See the link in the notes below to Ken Forkish on YouTube for detailed instruction on folding and shaping dough.
- FINAL PROOF: Turn into lightly floured cloth lined bowl or banneton. Refrigerate uncovered 8-16 hours. I've left refrigerated up to 36 hours, which is ok but seemed to make a slightly more dense crumb.
- Details of hot or cold bake method described here: Hot Bake or Cold Bake – your choice! – Rosemary MarkStep 6) BAKE Option #1 Preheated oven, place cast iron or ceramic Dutch oven in cold oven on the highest rack that fits. Heat to 500F conventional or 475F convection (my oven takes 45 minutes). CAREFULLY remove pan from oven and turn lightly flour dusted dough directly from bowl or banneton into the hot pan. Score top (or a slash a smile!) with a lam or sharp knife, then immediately cover and return to oven. Reduce temperature 25 degrees. Bake 25 minutes covered; remove lid and bake additional 15-25 minutes until deep golden brown. NOTE: IF the bottom crust is too dark, next time pre-heat oven to 475F and bake at 450F. Different Dutch ovens and ovens can heat differently than the pans I've tested.
- Option #2 Cold start oven, turn dough into unheated Dutch oven lined with lightly floured parchment or silpat. Dough tends to stick in the cold pan if not lined. Place pan in upper third of oven. Turn on to 475F convection or conventional. I find 475F is fine for convection or conventional; with repetition you can choose for your oven and results preference. Bake covered for 50 minutes. Remove lid and bake additional 5-10 minutes until crust is deep golden brown.
- Bake until well browned for the best crust and interior crumb. For extra crisp crust and drier interior crumb, after removing from pan bake on rack additional 5-10 minutes.
- Turn out immediately on a wire rack and try not to slice the loaf for at least an hour! Slicing hot will compress the interior and change the texture of the crumb.