The Four Loaves of the Apocalypse, or Baking with Brewers’ Yeast

Four breads
Sometimes I get crazy ideas.  Like using “I Can Spell” as my campaign slogan for class secretary in 5th grade.  Or bringing my mom a plastic boat when the washing machine overflowed and flooded the kitchen.  I mean, she did say to “Go get something!”  Way to be specific, mom.  But I actually had a good crazy idea a few weeks ago.  I thought that it would be Fun to experiment with different strains of brewers’ yeast in my bread.

Granted, bakers’ yeast has been optimized for baking, so I guess it’s a fan of the particular sugars present in wheat flour.  But all yeasts eat sugars and expel carbon dioxide and alcohol.  I figured that brewers’ yeast might be fun to experiment with.  So, The Beloved and I took a trip out to the local home brew store, American Brewmaster.  I came home with a veritable Treasure Trove of goodies.  I bought three kinds of yeast, some Belgian candy sugar (which sat on the sidelines during this experiment–I kind of forgot about it.  You’ll see it in action soon enough, though.  I promise), and some dry malt extract.  I was going to get the syrupy malt extract, but The Guy told me that it is Very Susceptible to bacterial infiltration and just to get the dried.  I sullenly accepted his advice.
The Yeasts

Dry Malt Extract
So, then, there they were.  All my ingredients.  Facing me. Day after day.  Finally, after a couple of weeks, I broke down and decided that That Day was The Day.  I decided to be kind of scientific-y about the whole thing.  Each dough used exactly the same ingredients in the same proportions.  The only difference was the type of yeast I used.  I also labeled everything and gave all the dough the same amount of rise time both on the counter and in the fridge.

Incidentally, this is a fantastic wet-ish dough.  The long, uber-slow rise helps to develop some really nice chew and flavor, even using all purpose flour.  Even if you’re not feeling Up to the whole brewers’ yeast thing, this makes a great loaf that weighs about 1 1/2 pounds.

Very Basic Bread

  • 15 oz all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 9 oz cool warm-ish water (about 100F)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry malt extract (feel free to substitute molasses, honey, sugar, maple syrup–whatever type of sugar you want)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast

Weighing the flour

Measuring the yeast

salt and malt

water
Whisk together dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Turn on your mixer (fitted with the dough hook) to low speed and mix for three minutes.  Raise the speed to medium and knead for seven minutes.

**What follows is the rising schedule I used to bring out as much flavor as possible.  If you don’t have the time, increase the yeast to 1-2 teaspoons and let it rise once until doubled. Punch down, shape, let rise again and then bake.  Let the last rise happen in a greased loaf pan if you want a taller loaf.  Since this dough is pretty loose, it tends to spread a bit.

Apocalyptic Rising Schedule

    • Put each dough in a 1-gallon zip top bag.  Label (!) and let rise in a cool kitchen (65F) for 3 1/2 hours

.

    • Transfer to the fridge–don’t stack them–and let rise for a long over-night.  Mine rose for about 10 hours.

dough after overnight refrigeration

    • In the morning, put them back on the counter for 3 hours.
    • Oil your hands. Take each piece of dough out of its pouch. Punch each piece down and knead a few times to redistribute the yeast.  Round, oil and cover. Let rise again for 3 hours.

.Second Rise

    • Punch down again, press out all (most) of the large air bubbles, and shape.  Oil and cover. Let rise on a prepared baking sheet for another 1 1/2 hours.

The Final Rise

    • Slash (if you want) and bake at 350F for 25 minutes.

.Slashing the loaves

    • Remove from baking sheets and finish them directly on the racks for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 200-205F.

.the four loaves

  • Let cool completely on racks.  Slice and freeze.

*Since this dough is so slack and sticky, make sure to oil (or spray Pam on) your hands to keep it from sticking (to you or the counter) or to help you resist the urge to add more flour.

So, what did I learn from my experiment?  Well, I learned lots of stuff.

