A Baker’s Funday With the Yeastee Beastees

I’ve been engaged in bread-play this weekend – for me, bread-play is different from serious bread making, which I guess I’d call, bread-work.  Bread-play is where I start by asking myself a “what if” question, and then experimenting by trying something I’ve never done before – notice I didn’t say, “trying something that nobody ever tried before” – that’d be the height of presumptuousness, since I’m quite a novice as far as bread making goes – but that just means there is a lot to learn, and I learn best by doing – and it’s great fun – so bread-play.

My motivation sprang from my recent introduction to a fellow bread baking blogger, Tupper Cooks .  As I perused the blog, I came across a recipe for Veronica’s Buttery Beer Bread – an interesting quick-bread!  The mind of a sourdough baker always looks at such recipes with an inbred question, “what would this taste like as a sourdough bread?”.  And I knew immediately that this would be my Saturday fun.

Did you know that in the making of bread, or the making of beer, we’re only talking about one yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but that single yeast has been cultured in different ways over thousands of years to do different jobs.  Now, if we make this quick-bread into a sourdough loaf, I will be mixing the yeast of the beer with the yeast of the sourdough, and I need to know what happens when we combine these two yeast cultures?

Well, I guess that depends a lot on whether the yeast in the beer is dead or alive, as we know well that the sourdough yeasts are alive.  Awhile ago I did a post on ancient yeasts being used to make modern beer, and made reference to a Wired magazine article in which I learned that some beers/ales today are still being made with live, active yeasts in the bottle.  My second guess is that if two live different yeasts are introduced into a bread dough, they will simply do battle with each other, just as any single yeast would do battle to outlive his fellow yeastees – and to the stronger goes the victory.

However, if anyone is really interested in this question, here’s a discusssion of barm bread on Dan Lepard’s bread site (Dan is a British bread baking celeb, and barm is the foamy residue that’s left after fermentation of beer or ale), where Dan suggests that if a live sourdough yeast and a live ale/beer yeast are both used to bake bread, they both contribute to the complex flavor elements of the finished loaf.

But since so few commercial brews today contain live yeasts,  it’s really a mute question – I will be using a dead yeast (pasteurized) beer.

I know immediately that I’ll have to tighten this dough, so it can be kneaded – as a quick-bread, it’s too wet.  So, we’ll add at least a cup more of flour – my quick calculations tell me that this will make a 62% hydration dough – should easily knead on the KA stand mixer.  I’m also going to change the amount of butter in here, but only because the butter was intended to sit on top of the loaf, and we won’t be using a loaf pan – so, we’ll put just half the butter into the loaf – that’s still plenty enough to still call it,

Sourdough Buttery Beer Bread

1/2 cup of active 100% hydration sourdough starter
4 cups of AP or Bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt –  or to taste
1/4 cup of sugar
12 oz. of beer/ale
1/2 stick of melted butter

The process for these two breads are worlds apart – where, with the quick-bread, we baked as soon as we put the batter in the pan, here, we must honor the fact that sourdough demands time – and a lot of it – to do its magic.  I’m going to skip the details here, because I assume that if you’ve read this far, you know a little bit about working with sourdough, and I’ll spare you the detail.  Even if this is a first for you, you just need to know that once all the ingredients are mixed, you can proceed just as you would for a yeasted dough.  But give this one an overnight in the fridge, followed by a longer proofing period than for a yeast bread – mine took a full 6 hours to proof, and I probably could have given it another hour.  I baked at 375F.

More Like the Crumb of a Quick-bread!

I’ve always appreciated the willingness of some  food bloggers to share their mistakes with their readers – certainly not all do this.  I learn best by doing, but my father taught me the value of learning from the mistakes of others – it can save one tons of wasted time and $$$.  So, following in that grand tradition, please allow me to share with you what went wrong during my fun-day.

