Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leavening Agents

Leavening Agents 

Yeast, a living organism, has a relatively short storage lifeKeep yeast in the original metal foil storage container.  If the seal remains intact, yeast should last 2 years at 70oF.  However, it is strongly recommended that you refrigerate it, which should give you a storage life of 5 years.  Frozen yeast stores for a long time.

  • Salt inhibits yeast – yet gives a firmer crust and crumb and adds favor
  • Never mix yeast into salt water
  • Yeast needs to be adjusted for higher altitudes – the air pressure is lower and less yeast is needed
  • Yeast is found on berries, grapes, cattail pollen, roots, acorns, juniper berries, apples, plums, etc.

Baking Soda - Reacts with an Acid

  • Neutralizes the acids and adds tenderness
  • Is 4 times stronger than baking powder
  • Used in recipes that contain an acid ingredient
  • Vinegar, citrus juice, sour cream, sour milk, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, cocoa, honey, molasses, brown sugar, fruits and maple syrup – These are acid ingredients
  • Reacts and releases gases immediately as it is added to an acid moisturebake the batter immediately
  • An indefinite shelf-life
  • Too much causes a salty taste (add more acid) to neutralize
  • Not enough acid results in a soapy taste and a tough course product
  • Viability test: one-quarter teaspoon mixed with 2 teaspoons of vinegar – should bubble immediately

Baking Powder - Reacts with Liquid, acid is incorporated in the recipe

  • Consists of baking soda, cream of tartar (a dry acid) and corn starch to absorb any moisture
  • Reacts on contact with moisture
  • Too much baking powder causes a bitter taste and causes the batter to rise rapidly and then collapse, which results in tough products – too little also causes tough products
  • Baking powder cannot replace baking soda
  • Viability test: one teaspoon baking powder and 4 oz of hot water – should fizz
  • Perishable shelf life

Baking Powder Substitution:

Single acting:  One-quarter teaspoon baking soda, one-quarter teaspoon of corn starch and one-half teaspoon of cream of tartar.
1) Double acting:  One-half teaspoon baking soda, one-half teaspoon of corn starch and one-teaspoon of cream of tartar.
2) Double acting:  One-half teaspoon baking soda and One-half cup of buttermilk, or sour cream or yogurt and reduce liquid in recipe by one half cup.
3) Double acting:  One-quarter teaspoon baking soda, one third cup molasses and reduce liquid in recipe by one third cup and adjust sweeteners.  www.thatsmyhome.com

Cream of Tartar, if kept dry at room temperature, its shelf life is indefinite.  Purchased in bulk at:
·        Honeyville Grain Inc. - 635 N. Billy Mitchell Rd Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Blue Chip Group – 432 W. 3440 S. Salt Lake City, UT. – 800.878.0099

High-Altitude AdjustmentsBaking Powder Rule of Thumb: 1-teaspoon for every 1 cup of flour. 
Above 3000 feet, reduce baking powder 1/8 teaspoon for every 1-teaspoon of baking powder in recipe.
Above 5000 feet reduce baking powder 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon for every 1-teaspoon baking powder in recipe.  Above 7000 feet reduce baking powder 1/4 teaspoon for every 1-teaspoon baking powder in recipe. www.joyofbaking.com

Home-made Sour Dough Starter


  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup non-chlorinated filtered water
  • Then 
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup non-chlorinated filtered water


  1. In a glass or ceramic bowl, mix together the honey or sugar, 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, and 1/2 cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to stir.  Cover lightly, and place in a warm place.  Stir twice a day for 5 days.
  2. On the 6th day, mix in 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour using a wooden spoon.  Don't worry about lumps, for the yeast will eat them.  Cover and let stand in a warm place to ferment for 1 day.  When you get lots of bubbles and foam on top, you know the starter is active and ready to use.  The starter will separate with the flour on the bottom and 'hooch,' a yellow liquid, on top.  Just mix well before using or feeding.
  3. Store starter in a wide mouth glass jar.  Use waxed paper and a rubber band in place of a lid, as metal utensils or containers will contaminate the starter.  Once refrigerated, the starter only needs to be fed once a week.  Use half, and feed the remaining half to keep it alive for the next time.

