Ugly Transformed

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My last post was all about a really awful-looking loaf of bread. See it above? All wrinkly, white, dense and unpresentable? But with all those good ingredients inside, I decided to reuse what I had ruined. Ever heard of bread recycling?!

I I broke pieces of the ruined bread from day old loaves and made a very wet mix of new dough. I chose to use the no-knead method, and hoped that this magical recipe, which I have never ever ruined, despite the many variations I’ve tried, would help redeem my good ingredients…

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And voila!

The bread turned out beautifully, and off it went to be shared, with another loaf of no-knead that I mixed a jar of red pepper mix into…

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I like that all of this happened. That the ugly happened and that I was willing to do the work and search for a new beauty. It’s a good metaphor for me–because brokenness is around me, around all of us, but with work we can save the good and make something new and redeemed from the bad. It just takes effort, and faith.

And guess what? I’m off to Paris, friends, and will be writing from there! Sending you all love…

Bread and the Ballet

I was introduced to Mauricio over email. My sister sent me a message and implored me to meet this nice young man from Chile, who was coming to Santa Barbara to dance.  He had worked for her at her gym in South Carolina…

It took two weeks, but we were finally able to have him over, and spoil him a bit. He’s dancing for the State Street Ballet here in Santa Barbara, and will be touring with them once he returns from Chile at the end of September.

So, I’m sure this is a long shot, but do you remember when the last World Cup soccer matches were in play and I tried baking a few breads from around the world? Silly, I know, but I adore silliness. Anyway, back then I found a workable recipe of a sweet anise bread (from Uruguay) and I’m thinking this might be a wonderful gift for a young dancer who says that he loves bread. He pridefully announced that people in Chile eat more bread than any other South American country. I think this gives me free reign to spoil a starving dancer with at least one fresh loaf of bread.

Don’t you?

Anyway, he just left the States for the comfort of his home in Santiago. While he’s away, I’ve already practiced making this recipe once. Yum. See–already half eaten before I could get the camera out!

The recipe link above leaves much to be desired, so I had to fiddle here and there, and then I braided the loaves for extra fun. I will post a new recipe–my own version–in a few weeks (after a few more trials, which my kids will adore; they love this bread and will probably shower me with affectionate hugs and kisses when I bake it again…)

What about you? Any  young Chileans floating into your life these days? Dancers? Maybe not, but if my kids are any measure, you may want to try baking up this loaf just for fun. Bonus hugs and extra smooches are always worth the effort…

Sourdough!

Two batches of sourdough

Gave two small boules to Mad’s intrepid science teacher, and shared a jaco with our in-laws

I grew up in a home where every day meant fresh sourdough bread on the table. There was an endless supply coming from our family’s bakery, and though I knew our sourdough was better than most, I was horribly surprised to land in Colorado as a young adult and discover that good bread couldn’t be found everywhere. As much as I loved the mountains in Colorado, that preservative-rich, chewy white bread that abounded there was dreadful. Eew! Eew! Eew!

In Colorado I tried to make my own sourdough but miserably failed. My baking skills were still too juvenile and I could only make beautiful yet inedible and overly sour loaves. Most of them were shaped into long flutes and served as fighting weapons for my kids. They were so heavy and hard and horrible!
Now that I’ve been baking consistently for many years now, I finally  decided I was ready to become a baker of sourdough. I can keep a starter alive–I can look at dough and know where it’s at in its rise, and I’ve learned some of the oven tricks which help create an artisan loaf. I’ve been gearing up for this big day for quite some time and yippee!!! I made my first real loaf of sourdough!!!
I say real loaf because I have successfully made several very edible batches of sourdough using the no-knead method, where you add starter to your mix, along with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, and bake off your loaves in an enamel or iron pot. And believe me, the no-knead bread is an amazing imposter and worth perfecting. But what I’m talking about is this method: mix-by-hand, let rise for 12 hours, then mold, then let rise another 10 hours, then bake. It’s patience bread, really, and so worth the time…

