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Alumni Takeover: Got no yeast to bake? No worries…

The second blog in our alumni takeover series goes to Andy Haddon, owner of Big River Bakery, including tips on how to bake with no yeast!

It seems that everyone has used lockdown to take up the hobby of bread baking, meaning many supermarkets have run out of a vital ingredient for many recipes - yeast! Little do most of us know, we are surrounded by yeast in our own homes – we just don’t know how to turn it into an ingredient to dollop into our dough. It’s a hit-and-miss process, especially for beginners, but these instructions should guide and entertain you in an isolation quest that will, at the very least, keep boredom at bay…

What you will need for this experiment: a clean jar, a few tablespoons of water, a few tablespoons of flour (white flour is perfect but any is fine as long as it is high in gluten), and a yeast source – scour your kitchen for some dried fruit (dates, raisins, prunes, apricots…), some old bread, or even the dregs of that lovely Belgian ale or bottle of wine you just finished!

Take your fruit/breadcrumbs/dregs of booze and add to the jar with the water. If you stir the fruit around, you’ll notice the water gets slightly cloudy: that’s the yeast! Add your flour to this mixture – don’t worry if it isn’t organic, and old flour is totally fine - you just want to make a loose, wet dough.

Now it’s time to wait. You’ll want to keep your jar warm but not hot – this is where the lid comes in handy! Cuddle your jar while you binge Netflix, put it on the counter while your dishwasher is running, tuck it into the boiler cupboard… Do it right, and after 12 hours you’ll start to see bubbles: your yeast is alive!

Once the flour paste loosens up (this will take 24-48 hours), take a tiny bit of the water/flour/yeast mix and add it to another few tablespoons of water and flour and repeat. This time it should come to life with bubbles much quicker. You can keep growing and multiplying your yeast like this for as long as lockdown lasts, and you can always share it with friends and family when social distancing ends. 

This process does rely on a little magic, and if you weren’t lucky enough for it to work the first time remember to be patient and maybe try with something different. Keep in mind you’ll be cutting your starter back frequently, so the original flavours won’t be there when you use it to bake. What will be there are yeasts from different sources that are ready to bring your dough to life! Now to find some more flour…

Instructions taken from @shoelaces3 on Twitter, a yeast geneticist who works for Ginkgo.

For more tips and updates, you can follow Big River Bakery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or access their website here www.bigriverbakery.com.  

Would you like to share your expertise with Newcastle’s alumni community? Email advancement@ncl.ac.uk with your story for a chance to be featured.

Yeast examples

published on: 4 May 2020