Corn Sourdough with wild yeasts and S.bayanus


Come try this tasty bread at our event this Monday, January 27th, 7 to 9:00. We still have 9 seats left! Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations). With Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett that create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. And try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters.

We typically have an ongoing sourdough starter that we feed at least once a day. We never throw out any of it because we have so many uses for it. It’s fermented dough.

We typically feed the starter based on the formula described below. If you are taking it out of the fridge where it has been stored for a while, you have to feed it at least 3 or four times before it will be active enough to raise your dough. That means at least 24 hours.

First, put the recently used starter into a clean jar and add the water. 75F degree water is best. Not hotter. Mix it very well. Then add the flour and mix. Cover tighly or not.

Keeping it at 72F to 85F is best unless you want to grow it more slowly. It typically takes about 3 hours to become active after each feeding. It should at least double in size. The most common failure to rise issue is that the starter is not active enough. Same with brewing.



  • 40 grams sourdough starter from a recent previous batch
  • 70 grams strong bread flour
  • 70 grams water at 75F

After you have started the process of getting your starter active, mix the flour and water that you are going to use for the bread. We like to let it sit, covered, in a warm spot for at least three hours as well.

We highly recommend you do this step. If you want you can mix your flour and water then refrigerate and bring to room temperature the next day. Or even several days later. This is called autolyze, a part of starch hydrolization that is very similar to the process called gelatinization.

  • 700 grams bread flour
  • 450 grams water


  • 640 grams corn biga with S. bayanus yeast
  • 140 grams active starter
  • 36 grams shio-koji (if omitted, use coarse sea salt as specified below)

A biga is made by mixing flour and water together with a small amount of yeast. It is then refrigerated overnight or longer. We used corn bran and rice bran for this biga.

The yeast we used was S.bayanus. This yeast is typically made for wine and beer brewing. You could use another yeast if you like.

We mix the biga and the sourdougb starter together very well, turning it onto itself in a bowl for several minutes.

We then took the mix of water and flour from several hours earlier and mixed that into the biga and sourdough starter mix. We did this while adding the shio koji.

We aimed for 2% salt in this bread, based on bakers percentages. That means that we added up all the flour we used including the flour that was used in the sourdough starter and the biga.

The total flour amount was 1100 grams. That means we needed 22 grams of salt or 170 grams of aged, salty shio-koji. We added 148 grams more of shio koji to the mix after we rested it for 30 minutes.

We kneaded dough, several times while letting it rise again. Finally, we put one half in the fridge to test the yeast – and the other half in a large loaf pan. It was lft to rise for 120 minutes.


9 AM
11 AM

Bake at 450 for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 2 hours.

We already have some great ideas for some other yeasts. All baked goods should have one form of filamentous fungus (Aspergillus, Rhizopus, etc.) or bacterial enzymes or both in them. We already have some great ideas for some other yeasts.



Coconut Fennel Beer


Roasted Sourdough Coconut Fennel Bread in a rich malt broth.

Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations)

January 27th, 7 to 9:30 come ask questions about any of the recipes or methods used in this post. Two extremely skilled fermenters, and cutting edge brewers, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett will be in house helping us answer questions.

They create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. Take a look at their menu! And try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. We’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented.


We used lots of different types of grains inoculated with koji. We made syrups out of them by making amasake from both rice and barley inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae (koji), then slowly boiled them down to a very thick sweet paste.

You could use store bought barley malt or rice syrup.

We also added some DME, or direct malt extract, to the broth or what is called the mash if you are making beer. You could use all powdered DME if the syrups are too time consuming or expensive.


Sweet Malted Wort meets Toasted Coconut Fennel Sourdough Bread

Our yeasts were from what are sometimes called Shanghai yeast balls. These typically contain koji as well as other fungal enzymes like the ones you can make tempeh with called Rhizopus oryzae.

These enzymes work to break down big starches into small digestible sugars for humans, and for yeast food. When starches are broken down like this they are then called fermentable sugars. The yeast can eat them and create alcohol and gas.


Yeasts balls crushed up, and a fancy instrument to measure the SG of your beverage. This is important when you want to know how much alcohol something contains. Not much at all at the start – or at the end.

Chinese yeast balls called 麹 in traditional Chinese also contain specific bacteria that are widely used in the food sector to turn starches into sugars, including for fermenting. The Japanese recognize the word 麹 as meaning koji as well.

