Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bread

Have I ever mentioned before that I married a very clever man?  Maybe, but if not then.. I have.  A very clever man indeed.
Well, he married me, didn't he?
Haha! kidding!
He has done some other clever things too  ;)

Including making bread.
Now let me explain... we are not foodies, oh nooo!.. although in fact I have been "making bread" for the family for about fifteen years; only I use a bread-maker which is kinda cheating, and not really like making your own bread at all.  So, while I do "make my own bread", please note the use of self-mocking inverted commas.  Well, you see; Miss Frugality, in her zeal for DIY, went and bought a breadmaker, even though it was expensive and she is allergic to kitchens.  Fortunately it turned out to be so easy even the worst cook in the world could cope, and the cost per use is probably down into the micro-cents by now.  So, the kiddies grew up on that deliciously chewy, crusty, chocka-with-seeds stuff it produced and we quickly discovered we just could never go back to that crap masquerading laughably as "bread" sold in the supermarket, ever again... so the homemade bread habit has continued to this day.  Chuck in the breadmix, water, yeast, press a few buttons, a few hours later, hey presto, a yummy loaf awaits.   Simple as that.  Easy peasy.  And domestic contentment ensues.
But recently my husband read a book "52 Loaves" by William Alexander; which outlined the author's grail-like quest to make bread the traditional way, truly from scratch.  Very entertaining read, by the way.
My husband, not a man easily impressed, was impressed.  He was like, "Challenge Accepted!!"
Yes, in case you're wondering, my husband is an inquisitive as well as a competitive man.  On those personality thingie tests, he always comes out as a lion; an A-type; a born-leader; a go-getting, never-admit-defeat, super-intelligent dynamo of doing-ness; or whatever.
Anyhow, he found himself compelled to make bread, too.  The hard way.  And like just about anything my husband attempts, he succeeded.
So.
He started out by developing his own starter.
You begin with blueberries... yes, really.  Why? Well, blueberries are one of the few substances which are still sold today with their protective layer of wild yeast intact.  That white, slightly powdery substance coating the surface of blueberries?? well, that is an atmospheric fungus, a naturally occurring thing, that has been used for centuries by our ancestors to grow the leavening agent for bread.  Nowadays, most of us are lazy and use either dried yeast or a pre-made starter developed by somebody else, but fortunately for the apocalypse-minded amongst us: the materials are still at hand for those who wish to make use of ancient techniques and go the pure unassisted route towards making their own bread.  Can you make your own yeast? why yes you can!
It also occurs on other fruits and veggies, you sometimes see it on grapes and apples here but most of the time it gets polished off before they reach the grocer.
Craig soaked a punnet of blueberries in pure (chloride and fluoride free) water to harvest, or in old terms; "catch" the yeast.  Then he combined this "live" water with an equal quantity of flour, and left it to develop.  After a few days he had a thick bubbly paste with a pleasantly fertile, brewery-like aroma.
This is the levain, and it lives in our fridge.  In colder climates people keep it in a warm spot on the window sill, but we are in a very very hot climate so it would get bloated and whiffy in no time at all on our windowsill!  You need to feed and tend to it every few days to keep it in good shape.  
As you can imagine, in ancient times the levain was like gold in a family; it was their ticket to the staff of life and it was essential for it to be kept well maintained.  The health of a family's levain was literally the key to the health of the family!
Obviously we are a very fortunate first world family whose survival is not dependent on the survival of our levain; but after all the effort that went into producing this stuff you can be sure Craig is taking blinkin' good care of it!
He baked the bread on pizza stones.  Fortunately we've had these already a Christmas gift one year I think.  
Incidentally I was allotted about one nanosecond in which to take this photograph... something to do with "YOU'RE LETTING ALL THE HOT AIR OUT!"... or something or other...  
and then ... bread.
As they say in the ad biz;  Un Serving Suggestion...   
And was it tres delish?  
Oh, oui.  

38 comments:

  1. Oh yum yum yum... the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house. Lucky you. Looks delish.

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  2. Fascinating about the blueberries and yeast. I remember seeing that sort of white covering on the sloes we picked one year. I threw them into the freezer and just got around to making sloe gin for Christmas presents this year. We do the breadmaker thing, too, but not with mixes, with ingredients. It is still possible to screw up, but I think more fun to experiment. Your husband's bread looks delicious.

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  3. I am a "breadmaker" breadmaker as well. In fact, I have worn one out and am now on my second. I mostly use mine for pizza dough and fruit bread these days but the odd banana cake creeps in as well from time to time. My other favourite is leftover Christmas ham on warm white...yum!