Sourdough is made by mixing “sourdough starter,” (or mother dough–or levain) with flour, salt, and water. The starter is a yeast mixture of wild yeast, flour and water that is kept alive by regular “feedings.” I know, it sounds a lot like having another baby in the house. This baby, however, eats infrequently, and lives happily in your cupboard or fridge…

Unlike my brother’s bakery, Etxea Bakery in LA, the temperatures and climate in my house vary from day to day, so baking a loaf of sourdough takes a watchful eye. The first batch I baked rose for an initial 12 hours (from 8am to 8pm), then I molded it and let it rise on the counter until 11pm, then I put it in the fridge until 7am the next morning, when I finally baked it. Almost 24 hours start to finish. The second batch rose for 16 hours (from 10 pm until 2pm the next day!), then I molded it, and baked it off at 6pm that evening. A 20-hour journey for this batch–and quite a different voyage for the two rises. Both batches were delicious, but so varied in the way those little yeasties went to work…

Some things I learned:

  • The first rise, just like in all other types of baking, will always take much longer
  • Sourdough is very resilient. The bread can even seem a bit flimsy when going into the oven, like it has overproofed, but the oven spring is amazing.
  • Working with sourdough seems very forgiving. The time frames are so much longer–if you need another half hour to finish a chore, it won’t ruin the bread to wait…

I’ll be posting a sourdough recipe in the next few weeks. For now, if you live in LA and want some terrific sourdough that my brothers are producing, you can grab a friend or spouse, and head to one of these hot restaurants for a taste 🙂

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe–Malibu

26 Beach Restaurant–Venice

Cafe on Location–Tarzana

Fin’s–Calabassas

Fin’s–Westlake

Fonz’s Steaks and Seafood–Manhattan Beach

Fratelli’s NY Pizza–Woodland Hills

John O’Groats–Encino

John O’Groats–West LA

Kate Mantilini’s–Beverly Hills

Kate Mantilini’s-Woodland Hills

Kip’s–El Segundo

Lawry’s Carvery–Century City

Lawry’s Carvery–S Coast Plaza

Lawry’s–Beverly Hills

Literati Cafe–West LA

Malibu Seafood–Malibu

Michael’s--Santa Monica

Neli’s Deli–West LA

Nichol’s Restaurant–Marina del Rey

Petrelli’s Steakhouse–Culver City

Rock’n Fish–LA

Rock’n Fish–Manhattan Beach

Stanley’s–Sherman Oaks

Tam O’Shanter–LA

The Galley–Santa Monica

The Great Greek–Sherman Oaks

Tony’s Liquor and Deli–Sherman Oaks

Venice Beach Wines–Venice

Sorrento’s Italian Market–Culver City

Zin Bistro–Westlake Village

Rosemary Rolls

Rosemary Rolls–some made into the shape of a heart

Mixed: 12:30 pm

Molded: 2 :00

Baked: 3:30

Gave to parents of brand-new-baby Salem Isabel!

Here’s a recipe showing how I bake using my kitchen aid as a mixer. I love to mix my doughs by hand, but every now and again I end up using the machine. Recently, when my shoulder was giving me painful fits, it was the only way I was able to make bread using just one arm.

EVERYONE in our home loves rosemary rolls–I love them most at the mixing stage, when I’m chopping the rosemary and the pungent smell fills the kitchen; it rubs all over my hands and lifts my spirits. With the smell seems to come an extra dose of hope and joy to my day, and those are two virtues that I can’t get enough of…

Rosemary grows like a wild weed here in Santa Barbara. Here’s a photo of one planted in our yard, which I’m trying to prune to fan out below my office window.

Rosemary is planted in medians along the roadways here, it crawls up stone walls, and sometimes the upright shrub can be seen reaching to the sky, pretending to be a tree… It’s from the mint family, which explains the intense aroma, and its native growing ground is in the Mediterranean. If you live in a colder climate, you can pot it and bring it indoors, like we did when we lived in Colorado. Rosmarinus means “dew of the sea” and maybe it’s my love for the ocean that causes me to bake these rolls so very often. (If you’re not my friend on facebook, where I post my weekly beach photos, friend me!)