But the Japanese got their alphabet (or kanji) from the Chinese. It’s a system of pictograms. The Japanese dramatically altered both the language and the koji so that now most people refer to koji as the purified, Aspergillus only Japanese version.

Chinese starter cultures are dramaticaly different, but do often contain some Aspergilllus oryzae as well. It can be confusing when 麹 is used. All the great spore producers are in Japan.


The original koji mash we boiled.

We wanted to introduce people to the concept of mashing, above, as well as adding house made or store made malt extracts in powder or liquid form.

If you have enough you won’t even need the powdered malt extract. On the other hand, you could double the dried malt extract and skip the koji syrups. (original recipe)


The yeast forming a nice top of the beer. This beer doesn’t have hops, though. So this is really, really old school.

After straining the liquid we had intended to use for something else we realized we had lots of liquid koji extracts in the refrigerator. We also had lots of sourdough bread that had some flavoring components in them. Those became this spiced beer.

  • 6000 grams liquid cooled down to 95 to 105F
  • 950 grams heavily toasted sourdough bread (coconut and fennel sourdough bread was used in this recipe)
  • 22 grams crushed yeast balls (2 to 3 balls)

When the malted liquid made from either koji syrups or liquid or powdered malt – your goal is a starting SD of 1.040, but don’t worry about it if you can’t measure it – is below 105F, pour over the sourdough and let it absorb the liquid. Keep warm.

After about an hour the bread should have absorbed the liquid and be around 95F. As long as it’s between 72F to 95F it’s okay. Add the crushed up yeast balls and stir for about 5 minutes.

Cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour. Stir well again and put in a sanitized container. It should not fill the container more than half full. Put in warm area, maintaining a temperature as close to 82F as you can, covered with an air lock or just a sanitized cloth. Stir once or twice a day for 3 days, tasting as you go along.

At day 3 strain the mixture well with a sanitized strainer. Put in smaller sanitized container and let it settle for a few hours. Then pour off the top liquid into sanitized bottles and let sit again, this time in a cool area.

Either pour off the liquid again after about 12 hours – rack it some more while pouring the liquid through a very fine nut bag or brewing bag – or don’t and refrigerate until very cold.

Leave about an inch space in each bottle, then seal the bottles tightly. Be aware of carbon dioxide buildup. Burp the bottles if they appear to be building up gas.

Careful when taking the bottles from a very cold refrigerator to a warmer area. As with water kefir and milk kefir, open bottles with a towel over a bucket if necessary.



Ask questions at our upcoming event! There are two ways to register depending on whether you have cash or credit. Most people are registering using Eventbrite, but register at our MeetUp page if you have cash or can’t afford anything. Just register.


Part 2 of the Chocolate Brew

Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations)

January 27th, 7 to 9:30 come ask questions about any of the recipes or methods used in this post.

Two extremely skilled fermenters, and cutting edge brewers, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett will present and answer questions. They create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. Take a look at their menu!

Try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. We’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented.


The following recipes demonstrate methods that are useful across the board for anything you brew. Yeast is involved, as are bacteria.

We measure the starting SG (specific gravity) and PH of everything. We count on bacteria to create lactic acid to lower the PH in some brews, but not this one.

We could easily just add some lactic acid up front to lower the PH quickly to protect the yeast from infection in any brew, but that does not avoid the need to always be sanitary. Even when you have an open brewing system like with sake.

Once the yeast takes hold it will be able to control the environment of the brew, but in many cases unless the lactic acid producing bacteria are prevented from infecting the moromi or mash, the yeast may not stand a chance.


Utensils hanging out in Star-san. You can even save it for bottle washing weeks later.

We’ll talk about sanitation in future posts. For now wash everything, use gloves, and boil everything that could come in contact with your brew.

Everything always follows strict rules of sanitation. Get some Star-san and use it. You could also use bleach, but that’s a lot more tricky.


Rice sugar extract, similar to a liquid malt extract.

We wanted to introduce people to the concept of mashing, as well as adding house made or store made malt extracts in powder or liquid form.

Obviously introducing people to some basic principles of yeast starter building and maintenance for everything from sake to shoyu to beer if they haven’t been introduced is always a good thing.

We’ll discuss all these things at the event, and in future posts after the event.


Chocolate Koji Kvass (濁酒)- continued
  • 3785 grams (1 gallon) water
  • 1400 grams rice koji syrup (warm)
  • 445 grams barley koji syrup (warm)
  • 240 grams dried powdered barley malt extract

After straining the liquid we realized we had lots of liquid koji extracts in the refrigerator. We also had lots of sourdough bread that had some flavoring components in them. So we set the liquid we made in the previous post – our sweet little wort – and decided to make a more refined base for our Chocolate Koji Doboroku.

