Raisin yeast experiment – 1

I guess I’m not the only person that got caught without much yeast in the cupboard at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. They were four just-in-date sachets lurking in there, so I thought it time to resurrect my sourdough baking skills.

I used to make a lot of bread when the kids were younger. Like many mums I baked most days, bread, cake, pies and biscuits to feed a large family. However since the children grew up and after my time going to Slimming World I stopped.

My much-used bread machine now languishes at the back of the cupboard whereas it used to always live on the work surface.

Don’t get me wrong I love bread, the making of it and the eating. I just lost the habit. At Christmas I make Stollen and on high days and holidays I bake, but nothing like before.

Stollen for Christmas

I’ve used one of my precious yeast sachets to make Naan breads and a small cottage loaf. Now I’m testing making and using raisin yeast. I may use another of the sachets to start a flour starter as well, just to be on the same side!

Cottage loaf made with easy blend yeast

Someone told me that sourdough and fruit yeasts are more gentle on the digestion than commercial yeast, and I tried to remember if the sourdough I used to make had this benefit, but it’s lost in time. Sourdough isn’t really compatible with bread machines, or that was my understanding. So when I baked a lot it was with easy blend yeast. Sourdoughs were something I tried but I never progressed very far into the art. They never seemed to be time for the long ferment or space to put things.

So now I’ve got both and I’m taking the plunge- in at the deep end- making yeast starter from scratch (maybe).

I read up a bit and decided to use raisins. I’d only got some left from the making the Christmas cake, so they had to do. I put about 3 tablespoons into a clean glass jar I’d rinsed with boiling water, and mixed them with approximately three times the volume of water. I used tap water, slightly warmed. Or water is chalky, about pH of 9 I think, so on the alkaline side. I’ve no idea if it’s got chlorine in it, but it probably has, and I didn’t filter it.

I stirred in 2 tablespoons of sugar and put the screw cap on. It sat on the work surface for a few days, and I shook it every day and let a bit of air in. After about 3 days the raisins floated and they were little bubbles in the fruit.

Bubbling floating raisins

Sadly something happened and the next day the raisins had sunk. So I added another tablespoon of sugar and thinking it was too cold, put the jar in the airing cupboard.

Maybe this was too warm, because there was no activity. So back out onto the work surface it went. Wonder of wonders, it started up again. I’d decided to take the lid off and replaced it with a cloth held on with an elastic band, just like I use for my Kefir jar. Not sure if this helped our not, bit the combination revived the mix, the raisins floated and after a few days I put the lid back on. Now the bubbles are back! Floating raisins and bubbles. Yippee. Nice yeasty smell. Looking good.

Meanwhile I had started a second jar to ferment in case number one really failed. Using a new bag of raisins, and this time boiling the water for 20 minutes to evaporate the chlorine, I put raisins, sugar and cooled but warm water into another jar. Screwed lid on, and left it on the work surface. It started fine, but then white mould began to grow on the surface. I tried to remove this, but the mix had gone cloudy and smells sour. I shall probably chuck this away.

Back to number one jar.

Today I stained of the raisins, took 150ml of the raisin liquid and mixed this with 150g flour to make a starter and it’s been on the work surface for 5 hours. My quantities were a bit random as they is so much conflicting advice, but most seem to be around 50/50 liquid to flour.

The raisin yeast starter immediately after mixing 150ml liquid with 150g flour.
After 5 hours on work surface at about 15 degrees C. It’s not changed much!

So far nothing has happened, there are a few bubbles – so time will tell. I’m not at all sure what I do now.

Meanwhile I put the remaining raisin yeast liquid in the fridge as backup.


The raisin liquid has had a few feeds of sugar and is still active several weeks later.

Read more about this raisin yeast experiment in my post ‘Raisin Yeast Sourdough Bread’.