Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Homemade Yeast from Scratch

Top Left: Milk Yeast Recipe After Developing for 48 Hours; Top Right: Half-Meal Griddle Cakes Batter After Rising for Four Hours; Bottom: Finished Half-Meal Griddle Cakes

Much like the riddle, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?", historic recipes for yeast are notorious for including yeast as one of the ingredients in the recipe. Hop yeast, potato yeast, cornmeal yeast, common yeast, dry yeast, bran yeast, etc. all fall prey to this conundrum. These recipes are well and good but not helpful to the food historian trying to make yeast without actually needing to use yeast in the recipe. 

The Recipe
Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (Baltimore, 1853) saves the day with her recipe for Milk Yeast in which she writes, "If you have no yeast, you may make some with milk, to rise." According to Lea, this yeast should be ready in one hour and was meant to be used immediately to make bread or to add to her Hop Yeast recipe. 

"Take a pint of new milk and stir in it two tea-spoonful of salt, and a half a tea-cup of flour; keep it moderately warm by the fire, and it will lighten in about an hour."

Recipe Results
I found it took 48 hours for the yeast to start activating enough to work. I used it in a recipe for Half-Meal Griddle Cakes in Mrs.  Charles H. Gibson's Maryland and Virginia Cook Book (Ratcliffe Manor, Talbot County, MD, 1894):

I found the griddle cakes batter needed to rise for four hours  to lighten. The final product contained a pleasant tang from the natural sourness inherent in this type of yeast. 

I made a really great tasting bread with the milk yeast, too: