Monday, February 27, 2012

Wild, Crazy Yeast
By Michael

This is Eleanor emerging from the best and
busiest ice cream place in La Paz, Neveria
Fuente. Surprising to me and the folks who
work there, she likes the flavor Tequila
Almond. I guess the apple doesn't fall
so far from the tree.
It was three weeks ago that I wrote about our bread starter gift from La Loupiote and our wonderings about whether it would result in sourdough bread. (You’ll recall that La Loupiote sailed away, leaving our question unanswered.) Well, we got an email from Deb.

We first met Deb online when she won the book giveaway during our Great Pre-Departure Stuff Purge. We caught up with Deb months later as we passed through her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. I knew Deb was a former sailing instructor, but I now know she is also a former chef who has been, “probing the depths of sourdough for the past year or so.”
Deb wrote: “What you have is sourdough starter. Sourdough does not necessarily mean dough that tastes sour, although I sure like it when it does. It just means using wild yeast instead of commercial. The sour flavor can come from a variety of things--type of flour, type of water--but mostly comes from a long proofing time.”

We baked our first batch shortly after it rose. We gathered around two hot loaves, a knife, and a crock of butter and devoured them both in one sitting, like hungry savages. It was fantastic.Yet neither loaf tasted sour, but like really good French bread.
Moonrise at anchor off La Paz.
For the second batch, Windy allowed the dough to rise, then to sit overnight in the fridge, and then to rise again in the oven before finally baking it. What popped out of our Force 10 that morning was among the best sourdough bread I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was perfectly tangy. It was soft but with a bit of a chew. The crust crackled and crunched and was a bit tough. The entire boat smelled divine. (Of course, what makes this all the more enjoyable is the climate.  We’ve been rolling out of bed when it is still 55 degrees down below--in Mexico that is technically freezing, by the way--so warm bread out of the oven appeals in a way it would not have back in Puerto Vallarta during the summer.)

In the same email, Deb wrote: “There are so many names for sourdough starter--chef, biga, poolish, mother--depending on the percentages and your background--but any starter that's 20 years old is nothing but wild, crazy yeast…I'm sure it's been colonized by foreign-language-speaking yeasties from all over the world.
I’m sure it has been too. Just today, I heard again from the French crew of La Loupiote. They are back online after running into our friends Kyra and Rick aboard the Canadian-flagged Nyon a few hundred miles south, anchored off Mexico’s Isla Isabel. The Nyon crew told La Loupiote about our sourdough dilemma and that we needed help.

So where next? We’re spreading the love. We’ve already decided to send some of this 20-year-old bread starter across the Pacific (once again, I’m sure) with our friends aboard Wondertime—because you can’t keep a good bread down—err, you can keep it down—pardon that pun.


Our friend Nancy (a Magotian--that is she lives on the La Paz Magote)
took the four of us south on a full-day road trip in her Honda CRV. It
was a nice respite from the intense month of boat work that has
nearly consumed February (more in a later post).


  1. It was so funny to meet the Loupiote crew on Isla Isabel, and how seamlessly the conversation progressed to bread and Del Viento - glad that got sorted out! ;) We're in Mazatlan - getting ready to cross in a couple days - likely to los Muertos - we hope to say goodbye to Wondertime and then head up to La Paz at last! Cheers, the Nyon crew


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