Blog Flora Refosco - Making bread without buying yeast - part I


Making bread without buying yeast - part I

09/01/2015 - 3 Comments - Recipes | Whole wheat flour, Olive oil, Bread

Years ago I've been bitten by the will and challenge of making breads without using store-bough instant yeast, still in the times when I used to prepare my non-intentional rock-breads (as Madi, my maternal grandmother, used to say, "bread that makes for gold tooth").
I think this will came actually because the proposition seemed to me so tremendously challenging. Practically a scientific experience (which it is, as a matter of fact).

Until I came across the Wild Yeast blog, it had never occurred to me that yeast is, in truth, a microbes culture that lives in the air. This one, the pure and clean - or not so much - air that we breath through our nostrills in any place of the world.

What a sensational discovery! What a new perspective. Really.
But then, experimenting, testing, taking notes, being stuborn about not spending my hard-earned money in excellent-albeit-expensive books (which the beloved city library won't borrow, they just allow you to read there), or in courses that slip into the same category, only now I understand a little better who to make this work. Often times, this is how it goes with newbies: they are either very insistent, or they need to pay someone to teach them. Of course, bread making is the kind of knowledge that is everywhere (as are the yeasts), but it can be kind of difficult to grasp. Every grandmother knows. There is always an auntie that know, a neighbor, anyway. But I guess the difficulty lies in the fact that making bread is something so intuitive and sensorial.
When you really get the hang of it, you don't measure anything, then it gets so tricky to explain things.

You ask: "How long should I leave it to rise?"
They say: "Ohh, until it's fluffy". So you're left there, lost, unaware if it is fluffly enough yet or past the point already.

In the texts about bread that don't take instant yeast, I will try to build a bridge between experienced bread bakers that are not too good in explanations, and those who like objective explanations but don't have much experience with bread yet.

In this sense, the book Cooked, another recommendation (& gift I got :) from Flávia, brings explanations I would hardly find by myself in my own kitchen. Other ones came from Dona Paula, a lady who I admire and I am very fond of, an essential character in a future text about natural fermentation. There will certainly be the part II, III, IV and so on this issue, because the subject is so vast and exciting, and will want to share what I learn along the way.

Although, you should not be intimidated by this whole story I told you about, of misteries and instincts. Today's recipe is so much simples and more objective than being initiated in the depths of a levain/ sourdough culture: a delicious rustic bread, made from a recipe by Sonia Hirsch, in the book Boca Feliz (I don't know if her books got edited outside of Brazil). Like many recipes I enjoy preparing and publishing here, this onw won't be ready in just a few minutes - it takes little hands-on time, though.

The Philosofy is the following: yeast is everywhere in the air, and I am in the mood of making a yeasted dough (meaning it is fermented, airy, fluffly). So, I invite those microorganisms to a party in my kitchen. I offer the opportunity for free food and they, in return, offer air bubbles. How is that?
Like so: this kind of yeast, the Lactobacillus san-franciscensis, just loves carb. They eat the simple or complex sugars available, breaking them into simpler elements, and the byproduct of their digestion is the carbon dioxide. Depending on the case, if the fermentation is longer or more intense, after the stage where the result is simpler sugars, the result can be alcohol. It's not at random that we call beer "the liquid bread".
In the case of bread iself, this natural fermentation is very helpful for our digestive system. For the body, it's very different to be fed something that is naturally fermented, as opposed to something that takes instant yeast, due to the action of those microbes. Never fear, they are friendly.
Anyway, this is how the air bubbles are created, and flavors are developed. Besides, the movement created by the bubbles develops gluten, the protein in wheat that gives it the capability to agglutinate, to become an elastic paste.

Philosophy explained, let's move on to the preparation. There is no need to use measures, if you don't want to. I will write them here as a guide. The important is to drive the yeast and focus on a soft elastic dough.

In warm environments, fermenting for shorter periods, more yeasts than bacteria will constitute the colony. In this way, we favor a softer taste, a bit sweeter, and fluffier. Up to about 50oC there are super happy.
In colder drier environments, fermenting for longer periods, the ratio of bacteria in the colony goes up, resulting in more acidic breads, and not that fluffly. Think the classic sourdough bread.
All that means that everything is relative in a bread recipe, even the weather influences the results. Just relax, little by little we will learn to interpret the variables.

The hit really is to use a coarse meal whole wheat flour but, in the pictures ilustrating this post, you see a bread made with fine whole wheat flour, because that's what I had.

In the morning, I stirred in a bowl 1 cup (measures here) whole wheat flour and 1 cup filtered water at room temperature. The purer the water, the better. I don't use tap, which contains chlorine and fluorine that mess up with the yeast. If not measuring, the only thing I got to keep in mind at this stage is that I have to make a thick porridge-like mixture.
I cover the bowl with a clean and dry* dish towel, and allow to rest in an airy place - though not windy - until the night. It could remain like this for 8 hours, up to 24 hours. What determines the time of the initial fermentation is that the porridge creates some bubbles and smells/tastes mildly like beer. When that happens, it's time to roll up the sleeves and knead. The dough pictured here had a 22 hours initial fermentation (I stirred the porridge in the middle of the afternoon in one day, and kneaded at the begining of the afternoon the next day), see the bubbles.

