what are you doing to my yeast, blue hill?

:: Bread

By: John Clements

Traveling across the country with yeast. Hard. On the way out here I slopped a bit in a ziploc bag, and though I’d been planning to give the TSA guys some lame story when they pointed out that the bag was way bigger than 3.5 ounces, in the event I actually forgot about it completely, and they missed it on the scan or decided to give me a pass.

I got to Connecticut, and it was still pretty healthy. I feel self-righteous about only feeding my yeast unbleached flour, but basically, it was bubbling along just fine.

Then I brought it to Maine.

Actually, for the first week, it was doing pretty well; rising well overnight, ready for the next feeding (a.k.a. indiscriminate slaughter of 80% of my pets). I made some bread, and the rise was only so-so, but there were many other problems in the process on which I could blame the problems.

Then, to add insult to injury, I went to Cape Cod for a week. I gave the yeast a nice big meal, and made half of it whole wheat to last longer. When I got back, it still smelled pretty good. Quite sour, but that’s expected. I started feeding it daily again.

After about two days, I noticed that … things were not really all right. I’m getting some half-hearted bubbling, but the smell is off, and there’s hardly any rise at all. Interestingly, the texture is still nice and viscous, making me re-evaluate this as a sign of health.

So, what’s going on?

Well, I’m really not sure. But I have a hunch. Specifically, I think that the yeast is just way too cold, here in Maine. Compounding this is the fact that the daily feeding discards 80% of the mass, assuming that the yeast & associated bacteria have quintupled in mass overnight. If the temperature is low and that growth is just slowed down a bunch, it means that I’m dramatically cutting the population, and could eventually kill it completely.

So, what to do? Well, I think I should do two things. Thing one, probably the most important, is to try to get it to a warmer place. Unfortunately, my options here are limited, especially since I don’t want the kids to accidentally destroy it. About the best I’ve got is to put it on a sunny windowsill.

Secondly, I’m going to cut the feeding frequency. Maybe once every 36 hours? We’ll see how this goes. My poor culture!