Book Review: Beyond Basics With Natural Yeast

3 Dec

So, hello again!  It’s been a while. Don’t worry though, I’m still here, I’ve just been buzzing around lately getting used to a new family schedule at home.  Let me fill you in just a little on what I’ve been up to (and no, I’m not quitting blogging)…

{Personal} Update Time…

Before starting the blog, my husband and I homeschooled three of our kids for more than five years.  After a big move across the country, we felt much more comfortable with our new area’s public schools so we enrolled the kids in school.  Lucky for me, this window of time allowed the opportunity I needed to post recipes here in earnest and get the ball rolling, which I’m very grateful for.

Well, a couple months ago the winds changed and my husband and I realized a lot of good for our specific kids’ needs would be met if we returned to homeschooling again.  We went with it and that’s where I’ve been spending a great majority of time lately.  Although it’s been a busy adjustment, I’ve been sincerely loving it and life is very good.

This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to post when I can, but you’ll need to be patient with me. Another place we can connect is via Facebook where I post more regularly .  If you’re ever wanting to find me to see what I’ve been up to, that would be a good place to find me.  Also, as for Twitter, I’ll see about working on my presence there, but right now my focus is really at home.

Wonder Ovens

Personal life updates aside, I’ve been excited for all the recent interest in Wonder Ovens.  I was invited to contribute a power packed introduction post all about them for Backdoor Survival’s Blog recently.  Additionally, there continues to be lots of interest from emails I’ve gotten both asking for wonder oven paper patterns and hearing back from readers who’ve finished making them for themselves.  I love being a part of it!

Just so you know, my last batch of paper patterns went out in the mail just last week and I’m planning my next batch to go out in February.  If you’re interested, yes, I’m still sending them out!  Email me at along with a physical mailing address to send it to.  If you’re living in the US, I’ve started asking for a return of $2 to cover the shipping.  You can just mail it back to me using my return address or I can send you an invoice through Paypal.

Book Review (!)

So, on to today’s business.  I was so excited to get to be a part of a blog tour for a wonderful new book that’s come out on sour dough/ natural yeast cooking.

Authored by Melissa Richardson, her second book “Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast”, builds on principles taught in her first book “The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast”.  Since I was gifted my first start over the summer by a generous reader, I was particularly interested to find out the publishing company for this book was looking for blogs to review it.  They needed reviewers and I needed instructions.  Since I’m such a beginner when it comes to baking with natural yeast this book absolutely thrilled me for all the options which were discovered!

Beyond Basics Yeast (6)

This is my fun start container, btw.  And now, I’ve found a great book to boot!



Gluten Intolerance or Missing Gut Micro-Organisms?

For many people, gluten/ grain intolerance is a game changer, disallowing them from eating many of the foods they’d love to have.  Melissa’s studying on the subject of gluten intolerance (which inspired her blog The Bread Geek as well as both books), rather than villianizing wheat, came to a different conclusion.  She believed there was another culprit, something we were missing in our diets which would connect the dots.  After an enormous amount of research, she concluded commercialized yeast was the problem, or more especially our deprivation of specific micro-organisms which are specifically found in natural (sour dough) yeasts.  By cooking with these natural yeasts we supplied our bodies with the army of defense to help further break down the wheat being blamed as well as battle bad bacteria.

Throughout the book, Melissa shares her insights and I liked this specific quote, which I promptly wrote and stuck on my fridge. (On the freezer side, mind you, so to remind me to stay away from certain indulgences found within.)  Although I’m new to the concept of natural yeast, the idea of “eating what best agrees with your system” makes perfect sense to me.  I’m excited to learn more!

Beyond Basics Yeast (7)


Testing a Few Recipes

Before visiting the recipes I tried, I’d like to mention how helpful this book’s basic instructions were (especially the photos) showing what successful yeast looks like.  Many resources I’ve found have told me what to look for, but the pictures here really made it clear.  Not only that, there’s also a great section teaching how to power feed and “heal” your starter if it’s been neglected as well as lessons in properly keeping it bubbly and active.  Also, I really appreciated seeing what a start which is “too thin” looks like versus one which is “just right”.  Much more on this (I’m told) is contained in her first book, but this book, even though it’s a sequel, had a lot of great help in it for me.

As far as options go, this book goes above and beyond anything you’d expect to be made with natural yeast.  You’d probably expect to see bread recipes, ofcourse, but what about pita bread, muffins, an assortment of crackers, even pasta!  And beyond that, how about gravy and other white sauces?  I had no idea these things could be made with a start.  I was really impressed and excited to learn of all the recipes the author has tested that can be made using natural yeast!

After much deliberation, I ended up trying four recipes from the book.  The first recipe I tried for whole wheat bread honestly didn’t turn out so well, but after following the guide to help heal my starter (which was weaker than I realized), I saw a great improvement a week later and it was easy to see what the problem had been.  Now I have a “happily fed” starter and will try better to keep it so.