I placed 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour on the clean counter, and poured over the porridge from the bowl, adding 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive) and one teaspoon salt. Kneaded, kneaded, kneaded... for 30 minutes. Kneading is essential to achieve a soft fluffly bread, because at this stage is when the gluten is most intensely developed, assuring that the dough has elasticity to hold inside itself the air bubbles that will be formed later. Move those arms!

If you think the dough is too dry, add a little bit of water, if you feel it is too soft, add a bit of flour. Sonia's tip is that the dough should have a texture similar to the ear lobe, haha. When the dough becomes more interested in sticking to itself than in sticking to the counter or hands, I know it's ready to be shaped. Check out the softness after kneading:

I like to shape my loafs opening the dough as a rectangle, then rolling it up. Then I fold the tips under the roll. I just haven't yet learned what is the secret to shape a loaf and make it keep the shape after it rises. If you would rather, place your bread to rise inside a loaf pan.
I grease and dust with flour a pan where the bread can rise to at least to twice it's size, place it there, cover with a clean and moist* dish towel, or a plastic bag. It I choose the bag, I grease it a little where the dough might touch it, to avoid sticking.
Now I allow the dough to leaven again, for 6-14 hours, until doubled in volume.
See: the bread spread to the sides and took the shape of the pan.

In 6 hours the dough had rised nicely, I turned on the oven at 180oC, allowed for it to heat up for a few minutes before baking the bread. It baked for 40 minutes, until fragrant and brown. Sonia recommends it is baked in "low temperature oven" for one hour, and placing a tin or another pan with some water in the oven, so that the steam will make for a softer crust. I didn't do it and, still, the top of the bread came out soft (this happened when I used the fine whole wheat flour. With the coarse one it really comes out more on the crusty side).

Once out of the oven, the bread should be allowed to cool over a rack before slicing. It's hard to resist until it is completely cool, but I try to at least wait until it's almost cool, because if we slice before the time we might mess with the bread texture, flattening it.

The result is very tasty. Quite different from the breads made by industries. Also, quite different form the homemade breads that take instant yeast.

The one in the pictures is soft and "cohesive", easy to slice, could be used for sandwiches. Those I prepared with coarse meal came out a bit crumbly, but I am sure it has to do with the fact that I kneaded them for less time than I should (last time I prepared this bread using coarse flour, I know I kneaded for less than 10 minutes, tsk tsk).

Try this recipe to get familiar with the yeasts before you head into the II part of the adventure, that is preparing the levain/ sourdough starter itself. And don't forget to comment how it went!

*PS: the dry x moist towel variable is not irrelevant, as it might seem at first sight. When we are "inviting the yeasts to the party", the towel is there covering the bowl to stop bugs or anything that might accidentally fall into the dough. If the towel is dry at this moment, it helps, because it is more permeable than it would be if moist, thus favoring the entrance of the microbes.
Once the bread has been kneaded and is left to rise, though, it is a bad thing to allow it looses moisture. Because, it that happens, a thin dry layer forms around the loaf, limiting it's growth. This is the reason why many recipes call, at this stage, for a moist cloth or a plastic to cover the dough: to avoid loss of liquid to evaporation. Phew, I stopped talking. Now you can head to the kitchen!

08/04/2016 12:52:00

Rejane Araujo

Pode fazer esse pão com farinha de trigo sem ser integral ? Como fazer para ele ficar branquinho esse pão? Att:Rejane

Response from Flora
Oi Rejane! Tudo bom? Eu experimentei somente com a farinha integral. Provavelmente, no caso de prepara-lo só com farinha refinada, a massa vai precisar de menos água, e talvez precise fermentar por um pouco mais de tempo. Isso acontece porque a farinha integral absorve mais água (por ter mais fibras. Absorve em torno de 20% a mais, pelo que andei lendo). E a fermentação talvez seja mais longa, pois na farinha integral há mais alimento para as bactérias. Vou tentar preparar uma versão dele só com a farinha refinada, e te escrevo para contar que tal, ok? Se testar por aí, divide com a gente também! Obrigada por deixar seu comentário, um abraço!

04/04/2016 21:03:15

André Menarim

Pão em desenvolvimento... Vamos ver o que sai... Onde encontro a segunda parte? Preparar o próprio fermento?

Response from Flora
Oi André! Tudo bom? Me conta que tal sai o pão. A segunda parte, ainda não publiquei rapaz! Quando colocar no ar, te escrevo pra dizer. Volta sempre! Um abraço.

24/03/2016 15:04:26

ismenia ayres de oliveira

vou fazer para a Santa Ceia da minha igreja na Páscoa

Response from Flora
Oi Ismenia! Tudo bom? Fico super feliz em saber que você vai preparar o pão para dividir em um momento especial. Me conte depois como saem os resultados, ok? Um abraço! Flora.

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