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.
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
**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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Slash (if you want) and bake at 350F for 25 minutes.
- Remove from baking sheets and finish them directly on the racks for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 200-205F.
- 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.
- Each yeast lends a slightly different character to the dough.
- The differences that I noted were fairly subtle. I could only really detect them in side by side tests.
- 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.
- Bread made with Nottingham ale yeast smells like oatmeal. This is a Very Good Thing.
- 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.
- 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
- You can never have too much bread in the house.