For my second attempt, I decided to try making some crackers that caught my eye:  teff crackers as well as natural yeast Graham crackers.  With my experience in Sun Oven cooking where I’ve discovered that pretty much everything can be successfully cooked in a Sun Oven (even if the conventional temperature calls for a fairly high temperature, it just takes longer), I thought these would be nice to be able to feature here on the blog as they already contain storable pantry ingredients.  While they normally call for 5-10 minutes in a 450 degree oven, in a sun oven the time would need to be increased.  If I were to make a guess, I’d say in a 300 degree Sun Oven they’d take atleast 30 minutes to bake.  Along with this, in this case, you’d want to be sure to prop the sun oven door open using a pencil, to allow steam to escape.

To make this recipe completely shelf stable, the last thing that I need to investigate is learning to keep a countertop start rather than a refrigerated one.   One thing at a time, but thanks to this book, this is a new area of interest for me now.

Natural Yeast Crackers

The teff crackers called for raisins and were spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom.  Outside of those ingredients, other ingredients included salt, honey, coconut oil, teff flour, water and start.  It was a very basic recipe, but instead of leavenings I’d normally add, the exchange was time to allow the start to work.  Natural yeast recipes require more planning and time to complete, but (if you’re like me) the house is finally nice and quiet at night, so quickly putting together a recipe to stand overnight then is not too bad.  You do have to plan ahead and think the process through though, so that was something I learned.

For rolling out the dough, as it’s a very soft dough, the book recommended rolling it between two pieces of parchment paper and using a pizza cutter (over top of the parchment) to score the crackers.  This worked very well and all I had to do before putting them into the oven was peel back the top layer of parchment.

Beyond Basics Yeast (1)

Rolling it out:

Beyond Basics Yeast (2) Beyond Basics Yeast (4) Beyond Basics Yeast (3)

All done!

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The teff crackers were a big hit!  All the kids as well as my husband loved them.  My two year old called them “cookies” (which works for me) and they quickly were eaten up, even by her.

The Graham crackers were good as well, though not quite as crisp as we’re used to.  As the book predicted, they were more the texture of a biscuit, but we enjoyed them anyway.  I did return them to the oven to bake and crisp further, after separating them since baking once, and that helped with the texture.

Finally, for my last recipe before the blog post went up we tried “Dad’s Sourdough Pancakes”.  These were delicious!  I didn’t remember to take pictures of these pancakes when I made them…but speaking of pancakes… I recently found a fun trick in making festively shaped ones I thought I’d share with you in just a minute.

Once again, thanks to Melissa Richardson for her research in understanding natural yeasts and for writing this great book!  I feel like I can do this now even though I’m brand new at it and have only had my start for a few months.

You can read more reviews on her book here and follow other bloggers who are trying things out from it all this month by visiting this list!

Easy Peasy Shaped Pancakes

My kids have been loving this simple way to have festive pancakes shaped anyway they want.  To do this, you’ll need a metal cookie cutter, a small dish of oil, your pancake batter and a repurposed condiment container.  This would be a fun way to dress up a food storage breakfast pancake recipe!

Also, any metal cookie cutter will work, just be sure it’s not a painted metal.  The metal gets really hot and we noticed the color from our painted cutter actually transferring onto one of our pancakes! Not a good thing.

1)  Start out by covering your cookie cutter in cooking oil.

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2) Fill a clean, repurposed ketchup bottle with your pancake batter.

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3)  Lay the cookie cutter on your hot skillet and fill with batter.

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4)  When it’s time to flip, turn the entire thing – cookie cutter and all – over to cook the other side.

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5)  After cooking, allow to cool slightly and slide the pancake out from the cookie cutter.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: Beyond Basics With Natural Yeast”

  1. Arlene Butler December 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Megan, Yes I read it! How is the start working out for you? Was it mine that needed healing? Mine has always worked great but is there something I should do to make it better? I disagreed with Melissa in her book as she feeds her starter every few days and I let mine go dormant. I didn’t know how to contact her but I emailed her co-author of the first book to tell them about my start and he basically blew me off.

    Please don’t share the recipes I gave you with anyone especially Melissa. I plan to write a sourdough cookbook someday with those recipes. I appreciate it! I’d love any feedback on any recipes of mine you try or feedback on my starter.

    thanks! Arlene


    • Megan December 6, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

      Yes, it was, but I think it was my fault for not feeding it sooner — it’s hardy in that it didn’t die. It had been probably more than a month since I’d fed it. I noticed it was very runny when I started getting it back into shape. It came back in a week though.

      And no problem, Arlene. The recipes you trusted me with belong to you 🙂 I’ve had a lot of good results with them – I’d love to see you do something with them to share with the public! I’ve made the sour dough banana bread, pancakes, bread and more. All have been delicious, thank you.

      Are you knowledgeable about counter (rather than refrigerated) starts? Could this start be “made” into a counter top start or are they a completely different animal to begin with?

  2. lbg grover December 23, 2014 at 12:50 am #

    Megan, I must tell you thanks for all of your help that you so willingly give to me!!! May you be blessed for your kindness. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family. LaRene Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2014 08:07:27 +0000 To:

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