Home-made Wild Grape Starter

Ingredients:    1 pound grapes - 1 cup whole wheat flour


Use unwashed red or purple grapes for this recipe.  The white powder found on the skins of the grapes is yeast. If you wish, you can switch to bread flour on the 5th day.  The starter is fully active and ready to use in 9 days.
  1. Stem grapes into a medium-mixing bowl.  Crush with hands.  Cover with cheesecloth, and set aside for three days at room temperature.
  2. After three days there should be bubbles in the grape juice, indicating fermentation has begun.  Strain liquid, and discard skins.  Return to bowl, and stir in 1-cup whole-wheat flour.  Set aside for 24 hours at room temperature.
  3. Measure 1-cup starter, discard any extra, and transfer to a 1-quart glass or ceramic container with a lid. Stir in 1 scant cup bread flour and 1 cup water.  The mixture should resemble a thick batter; add more water or flour if necessary to achieve this consistency.  Cover loosely with lid.  Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Repeat the following day.  Some activity should be noticeable: the mixture should be starting to bubble.  Repeat twice more.  You will need to discard some of the mixture each day, share with a friend.
  4. Starter should be quite active.  Begin feeding regularly, every 4 to 6 hours, doubling the starter each time.  For instance, if you have 1-cup starter, add 1-cup bread flour and 1 cup water.  Alternatively, store in the refrigerator, and feed weekly. allrecipes.com/Recipe/Wild-Grape-Starter/Detail.aspx                                                                      allrecipes.com/Recipe/Sourdough-Starter---Wheat/Detail.aspx
During cold sunny days, the inside of a car makes a great warming area, place your bread to raise or yeast mixture on the dashboard or rear shelf.

That white stuff you see on grapes, juniper berries, plums and etc. is yeast, it is everywhere in the air.

Wild Yeast and Starters - Before yeast was available in grocery stores, bakers kept colonies of yeast for making bread.  These colonies were known as starters.  You can make your own starter using potato water (from boiled potatoes) to attract and feed wild yeasts present in the air around us, or by using the yeast found on the skins of fruits.  Keep the starter in a one-quart crock, jar, or airtight container.


Feeding your starter - Feed your starter by taking one cup of the starter and discarding any left in the jar.  In a mixing bowl, combine the reserved starter, one-cup flour, and one-cup tepid water (measurements need not be exact).  Use a whisk or spatula and mix it well.  Add more water if necessary; it should resemble pancake batter. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  If your kitchen is cold, the starter may need more time to show some activity--bubbles and visible growth; be patient.  Feed as above.  After a starter has been growing for 5 or 6 days, it can be stored in the refrigerator to slow its growth and to free you from the daily feeding schedule.  Feed refrigerated starters once a week, allowing them to grow at room temperature before returning them to the fridge.

Baking with your starter - About two to three days before you plan to bake, remove the starter from the refrigerator.  Let it warm to room temperature to get active.  Feed it twice the first day and every 4 to 6 hours on the second: the repeated introduction of fresh food should make the yeast very active.  If you plan to make multiple loaves of bread, you can increase the feeding amounts: use two cups of reserved starter, two cups flour and two cups water.  When adding the starter to your recipe, always reserve a cup of your starter to continue the yeast strain.  Over time, the yeast's natural fermentation process will develop wonderful flavors, giving you a one-of-a-kind family heirloom.


  • Want more crust – place a pan of water in the oven or spray a mist of water every five minutes
  • Want a glaze – boil a teaspoon of corn starch in one half cup of water and brush it on the loaves just before they enter the oven
  • Drying sourdough starter:  dehydrate into flakes – paper thin onto plastic – allow to dry 1-3 days - can be stored indefinitely
  • Reconstitute flakes:  one tablespoon of flakes into bowl – mix with one tablespoon of warm water and form into a paste
  • Gradually mix paste with another cup of warm water and stir in one and a quarter cups of flour – cover and rest in a warm area 70-80 degrees overnight

Preserving your Starter
It is a good idea to preserve some of your starter in case something goes wrong.  If your starter dies get some more yeast and start over.  Some people keep two batches going at once, there is a method that can be used to preserve the starter for a long time without constantly adding flour or water.  This method also makes it easier to share your starter with your friends and family.

During the normal course of preparing your starter for bread baking and when it is active and bubbly, add flour and yeast as normal for its next feeding.  Before returning it to the oven, pour a few ounces of the starter onto some wax paper and spread it out it with the back of a spoon so that the starter forms a thin layer on the wax paper.  Let it completely dry out overnight.  The next day, bend the wax paper and the starter will break apart like potato chips.  Place the starter chips in a plastic zip lock bag sealed tightly and then into the refrigerator.  Write the date and type of yeast on the outside of the bag.  You can keep starter this way for up to six months.  To reactivate it, place the starter chips in equal amounts of flour and water and put it in a warm place for 12 hours.

Courtesy of Joanne and Michael Barr

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