Want yeast free bread and other grain-based breadstuffs? Want to know how to naturally leaven your yeast free breads with sourdough culture so that they’ll still rise and be healthy and wholesome? I think I’ve read every natural leavening book on the market and Beyond the Basics with Natural Yeast, by Melissa Richardson, is without peer. (Unless, of course, you’re talking about her first book The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast.) Here’s the scoop on Melissa’s new book – Christmas is coming, and all…The first thing I want to point out before I get into the details of Beyond the Basics with Natural Yeast is that this and her other book really are so unique in the world of natural leavening cookbooks. There are sourdough bread baking books that will tell you how to produce beautiful looking bread BUT they still call for isolated, commercial yeast in the recipe. There are a few that focus on natural yeast but they are, in my experience, often written for people who are at a much higher level of cooking/baking than I am. Melissa’s books speak to us normal folks out there.
Plus, if you’re looking to learn how to bake with natural yeast and NOT simply add it to a commercial yeast recipe for flavor, Melissa can truly help you learn how. Our family ditched commercial yeast because we have such a hard time processing it – it wreaks havoc on our gut health. Plus we ferment all our grains in some kind of culture (kefir, whey, buttermilk, leaven, raw milk, homemade sauerkraut juice, whatever) before we eat them to make them easier to digest. Learning to ferment and bake with natural yeast has been a Godsend for our family. Literally. I was lead to this method of grain preparation and baking after months of prayer; prayers that usually went something like this, “Heeeeeeeeelp!”
Yeast Free Bread
Melissa will teach you in both her books how to bake with natural leaven, achieving beautiful and healthy yeast free bread. These books are wonderfully written for the total novice and the seasoned leavener. I absolutely recommend you purchase and use the first book, The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast, because it will cover all you need to know to start baking this way from scratch. I’m still exploring everything there and am just so grateful I have it to guide me; when I first started trying to learn about baking with natural leaven it was just one sad experiment after another until I found her book.
Beyond the Basics with Natural Yeast builds on what Melissa teaches in the first book. One of the best parts about reading these books is her prose – she’s just fun to read, as anyone who follows her blog Bread Geek will know. Some baking books leave me feeling like I’ll always be on the outside of the fancy ingredient, equipment and style group – that’s just not how I bake. I need simple ingredients and even simpler techniques.
Its not that I don’t appreciate fine baking but I live in a real woman’s life with a real woman’s kitchen and I need to know what will work and how to make it happen. Melissa says in her book, “The purpose of this cookbook (and my calling in life) is to make it easy for people to make beautiful, delicious, naturally yeasted bread and baked goods. I want everyone and anyone to be able to pick up these recipes and feel excited, not intimidated.” I do!
May I also just add that having a sourdough culture in your food storage program is a wonderful idea. A culture, once dried, can last pretty much indefinitely. You do NOT need to store commercial yeast!
First of all, the book is spiral bound with a hard cover – this is what every cookbook should be!!! It will lay flat while you read it and bake. Thank you, Melissa.
The first few sections cover some basic natural yeast principles – feeding your starter, beginning with a new starter, some information on natural yeasts and five critical keys to success. One of those is to keep your starter in your refrigerator door and check on it every time you open the door – in fact that’s number one. This is a good place to mention something that’s very important, especially if you’ve worked with natural yeast before and have a method you like.
Melissa’s recipes and advice are for refrigerator starter – if you leaven yours on your countertop, you’ll be learning a new technique. Melissa points out two things that are important: One) If you try to mix these two methods, you’ll get mediocre results so commit to one and, Two) If you have some experience under your belt and are ready to take your natural yeast baking to the next level, Melissa recommends Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread which uses counter leavened starter.
When I’m more comfortable with what I’m doing, I’ll check that out but for right now, I’m going to do whatever Melissa tells me to do. I’m not an artisan baker, I’m a mom who needs my hand held while I try to keep my family in happy gut health. I’ve tried every other method under the sun for healthy grain consumption and natural yeast is the one that feels the best and is the most manageable for my life.
In the back of the book, there’s a troubleshooting guide, just in case. Throughout the book, there are symbols next to some recipes indicating that they are suitable for vegans, friendly for diabetics, no-wait recipes and then those who were the winners of the contest Melissa ran for new natural yeast recipes from her readers. Those winners (the people) are featured in the back of the book but their recipes are all over the place and they’re cool.
Only yeast free breads?
Nope, learning to use natural yeast isn’t just about learning to bake breads without commercial yeast, although, duh, that’s a very important part of the book. However, simply put, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten sourdough waffles for breakfast. How about pancakes, muffins, crackers (including graham), injera, pita, cake, cookies and, no, I’m not done but my hands are getting tired of typing all the cool stuff that’s in this book.
I’m so excited to try every single one of these recipes – I’ll report on my progress because I think this is an important topic for a lot of us seeking a healthier way to consume bread products. I’ve tried other methods (I’ll tell you about my soaking/sprouting/dehydrating/grinding nightmares later) and using natural yeast is the one that works the best for me.
Maybe it will be the one that works well for you, too. The best way to find out, in my opinion, is to start with Melissa Richardson’s – The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast and, her newest title, Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast.
If you’re looking to gift these books to the bread geek in your life, may I also suggest you purchase a few half gallon mason jars (the leaven bubbles up and I have overflowed my quart jars too many times that I now use half gallons). A spurtle is really the best thing I’ve used for mixing my leaven and I love these plastic mason jar lids (in the half gallon jars you shouldn’t have to worry about your leaven coming in contact with the plastic unless you’re mixing a ton). They’ll also want some sort of basket (which would be nice to present all this in anyway) and some light muslin or heavy cheesecloth for “proofing” the dough.
Don’t worry, Melissa will teach you what that means – just trust me that all this stuff will come in handy!
* The publisher sent me a copy of this book for review after I signed up for the release tour saying something very undignified like, “I’ll be your best friend if I can review this book!”. I’m not sure but what I might have squealed in delight, too. The opinions in the review are my own. I love this book fur reelz.
Here’s some stuff you’ll need for your yeast free bread making adventures: