I have been working on developing my bread making skills over the last few months and it is starting to pay off.My Very Own Yeast
I had always wanted to start my own wild yeast culture, but had never been successful. It always seemed to get to a stage where it was smelling wonderful, and then the next day or two it went completely wrong and kept going more wrong.
Then I found this great recipe
for a starter at The Fresh Loaf. The secret ingredients are whole grains and pineapple juice. The yeast lives on the surface of the grain, so by using whole grains and grinding them yourself, you increase the amount of yeast that your mixture will have. The pineapple juice makes the environment of the mixture such that bios other than yeast do not find it appealing. I did not follow their recipe exactly. Here's what I did:
1/2 ground rye grain
1/2 pineapple juice from canned pineapple (I made an upside-down cake with the fruit)
mixed in a pint jar I had a lid for - just set it loosely on top.
I checked it and stirred it every day, but really did nothing else to it. In less than 2 weeks, I got the bubbles and yeast smell I was looking for.
At this point I watched for liquid buildup on the top, then proceeded with the dividing and adding steps - pour off the liquid, take some of the mixture out, add wheat flour, add equal amount of filtered water (you don't want tap water chemicals in the mix). In another week, my yeast was strong enough to make a loaf.
My yeast is now over 2 months old and I have made many loaves with it. Yummy sourdough loaves.
Don't worry if you don't like rye. After a bit of dividing and adding, it all becomes wheat. And I have found that when I want to make bread, I can just pour the entire mixture into my recipe, swish the jar with some filtered water, add equal amounts of flour, and the yeast that was in the residue just takes right off again. I occasionally switch jars for cleaning, in which case I swish the water around then pour it into a clean jar and add flour.
<- see how fluffy the dough gets!
Chewy, Crusty Bread
I became hooked on crusty bread when I was traveling Scotland. It was damp and cold, so every so often, I would find a nice coffee shop and enjoy a mocha and crusty bread. Heaven! Since coming back to the States, the only bread that has compared to that bread has been the New French Bakery
baguette. Since first finding it though, it has been hit and miss to obtain. So I have been trying to recreate the bread.
For months I have been reading bread making article on the web describing how to get the crusty crust from steam. I tried spraying the dough while baking and leaving a pan of water in the oven - it works best to use both. I also read about the need to develop the gluten. There are many different techniques, and I have tried and failed at a lot of them. Then I ran into this seemingly too-good-to-be-true technique: No Knead Bread
Let me assure you, it is NOT too good to be true! I just baked my first loaf last night using the recipe and technique. Other than the fact that I burned it due to the fact that I was baking while also watching a very funny, and strangely appropriate to the situation show - The Worst Week of My Life - it came out beautifully. The technique calls for a cast iron dutch oven or Pyrex, of which I had neither. BUT, I had read in comments on other no-knead sites (see the New York Times YouTube video
) that some had used a clay pot cooker.
I have several of those! And it works! Soak the pot as you would whenever you are cooking something in it. Oil it. Add the shaped dough to the pre-heated clay pot. Cover it for 30 min, then bake uncovered for 15 (not another 30 like I did!).
The crust was perfectly crusty. The interior had that perfect crumb that crusty bread should have. And it was delicious!!
<- This is not the loaf I burnt, and was even more delicious :p