    My son made bread the old fashioned way at school in year 5 and I helped out. It was surprisingly easy in a warm classroom. We learnt all about apple core yeast but didn't try it. From that day on I have made my hot cross buns the old fashioned way.

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  4. I can't look. I'm not eating gluten. But. oyyyyy.

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  5. I make bread every week but went from the bread maker to making it by hand - we prefer the crust that you get in the oven. I did make a sour dough (using the flour and water method), but we travel between two houses so it sort of died. I really want to have another go - the bread looks so tasty. Will this be a regular event now???

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  6. I am a great fan of homemade bread. My son is allergic to dairy and I prefer spelt so I make my own bread all the time both in a bread maker and in the oven. I fell in love with the dutch oven bread a couple of years back and now I shall attempt to also make my own yeast (you can't possibly know how excited I am about this woohoo)

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  7. My husband made bread today, by hand, though with dried yeast, and it was great. I had asked him to go out and buy some 'nice' bread to go with the soup I was making. Of course that was too easy-although after his attempt at making naan bread we were sceptical!
    Must be in the air! And we have blueberries in the garden-do I dare tell him about them :-)

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  8. Yumm yumm yum.. I love making bread... If he
    Ickes trying lots of recipes my fav break book is "how to bake" by Paul Hollywood

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  9. I am going to buy some blueberries and try that. I make my own bread all the time too, so this is pretty cool. Thanks! dkswife

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    1. You're welcome, and thank YOU for the comment! Please let me know how you get along with making your own starter! :)

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  10. I have been baking sourdough bread all year - following the recipes of Yoke Mardewi (who lives in Perth). Her books are full of beautiful bread recipes, I can highly recommend. Thanks for all your wonderful posts - I found your blog a couple of months ago and have been inspired to sew more - you are very talented! Wishing you & your family a very merry Christmas & I'm looking forward to sharing your sewing adventures in 2013.

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  11. What a cool challenge. The bread lloks great. What patience you all have to create your own yeast.

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  12. Grapes work out very well for me to make fermented fruit... I had no idea this is the same yeast as the one you can use for bread! The bread looks delicious.

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  13. ... that's the reason why I tend to refer to the sentence "I am going to print money, oops, bake some bread!"
    Sorry Carolyn, Australia is brilliant for the two of us which arrived here already as a 'mixed couple' (= torn between cultures) hence opting for a new 'third one' to tie us together even better whilst providing peace and quiet from 'waring'/disagreeing suddenly related family members, BUT: the bread here was a plain disgust for us spoils having been used to solid, stretchy, tasty(er) sour-dough-bread ;-) !
    As once an Italian lady on TV uttered "we tend to use this sort of bread for art and craft but not for eating" (yet it surely has got it's reasons to exist - hence its merits !)
    Please don't be offended, since both sides of us simply have got some 'used to' and/or 'one has to be be born and risen with .. ' !
    YET: THIS is what makes 'US' - Australia! The mix of nations; the skills we could combine and utilise here (= not always done; sigh) ! When we dare tasting heroically what 'makes the other one tick'! When much more often than our official anthem the the old song "I am Australian" from 'The Seekers' with the lyrics of "...we are one but we are many ...." gets me to burst into tears wherever and whenever it's played; when the cooking pot defeats war - then MY homemade bread is soothing some kind of homesickness as well !
    I'm NOT saying 'welcome to real proper bread' since I've met other good ones here as well - it's just another version more commonly used and accepted by other cultures - enjoy !
    I admire your husbands daring and stubborn - ooops should have learnt Australian diplomacy by now - determined attitude! ;-) :-D

    Your 'blow in' fan from the east with best wishes for a very merry xmas and an as happy New Year as only it can be in Australia (as long as we don't have any fires disturbing our very fun parties here ;-) !); High 5 - I'm wishing both of us well !

    Gerlinde


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  14. I have been making most of our bread for over 25 years now, and no Carolyn, not in a bread maker. If I must say so myself, I make very good bread. I often get requests/demands from friends for my bread.

    If anyone out there wants to make an super easy artisan style bread have a look at this website.

    http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipes

    There is also a Youtube video, which is very helpful. If you try this and you are outside the US, do some investigation on the flour in your country. For instance in Canada, our flour is much "harder" than in the US, so more water is needed (1 3/4 cups or more), use the video as a guide. When I make it, I start the dough as much as 24 hours before I want it, it simply makes the timing easier, and still works just fine. I also found a variation somewhere that recommended using flat beer in place of the water.

