When I got together with Nadine on Christmas Eve, not only did we visit and exchange gifts, but we also nailed down the first Communion bread of 2015. I suggested that, since it was New Year’s I could bake with champagne yeast and also use some wine in the bread. She agreed. If that doesn’t sound very nailed down to you, you’re not wrong. But at least I had a plan.
I went to American Brewmasters in Cary, NC to grab some champagne yeast. I talked to John who was On Duty on New Year’s Eve, and he told me that champagne yeast makes a very ton of bubbles. He was also intrigued with the idea of using brewer’s yeast to bake bread. I have done it before, and I showed him my Four Loaves of the Apocalypse post. With John’s blessing, I left with the champagne yeast and a plan to use very little of it so the bubbles wouldn’t get totally out of control. I figured that champagne yeast pita would be a good place to start. If this particular yeast really does get crazy with bubble-making, I figured, the structure of the bread might not stand up to it. Best to work with a flat bread first and then go from there.
For the batch of champagne yeast pita I made for Communion, I started with 2 oz of bread flour and 3 oz of water along with just a couple of drops of honey for yeast food. I added maybe 1/8 teaspoon of yeast and then let it burble for a few hours. When I got home and was ready to bake, I found very bubbly proto-dough floating on a slick of alcohol. I think my champagne yeasties got so excited they eventually drank themselves to death. Unfazed, I tossed it all into the mixing bowl, added more yeast, water, some prosecco and salt and made a very slack dough that then rose for another few hours.
The resulting bread was excellent, and I was happy to send it off to Nadine. In fact, the bread was so good that I decided to make more immediately. Rather than going through the whole yeasty ritual suicide by alcohol, I just made a straight dough with 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast for the whole batch.
Champagne yeast makes wee tiny bubbles, so while the dough doesn’t really look like it’s rising, the yeast is sneakily working away. I folded the fermenting dough about once an hour for four hours and then shaped and baked. These pitas were every bit as delicious as the first ones, and I feel pretty confident in sharing the recipe with you that you will like them too. They are super chewy with just a bit of a sharp edge from the Prosecco. The finish of smoked salt is perfect, but if you’re not a fan of smoke, just use any coarse-grained salt. Even just a sprinkle of pretzel salt would be great.
I based my formula on Barbara’s recipe for Whole Wheat Pita that she just posted for #ProgressiveEats. If you prefer to bake a bread that doesn’t take so long to make, check out her recipe made with a greater amount of traditional baker’s yeast.
- 13.5 oz (about 1 1/3 cup) water (I used cold from the fridge. Use room temperature water for a faster rise)
- 4 oz Prosecco, (or other sparkling or still white wine. Or light ale or lager)
- 24 oz bread flour, (about 5 cups)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, (plus more for oiling the dough)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Champagne yeast, (ask at the home brew store. They will show you what to use. It comes in a tiny packet just like the dry yeast from the grocery store)
- coarse salt, , smoked or otherwise, for rolling.
- Put all the ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Mix on low until the dough comes together, about 1-2 minutes.
- Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough should completely clear the sides and bottom of the bowl at this speed but will still be very sticky and soft when you touch it.
- Oil your hands and try to work the wet dough into a fairly smooth ball. Don't stress over this too much though. Oil the top of your sad ball of wet dough and cover with a lint-free towel.
- Make a cozy spot in your microwave by boiling a mug of water and then moving it out of the way. Stick the dough in the microwave with the hot water and close the door.
- Every hour for the next 4 hours, take the dough out and fold the edges of the ball into the center, sort of pressing down to redistribute the small amount of yeast. Oil the top again a bit and then recover. Reheat the water after 2 hours.
- After four hours of fermentation, the dough won't appear to have risen much at all. That's okay. The bubbles that champagne yeast makes are really tiny, but the yeasties are working. Honest.
- When you still have about 30 minutes left of your four hour rise, preheat the oven to 475F. Place a baking stone on the center rack.
- You will have roughly 41-ish oz of dough. Divide the dough into 8 5 oz portions (more or less) and lay them on a floured work surface. Sprinkle some flour on the tops of the portions and cover them with a towel.
- Working with one round at a time, shape into a ball with a smooth top. Press the dough out into a disc with your palm. Sprinkle a bit of salt evenly over the disc and then roll out to about 1/4" thickness. Your rounds should be about 6"-7" in diameter. Cover with the cloth again.
- If your dough bounces back when you try to roll it, just cover it and walk away for 5-10 minutes to let it relax and then roll again.
- Bake the rounds, 2 at a time, for 4 minutes on one side. The dough should puff up really big, but it might not. Either way is fine. The ones that puff will have "pockets," and the ones that don't will be pocketless.
- After 4 minutes, flip the puffed (or not) dough with a spatula and bake for an additional 2 minutes. Remove rounds to a rack to cool and continue baking until you have 8 lovely pitas.
- Enjoy warm or at room temperature however you like, and celebrate!
I just got an email from Nadine. She said the bread was a big hit and that their music worship leader walked off with a big chunk of the leftovers. You have to watch those music worship leaders like a hawk!
I do hope you give this festive bread a try. If you are really into making bread, I think you’ll find a whole new playground when working with brewing yeast. The different strains all behave in different ways, lending their own particular character to the bread. It’s a lot of fun to play around with.
I wish you all the happiest of New Years. Thank you so much for spending time with me today. Have a lovely day.