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What is the best way to catch yeast? I just heard you can do this and I had no idea that you can do this. Do you grow and catch or just catch? This is to make sour dough bread.

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Feral little buggers always scurry away when I run up with my butterfly net –  mfg Mar 3 '12 at 17:12
    
I don't know enough about breadmaking to determine if the sourdough criteria distinguishes this question at all from What are the optimal conditions in making wild yeast starter? Can anyone comment? –  Aaronut Mar 3 '12 at 21:14
    
Right, I would agree that the "sourdough criteria" isn't necessary but I'm more interested in catching the yeast versus making the yeast. –  Karen Mar 4 '12 at 17:55
    
What do you mean by "catching"? Yeast grows in a nutritive medium. You can't pluck microorganisms from the air with your fingers. And in a starter, you are not "making" it, you are letting a colony of it grow. –  rumtscho Mar 4 '12 at 18:14
    
Aaronut, the questions are effectively identical. –  FuzzyChef Mar 5 '12 at 1:26
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2 Answers

There are two schools of thought as to where wild yeast comes from for a sourdough starter. One is that is in the air, the other that it is present in flour.

Having made a few starters myself and trying different methods, I am of the opinion that the latter is more likely. I have had just as much success with starters I have simply mixed and put in a sealed jar as with the ones I have walked around the kitchen, vigorously stirring with my hands and so on.

You can maximise your chances of having plenty of yeast in your flour by buying organic, as there will have been no chemical treatments which might destroy the yeasts, but any decent flour should have more than enough yeast naturally present to make a starter with.

Yeast, however, is just one aspect of sourdough - you are also looking to cultivate various Lactobacillus species which produce lactic and acetic acid, which is what makes sourdough sour. These are everywhere and so there is no problem with finding them.

However, there are also 'bad' bacteria species that can make your starter go bad. To minimise the chances of this bad bacteria multiplying, it's a good idea to lower the pH of your starter, and for this reason I have had much more success with starters that use pineapple juice. Follow the recipe in this blog, replacing the water on days 1 and 2 with normal, unsweetened pineapple juice, and you'll be on your way.

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This is a great answer. I didn't notice this question before, but I also provided some further details in my answer to a similar question. –  Athanasius Jan 9 '13 at 2:31
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There are several great articles from catching yeast. Apparently is very possible.The wild yeast you catch in the air does rise considerably slower than it's commercial counterparts.

Nonetheless, if you have time to invest you can catch your own wild yeast to make sourdough bread.

How stuff works has a good simplified write up about how to catch yeast. The article says that you just need the following:

  • A pottery crock, plastic container or glass jar, preferably with a loose-fitting lid
  • A wooden spoon
  • A piece of cloth
  • Some flour (preferably without any preservatives in it) and water

With some time, yeast should build because yeast is everywhere and especially in kitchens where baking. Make sure that all the materials are clean and sanitized.

How stuff works provides some instructions on what to do with your sanitized materials:

To start a culture, mix two cups of flour and two cups of water in a glass or pottery bowl (in the old days, a baker probably had a special clay crock for starter). Lay a cloth over the top and let it sit on the kitchen counter. It turns out that there is yeast floating in the air all around us all the time, and some of this yeast will make its way to your flour/water mixture. It will then start growing and dividing.

After 24 hours, you pour off about a cup of the mixture and feed it with another cup of flour and another cup of water. In a few days, the mixture will become frothy as the yeast population grows. The froth is caused by the carbon dioxide that the yeast is generating. The starter will also have a bacteria, lactobacilli, in it. This lends to the slightly acidic flavor of the bread by creating lactic acid! The alcohol that the yeast creates and the lactic acid together are the source of sourdough bread's unique flavor!

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So the froth is the yeast? Do you skim that? How do you measure it? I had visions of yeast flying around like fruit flies or something :) –  Karen Mar 4 '12 at 17:58
    
the froth is just evidence that the yeast is there –  ako Sep 18 '12 at 6:15
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