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I am relatively new to this site but have gotten the Original Fast Foods book and am enjoying trying some of the recipes.  I have a question about the breads in the book (which all call for yeast).  I noticed the videos show a method of making naturally leavened bread and I was wondering whether the recipes in the book can be adapted so that no yeast is used.  Do you simply omit the yeast and add a cup of starter to the dough?


Thank you for all the helpful information!


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The book was published before we learned about naturally leavened bread. After reading the Italian research on this bread we spent quite a lot of time learning to make it. Click on the following link and you will see the instructions for making varieties of naturally leavened bread, and of course the various options are supported by individual recipe videos. I would suggest that you try these recipes that we added to the site, after the book was published. Let me know if you have other questions after reading the link that follows. Jim 


Properly Prepared Grains



Thank you for your reply.  One more question -  concerning the starter, how can you tell when it's ready to bake with?  I've had some going for a week or so and although it's bubbly on top, it doesn't seem to be able to make dough rise yet.


Thanks again!


You can tell when a starter keeping it at room temperature and adding a cup of water and a cup of fresh flour to it daily (always cut your batch of newly forming starter in half and discard half of it before feeding it). If it still isn't beginning to bubble fairly noticeably within an hour or so, it isn't ready to use as a starter. There are a few other conditions that sometimes hamper it's ability to leaven wheat breads.

  • First, if the wheat itself is too high in protein, it is difficult to use. We find that wheat of 11 to 15 percent protein works best. 
  • Also, when it gets drafty and cold, like it did last spring, it seems the friendly bacteria become fairly dormant. For example, last spring there was a two-week stretch where we got bombarded by questions from folks around the country who thought their starter had gone bad. It was very wet, cold, and drafty throughout much of the country. During this same time that others were experiencing difficulty we found that our own bread-making became problematic. A first rise of dough that usually takes only six to twelve hours, depending upon the time of year (colder or hotter), required 30+ hours just to achieve the first rise before we then shape it and place it into pans for the final rise (which generally only takes a couple of hours but required another six hours); this is the only time this has occurred to us in three years of making this bread. 
Anyway the lactobacilli are living cultures of friendly bacteria that feed on the wheat and will always do so and will continue to grow in population unless weather causes them to go dormant, or unless the feed source isn't adequate for them. Consider the above ideas and continue to feed your starter each day until you notice that it becomes very active. Keep in mind that it will not continue to bubble once the new feed source has been exhausted. You cannot miss the friendly bacteria begin to exhaust the feel rapidly because it becomes bubbly fairly quickly and then quits bubbling as soon as the feed source has been consumed (only a few hours). As soon as it is active, it will work like a champ in your bread making. Remember to keep it refrigerated once it becomes very active and feed it at least once a week.
I have a couple other questions.  Why do you keep your starter in such large quantity?  Will it not work as well in smaller quantity?  I have a tiny fridge and can't keep that large of a container.  I found your website after learning to make naturally leavened bread on my own, and it has been a real treasure.  My start has recently become exceptionally tangy, no matter how much I feed or refresh it.  Any ideas?
Good question Melissa. If all you use it for is to make bread, then two or three cups is fine to keep on hand. We give a lot of fresh starter away to those who come to our home, plus we like to make pancakes from it (see instructions here). For those reasons we keep extra on hand always. However, when you make bread, all you need is a cup or a cup and a half (goes a little faster) to make it. Just be sure to replenish the left-over starter by adding enough flour and water to replace what you use while making bread. Jim
Jim I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.  When you use/feed/refresh your starter, how long do you wait before you use it again for optimal baking?
Hi Melissa, not a long time, generally an hour or two. As long as it has a nice subtle aroma rather than a sour pungent oder, it's ready to go. Sometimes I have to freshen it a couple of times to create the nicer flavored bread. When I do this, I will freshen it, then allow it to feed for a couple of hours, then freshen it again and wait another couple hours before using it to bake with. A few times I've had to repeat that three times when the starter has sat in the refrigerator for unusually long periods of time.

Melissa Richardson said:
Jim I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.  When you use/feed/refresh your starter, how long do you wait before you use it again for optimal baking?

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