Domain name change!

It took a while but I finally have switched over to breadnbeer.com! I will update your subscriptions, so please erase the wordpress from my url!

Thanks and see you at breadnbeer.com!

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Sourdough Starter

Making a sourdough starter might be frustrating but it’s pretty simple. I’ll give you some easy steps to follow and then the rest is really up to the yeast! 

First sterilize the jar you’ll be using for your starter. You don’t want any bad bacteria to get in there and kill your yeast. I have beer brewing equipment so I used the sanitizer for beer bottles, but you can use a little bleach in a sink full of water. Let it sit for 5ish minutes, rinse and let dry.


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Then there’s different kinds of starters, soupy or more like dough. I usually do soupy, so I use 50/50 flour and warm water (usually 1/2 cup). You can use any flour: white, whole wheat or rye (whole wheat and rye are pretty good for the growth of yeast because it contains more minerals). It’s recommended to use an acidic liquid like pineapple juice (most recommended), lemon juice or even ascorbic acid (vitamin C) instead of water. There’s some bacteria called Leuconostoc that can interfere with your yeast but the acid takes care of them. After a day or two, you can switch over to warm water (un-chlorinated preferably!)


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If you don’t have anything acidic, don’t worry! Usually the environment of the starter gets to the point where it becomes to acidic for this bacteria to live anyways (however it’s a risk!)

In your sterile jar, pour in your flour and water. In this instance I’ve use my fresh ground whole wheat and warm water with some lemon juice. Stir the mix together in the jar until the flour is hydrated and let it sit in room or warm temperature for 48 hours, cover on (not sealed) or some plastic over top. I usually forget, but you can stir it a couple of times a day to give the yeast more oxygen which helps in its growth.


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There’s a couple of myths about sourdough like needing to use grapes or getting wild yeast from the air to get the sourdough flavour.

Really you’re just getting the yeast off of the wheat. Fruit can be used for food for the yeast and bacteria, but you really don’t need it and who knows if it’s pesticide free. And there isn’t enough wild yeast in the air to do anything to your sourdough starter.

Basically the wild yeast from the wheat start to grow with a bacteria called lactobacillus. This bacteria is the reason for the sourdough flavour. It comes from everywhere, yourself and whatever your touching. It raises the acidity level to make it perfect for this wild yeast to survive and not have to fight against other bacteria. Supposedly commercial yeast can’t survive the acidity level to make sourdough. (Remember there’s nothing wrong with commercial yeast – it’s yeast! But commercial yeast is produced with molasses and in a non-bacteria environment).

This picture is commercial yeast mixed with flour and water about 2 hours later. Eventually your sourdough starter should look like this!


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This is 10 hours later for my sourdough starter. Just a little liquid in there.


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So after 48 hours you should have some bubbles. Now add another 1/2 cup flour and warm water (with a little lemon juice), stir it up and let it ferment. This is about 72 hours for my starter. I refreshed it every day and now it has a good about of alcohol.

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It might take a day or up to 4 days to bubble. Once it bubbles, add another 1/2 cup flour and warm water. Stir and let it sit until it bubbles and increases in size. Could be 2 days to 4 days. 

Throw out all but 1/2 cup of the starter and add as much starter as you want, let’s say 1 to 2 cups flour and warm water. Stir it up and this should bubble faster, just wait until it bubbles a lot. This is about 4 1/2 days later. Got really bubbly.


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It will smell vinegar-y or alcohol-y and might have some liquid on the top (alcohol waste from the yeast). Now you can put it in the fridge. 

I’d refresh it every 5 days (I’ve left it up to a week). To refresh: Let it come to room temperature. Discard about two-thirds of it, and feed it 1 to 2 cups flour and warm water. Let it bubble again and put it back in the fridge. If you need to leave it for a couple of weeks, make a stiffer starter by adding more flour than water and don’t let it bubble.

If using for bread, take whatever you want from it and then refresh the rest of the starter.

When using for bread, take the starter you’ll be putting in the dough and put it in a separate bowl. Feed it some flour and water and let it bubble. If you don’t know if it’s ready, try the float test. If a little dough floats in water, it’s ready to be used! Then add the rest of the ingredients for your bread.