Here is a quick recipe for one of my favorites! If you give it a whirl, I’d love to hear how the recipe worked for you.

(By the way, it’s basically my French bread recipe except for these three differences. It’s mixed with a machine, rosemary is added, and I’ve increased the amount of ingredients in order to make a bigger batch of dough for more rolls. Makes about 16.)

Time Commitment: Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, have to be in and out of the house for at least 3 1/2 hours in order to make these rolls. If you choose to retard the dough after the first rise, then it makes this recipe very flexible.

Tools you need:
  • Cookie sheets or bread peel
  • Large mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Kitchen-aid or other such mechanical bread mixer thingy
  • Other tools I use, but that aren’t imperative: spray bottle, parchment paper, dough scrapers, baking stone,

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use Trader Joe’s unbleached flour in the blue bag)
  • 1 cup bread flour (could use all TJ’s flour, but I like to add a bit of high protein bread flour to the mix)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (can use cake yeast, just need to double it)
  • 16-17 ounces of cool or lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • rice flour or corn meal for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
What to do:

Step One: Combine all dry ingredients in mixer bowl set with a dough hook. Mix for a quick minute, then add all of the water. Mix on second setting (not too fast and not too slow) for about 6-7 minutes.

Step Two: Add rosemary. Mix for another two or so minutes. The dough should be flinging around the inside of the mixing bowl, hopefully not sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s really sticking, then add more flour little by little. Be careful not to over-flour your dough; it makes the bread awfully dense. Do the dishes, or the laundry, or light a candle while the mixer does its work.

Step Three: Oil a large glass or ceramic bowl. Transfer your dough from the mixer to the oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel. Allow it to rise for at least an hour (in my kitchen it usually takes at least 90 minutes–and more typically 2 hours) until doubled in bulk. If I want it to rise more quickly, then I heat my oven to 100 degrees (this is a very low setting and many ovens don’t go this low, but you could just heat your oven for 4-5 minutes, then turn it off…) and proof the dough inside the warm oven.

Step Four: Time to prepare my pans for baking, then mold the dough. First, I take out a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. I reuse my sheets of parchment paper 2-3 times. I sprinkle the paper with rice flour (you can also use corn meal or regular flour) in order to easily remove the bread when it’s baked.

Divide the dough in half with a sharp knife or dough scraper. Then divide each piece in half (that makes four). Then halve the little doughlets again (that makes eight!). Then in half again!!! 16 🙂 I love making rolls; my brothers can mold rolls using both hands at the same time. I’m not that gifted. Maybe someday.

To shape the rolls, fold the dough in thirds, then with the seam side down, begin to roll the dough like a top across your counter, spinning on the inside of your cupped palm. Make sure your counter is clean and not dusted with flour, so the dough sticks to it a bit. I tried to demonstrate this in the video. Once the rolls are shaped and placed on the parchment paper, cover them with a damp cloth.

(Step Four and a Half: This is an optional step, and is the point when you can easily put your molded loaves into the fridge for a period of retarding. I’ve retarded loaves for between two and twelve hours… Just make sure your molded dough is covered with a moist cloth; you don’t want it to dry out. If you’re putting the loaves into the fridge for just an hour or two, then it’s best to let them rise a bit before putting them next to your chilly leftovers. If you’re retarding your bread all night, then you probably don’t need to let them rise at all before you head to bed…

When you remove the dough from the fridge, if the loaves have fully doubled their bulk, then set them on the counter just a few minutes before you bake. If the dough hasn’t fully risen when you pull them from the fridge, then allow them to finish rising, then straight into the oven they go.)

Step Five: Allow the dough to again double in size. This rise takes less time than the first, usually about 40 minutes to an hour. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Step Six: Your rolls are ready to bake and the oven is HOT. Place your cookie sheet onto the baking stone in the center of the oven. Take a spray bottle and spray in your oven, (I like to spray below the bread, but be careful of the heating elements…) to create steam. I typically do this twice during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 425 degrees. Rolls take less time to bake than larger loaves–I typically bake the rolls for another 16-18 minutes (a total of 26-28 in all).

Step Seven: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  Then, the best part. Share : )

World Cup Bread–Uruguay

Baked two loaves of Uruguayan sweet anise bread

(Also made some faina…)

Mixed: 8:15 am

Molded: 10:15 am

Baked: 11 am

Gave to Steven and Elaine, nice neighbors who just moved in next door

My husband and I are big soccer fans. Almost geeky in our love for the sport. He played as a child, and we both played for many years as adults. There’s something really addicting about chasing after that black and white ball–and scoring goals. I really loved to score goals 🙂

So, each year when the World Cup comes around we break all our normal television rules, call the cable company for service, and rise at whatever time needed to watch the matches. Yes, geeky in our love…

Anyway, I’m a big South American fan and come the semi-finals I was rooting on Uruguay with fervor. I got so excited about their chances that I decided to look up some Uruguayan bread and bake away. I got even more excited when I found a recipe for a gluten-free flatbread called faina or farinata. It’s a mixture of garbanzo bean flour, parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper and olive oil. It sounded wonderful and I was ready to pass on this great new find to all my gluten-intolerant pals. But… the faina is pretty near horrible stuff. I made it two nights ago and everyone in the family gave it a willing whirl. The comments that passed around the table went like this: “disgusting,” “awful,” “how could you?!”

I began to despair for Uruguay. If this is what the team is fed on then no wonder they lost to the Netherlands.

Here it is–I made a tower out of the pieces that I cut into cracker-like shapes. I’m not sure what else to do with it–except play. The kids said it might make a good Lord of the Rings lembas if we were in an epic tale of despair versus hope, (and that we would win by feeding it to the bad guys) but….

Ahhh, but I gave the Uruguayans a second chance with the Sweet Anise Bread recipe that I found. I fiddled and adjusted a few things, and wow, what a delicious bread! I was happy to share with our brand new neighbors on the corner, which led to an afternoon of getting to know them–a blessing we haven’t had from tenants in that house in a long time.

So, Germany and Uruguay play in just a few hours. Depending on the outcome, I think I’ll know which bread they ate for breakfast before the match.

Ingredients: Additives

Two loaves of sourdough

Mixed: 9:15 pm

Molded: 3:30 pm next day

Baked: 5:30 pm

Gave one to Dr R, ate the other with our tomato soup

A picture speaks a thousand  ingredients…

Most commercial breads have a shelf life of ten days. When you bake bread at home, using flour, water, salt and yeast, your bread doesn’t need much of a shelf life at all. You can simply enjoy it when it’s warm, eat it as toast the next day, and make croutons or bread crumbs if any is left over. Since we bake very little for our own consumption–about one loaf every two to three days for five people, we rarely have stale bread on our hands. And I’ve certainly never had a leftover loaf of bread grow mold!

Even if you’re not interested in making your own bread, I’d encourage you to purchase breads not made with preservatives. The added ingredients on a package of bread are there to prevent the growth of mold, help the manufacturers create a more uniform and “cloned” product, and to add to the flavor… They are not mixed into the dough, with love, for the benefit of the consumer, but for the profitability of the producer…

Just so you know.

Fifth Century–Roasted Barley Bread

Two loaves of roasted barley bread

Mixed: 8:45 pm

Molded: 1:30 pm next day

Baked: 3:45 pm

Gave one loaf to the Dunn’s–ate the other

Ever since visiting Telegraph Brewery, here in Santa Barbara, I’ve been wanting to use the rest of the spent barley that was scooped out of that very cool copper cooking contraption. It’s one of those impressive machines that the brewers in the fifth century would have given many cows and sheep for. My first use of the barley came straight from the copper tub and I mixed it into my dough, the barley still warm and plump and sweet from being boiled. Using the barley this way was delicious in the bread–it added flavor, texture and taste, and I would bake bread again and again like this if I lived down the road from the brewery and could sneak over for scoops on the sly. I posted about this bread a week or so ago.

Another probable fifth century use for the spent barley I’ve been thinking about is–drying, then roasting, then grinding the barley, to mix in with the wheat flour. It doesn’t sound that outlandish, does it? Roasting is not a new idea–we roast tea leaves and coffee beans and veggies, and the Ancient Celts were formidable roasters–it was their festal and favorite way of cooking meat. I don’t think I’m too far off thinking that maybe some baker cousin of Saint Brigid had red hair, was a bit odd like I am, and roasted barley on occasion to put in her bread.

I set to work.

First I spread the plump and boiled barley out on a cookie sheet. The oven had been used that evening, so once it cooled I put the sheet of barley inside to dry over night. It dried for about 18 hours before I cranked up the oven to broil, then placed the barley back in for three minutes.

I’m famous in this house for burning things. The oven was just dinging three minutes when I pulled the smoking tray out. We ran for the doors and windows so the smoke alarm didn’t sound. Sure enough, the barley in the middle portion of the cookie sheet was burnt. Oh, well. I decided that in the fifth century, folks probably burned things too. So I let the barley cool, then scooped half of it into my small, wooden mortar.

I ground the pestle around for a long while–maybe even 15 minutes–having to switch back and forth between hands, until the mix became as fine as I could make it. Then I called my effervescent daughter, spooned the second half of the barley from the tray into the mortar, and asked her to have at it.

Once the mix was finished, I couldn’t resist smelling it. My nose just wandered that way… I wanted to brew it, and taste it. It reminded me of a roasted green tea that I like to drink– Hoji-cha–and it even smelled a bit like coffee.

On to the bread. This was to be as fifth century as I could make it. Here’s my mix:

3 cups of unbleached white, wheat flour

1/3 cup of roasted and hand ground barley

2 tablespoons of Telegraph yeasties

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (not Celtic, though. I saw some at the store and it was too pricey for me at $9/container)

1 1/2 cups well water (just kidding–no wells around here. Used the cool water out of the filtered faucet…)

The bread behaved beautifully. I’m convinced that this brewer’s yeast direction is not only a fifth century thing to do, but that we twenty tenners could learn a lesson or two about being nice to the ale makers. Instant yeast is expensive, and both the straight yeast that is siphoned off the beer tanks, and the brewer’s yeast starter I’ve created (liquid brewer’s yeast mixed with flour) have worked beautifully with the no-knead, pain a la Suzanne, method. Yes, befriend a brewer. Not only could you swap loaves of bread for glasses of ale, and maybe swap some stories while you’re at it, but both the spent barley and the yeast are worth having in your fridge on baking day…

So, the roasted barley in the bread made it almost black. I was surprised at the color; I didn’t expect 1/3 cup of ground barley to make such an impact.

And the flavor was…good… but odd. Perfect toasted, with butter and something sweet, like pomegranate jam, or cinnamon sugar, but not a good bread for a potluck or to bring as a hostess gift. Unless you’re bringing it through a time warp, back to Saint Brigid and her household. I bet she’d love this creative loaf. And while you’re taking a loaf of roasted barley bread back to Saint Brigid, go ahead and take back one of those copper beer boilers, too. You could set up shop brewing, and I could set up shop baking, and we’d be friends, having a good ole time, and you’d gladly let me slyly scoop your warm spent barley out of your copper pot.

Just think. No cell phones. No flat screens TVs and Superbowl Sundays. No carpooling in our Volvos. Instead there’d be brewers, and bakers, and candlestick makers, and chieftains trying to marry you off to poets, and bards strumming away, singing around the campfire… It might be cold and rainy at times. And the houses might be smoky (from my roasting efforts!). But we could settle in Kildare, and cheer on the monks illuminating the manuscripts, and sing with the nuns in the Cathedral, and share the work of our hands with a growing community of those fun-loving, crazy Irish, who, at that time, still went to war dressed in not much more than their swords and shields…

Amazing where a story on roasting barley can lead you…

Cheers!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fifth Century–Irish Soda Bread

Two loaves of Irish Dark Soda Bread

Mixed, molded and baked: 5 pm

(You can mix it and have it oven-ready in just minutes!)

Gave to the Harris Family–they are willing to try any bizarre breads of mine!

First off–I have to say, the title above is a misnomer to be sure. In the fifth century, the Irish had no idea of sodium bicarbonate, and Saint Brigid certainly wasn’t handing out soda bread to the hungry. Though American Indians were using this type of leavening agent long before the Europeans, it wasn’t brought to Ireland until 1840 0r so. So, I’m off by many, many centuries. But this being the month of the Irish in our home, I just couldn’t resist making soda bread at least once. It’s so easy, and tasty, and… well, we were having Irish stew, and it was raining heavily, and there was a fire in the hearth, and we just happened to have a bottle of Guinness on hand. It couldn’t be helped.

I’ve made this recipe before and knew it would be completely edible and yummy. It has a muffiny taste, a nice crust and would be a great bread to have a youngster make with some supervision. All they need to do is measure out the ingredients, stir a little, shape a little, and then get some help with the scoring and the oven entry. I use a recipe by Jeff Smith from his cookbook: The Frugal Gourmet–On Our Immigrant Ancestors (but he accidentally forgot the salt in his dark version, so don’t forget to add a teaspoon back in..). There’s also an amazingly simple but delicious potato leek soup recipe in this cookbook that I make time and again during periods of fasting.

Basic Facts on Soda Bread

  • In order to activate baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate, you need acid. Lemon juice, cream of tartar, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar all work. Buttermilk is the traditional ingredient the Irish use to activate the soda in soda bread.
  • When the soda and acid is mixed, carbon dioxide is released, this is what makes the dough rise. The activity begins immediately, so you don’t want to overmix your dough, or let it sit around a long time before sliding it into your hot oven. I definitely overmixed mine. I’ve been too caught up in yeast bread–in kneading, and kneading… Next time I’ll behave.
  • One of the primary mining spots for sodium bicarbonate is in Colorado. The natural mineral is nahcolite. I used to drive by one of the large mining communities on my way to Glenwood Springs when I was working for my father’s baking company and living in Colorado. They are proud of their baking soda! You can find this soda dissolved in mineral springs all around the world…
  • The first commercial factory to develop baking soda was founded in New York in 1846.
  • When you make soda bread, cut a deep cross into the top of the dough. This allows you one more way to offer the bread both to Christ, and to those you’re feeding, plus it allows heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the dough.
  • The traditional ingredients for soda bread are: wheat flour (preferable spring wheat, which contains little gluten), buttermilk, salt and baking soda.
  • I have always kept a ceramic sheep in my spice cupboard, right on top of a small jar of baking soda. I think everyone should have sheep here and there, some lost and some found, and even some in the spice cabinet…

There are many soda bread recipes on the web that you could try. I would find a simple recipe first, that doesn’t have too many additional ingredients, just so you can taste the bread the way the Irish really like it.

Soda bread is such fun to make. And it takes just a pinch of the time that a yeast bread requires. Let me know your results!

Fifth Century Baking–Experimenting with Barley and Brewer’s Yeast

French Jaco made with brewer’s yeast–No-knead made with spent barley and brewer’s yeast…

Mixed, molded, baking like crazy. And as an aside, we’ve got mushrooms growing all over our yard, the roses are blooming for the last time before they get pruned, and epiphany and the blessing of the waters was awesome!

According to my research, a typical meal in an Anglo-Saxon household consisted of a pot of soup or stew and a loaf of bread. The breads ranged from brown and basic, to sweetened and full of surprises. And if it was a day for feasting, then the breads became more exotic, maybe even were served twice–one loaf with the first course (or sending): bread, soft cheese and stewed meat, and then again at the end (after the fish and veggie course), as a sweetened bread, paired with baked fruits. If they were REALLY having a party, then they would get out their roasting sticks, and serve their food on “trenchers,” large slices of coarse, stale bread used as plates. I’m still trying to imagine how that’s done.

With all the fresh foods available to us these days, we don’t need to rely so heavily on bread and grain for our diet, but it’s fun to see what food and life was like more than 1,500 years ago.  When it comes to bread baking, and the basic methods and ingredients, not a whole lot has changed.

Baking with Brewer’s Yeast

My first two experiments have proved interesting. I read somewhere on the web that brewer’s yeast wouldn’t rise a loaf of bread–but that’s just not true. Brian, at Telegraph Brewery, explained that at the brewery they are using the same strain of yeast that is found in bread baking–just that it has been honed a different way to encourage and enhance different flavors for their various batches of beer. Since I love making a very basic loaf of bread–the jaco that I mention from time to time–(the basic recipe is in the comments section of my Burning Down the House post, and also on my recipe page under French Bread) I thought I would try my basic batch simply using the yeast trub as a leavening agent, since there’s nothing fancy at all in that mix of bread and it would easily show the results of any changes. Here are my notes:

Jaco and Boule with Brewer’s Yeast

3 cups of unbleached white flour

3/4 cups of whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

14 ounces water

2 tablespoons yeast trub (sucked off of Telegraph’s Robust Ale tank) instead of the typical 2 teaspoons of instant, dried yeast

Mixed: 2:35 pm–very soft and silky feeling. Finally doubled at 9:45 pm after having to proof in the oven for a bit at 100 degrees to get it moving. Molded at 9:45 pm–felt kind of floppy while molding. Retarded in fridge all night. Took out at 7:30 am–again, looked floppy, lacking structure. Heated oven, baked at 8:20 am–when I scored it, the dough was not floppy, but very dense and I realized that it should have risen on the counter for another couple of hours. Oh well. Here are the jaco and boule right before heading into the oven…

The bread structure, after its bake, was more open than I thought it would be, but it was still quite dense. The flavor was yummy–there was no trace of a beer taste. It was not overly yeasty. The brewer’s yeast responded like a sourdough might, taking its time to work through the dough. Next time I just need to be more patient. Here are the two loaves, baked… Not fabulous, but not horrid, either.

Mix Number Two–using the no-knead method

2 cups unbleached white

3/4 cups whole wheat

Heaping 1/2 cup spent barley from Telegraph

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

Rest of the liquid–used cool water–totaling 1 5/8 cup of liquid)

1 tablespoon yeast trub from the Robust Ale tank, instead of typical 1/4 teaspoon dried instant yeast

Mixed: 2:15 pm–the dough was a bit too wet, I think. Should have used only 1 1/2 cups of liquid or even less because of the moisture content already in the barley. Here, you can see the spent barley mixed in…

Molded 7:30 am the next day–it shaped just fine. Baked 8:50 am. Ate–that night. The crumb was a little too wet, but the spent barley added nice flavor and everyone gobbled it up with the meal. Thumbs up all around. The yeast didn’t work any differently than if I had added the typical 1/4 teaspoon of dried. Great outcome.

So, I think that the brewer and the baker must have been friends in ancient days. I’ll give you loaves of my bread for your table, if you give me some of your barm for my bread. Let’s be friends. Saint Brigid –at Kildare–created a thriving community of monastics (she was Abbess over both men and women) and of lay people, who engaged in all sorts of typical trades, plus there were artists galore who lived and thrived there… I think the bakers and brewers were good buds, maybe even with their workshops side by side–on the foody side of town.