  1. Each yeast lends a slightly different character to the dough.
  2. The differences that I noted were fairly subtle.  I could only really detect them in side by side tests.
  3. Lager yeast definitely enjoys being in the fridge.  Lagers ferment at a lower temperature than ales, so it makes sense that the lager yeast was pretty happy in the fridge and in our 65F kitchen.
  4. Bread made with Nottingham ale yeast smells like oatmeal.  This is a Very Good Thing.
  5. The loaf made with the bread yeast (the Control Loaf), while still tasty, was the least interesting of the four loaves. Sorry, bread yeast.  I can absolutely Quit You.
  6. This base recipe would absolutely make the best baguettes.  Try it. A twitter friend uses the Safale Dry Ale yeast in her baguettes.  It yielded a pretty fine and regular crumb–perfect for baguettes.  Thanks, @ambermae
  7. You can never have too much bread in the house.

Toasted Bread
Enjoy, and have a lovely day!


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Comments

  1. says

    So cool! This totally lends credence to the B&B (Brewery and Bakery) idea that Nick and I have been nursing for a while now. So interesting to see how the different yeasts work – I can’t wait to do my own experiments with brewer’s yeast!

    • says

      Camille, if you and Nick make the B&B happen, I am coming to the opening! Now that I’ve done some experimenting, I think the possibilities might actually be limitless. You must start playing immediately! :)

  2. Hilah Johnson says

    Thanks for this! I’d always assumed brewer’s and baker’s yeast were not exchangeable. Now you got me all excited to go to the homebrew shop!

    • says

      It opened a whole new world of possibilities, bread-wise, @google-afd6a762b92a3db25cb94570e301aa5f:disqus ! Enjoy and experiment away! I’m thinking playing w/a champagne yeast and using some champagne *in* the dough would be fun!

  3. Ryan says

    Some beers are bottle-conditioned- meaning live yeast and extra sugar are pitched into the bottle to start another fermentation. Since the yeast is still alive, I wonder if you couldn’t just substitute a bottle conditioned beer for the water AND yeast in your recipe, and if a proper rise could be achieved that way. Yeast tends to settle in the bottle, so I’d probably give it a good shake before attempting this.

    • says

      That’s an interesting idea. My only concern about that would be that once the beer is carbonated via the bottle conditioning, most of the yeast would be killed off by the alcohol in the beer. On the other hand, I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a shot to see what would happen. Some of the yeasties might just be dormant and throwing them in with a bunch of new food would wake them up.

      Maybe try an experiment where you drain off all the beer and then pour the sediment out into a cup with a bit of warm water and a pinch or two of sugar and let it sit awhile to see if the yeast will start eating. If so, full steam ahead! If you try it, let me know, @3108fcc1a480dcff2c76ad5b3f49257a:disqus . I’d be interested in hearing your results!

  4. Becky says

    Fantastic! I was just wanting to try out brewer’s yeast for bread and am so glad I found your thread. I, too, live near American Brewmaster and will go out there today. I bake a lot with various wild yeast cultures from around the world and have been considering trying to introduce a brewer’s strain into one of those cultures to see if some kind of symbiosis might be possible among the naturally occurring yeast/bacilli and a 2nd yeast. Perhaps because brewer’s yeasts aren’t supercharged like baker’s yeast they might not out-compete. Can’t wait to try! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • says

      Honestly, Jean, I have no real idea. I don’t do substitution baking, so I’ve never tried to make a gluten free version. There are many experts who could help you, though. Janice Mansfield comes to mind: http://janicemansfield.com/ I do know that you can’t just substitute one gluten free flour for the AP that I used. Since you won’t have gluten for structure, that has to come from gums, such as xanthan gum. I do hope Janice will be able to help. At the very least, I’m sure she has some lovely gf bread recipes on her site. :)

  5. Ken says

    I’m a brewer and I currently have a batch of cider brewing using the wild yeasts from the skin of the apples. I might try and replicate one of your loaves using my dregs when this cider gets finished, and see how different from a sourdough it is.

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