Bearded Baker Masterclass: Bread Part Three; In The Beginning, There Was Sour!

By Baker/Chef Adam “The Bearded Baker” Majewski

Hi all, I am very excited for this entry, mainly because this is where, in the series, I will be diving in to the actual creating of practical items. To begin in bread, you’ll need to understand that true bread in all its essence is only four ingredients, Water, Flour, Salt, and Yeast, that’s all nothing more, nothing less. What makes bread different from place to place, is the specific ingredients themselves as well how you get those ingredients incorporated together. Though all ingredients are important to bread, right now I’d like to specifically turn direction to yeasts and sourdough starters, the ingredient that raises your and all other breads a like, with the exception of a few flat breads, and bread meant for specialty items.

Within the world of food there are 4 general categories of yeasts humanity consumes as part of their vast amount of diets, these consist of brewers yeast, wine yeast, nutritional yeast, and baking yeasts. With this said you can infer which of these categories we will be discussing, baking yeasts, as well how to use and cultivate them if needed.

While baking across the board, as long as you are making yeasted items you will want to at least know there are four different yeast classifications used in the sphere of baking. The first being dry yeast which consist of pellet sized grains of yeast which are visible to the naked eye. how ever due to processing this form of yeast, 3% of each pellet has some type of additive which is considered safe for human consumption which are added to prolong shelf life without refrigeration. The second of the current yeasts used is dry instant yeast which is the same yeast as the dry yeast only it is usually cultivated or processed to be much fine, also dry instant, yeast has on average 7% of it being food grade additives, again, its intent is to prolong its shelf life. The next two I’m about to speak on are considered to be the purist forms of yeast used in baking right now, these two are, fresh yeast and wild yeasts. When it comes to fresh yeast, when it comes to commercial yeast, fresh yeast is like the extra virgin olive oil of commercially cultivated bakers yeast. This type of yeast though does need to be refrigerated and can be fickle if not sealed in a strong container normally air tight.

Sourdough Starter

The final yeast which is used in baking is actually not one specific strain of yeast, it is actually multiple types of yeast which have been cultivated in a flour and water based “slurry”, this slurry though is not to be confused with whats known as a “pitchable” yeast, which is closer to a poolish but is not a poolish and is not yeast itself but used as a medium in adding mostly commercially cultivated yeasts into a yeasted product.

Now the use of commercial yeasts in most part are meant in todays bakeries for speed, though most commercial bakeries still use an 18 to 24 hour bulk fermentation process, as opposed to wild yeasts which need on average, 48 to 72 hours in order to properly develop in bulk fermentation. Though there are bakeries here in the States which make old world bread, and yeasted products using primarily wild yeasts, these bakeries though are in the few and make up only a few percent of the overall industry in America.

What you will need to also understand, is that commercial yeast as we know it is originally a wild yeast, how ever because commercial yeast is cultivated usually on a high sugar diet made from a water and sugar syrup, when put in to a yeasted bakery item it has a higher raising ability because it has, higher access to food early on in its cultivation. Where as its wild counter part has a leaner diet and is found in all starters how ever in a much lower amount and doesn’t have the strength its commercial brother has. This is also why most sourdough starters have a longer proofing time, and slower spring back.

Now how to go about selecting a yeast to start with, well here honestly when it comes to this master class the cheapest way to go, especially if you make one bread a week or less, just go to the store get some instant dry yeast, and when you get home just transfer the yeast to an air tight container and keep in your freezer for up to a year. You can also do the same for fresh yeast, but you will wanna keep it in your refrigerator, in an air tight container for up to 6 months. Now if you know you will make at least one, most likely 2 loaves a week depending on your recipe and loaf size it is actually healthier and cheaper to use a sourdough starter as your yeast medium, over time this is the cheapest method, but only if you’re making bread on a regular bases.

When selecting a yeast to use, please keep in mind your expected financial limitations as well your time, and equipment limitations. Other then that, yeast shouldn’t be a limiting factor in your ability to make bread.

For our final bit here I will be going over how to make a starter at home, first I must state that commercial, and large scale bulk baking uses, whats called Bakers Percentages. which for most part is used to change recipe sizes and to allow changing small amounts of ingredients. If you understand Bakers Percentages and their use in commercial baking of any kind, you will be able to convert any recipe you want to any baking size you wish. Also what bakers percentages do is makes it easier to swap out specific ingredients to change its structure and flavor. Now in order to be a starter, the only two ingredients you can use are water and flour, and the limiting ration is that flour must be at 100% and the water you add must stay below 100%, if you add more then 100% water then your starter, goes in to the realm of a pitchable yeast, and should add some commercial yeast to seed in other yeast development due to it becoming a pitch-able yeast, and reason being it can become unlivable for some wild yeasts if over hydrated to early on in its development. Other than that, a starter can not have any commercially cultivated yeast in it, in order to be considered a sourdough start, you only need that little bit of fundamental knowledge and understanding to make a starter.

Now in order to start you will need, also to know that no matter what recipe you are using whether your own, or a recipe from a book, your flour will always be your reference point for all percentages. In the case of a bread starter, no matter how much flour you use it will always be 100%. With that said, keep in mind, in order to be a starter the amount of water you add can not exceed 100%. So if you have 100 grams of flour(which would equal 100%) and then you can, theoretically can add any amount of water you wish as long as it does not exceed 100 grams in this case which would be 100%. Though you can add what you wish in water up to 100%, in order to get the best results, it is suggested to keep the amount of water you put in, is between 50% and 100%. Here at the Blue Ox Bakery our ratio, is a 100/80, Flour/Water ratio, meaning for every 100 grams of flour we mix in 80 grams of water. Below I have placed a basic sourdough starter with ingredients and the type of ingredients work best and which do not.

Sourdough Starter:


  • 100 Grams Bread Flour
  • 80 Grams Water


  • Mix together the flour and water in an air tight container, place the top on and place in your refrigerator.
  • Every day for seven days throw away half of your flour and water and add 100 more grams and 80 grams of water to the mixture you saved.
  • After the first week, you will only need to do this once a week to keep your starter healthy.


  • Make Sure to use flour that has not been bleached or enriched in any way. these processes introduce chemicals in to the flours that kill any natural yeasts that would be attracted to the flour.
  • If using tap water, let sit for five minutes prior to mixing with flour to insure any chlorine that may be in the water will neutralize.
  • If possible use filtered water.


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