Do you have friends that you trade with? Sharing our resources creates opportunities to share of ourselves–to help each other, and to minimize on that all–too-often act of opening our wallet. I swap babysitting, and carpool, but that’s about the extent of my world of trade. I’d like to expand on that idea. Tell me your stories of the Baker and the Brewer in your corner of the world…

Fifth Century–The Brewer and the Baker

Three loaves of Jim’s Irish Brown Bread–from Jim Lahey’s My Bread

Mixed Tuesday and Wednesday eves

Molded–Baked–All that…

Gave one loaf to neighbors on the next block that we sort of, kind of know. Ate one loaf. Gave the third loaf to Brian at Telegraph Brewing. Here he is by his shiny tanks…

These past two days have been all about brown, Irish-style bread. Who would think that bread made with a small scoop of bran, a lot of wheat, both white and whole, plus buttermilk and brown ale would be so very good! The loaf that we saved for ourselves was gobbled up in no time. It’s already being requested as a favorite by the kids. We slathered the slices with a hazelnut chocolate spread. Oh, my…

Most of what went into these loaves makes them quite authentic to Saint Brigid’s time. There would have been both whole wheat and “fine” (white–what they preferred, if they could afford it) flour available. There would have been buttermilk, especially as Brigid and her mom tended cows, including one white cow with red ears… And there would have been brown ale. Brewers and bakers back then were important folks to have around. Have you ever seen this poem attributed to Saint Brigid, where she wishes lakes of beer for everyone? There are a variety of translations from the original; this is one that I like:

I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.


So, there I was hanging out with my husband and my four year-old at Telegraph Brewing Company here in Santa Barbara.

Brian, the proprietor and Master Beer Guy, was kind enough to give us a quick tour and talk to us about “spent barley” and “yeast trub” and the whole world of brewer’s yeasties. Though I have some very potent sourdough starter at my disposal, and I do think the sour starter is a very valid method of rising dough that was used in the fifth century–a method that pre-dated those cute little packets of instant yeast :)–brewer’s yeast is mentioned so often in my research that I just had to try and see what all the fuss was about.

Brian first let me taste some of the spent barley–it was sweet and warm and delicious, reminding me of a satisfying, hot morning cereal–and then bagged some up for me to bring home and bake with. Here it is, still warm in its copper tank…

This barley is the grain that is going to eventually make a batch of experimental brown ale that Brian is trying out. Normally he sends his spent barley off to a farmer in Carpinteria, who uses it in his compost mix, but today that farmer got one baggy less, thanks to me! I’m anxious to fiddle with barley. It seems to be the poorest of the grains used in the fifth century–the one that monastics seem to have used frequently in their bread baking. I’ve never eaten bread made with barley, have you? I have a batch of slow-rise bread working right now, that has some of that barley mixed into it.

After a quick tour of the brewery we got down to brewer’s yeast business. Brian opened the tap off the bottom of his Robust Ale, which he makes each spring, and after a plug of hops sludged its way out…

The nice brown, batter-like yeast mixture filled the cup. Ooh, it smelled so good, so alive and ready for adventure.

So we headed home and I immediately got to work. I’m sure Saint Brigid’s days were full of chores, too. I had laundry, and dishes, and notes to write, but I wanted to get some dough working as well. While the baby played, and the washer trudged through another cycle in the other room, I mixed up a new starter, using just the brown ale brewer’s yeast, mixing it with a cup of flour and a bit of water. My very own Telegraph Starter. I then mixed up a batch of barley/wheat bread, using brewer’s yeast instead of the typical 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast… and also started a batch of French bread, using just the yeast trub as a leavening agent. We’ll see. So fun to experiment with all these natural grains and methods. So fun to head back several centuries and pretend to be a part of another time.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know the results of today’s play.

In the meantime, I know one thing. The people in Haiti are suffering, and I’m here baking in my cozy kitchen. One reason I love to bake, and knead by hand, is so I can pray while I work that dough, watching it change before my eyes… Please join me in praying for those people, who could use more than a loaf or two of bread. Who could use some mercy, and many hands reaching their way in love.