What is in the Air?

I have been publically writing for over  three years now and have yet to share an actual recipe. I have more unfinished blog posts in my documents folder than I have actual shared ones. The reasoning is that I feel there are so many awesome Chefs out there sharing their recipes, you don’t really need another one flooding your facebook page with unwanted recipes and food tips. (Do you?) I would much rather hint at the possibility of one of my quasi-interested readers to actually ask me a question regarding food. This technique has yet to reveal any sign of results so I guess I am acquiescing. So here it goes…

It should be known that my style of cuisine is old-world in foundation built up by just the right amount of “modernist” influence. I am definitely not a slave to trends and it of course is no hidden fact that my disgust for  the watered down industry that I am apart of can be directly linked to the exploitation of cool/sexy Chefs. Now this of course takes nothing away from the accomplishments of my peers and I wish them all the success that is due to them. It however is a known fact that while food TV is one of the most watched networks and cookbooks are the number one type of book being sold right now, for some reason, we are cooking less than ever before. Well, that “some reason” is this; as we watch our favorite Chef prepare the most awesome meal, the processed food companies pay trillions (not a fact, just hyperbole) for their commercial slots to get you to buy their goods. It’s a slick little hustle that sees no sign of slowing down. Besides, TV sucks, and cooking is far more fun!

So why not do what some say has been done for over 10,000 years! Trap the single cell organism we know as yeast, along with other yummy edible microbes, and make some bread. The air is equipped with all the yeast you will ever need to make the perfect loaf of bread every time! The cool thing is that the sour dough bread you make will differ from locale to locale giving a sour dough in Vermont a different taste than one in Cali due to the varying air composition. First we have to make a productive starter:


2 cups of flour

2 cups of good old warm  H2O   and  combine in a glass bowl

And that’s it! No need to buy a sour dough starter online because that’s what you just made… sort of.

My starter keeping a watchful eye on my house grown pea shoots and micro greens. Did you know that chefs pay up to 25 bucks for half a pound? and gues who pays for it...

Now you have to collect the yeast and feed it. So leave it in a warm place to ferment, 4 to 8 days.  Depending on temperature and humidity of kitchen, times may vary. Place on cookie sheet in case of overflow. Check on occasionally. When mixture is bubbly and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use.

Notice the bubbles in the dough. This is what your looking for after about 4 days. You do not refrigerate it during this 4 day period. That way you can collect the yeast from the air.

If your mixture has a pink, orange, or any other strange color tinge to it, THROW IT OUT! and start over. At my restaurant we make bread every day from our starter and never have to throw any away and it never goes in the fridge. But if you are only making bread once a week like most home bakers do when they possess a starter, throw it in the fridge. And if you are making bread once in a blue moon, you can still keep the yeast alive and kicking! you will have to feed it once a week by discarding about 1 cup of the starter and adding 1 cup flour and one cup of warm H2O. leave it out for a day and return it to the fridge! A lot of people refer to their starters as pets, But I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TAKING YOUR “PET” THROUGH THE TSA CHECKPOINTS!… “May I please ask you what is that funked out gooey substance in your carry on”? Sure to be confiscated! If this happens, no worries, start another one. Just remember that sourdough starters improve with age, so you might want to hang on to it for a while and pass it along to those interested in yummy things. This actualy a trdition for some and it prevents you from having to waist it by throwing it in the trash.

This is a mature starter, which you can tell by the crusty border. (Time for a bowl change)

So how does it work? You can collect yeast for two things that I know of. one is for bread making and the other is for the production of alcohol.  And just as your bread will differ in taste according to what air you are breathing, so will your brew. Now I of course don’t drink, but I will go into the production of homemade alcohol for the sole reason of making your very own vinegar! NO this does not mean two recipes in one post. This is me jockeying for some interested readers (one will do) to ask me; how to make vinegar? Now, anyone can go to the brew shop and get a vinegar mother (you see this hazy strand  sometimes floating in your organic vinegar), drop it into an unadulterated bottled of alcohol: beer for malt, white/red for wine and of course champagne for, well champagne vinegar. But if you want to get your own strain of vinegar mother, a unique one just like our yeast we collected for our starter, hit me up!