We boiled these together in a sanitized pot being careful not to scorch or burn the bottom.

  • 85 grams bittersweet chocolate

We added the chocolate right near the end of the boil of 60 minutes and mixed it well with a sanitized whisk. At the 50 minute mark is fine.


The cooling down wort waiting for it’s yeast.

When the boil got down to 90 F we added the yeast and stirred. You can use an ice bath and cold water to get the temperature down.

Proofed S.bayanus yeast ready to go.

After that, we put a sanitized lock top lid on top. We waited a week or so until we sampled it. Keep it at 72F or below if you can.

We may add some additional chocolate at this point similar to an infused sake. If you plan on doing that hold back some chocolate and let it steep in a small amount of alcohol or water in the fridge. Come try some.


Chocolate Koji Kvass (濁酒)


Heavily toasted rice koji (A.oryzae) sourdough bread.

Recipe
  • 150 grams rice koji
  • 200 grams wheat berry or brown rice koji (or more rice koji)
  • 300 grams heavily toasted cubed or ripped apart sourdough bread.

Mix above ingredients and toast slowly in oven for two hours at 200F. Stir occasionally. Not burnt, but really brown for the bread. The koji won’t change color much but will smell amazing.

The rice koji bread above is obviously not as dark as a pumpernickel bread would be. Bread made with rice or another koji is preferred, but use whatever leftover bread you have.

Use whatever koji you have. Can’t get your hands on koji? Use malt extracts. We’ll discuss those tomorrow.


Two hours after slow roasting our kojis and bread.

  • 24 cups boiled water, cooled down to 140F

Pour the water onto the mixture hanging over your fermenter in a brew bag. Stir the contents in the bag well.

Let sit, covered with a sanitized cloth or plastic wrap for 24 hours as close to 120F as you can.

It’s okay if you can only keep the temperature at 72F.


In the sanitized brew bag. In a fermenter (a plastic, food safe bucket that fits right into our cooler) that can easily be chilled.

We’ll decide what to do for yeast once you lift the brewers bag out carefully letting every last drop drip out. Don’t squeeze the bag, though. Save the dregs to make vinegar or compost it.

You can also dry it out and use as breading for fried foods or as a thickening agent.

You should have either brewers yeast, yeast balls, champagne yeast, sake yeast or even another type of yeast for tomorrow.


Ask questions at our upcoming event! There are two ways to register depending on whether you have cash or credit. Register here if you want to bring cash or make donations. If you want to register with a credit card use the Eventbrite link.


Chili with Koji and Beans



At tonight’s first #Zymes2020 event at Fifth Hammer Brewing we presented a chili made the typical way. A very small amount of ground beef was browned with onions, garlic, peppers, oregano, lime and other seasonings.

It doesn’t matter what your actual chili base is for this if you decide to make it, although some people do not like spicy foods. When preparing food for a crowd it is always a very considerate and professional thing to consider the preferences of a wide spectrum of people.

The place was packed. Actually the busiest we’ve ever seen it. The people attending the event truly appreciated the samples of food, as well as the unique condiments they could use to alter the taste of the chili to their liking.



A lot of people actually ate the condiments as if they were unrelated to the chili. That’s why you should always aim to prepare whatever it is you are making as if it is the main dish.

We brought ten things tonight that represented the ending of #Kojifest2019, and the beginning of #Zymes2020. We will be publishing recipes for everything we brought tonight.

On the one hand, it’s never a good idea to throw too many ingredients into a dish – and then describe all of them because their eyes will roll back in their heads after ingredient number five and your dialog will quickly become meaningless if not irritating – because one or more will likely not appeal to someone.

On the other hand if everything has so many ingredients and layers of flavor taste buds can get overwhelmed and senseless by the variety. Balance of tastes is important on the level of each dish, and to the extent that each dis contributes to the eating and tasting experience of a diner.

Like, seven different kinds of cake at every meal is not really tasty after a few meals. Would seven different types of wines for every meal be tasty after the first one or two meals? Be simple and let people choice things like condiments and drinks according to their preferences.

The home made doubanjiang (豆瓣酱) we brought was the hottest thing there. And untouched. That’s why condiments are so useful. In a previous post on mother sauces we explained that you can’t remove certain ingredients once you add them.