Some good references are Peter Reinhart’s books and very technical info from The Bread Builders.

Update:

I went away for 2 weeks to Canada, and when I came back I found my starter jar moldy on the sides. Got to start over again. Sometimes it happens.. ah well.

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Grain Mill

So I just made some fresh whole wheat bread with the help of my new grain mill (Thanks to my loving husband and my best friend from Canada – a joint present)!


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I ground up my wheat berries to fine flour. 4 cups in 10 min! So much better than 1/2 cup in an hour from my coffee mill.


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It’s extremely loud (supposed to be a quiet model – I think all electric mills are loud, I mean look what they’re doing to the grain!) but it works well. I highly recommend it if you’re making a lot of bread. You just feed the grain in the top and it comes out as coarse or as fine as you want in the bowl.


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Fresh flour tastes so much better than the store-bought stuff – as shown in my recipe of wheat bread. So if you can, make some fresh bread!

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Rye bread recipe

So after using this same recipe over and over, I’ll just post it up for you! I’ve been baking rye for a while. They all turn out different, but all are delicious. 


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Rye Bread

3 cups bread flour

3/4 cup rye flour

2 cups warm water

3/4 cup leaven

1/2 cup grain

1 tbsp caraway

1 tbsp salt

Leaven

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup flour

2 tsp beer yeast or 1 tsp instant yeast

Let the leaven bubble! This rye bread, my beer yeast was too old and it didn’t  bubble. So I added some instant yeast to get it going.


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Mix leaven with 2 cups warm water.


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Mix in flours and salt. I actually used high gluten flour once, the dough was super rubbery (didn’t turn soupy) and it expanded nicely. The only difference was: it was hard to mix the salt and grain throughout the dough. Let it rest for 5 min so the gluten forms a little.

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Then mix in grain and caraway. You can put other grain like sesame seeds, flax, sunflower.. whatever you want!

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Should have a tacky consistency. Let rise for 2 hours.

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Then pop it in the fridge for overnight or up to 5 days! This is the no knead method I use now, good for a busy schedule. I found that with the no knead method, you won’t get those big holes in the bread, but it’ll still be a nice texture. 

Whenever you want to bake, take the dough out about 30min before. Cut into 2 pieces (I made 4 loaves out of this dough). Shape one, place on floured parchment paper, cover and let it rise for about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500°F with the combo cooker inside the oven. Let it heat for at least 30min.

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When the dough is ready, score the bread dough and place parchment and all into the combo cooker. Decrease oven temperature to 450°F. Bake for 20 min with lid on. Take lid off and bake for another 20min. Now, I know some of you might not have combo cookers (I recommend getting one, it’s about 35-55$) you can use a pizza stone and a pan of water for steam. Just heat up the pizza stone and the pan for about 30min, then place the dough inside (with parchment) on the stone. Fill the pan up with cold or hot water (about 1 cup) and close the oven fast so the steam doesn’t escape. I guess I’d try baking it the same length of time too. Oh, and don’t forget to lower the heat to 450!!

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The bread should be dark and hollow and crusty. You can even hear it crackle sometimes when it’s cooling on the rack!

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Let cool completely (I know it’s hard..) and then enjoy!

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Year 2012

Happy New Year!

The last couple of months I’ve been so busy with my new job (being a baker!!) that I haven’t had time to post, let alone even make bread. But this being a seasonal area, I’ll be off for 4 months and I’ll post yet again!

Please look forward to it!

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Apple Monkey Bread

Another long pause in posting. But fall is a happenin’ month for food: apple, pumpkin, cranberries, pear, plum… I love the fall.

So here’s another recipe to add to your fall season! Remember Squash bread is also popular this time of year.. and please eat Pretzels for Oktoberfest!!

Monkey bread will impress a party and is really easy to make. I’ve made this before, but I decided to change the recipe a little and add apple. I used a brioche recipe, adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Apple Monkey Bread


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You can proof yeast (or make sponge) with:

1/4 cup warm milk & 1/4 cup warm cream (whatever you have)

2 tsp instant or active yeast

1/2 cup bread flour

Dough:

Sponge

3 eggs

3 cups bread flour

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 tsp salt

1 cup apple, peeled, cored and diced

Make Sponge and let sit for around 30 min.


