Beginner Breads

Creating a Wild-Yeast Starter (Mother)

In this section (that you can’t skip over), I’ll show you how to create a wild- yeast starter or “MOTHER.” My technique uses airborne yeasts and probiotic-friendly lactic-acid bacteria that exist naturally around us in the air we breathe. Some of it can also be found on the surface of grains. The yeasts give rise to breads naturally, without commercial yeast or chemical rising agents. It’s a 5,000-year-old bread-making method that eliminates the need for modern store-bought yeast. Baking bread using the healthy “critters” that are familiar to your body from the air that surrounds you, rather than only one variety of mass-produced yeast singled out, is like the difference between the diversity of a rainforest and a tree farm.

Not only that, but bread made using wild yeasts enhances your immune system. Phytic acid (called the anti-nutrient) in grain needs to be neutralized in order for the nutrients present to be more readily absorbed by the human body. In naturally leavened bread, phytic acid is neutralized because of the slow fermentation that takes place. But in commercial, quick-rise, yeasted breads, as much as 90 percent remains, depending on the grain and whether or not it’s whole versus processed. Furthermore, the resulting phytates reduce the digestibility of starches, proteins, and fats. By contrast, in naturally leavened breads, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars and protein is broken down into absorbable amino acids so that your body has access to these vital, life-giving nutrients. In addition, the lactic acid bacteria lowers the glycemic index of bread, making it better for people who are challenged by diabetes or watching their weight. In other words, that bagel you’ve been thinking about is more like a vitamin pill than a source of guilt.

During the time it takes to get your mother established (at least one month), you’ll feed your kitchen “COUNTER MOTHER” flour and water 2x/day (takes less than a minute). And once a week, you’ll bake breads with a traditional sour sourdough flavor (or make yummy pancakes and waffles). During this time, her alchemy will come into balance as she continues to pull wild yeasts from the air, strengthening her ability to eventually give a lofty rise to an endless variety of breads.

Once your mother is fully mature and you’re ready to dig into the Advanced Section, I’ll show you how to maintain your mother in your refrigerator. Your “REFRIGERATOR MOTHER” will only need weekly feedings and you can go as long as a month without using her to bake breads. I’ll also teach you how to use your established Refrigerator Mother for baking breads that have less, if any, sourdough flavor. Once you’ve mastered wild-yeast bread making, you’ll love the way wild breads loft with wild abandon.

Before you get started, make sure you’re able to commit to 1 minute 2x/day feedings for at least a month, as well as the time needed for once per week “Bake Days.”

The fine print…

During the time you have your mother living on your counter and you decide to make a batch of bread using store-bought yeast or you bring store-bought yeasted breads into your home, your mother will get out of sorts. In fact, she may never get over your transgression. If you bring breads made with commercial yeast into your home, you can cover your mother in her glass container and keep her in your refrigerator until the coast is clear.

If you have questions along the way (or merely need a place to show off your successes), go to and join in on the discussion.

But first, the men and women of my historic flour mill left their mark on our lives in countless ways. Specifically, the women left wallpaper, layers upon layers. Throughout my book, I’ve incorporated some of the patterns I found. The black background you’ll see throughout is the back side of a precious and rare oversized piece of slate that served as an office blackboard.

And, one of the first things you encounter when you step back in time is the intense urge early pioneer women had to feminize their surroundings, everything from planting a lilac tree in front of a ramshackle, dirt-floor shelter to drawn- work in which they painstakingly pulled threads from flour-sack towels in order to create the look of lace. I’m sure that within minutes of men inventing machinery to grind wheat, women thought “FLOUR PASTE “ for hanging wallpaper.

Joseph Barron Jr. and his mother

Now, let’s get started…

Wild Bread: Sourdough Reinvented