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Baking bread from a 4,500-year-old yeast from Ancient Egyptian pottery (twitter.com)
67 points by seapunk 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

Even if some of the yeast is from ancient strains, I wonder if it's really feasible to get a mix that's representative of what was in those containers 4,500 years ago. Shouldn't the population be changed by the selective pressure of being starved and dormant for that long (i.e. the ones that can be revived might be a small minority)? Or for yeast, is chilling for millennia no big deal?

This reminds me one of the best tasting bread I enjoyed was Naan from North India. Anyone else know of any other bread which can rival Naan?

A good Paratha is better than Naan IMO.

Roomali Roti is also very good

The issue with old strains is similar to the whole concept of homeopathy. Sure, the original strain might be 4000 years old, but keeping a sourdough starter usable means keeping it exposed to air where it gathers fresh bacteria, eventually leading to the starter being statistically significant only to the bacteria of the locale, not the source of the starter.

I'm confused - yeasts are not bacteria?

No, they are a unicellular fungus, which is a completely separate evolutionary branch (eukaryota).

Other bacteria join the party, not just yeast.

[EDIT] which are fungi anyway, incidentally

If the yeast in your sourdough have been replaced by bacteria gathered from the air, then I think you should throw it away ASAP.

Every locale has its own indigenous yeast variants. Unless you go to ridiculous lengths to isolate your starter from the environment (which some people do, including sterilizing the flour used to feed the starter), it's going to eventually be taken over by local yeast.

Which, IMHO, is a fine thing! Bake where you are.

Beer and bread, and the yeasts used to make them, used to be indigenous to the region, and sometimes very localised. Every brewery and bakery had their own local yeast cultures. The rise of factory bakeries and breweries meant nearly all of those died off. IIRC industrial brewing depends on just 3 or 4 strains of yeast. Only the relatively recent resurgence of craft baking and brewing has kept some of the others around.

The local strains that led to so many wonderful tasting breads and beers have been lost.

I'd be as interested in learning how the local strains of yeast have changed over those intervening 4,500 years, as seeing he a good result trying to bake from what he retrieved.

White labs are doing a good job of providing some choices to the homebrew market.

The author Seamus Blackley is also a co-founder if the XBox amongst other cool things https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seamus_Blackley

Would be fun to taste the bread, especially if they can validate it is ancient yeasts. I know people have brewed beer using ancient yeasts.

Not directly related to your comment, but a book I read recently was tangentially related and really interesting "Never Home Alone" [1].

It is basically about all the life around us that we don't notice, from microbes to insects, etc.

He had a section where he talked about the yeast we use for wine production coming originally from wasps who land on the grapes.

And also a section where they had 20 or so bakers from different regions each use the same initial sour dough starter and then agree to feed it for like 6 months or something and at the end they all got together and each baker made a loaf of bread using their sour dough culture. The purpose of the experiment was to see how the local environment affected what grew in the starters and how that would affect taste.

I thought it was a super interesting book.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39088985-never-home-alon...

wow! do you have any links for the beer brewing?

I misread that with 'breaking bad' and it turned into a really interesting plot with exotic biopsychodrugs in my head.

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