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Jan 20, 2014 09:17 PM

First post! I have live yeast and want to make a bunch of pizzas...

I bought two Italian sourdough cultures from I built a proofing box with a 25w bulb, a dimmer, and some wire nuts. My yeast is doing wonderful (thanks for asking!) and in just over a day I've been able to start new cultures from the originals. I kept a temp of 90* for the first 24 hours and saw genuine activity in both cultures, not to mention they were starting to fill up my 1Q wide mason jars, so I split them already.

I'm hosting a superbowl party for about 10 people and want to do a pizza bar. I'll have the dough pre-prepped, sauce pre-made, and just add toppings and cheese, then fire them up in the oven as needed. My question comes down to quantity of live yeast needed. Ultimately, I'd like to keep two or three cultures going forward but to pull off 10-ish 8" pizza pies, I think I'll need the equivalent of about 4 packs of instant, dry yeast. From what I've read, I *think* that equates to around 4 cups of live yeast but just want to confirm. Also, if anyone has any french/italian bread recipes they'd like to share which incorporate live cultures, I'm all ears (links are fine, I'm being lazy here).

I never thought I'd be growing my own yeast but supposedly it imparts a better flavor to baked goods and, well, a sustainable source of yeast sounds good to me. Thanks for any tips!


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  1. this is probably my own ignorance. I've had live sourdough starters before (none right now) that I've "fed" and kept for a few years. Is this what you have and how you are growing your yeast (e.g. feeding it flour and water)? Or are you doing something more "scientific" to grow your yeast.

    If you have a starter (yeast, water, flour) there are lots of ways to use that, sometimes though it helps to know how you are feeding it - what ratio of water/flour you are using (e.g. 50/50) - to know how best to use it in a recipe.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      thimes - thanks for the response! It is as you suspect; I have a live sourdough starter and I am feeding it equal parts flour (AP) and water. I'm keeping it in a foam cooler that I've regulated to around 70* with no heat added, or up to 90* if I turn on the light inside the cooler. In about 10 days I'll be making around 10 servings of dough for pizza but that will be a rare thing. I plan on keeping two cultures, each with a backup, after that point. Time allowing, I would like to use the culture in a fresh baked bread every week or so to keep everything active.

    2. We mixed flour with water that was used to rinse table grapes, hence taking some natural wild yeasts with it. We used that as a bread starter for a while til we lost interest. Made a nice loaf.
      We fed it flour, sugar, water in the reefer in a tall narrow tupperware.
      It is funny, now we are making hard ciders and wild yeasts are EVIL.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Raffles

        Evil in the sense that they disrupt the process, or evil in that they work exceptionally well? I was thinking I could share some of this live yeast culture with friends who homebrew beer; is that not the case? Thanks for the reply!

        1. re: toddrhodes

          Evil in that it is a crap shoot...might or might not work well. There are tons of proven yeast strains available that produce desired results. Wild is, well a wild card! With the bread starter we were lucky and little was invested in capital,what a 1/2 pound of flour?...with the cider making we are talking $25-$50 worth of materials per 6 gallon batch.Don't really want to make vinegar!
          Ever read the wine bottle and it says(contains sulfites),well those sulfites were used to kill the wild yeasts in the grape juice/must before the winemaker added a specific yeast.

      2. I'm not at home right now to give you exact recipes - I'll try to remember when I get home to re-post. But in general you are using a "starter" for your bread if you're searching online for ideas/recipes. If you're using terms like "live yeast" you are going to have a hard time finding recipes and tips/tricks.

        Also in general - to help translate using your starter in a recipe you just need to understand and think in terms of "baker's ratios" and hydration. . . . it is all done by weight not volume, which until you do it a few times is a little stressful . . .

        Bottom line - pizza dough's liquid is usually in a ratio of 70% +/- (which is pretty wet dough compared to other types of bread). Which essentially means whatever your flour weight is . . . the amount of water you need is 70% of that weight (e.g. so for 1lb of flour in a recipe . . . 16oz flour x .7 = 11.2oz water).

        Your starter is roughly (4oz flour x 2.0 = 8 oz water) or 200% hydration. So much wetter than a final dough. Not a problem, just have to think through the math to help figure out how to incorporate into a final recipe.

        It isn't as intimidating as it seems. You'll like having a starter around and they are fun to play around with. And the bread does taste MUCH better with a starter!

        2 Replies
        1. re: thimes

          Wonderful info. I bought a food scale a few weeks ago and have been using the heck out of it :) I would much prefer to work in weights when it comes to dry goods; a "cup" of flour could weigh just about anything depending on how you fill it.

          I am using, to the extent I can at least, Jon Varasano's pizza "recipe" and even though I had to use packaged yeast this past Sunday, the dough I made using his process was simply the best dough I've produced so far and is my inspiration for doing the super bowl pizza party :) Thank you again!

          1. re: toddrhodes

            Good luck - pizza can be pretty forgiving so I'm sure you'll be fine!

            If you have a recipe you like and are working from - each cup of your starter will replace essentially 4oz of flour and 8 oz of water from that recipe . . . give or take. If you've made the recipe before you may have a feel if it needs a little more/less flour once using your starter.

            The tricky part is deciding how much of your final dough you want to be "starter" versus "fresh" dough. That is harder to determine. More isn't always better but too little and your proofing times just take longer . . .