Baking bread with fruit yeast water

Bake a naturally leavened bread with fruit yeast water that I cultivated from grapes. Crusty on top with an open airy crumb, this bread with walnuts and cheese is made with only wild yeast, no commercial yeast used at all.

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The very first time I came to know about baking with fruit yeast water was when I read about grape yeast starter in Chef Chu’s book and the amazing breads he baked with it. My recipe is an adaptation of his ‘Black olive pillow bread’ from one of his books.

Inspired by his book, I delved into research on wild/fruit yeast water and got caught up in this fascinating journey of cultivating yeast from the environment. An extensive research and talking to few experts shed light on this on relatively unknown yeast. Making fruit yeast water from grapes is a short compilation of the facts I gathered over a period of time. Do read that before beginning to bake a bread with fruit yeast water to understand the process better.Making Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes

Cultivating fruit yeast water is one thing and baking with it is yet another completely different process. Using it in baked goods requires a basic understanding of knowing your dough as the process is similar to baking a sourdough bread. That being said, I am not a professional baker and if I can do it, so can you.

During my journey here are the few things I have learnt:

  1. It is important to have a strong active yeast water before putting it to use in the bread. One of the most effective way to predict its strength is to make a poolish – a type of preferment. Poolish is a highly wet dough (sponge) that combines flour to water in 1:1 ratio. Making poolish prior to baking a bread not only gives it an airy and light crumb but also lets you visibly and scientifically measure the volume (strength) of the yeast water. Here is how you do it.
    • Stir the fermented yeast water well, as sometimes the yeast can settle at the bottom of the jar.
    • Combine 50 ml active yeast water with 50 gm of bread/plain flour in a 500 ml clear jar and mark the level with a marker or with a rubber band.
    • Keep it covered in the kitchen away from the direct sunlight.
    • Depending on the temperature and strength of the yeast water, the poolish will increase in volume anywhere from 2-12 hours.
    • A strong poolish will have volume, air pockets and lots of websMaking Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes
  2. If the poolish does not increase in volume in about 8-10 hours, you can feed it again by adding another 50 gm flour and 50 ml yeast water. If it still does not show signs of activity, chances are minimal for a successful bake.
  3. Though I haven’t tried it, you could add 1/8 – 1/4  tsp of the commercial yeast to the final dough if you have an active but not a very strong poolish to minimize waste.
  4. The poolish when fed and discarded on a continued, regular basis will eventually become a sourdough starter.
  5. Stretch and fold is a technique that strengthens the gluten development. Simply meant stretching a part of the dough upwards and then folding it over. This simple looking process is a wonderful way to work with a wet dough, giving it strength and structure. The Perfect Loaf provides an extensive in-depth explanation on this.

And now to the bread. This walnut and cheese bread has a thin, crackly crust with a soft, airy crumb. Unless you use the fermented grapes and/or overproof it, it has almost no tang and no, it does not taste like grapes! And if you are wondering about that beautiful purple hue running across the crumb of this bread, this colour reaction is caused when the natural acid found on the walnut skin reacts chemically when mixed in a yeasted dough. It is a natural process and I find it quite attractive. However, if you don’t much care for it, you can either try adding them just at the very end (at shaping) or blanch them before adding.

Walnut and cheese bread with fruit yeast water
Walnut and cheese bread with fruit yeast water

Lastly, having made this bread countless times, here are few things I have learnt and summarizing it here for you.

  1. Like all naturally leavened breads, the times listed here are more of a guidance as times can vary depending on the strength of the starter, type of flour, temperature of the environment among other things. Go by the appearance (lots of air bubbles), volume (increase in size) and feel of the dough (soft and stretchy) as they are better indicators for a successful bake.
  2. I baked this bread with both dry fig yeast starter and grape yeast starter. Though fig yeast starter doubled up beautifully as a preferment, the bread had tighter crumb and was chewy as against the grape yeast which had thin and crackly crust and lots of air pockets. However, many have baked successfully with dry fig yeast starter which just goes to again prove that each yeast water is unique and its strength is dependent on the type of ingredient used, the environment, the water used among other factors.
  3. While doing stretch and fold, you will feel the difference in each fold. The dough will feel smoother and more elastic – it won’t tear as you stretch. You will see lots of air bubbles (the big ones that develop are fascinating to watch) and volume – like a puffed-up balloon. These are some of the signs that will ‘tell’ you about how the dough is coming along.
  4. While shaping, don’t be too bothered about how it looks. It will look rough and shaggy but as you shape, it will come together. Though do so with gentle hands as you don’t want to lose all that volume you have worked so hard to build. Also use the flour only as necessary to help you along the way. Additional flour can affect the crumb.
  5. You can substitute walnuts and cheese for other ingredient but do take care of the liquid ratio if using a wet ingredient.
  6. My personal choice is overnight proofing for most breads and especially this one for a simple reason. Not only the yeast has sufficient time to develop but I can split the bread making over two days. The whole process of making preferment, autolyse, stretch and fold among other things takes a while so splitting the work between two days seems to make it easier to work with.

I hope you will bake this bread and enjoy as much as I did and leave me a comment below and rate the recipe. I would also love to see your creation so please tag me on social media when you post your picture. It would be wonderful to see your take on it.

You may also like to see:

  1. Babka bread with fruit yeast water
  2. Spinach pita bread
  3. Brun pav (no knead crusty bread)
  4. Focaccia bites and cheesy masala pav
  5. Chili-cheese loaf 

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Let me know how this recipe turned out for you by writing to me in the comments below. And if you take a picture, please tag me on my instagram handle @acookwithin to share your creation😊 It would make my day!

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