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Mix Sponge and eggs with a whisk or in a mixer with the paddle attachment, until well combined.


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Mix flour, sugar, salt together then add to liquid mixture. Stir with spoon until combined, or in a mixer for 2 minutes.

Let rest for 5 min.


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Then add softened butter until well combined. Use a little flour if it’s sticky, and knead for 10 minutes. At the last 2 minutes of kneading, add the diced apple. It should be silky and smooth.


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Let rise until double ( about an hour and a half).


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Get a bundt pan ready, slather a lot of butter on there ( I used 1/2 cup) because that’ll make the bread nice and juicy.


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Cut the dough into little balls, about an inch round, shape into ball, dip in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar. I melt about 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup for us Canadians!) and then I usually go through 2 bowls of cinnamon sugar cause the butter gets it all clumpy eventually..


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Build up the balls in the buttered pan.


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I pour the remaining amount of butter right on the balls.


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Then let rise until double.


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Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes. When the top is pretty dark, you know it’s ready. Remove from pan right away and cool on rack. If you leave it in the pan (which I did once), the bread will stick and it’ll all fall apart like this:


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Also, you can give it a double dose of sugar and make some icing! I made apple cider icing by reducing a cup of apple cider down to 1/4 cup then adding enough icing sugar to make it thick. You could also use maple syrup.


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Eat and enjoy!! Also warm it back up to enjoy again!

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Yeast experiments

Well it’s been a long time since my last post. I know I always say this but it HAS been hectic. I was researching into selling my bread at the local farmer’s market but it takes a Certified residential kitchen (where my kitchen is still being renovated) and a Food Safety Certificate. I actually obtained my ServSafe (which was terribly easy) but couldn’t afford a new counter yet for my kitchen.

Then I scored an assistant baker job, and now I’m just getting used to that. But I’ve found time to start posting again, so please be patient with me!

The summer hasn’t been nice to my bread and I still haven’t pin pointed the problem. It flattened so many times I started to doubt any baking skills at all! But they are popping back to life. Either it was weather(humidity) or yeast.

This was what my bread did all summer:

Bubbly starter.

Soupy and unshapeable.

Good taste but no spring..

So I thought the easiest was to test my beer yeast. I had about 8 jars to test. 2 jars I opened smelled bad, so I threw those out. I mixed flour, water and a teaspoon of each jar in each bowl. I used exactly the same amounts for all the bowls, I also cleaned the spoons not to contaminate the yeast with different yeast. I labelled each from A to F.

After proofing them, I discovered the following results:

A, D and E bubbled like crazy after 2 hours. The winners.

B, C and F started bubbling after about 5 hours.

For some reason my camera starting taking black pictures, so I don’t have any pictures of the starters..

I mixed these starters up into bread dough, the exact amount of ingredients for each.

Oh I almost forgot. I used a new method of making bread for this experiment. I borrowed a book with the no knead method which actually worked pretty well. The difference I think between that and Tartine is the Tartine bread had slightly larger holes. But the no knead method has nice holes, same chewy texture and nice crust. Basically, you make your bread, rise it for 2 hours or until double. Once it doubles and starts to fall, you can put it in the fridge overnight (I did 2 nights). The next time you want to bake, take some dough for your bread, shape it and let it rise ( I did it for about 45min). Bake it like normal, and it turns out pretty good with little effort.

Back to the yeast experiment, I did this for each bread. Some dough remained soupy and some were actually stiffer.. no clue why this happened.. maybe yeast can affect the mixed dough like this?

D and F popped nicely, although F was dense and underbaked. F was the stiffest of the doughs and D the wettest. The rest were wet, and popped but not as high. They all turned out great though I wished they had popped a little higher.

This was the D dough:

This was the F dough:

So I know some of my beer yeast worked better than others. Next might be weather. The hurricane pulled out most of the humidity from the weather here.. oh did I mention the hurricane. Another hectic week. My bread might survive better though with no humidity (thanks Hurricane Irene!). Humidity, amounts of flours, temperature of water, rising time.. there’s lots more factors to experiment with!

Stay Tuned!

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