I've been getting a few questions lately about whether I use commercial yeast in my breads, in addition to sourdough. Perhaps there is some kind of rumor going around?
First, the only breads I sell on Thursday or at the Farmer's Market that use any commercial yeast are the baguettes, the challah, and some of the Christmas breads. All other breads are leavened only with sourdough.
However, using a mix of sourdough and commercial yeast is a time-honored way to make great bread. By adding some commercial yeast to the dough, the baker can achieve much better control over the proofing process, and also achieve a much more open crumb in the bread, with only a slight loss in flavor and a small compromise in the bread's keeping qualities.
There is nothing wrong with this process, I just haven't experimented with it much and have chosen to take a more traditional approach. Because most of my customers only buy my bread once a week, I need the bread to last, and, properly stored, a loaf of my sourdough should be a bit dry but not at all moldy on day six, and should still be perfectly good toasted. A bread leavened with commercial yeast will stale much more quickly, and (depending on the humidity) will likely begin to mold as well by the end of a week.
My baguettes, croissants, and brioche are leavened with commercial yeast and are really meant to be eaten more or less immediately. They don't keep well at all. This is the chief downside to commercial yeast, the other being less complex flavor.
At home, I keep my bread right out on the counter, cut-side down on a board, and I usually start toasting it after the second or third day. It will stay a little more moist if you put it in plastic, but the crust will become soft. You can also leave it in a paper bag, or in bags designed for preserving bread that have materials that permit a little bit of airflow. The only definitively wrong way to keep bread is in the refrigerator. Something about refrigerators (it involves physics, and I think chemistry . . . ) causes bread to stale very quickly. Including mine, so don't do it.
My bread does freeze quite well, however. I have many customers who freeze their bread.
This week I'll have the Rosemary-Polenta, Country French, semolina, and sprouted grain, with possibly a few caraway rye, although I'm not going to promise that. There will be cookies, no doubt, and depending on the heat, perhaps some kind of tart. I should have a small number of pain au chocolat.
Have a safe Fourth of July, and I will see you on Thursday from 5-7 on Main Street!