Here is the skinny: yeast eats sugar and its waste is alcohol then acid bactar comes in and eats the alcohol and guess what its waste is. VINEGAR!

The bread recipe:

1 pound of starter

14 oz of water

2 T. honey

5 C bread flour (plus more for kneading)

¾ C Wheat flour

1 C soaked kamut (or other wheat berry or steel-cut oats)

3 t salt

Sour dough without the wheat berries

How To:

Combine starter, H2O, honey, the two flours and kamut, cover and let rest for at least 4 hours. The longer the better.  Don’t mix at this point. Just dump everything in, give one quick stir and cover with plastic wrap. Four hours later; when ready, sprinkle salt on top. Stir with wooden spoon and dump on heavily floured surface. And knead until you get one tight ball of dough. You can do this in your kitchen aide if you want to as well. Let it rest for 30 minutes. shape two loaves and score with a razor blade. Bake  at  375 for 45 minutes, rotating half way through.

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts and I hope you try the recipe!

12 thoughts on “What is in the Air?

  1. Yay Izzy! This sounds awesome. I like your blog and don’t think posting recipes is essential at all — however, having said that, I am excited to give this bread a whirl… I am also passing on your web addy to a few people I know will like it and have mentioned wanting a sourdough recipe to boot! We are also trying to make a plan to come down and dine at your place!!!

    • Mommie. It is so sweet having a number one fan. I will give you some of my starter next time i am in C-Town. Love you!

  2. I have been making bread lately, made a no knead quasi sourdough Boule several times delicious! I made Challah MMMMM! and I made a hoey wheat, and an oatmeal wheat, I will never buy store bread again.. did you notice that it takes forever to mold? all those preservatives, and when you taste your own bread you realize how tasteless and mushy that garbage is, its just a vehicle for getting other stuff in your mouth. Got a question some of my bread rises fine, and looks picture perfect and then when I put it in the oven it sinks in the middle :(. what gives! I though maybe I didnt knead it enough any thoughts ?

    • Sinks in the middle? Well, It depends on what type of dough you were making at the time. My guess is you were making an enriched dough (i.e. brioche or Challah) when this happened. Is that right? and as far as kneading, you only knead to need (pun) until you push with your finger and it springs back. It should also be known that i was told you cant really over knead your bread by hand, only in the kitchen aid. some breads you do knead to need longer than other to develop a better chain of gluten. Like i said, it depends on the type of bread that this happened on. And no i wont respond to your other comment about you inspiring me. 😉

  3. Hey Ismail! I bake every week using a starter I made 5 years ago from w/w flour from Butterworks Farms in Westfield VT. Only exposed to the yeasts on the wheat..3 lovely loaves in the oven right now!
    You guys must come to dinner soon!

  4. Ismail, on behalf of everyone who knows you and those not fortunate, i would like to congratulate you on the outstanding job you have displayed as a top goumet chef. I have admired you very much as I’ve watched your struggles be championed and your successes handled with a unique sense of humbleness and pride. that is very hard to do but somehow you make it work. I truly believe that you are going to go far in this world of your chosen pastime , passion and profession. Seldom have i seen such a hardworking, loving and sensible young man. I like the way you are who you are. you have done so much with what God has provided for you and one day your reputation will preceed you. may your lifetime dreams come true and I am proud to say to every one that you are my son. i enjoy reading your blog. and this one is the best yet.

    • You know how parents are required to support you and say things to uplift their children? this is not one of those times! Abi, It is obvious that you are proud of me and it makes me feel all weird inside (a good weird). I may have to take back my comment about umi being my number one Fan! LOL I love you both and i learned alot from my wonderful parents. Thanks a bunch and just know my character is a reflection of what you have instilled in me.

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