America is on a bit of a bread craze – everyone has been stocking up due to the pandemic panic. That has led to a nationwide shortage of bread and yeast. If you are after fresh bread, then, what are you to do? It’s surprisingly simple – yeast isn’t just something you can buy on store shelves – it is a living microorganism, and it is all around us. You can capture and grow this yeast with a starter, and voila, a renewable supply of yeast.
Creating a starter is straightforward but takes time. A starter is a simple mix of flour and water for yeast to grow in, built up over the course of two weeks. The local Pacific Consumer Co-op has a great guide on how to get your own up and running. Every town, neighborhood or sometimes even house can have its own variety of yeast, which will cause every starter to produce a sourdough with a wholly unique taste.
If you’re impatient like me, however, one of the great aspects of a starter is that once established, it can be split and shared with friends. One starter, given time, could be used to make bread for an entire community. We got our starter from our friend Emily Adams, who also got it from her friend. If you feel like getting started right away, ask around.
Depending on where you live, look into what you can get locally: buying directly from farmers, farm stands or friends exposes you to less risk of infection and ensures you get only the freshest ingredients! The flour for this recipe we bought straight from a local farm, ground fresh from hardy red winter wheat.
Once you have your starter, you’re only limited by your supply of flour and your imagination. You can add almost anything you like to your bread, but rosemary and olives are both tasty places to start.
For demonstration purposes, we kept this one simple: just flour, water, salt and starter. Before we get started, however, I need to issue a warning: you might be unable to stop baking bread. Store-bought loaves simply can not compare to fresh bread hot from the oven. So without further ado: