Adopt a Mother (Yeast)
[It is necessary] to self-produce as much as possible: food and other goods; to analyze, evaluate and promote the advantages of self-production compared to the purchase of goods in terms of higher quality of the goods used, conservation and transmission of know-how, creation of moments of new sociality.From the Decalogue for the Happy Degrowth of the Italian Movement MDF
My first meeting with self-production was through the Natural Yeast. It happened by chance: it was one of those totally unexpected meetings of serendipity in which you perceive the importance of what you are witnessing, but you do not understand its meaning.
A few years ago I was given a rather battered piece of sourdough, which, starting from a baking course, had gone back and forth invarious refrigerators and pantries without ever finding a real home. I adopted it without knowing what I was doing and I tried to document myself about it, putting together fragmented information on sites, blogs and some books. Today I can say that Natural Yeast is now part of my daily routine and I am happy that I did not stop at the appearances (not really reassuring) of that first meeting.
The Natural Yeast (or Starter Yeast) is nothing more than a mixture of water and flour that ferments and leaven naturally thanks to the micro-organisms naturally present in the flour, water, environment and everything that comes in contact with the dough; for this reason it is said that every Natural Yeast is unique, because in a certain sense it absorbs its surroundings and changes according to the environment, the type of flour, the hands of those who knead it. It is used as a raising agent in place of brewer’s yeast or synthetic yeast for baking, for kneading pizza or for the creation of large traditional leavened products such as Panettone, Pandoro, Colomba and so on.
The Natural Yeast is a chaotic and dynamic microflora that needs to be treated continuously to keep alive and proliferate: if stored at room temperature it should be nourished every 24/48 hours with water and flour, but also in the refrigerator, despite low temperature slows down the process, it is necessary to feed it every seven days. Moreover, it can not be used as it is in doughs: before each use it must be refreshed again, we must wait for it to mature and then only then can it be used in recipes.
We Italians call it Mother Yeast, but it has to be treated as a son!
If it has such a demanding management, why then use Natural Yeast? First of all to rediscover the natural and material flavors of our grandparents: the taste of bread prepared with the Natural Yeast is more intense, has a unique flavor and fragrance that are not the result of a simple instinctive belief, but have a scientific basis in the type fermentation that takes place inside the sourdough and inside the dough created with it.
Not only. The products made with Natural Yeast are more digestible, both due to the longer processing times and thanks to the activity carried out by lactic bacteria; not to mention that they are kept much longer than those made with brewer’s yeast, thus giving us the opportunity to contain the energy costs of home production.
In a product homemade with Natural Yeast there are no chemical additives, the flours are carefully chosen based on the technical and organoleptic characteristics. The yeast stored and reused in this way has less environmental impact, less transport, less packaging, and leads us more and more towards that “less is better” to which we aspire in our downshifting process.
Finally, what is considered its greatest flaw is instead its greatest merit: the very complex management and long processing times force us to slow down, to understand the cycles of nature, to move away from industrial rhythms and to listen more to the biological rhythm, the seasons, the natural times.
If you do not feel like creating your own yeast from scratch, there are many enthusiasts willing to give you a piece of their sourdough from which you can start to create your original home-made yeast recipes and rediscover the tastes that used to be.
Have I convinced you to adopt your Natural Yeast?
Written by non-native speaker: please excuse any mistake.