The chili would not have been so well received if we had added the doubanjiang to it during cooking or right before serving. Once again, that’s why it is so important to know your ingredients, know your techniques, know what has been done in the past, and remember that an artesan of any kind must take into account what others might like when preparing food or drink.



Tasty Functions

The purpose of everything we brought tonight was first and foremost to provide tasty things. The fact that some of our foods serve as functional foods by providing beneficial microbes, or by not providing discomforting or harmful ones, is always secondary.

Functional foods are important, but there are so many ways to get beneficial microbes into your body when eating fresh or unprocessed foods as all or just a part of your daily intake that you shouldn’t stress about it. In fact, condiments are another way to add live tasty foods to very simply prepared foods.



Functional Enzymes

The chili involves adding dried or freshly made barley koji, garbanzo bean koji, and wheat barley koji – the three made with different types of Aspergillus or a combinations of different types of spores – with salt and water to a meat or plant protein based already prepared chili.

Water or some liquid is important in facilitating the work of enzymes, as they involve hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is not possibly with water.

The unique thing about this chili, and much of which we spoke about, is how we prepared the dish to maximize the contribution of enzymes to the texture, taste and digestibility of the dish.



The Amasake Technique

If you have ever made amasake, typically a sweet rice based beverage or sugar substitute made with rice that has had Aspergillus oryzae grown in it, you know that it is made at a temperature of 140F for at least 12 hours.

If you are uncomfortable about controlling the temperature precisely aim for 135F. If we don’t actually grind our rice koji up first we usually make ours over a 24 hour period and add more water than typical recipes. Because of the sugars created during the process another cooking procedure with amasake tends to be risky if you are in a hurry.

A higher water content makes it less so. We find more water dissolves the added cooked rice as well as the koji rice more completely. Besides, if we have to remove some water we can always boil it down and make rice syrup.



During the process of making amasake the koji uses the enzymes to transform the food, prominently by splitting up starch molecules into simple sugars. That’s called saccharification.

Breaking big molecules or chains of sugar down into littler pieces can greatly aid in overall digestion, but also specifically make certain things digestible at all.

The enzymes that do this with starches that include cereal grains or anything that has carbohydrates in it such as legumes and some vegetables are amylase and gluycoamylase.

But those are not, by far, the only useful enzymes that are produced. Which enzymes and how much of each are produced was part of tonight’s event and will be continued in all 2020 events and posts at Cultures.Group.

In the case of the chili all the ingredients in it, just like the rice that had the fungus grown on it, become substrates.

Other enzymes like proteases – the wheat berries were grown with Aspergillus sojae and Aspergillus luchuensis that provide some of these – acted on the dish much like the amylase enzymes act on the rice. Proteins, fats and even cellulose got broken down into very simple, digestible units.

Esters and other olfactory benefits were produced as well.

We cooked the chili – which could easily have been made with a plant protein – at 140F for 36 hours, stirred it, added some more koji then cooked it for another 12 hours with some additional salt.

If we added even more salt and water we could have made a soy sauce type liquid out of it. Remember that.

It’s part of the koji continuum you’ll hear us talk about often. Remember reheating this on a direct flame can create amost instant singing and often burnt pots.

The more you can complete the dish during the fermentation process, just as with rice amasake, the less chance of that happening.



Recipes and Techniques

The dishes we brought were all, in one way or another, transformed by a filamentous fungus such as Aspergillus or Rhizopus as a substrate, or with the fungus grown onto a substrate. Yeasts and bacteria were also involved, and discussed at the event with respect to how they interact on a very specific level with particular strains and combinations of the fungus.

  • Three Koji, Three Filamentous Fungus Chili
  • Koji-cured Chicken Liver Mousse
  • Wheat and Fava Bean Koji Doubanjiang
  • Cashew Tempeh
  • Shiso and Koji vinegar
  • Aged Koji Kefir Cheese
  • Moromi miso
  • Three year old, thrice cooked Misodama
  • Corn shoyu kasu miso
  • Russian Sourdough bread
  • Ginger, Kombu, Garlic Betterazuke
  • Aged Plum and Barley Koji (A.awamori) Mirin
  • Fig, walnut, caramel, sweet plum, and wheat koji conserves

The first event of 2020 is on January 27th. The second is February 17th. Same time, same place, same presenters with new practical tips, guidance and practical ways to use enzymes from microbes or malt.

Thanks to everyone that helped to make tonight a really great nose, eye and palate pleasing event. Register at Eventbrite.


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