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  15. Good to know how to make a starter with blueberries. I will put that in my apocalypse file! Now I want to make bread!

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  16. Well - you and your family are just sooooo darn clever.

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  17. I'd love to see your husband's recipe, if you wouldn't mind sharing it. I go through bread making stages (I do, I don't) but haven't had much luck starting my own levain despite many cookbooks that explain how.

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    1. Hi flowergarden; I googled and found that the author of 52 Loaves, Williamn Alexander has his own blog, with loads of recipes for different breads, and plenty of info about building your own levain .... http://breadblog.williamalexander.com/
      probably well worth checking out :)

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  18. i've been making our own bread for quite a while now, to the point where my children refuse to eat a store bought loaf. they will literally lick the peanut butter and jelly off and throw out the bread if it wasn't made by me. anymore, i'm with them. the stuff sold in stores tastes nothing like actual bread and considering it takes pennies to make a loaf, i can make time for that. did not know that about the blueberries, i'm so very curious! does it taste different than when using instant or active dry yeast? i'll have to give this a try sometime!

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    1. Hi lisa; yes, my children are the same! The bread has that distinctive sourdough flavour, which is a quite different flavour from the dried-yeast bread I usually make in my breadmaker. Craig also experiments with a mix of flours like rye which also changes the flavour and adds tonnes of seeds and what-have-you to the loaves as well, because our family likes our bread quite heavy.
      Please let me know how you get on!

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  19. Yum! It's not sewing, but still yum (:

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  20. I read that book a few years ago and have been making bread with my home-grown starter ever since! I made mine from the wild yeasts on apples from my grandparent's farm (so I know they weren't sprayed/washed, etc.) Very tasty! Just be careful of the steam generation step of the recipe... I cracked the glass in my oven door and had to replace it! :(

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    1. Oh no, how awful! Thanks for the warning, we'll be careful :)

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  21. Very, very impressed. I am not fond of the kitchen and wouldn't dream of bothering to make bread ever, not even in a breadmaker. So hats off to the husband.

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  22. If you want to do some further reading on bread baking with starter, I recommend wildyeastblog.com. I tried making a starter once, but it grew mouldy before I got to using it :'( However, seeing pictures of such a wonderful bread sure inspires me to try again!

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  23. Looks lovely! I didn't know about getting yeast from blueberries. I make bread but I've never had any success getting a yeast starter. This is impressive.

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  24. We bake our own bread too :-D I use the breadmaker and make up my own 'premixes' - I was pretty excited to discover that I can buy flour at a bakery supply joint for 80c/kg so I knuckled down and worked out a mix now we are saving squillions hehe.

    I tried the artisan bread in 5mins a day method but the steam generated killed the thermostat in our rental oven and now we have our own house I'm scared to try it out! I'd love to have a go at my own sourdough though.

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  25. Wow, the blueberries for yeast, how fascinating. We bake the almost no knead bread of Cooks Illustarated fame. I've never blogged about it but mine looks like just like this one http://www.crumblycookie.net/2008/03/16/almost-no-knead-bread/ mmmm, I'm making myself hungry!

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  26. Mmmm, I love homemade bread! I'm also spoiled in having grown up on it, mostly because my mom has suffered from a plethora of food allergies and intolerances for as long as I can remember. She's gotten worse over the years and can no longer have anything with yeast or gluten, but when I was a kid the major thing was no corn products. Since that includes basically all the bread at the grocery store, we got to reap the benefits. :)

    I never would have thought of using blueberries for wild yeast...my beer-making brother would enjoy that. (Too bad he doesn't like fruit! :D)

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  27. my goodness. That looks amazing!!

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  28. That was fascinating - I had no idea about the blueberries. You learn something new every day! That's some tasty looking bread!

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  29. That was fascinating - I had no idea about the blueberries. You learn something new every day! That's some tasty looking bread!

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  30. I totally love this! I have a scientific bent and experimented with making my own starter a few years ago. Rye flour also quickens the bacterial stages, and after a few days the right conditions to reproduce whatever local yeast it catches. It went through all these crazy smells and my husband thought I was rotting something in the house every time I opened it up but eventually it turned into this lovely starter. I totally baby mine and have kept it in the fridge for 5 years now. Starter makes the loveliest pizza dough, too ;). That spinach cheese toast, yummmm.

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  31. Wow. Yeast off blueberries? Wow, I'm seriously impressed.
    Yay for fresh bread!

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