  • As I said above, this dough is a 62% hydration – or should be – a fairly dry dough, but as I mixed it on the stand mixer, it never left the bottom of the bowl.  That means that either I made a mistake in my measurements -always a possibility- or that perhaps the CO2 in the beer gave the dough a more “liquid” character than without it.  I also noticed that I didn’t get a good gluten development, also maybe a CO2, or maybe even an alcohol related issue.  In the Dan Lepard discussion referenced above, at one point he says that when a beer or ale is used in a sourdough mix, it should first be boiled for 5 minutes to remove the alcohol, since too much alcohol can have a detrimental affect on the sourdough.  I read that “after” I had baked, but next time I’ll do that.

  • The texture of this loaf was, surprisingly, more like a quick-bread than a sourdough!  It was fragile and almost crumbly – but now having read the Dan Lepard discussion above, I’d bet that either the CO2 or the alcohol in the beer retarded the development of the gluten, and resulted in this observed texture.
  • I’m not sure I’d add all that sugar and butter next time – I suspect the sugar covered what may have been a natural sweet character of the mutual yeasts marrying.  And the butter tended to change the texture “away” from where I was headed, conceptually.
  • We loved the taste of this!  Especially for toast after it sat out on the counter for a few days – does everyone know how well sourdough bread keeps on the counter at room temp, as compared to a yeasted bread?

This post is aimed at those bakers out there who like to have a little “bread-play” every once in awhile – if you get pleasure in a little experimentation now and then, let me propose that balancing on that fine line between beer and bread, and discovering nature’s secrets in that new world is a worthy use of your leisure time – or even the time when you really should have been out mowing the lawn!

I’ll be sending this to Susan at Wild Yeast for inclusion in YeastSpotting,  in the hope that a few other bakers who hang there may be as interested in this fascinating world as am I.

About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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7 Responses to A Baker’s Funday With the Yeastee Beastees

  1. Mimi says:

    You had some of the same observations on your beer bread I had on mine.

    First problem – I think we should have left the beer out to go flat. I used fresh beer both times and I think the CO2 definately did a number on the proofing. What looked like yeast action was, I suspect, beer bubbles. It made for one gassy bread, lol!!

  2. drfugawe says:

    Hi Mimi,
    I’ve got to go back and look at your beer bread again – regrettably, I’ve done a lot more research “after” I posted (why do we always do that?) and I now see that the pros never use raw beer – but Dan Lepard says nothing about CO2 being the culprit, he says it’s alcohol that retards rising, and that’s why he suggests boiling the beer before using! But of course, boiling it will kill the yeast in it, so his Barm Bread is not using the barm’s yeast, but only its flavor components.

    Whatever – it was still quite good, and if doing it correctly improves it, so much the better. We’ll see.

  3. Tupper Cooks says:

    Hey Doc- Cool loaf. I’m pretty impressed with the amount of time and effort that went into it. That ain’t your momma’s beer bread for sure. Your discussion and interpretation of the process is certainly helping this novice baker’s education along. You’re motivating me to take the next step into the sourdoughs. Of course then I might not get the lawn mowed, but who cares, right?

  4. Mary Smiley says:

    That looks really tasty! I wish I’d had some to go with my morels in wine/cream reduction over mushroom ravioli!

  5. Pingback: YeastSpotting April 16, 2010 | Wild Yeast

  6. drfugawe says:

    Tup, thanks for the motivation – may your loaves just keep getting better and better!

    Mary, Damn girl, you sure do eat well! Yeah, you’re right, it’s time to get out in the woods and see what’s poppin’. This is not prime morel ground here, but if I don’t go out, how will I ever know that for sure?

  7. Mari Bosco says:

    Hello! This was a really interesting post. I was wondering, if after all this time, if you have ever tried to put in raisins soaked in rum lets say into a sourdough loaf and notice an effect in the final result. I am playing around with putting some in to my hot cross buns this weekend and would love to know if you have had experience with this.

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