The yeast library really exists and is located in Belgium – Italian Cuisine

Over 125 specimens from all over the world are kept in the spaces of the Center for Bread Flavor in Puratos. Here's how to visit them also in a virtual way

Not only cinema, science and contemporary art: also his majesty the sourdough – for someone challenging, for others faithful companion of this long quarantine – it can boast its very own museum. Or rather, a kind of library, at times similar to a bank, created and managed by Puratos, an international company active in the bakery, pastry and chocolate sector: the space in question is located inside the Center for Bread Flavor of Sankt Vith, a Belgian town of 9 thousand inhabitants on the border with Germany, and collects over 125 types of mother yeasts from 25 countries of the world.

Photo: Puratos.

The mother yeast library

It all began in 2013, when Puratos was contacted by a Syrian baker who asked for a sort of "political asylum" for his beloved mother yeast: his children, heirs of the family business specializing in chickpea flour biscuits, decided to replace it with a less demanding industrial yeast, but he still wants to leave a tangible trace of his precious baking ally to the world. This is where it enters the scene Karl De Smedt, a real guru of the topic, who decides to start the project of the Library of the Mother Yeast. «Traveling around the world, Karl De Smedt had already been able to discover how different the mother yeasts of the different geographical areas were, says Laura Cafasso, digital marketing & communication specialist of Puratos Italia. "Hence the decision to launch the initiative on the web Quest for Sourdough: through this portal, each baker would have had the opportunity to apply for his own mother yeast for a permanent place in the archive that Puratos was building in Belgium. Something very similar to the Seed Bank of Svalbard, in Norway, where the most precious specimens of seeds are kept to be protected and passed on to future generations .
The applications made through the web platform were thus examined by De Smedt and the company's experts: each selected mother yeast, because judged as badge of a production worthy of recognition, was thus taken through a special kit, properly analyzed and therefore inserted within the library, complete with an identification number and entrance ceremony. To date, all the natural yeasts present in the Sankt Vith complex are kept in optimal conditions in refrigerators at 4 ° C, and are regularly refreshed with the original flour with which they were produced, to recreate the original conditions of the bakery. Without any alteration from their original version.

Photo: Puratos.

The stories inside the yeast

The very first mother yeast to enter the Belgian library was an Italian specimen. Pugliese, to be precise, used for the preparation of the famous Altamura bread and fed with durum wheat flour. But the stories enclosed in the Sankt Vith refrigerators are really the most disparate, as also tells the New York Times: there is the number 100, Japanese, produced from rice sake; or the number 72, Mexican, constantly fed with an egg, lime and beer mix. But we also find a very original Canadian mother yeast, 106, coming directly from the end of the nineteenth century and from the stories of those gold miners who traveled around the North American continent armed only with hope and some supplies of subsistence. In short, the specimens preserved in the Biblioteca del Lievito Madre in Puratos are presented to all intents and purposes as an album in jars straddling history and traditions. "Our space can obviously be visited in person, by contacting the company and agreeing on an appointment, but at the moment, due to the health emergency, everything is postponed", continues Laura Cafasso. «For all fans who in recent weeks would like to deepen their knowledge, however, one is available virtual tour very detailed, with numerous testimonials and various video contributions . A precious way, in short, to expand the skills learned during this quarantine spent between ovens and stoves, which has seen us all – at least once – proudly wearing the baker's apron.

Photo: Puratos.

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