I always thought of yeast as a mysterious little packet from the grocery store that somehow came to life when mixed with a bit of sugar and warm water.
What I didn’t know is that yeast is actually all around us!
And although baker’s yeast has some benefits, there are four great benefits of using natural yeast in your recipes.
There are four great benefits to using natural yeast. First, it won’t cost you anything because you won’t need to purchase yeast anymore. Natural yeast slows digestion, making you feel more full, which may promote weight loss. It also breaks down harmful enzymes found in grains and works like probiotics to promote good bacteria in the gut. With all the benefits to using natural yeast, you may want to learn how to capture and use it.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the benefits of baking with natural yeast. We’ll also talk about how to capture your own wild yeas and give you a few recipes that you can try, too.
But first, let’s take a quick look at what natural yeast actually is and the difference between natural yeast and commercial yeast.
What Is Natural Yeast?
Natural yeast, also known as wild yeast, is a microorganism. It feeds on carbohydrates and releases carbon dioxide. Wild yeast is found everywhere – it’s on plants, animals, and even on you!
A yeast starter captures this wild yeast so you can put it into recipes. For example, the yeast starter can leaven bread (or make it rise) and cause fermentation to occur. Once you capture natural yeast, you can use it to make bread, waffles, or any other recipe that requires yeast to make it rise before baking. You can also make probiotic drinks.
Whether you’re a prepper looking for ways to be self-sufficient or you’re a parent looking for a fun science experiment, you might want to try capturing your own natural yeast. But before we get into how to capture your own natural yeast, let’s talk about the difference between natural yeast and commercial yeast.
What’s the Difference Between Natural Yeast and Commercial Yeast?
There are different types of yeast that are used for different purposes.
Baker’s yeast is the type you find in the grocery store, often sold in little packets. It is a specific strain of yeast cultivated for its bread-rising properties. It gives very consistent results, which also makes it helpful for large commercial operations to use in their breadmaking. This type of yeast will stay good in your fridge unopened for up to 2 years.
On the other hand, Brewer’s yeast is used to make beer, while baker’s yeast is used to make bread. Brewer’s yeast is a different strain of yeast intended for making alcohol. Nevertheless, both baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast give very consistent results.
Wild yeast, or natural yeast, is found naturally and is captured by the baker and cultivated into a usable yeast starter that you can make bread with. Natural yeast is all around us – it is found on fruits and vegetables, in the air, even on your hands and skin.
Unfortunately, wild yeast isn’t nearly as consistent in flavor or results as commercially cultivated yeasts are. However, there are benefits to using natural yeast that you just don’t get with commercial varieties.
4 Benefits of Natural Yeast
- You won’t need to purchase yeast anymore. If you can harness the power of natural or wild yeast, you won’t need to make the trip to the grocery store for fresh yeast every time you want to make bread. And although the process of making your own yeast starter takes a few days, it is extremely easy and inexpensive.
- It slows digestion, so you feel fuller longer. Interestingly, when you use wild yeast or natural yeast, it slows down your digestion. Because of this, you feel fuller for longer, which means you’ll probably eat less and lose weight.
- Breaks down harmful enzymes in grains. There may be a connection between the increase of gluten-related health issues and the increased use of commercially sold yeast. Regardless, natural yeast can break down harmful enzymes found in grains, which lead to fewer tummy-related troubles. It may also reduce the glycemic index of bread, which could prevent that carbohydrate spike in blood sugar.
- Natural yeast has probiotics and prebiotics. Because of the fermentation process, natural yeast acts like a probiotic and a prebiotic to introduce healthy bacteria to your gut, which may lead to overall better health.
How Is Natural Yeast Made?
You need to capture some of these special microorganisms in a jar and ferment them to get your own natural yeast. This will create your yeast starter, often called yeast water. It is surprisingly easy and only takes a few days for the yeast to grow.
Yeast thrives on carbohydrates and moisture, so the goal is to create an environment for the yeast to thrive and ferment. Here’s how to make your own yeast water.
- Put some dried fruit into a jar. Using dried fruit is the easiest way to capture yeast, especially if you have never done it before. Dried dates or raisins work well for first-timers. Just make sure your fruit was not treated with sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide will prevent the yeast from fermenting. If you don’t have dried fruits, you can use fresh fruits, like apple slices, vegetables, or herbs, but these can be a little less consistent than using dried fruit. The key is
- Fill your jar with water, about an inch above the fruit. Chlorinated water can slow or stop the process, so you’ll want to use filtered water if your tap water is chlorinated.
- Close up the jar tightly and keep it at room temperature away from direct sunlight.
- Your yeast water is ready when you see bubbles appearing, and there is froth on the top of the water. This process usually takes about five days.
- To use the yeast water, you’ll want to strain the liquid and discard the fruit.
- Use the yeast water in place of baker’s yeast in recipes. You’ll probably need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by the amount of yeast water that you use.
- Open the lid daily to release the pressure building up inside the jar.
- Shake your jar twice a day to prevent mold from growing on top of your yeast water.
You can make yeast water from other types of fruit and vegetables. You can find some examples here.
How to Speed Up The Yeast Process
- Add sugar. If you want to make the process go faster, add a teaspoon of sugar to the water. The sugar will help feed the yeast.
- Use some of your old yeast water. You can also speed up your next batch by saving some of your old yeast water to add to the new yeast water.
How to Create a Sourdough Starter from Yeast Water
You can make your favorite sourdough bread recipe from yeast water, too. But, first, you need to create a sourdough starter from your batch of yeast water.
To create a sourdough starter from yeast water, you just need to mix equal parts of yeast water and flour and then let it ferment. You would use this in place of a typical sourdough starter that you need to feed and care for regularly. Here’s how to make it:
- 100 grams of yeast water
- 100 grams of flour
Allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature for about 16 hours.
Use in your sourdough recipe in place of the sourdough starter. Learn how to use yeast water in a sourdough recipe here.
Why Use Yeast Water Instead of Traditional Sourdough Starter
One of the benefits of using yeast water for baking bread rather than a sourdough starter is that it doesn’t waste any flour. With traditional sourdough starters, you need to discard part of the starter and replace it with fresh flour so that it can grow. This means you are wasting some of the starter but you won’t have to worry about that with yeast water.
Yeast water also doesn’t require the upkeep of a traditional sourdough starter either. Once the yeast water is made, it will store in the fridge for a couple of months.
On the other hand, yeast water takes a little bit more waiting time when you want to use it in a sourdough recipe. When you are ready to bake bread, if you want to use a sourdough recipe, you’ll mix the yeast water with a little bit of flour and let it rest.
Then, once you use the starter in the recipe, the rise time for a yeast water recipe will be longer than it would be for a sourdough starter or a bread made with commercial yeast.
Natural Yeast Recipes
Lemon Ginger Yeast Water for Drinking
Follow the directions above to create this specific yeast water, but use 50 grams of ginger and ½ fresh lemon instead of dried fruit.
Once your yeast water is ready to use, strain it, and chill it in the refrigerator. Then, just pour it into a glass and drink it down.
Yeast Water Bread Recipes
CuisineFiend showcases a recipe for making yeast water bread.
Mygerman.recipes also has a great yeast water bread recipe, you can try it out, here.