Pet Yeast.

I bake a lot.
A whole lot.
My friends will affirm this.
There are two problems with baking a lot. The first problem is that if you bake a lot, and eat what you bake, then you eat a lot of baked goods. Why is this a problem, you ask? Well, it isn't a problem for my super-skinny-never-gain-weight husband. But it is a problem for me, because if I so much as look at a piece of cake I can just feel the weight piling on. Oh, well. I will eat more salad later. Because baked goods are good for the soul. I just know it. And I care about my soul.

The second problem is that the stuff for baking can be expensive. Flour is cheap, as is sugar, but things like, say, yeast can be pricey. And when Morgan and I can put away two loaves of French bread in one day (yes, the two loaves in that picture are now history), if I used a package of yeast for every batch of bread, that would add up pretty darn quick.

But never fear. I have a solution. Because I am poor. And because I love to bake. And because I would much rather spend the money on new clothes AND still have the yeast to bake with. For free. Because free is better than not free.

So how do I get free yeasts, you may ask? Well, simple. I raise them. My pet yeasts. In a jar. In my fridge. Just waiting to be mixed with flour and left to consume sugar and toot out carbon dioxide and make my bread fluffy and full of bubbles. Yeast-toot bubbles. Yeah... I'm weird.

Let me show you how to raise yeast.

 1. Pick a cute jar. Important step. This jar will be your new pets' home. It must be cute.
2. Put into the jar
     1/4 package yeast
     about 1/2 cup of flour
     about 1 Tb sugar (if you want active yeast soon)
    about 1/2 cup warm water
3. Stir.
4. Let sit at room temperature until you see lots of bubbles, and the paste is doubled in size.

Now your yeast is happy and ready to use, and is equivalent to about a full package of yeast. You can put your jar of yeast into the fridge until you are ready to use it. When you want to use it, just pull it out of the fridge, stir it (it will separate a bit), and let it warm to room temperature (you will see bubbles again). Then, use in your recipe pretty much as you would packaged yeast. It may take a bit of practice to learn portions when using this as opposed to a package, but for the most part if you just substitute in a jar-full of this stuff, it works.

When you use this yeast, pour most of the jar into your recipe, leaving a small amount of paste sticking to the sides of your jar. Then, add flour and warm water again and let rise to double before putting back into your refrigerator.

In my experience, this takes just a little longer to rise than ordinary yeast, but not a whole lot longer. If it takes a really whole lot longer, then your yeasts are not happy and you need to help them... don't ask me how. My best method of yeast-rejuvenation has been to pour them out and start over. 

In a plain bread recipe, you will taste a very slight sourdough taste to the bread, which is extremely yummy. For breads like cinnamon roll dough, however, there is no added taste due to the homegrown yeast.

Since you no doubt will want to get started using your yeast right away, I will give you a basic recipe for plain french bread, which I make very often, and which gets eaten quickly. Very quickly.

 French Bread with Pet Yeast:
(2 loaves)
yeast (about 1/2 cup)
3 c flour
warm water
olive oil

Pour yeast into mixing bowl. Add about 3 cups of flour (I usually just pour in some flour till there is a little mountain of flour). Add some salt... around a teaspoon, more or less, depending on how much you like salt. Add warm water a little at a time while kneading it until you get a semi-stiff dough. This will be around 1 - 1 1/2 cups of water. About.
Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Knead a long time. A really long time. Learn to love kneading. It's therapeutic. I learned that from my mom, who used to make bread when she was upset.
Put in a clean bowl and rub all over with olive oil. Cover with a piece of saran wrap (to keep the outside from drying out) and a kitchen towel.
Let rise to double, or until when you press your finger into the dough, it springs back very slowly.
Punch down, let rise again to double.

Now, divide dough in half and form two french loaves of bread. Long, skinny. Make them skinnier than you want them to be in the end, because they will rise again. Cut slits diagonally in the top with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, about 1/4 inch deep. Place loaves on a cookie sheet a ways apart from each other, and cover with damp kitchen towel.
Let rise to about half-again their size.

Heat oven to 350 F. Bake bread until slightly golden, and when you tap on the crust it sounds hollow. Pull bread out, slather with butter, and eat it all with a big glass of milk. Now.

 Give us this day our daily bread, because with warm fresh bread in our tummies it is so much easier to forgive those who trespass against us.

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