The Beer Yeast Poolish

If you recall, the wedding beer was quite lively and gaseous.

wpid-20140324_081203.jpgGURGLE GURGLE GURGLE *RASPBERRY*

Loud enough that it startled me several times. In the picture above, you can see a measuring cup with some blow off yeast in it. Well, waste not want not!

I decided to try and make bread out of it.

wpid-20140326_205624.jpgrather unpleasant looking, i’d say

I hunted around the internet for any advice and mostly saw “don’t” and “it makes dense bread”. Well, screw you, INTERNET, you can’t tell me what to do!

I decided to start off with a poolish. If the yeast was lively, it would grow.

wpid-20140326_205921.jpgagain, unpleasant looking

Sure enough, within a few hours we had:

wpid-20140327_101445.jpgIT’S ALIIIIIIVVVVVVVVEEEEE!!

Perplexed with what step to take next, I put the poolish in the fridge for two days while I thought about it.

wpid-20140327_135145.jpgPoolish Day Two: imma gonna eat ur refrigerator…

A dense loaf, like sourdough, was what what the INTERNETZ told me to expect. So I decided to do an italian bread with sugar and to use milk instead of water. Unfortunately, I had to go to work so my lovely fiance was charged with shaping, final proof and baking. I left him with sage tips, such as, “if it turns into a taquilla, call a priest.”

wpid-20140329_093606.jpgi swear, i am not a taquilla! what is wrong with you?

I came home to…


No, seriously, drumroll…

wpid-20140329_174849.jpgpretty sure that’s bread…

Not too bad for a first time shaping!  I’ve done worse! Seriously. Well done! Now what about the taste? If you recall, the wedding beer has raspberries in it and the yeast did have a slight raspberry smell. So we cut that bad boy open:

wpid-20140331_181809.jpgnot dense. ok, well i (bmary) am dense, but the bread isn’t

The flavor was slightly sweet and very good. It was not dense at all. I think the reason for this was that the yeast used was very fresh and the INTERNETZ was mostly discussing spent yeast, like from the bottom of the a beer after it brews. That I could see being considerably less lively. Regardless, this made very good bread! If you wanted to use spent yeast from a home brew, I would suggest feeding it much like a mother starter until it was fully awake and bubbly.

Screw saving a piece of wedding cake, we’ll save a beer thank you.

Fun With Francine – Baguettes!

Francine and I had another play date! Whoo hoo!

wpid-20140210_073632.jpgit’s a yeast party

I decided to try again with baguettes, as I tried in this post, only correcting some of my mistakes. Less whole wheat flour, more room temperature time. Again, this is loosely based on Pain a l’Ancienne from Peter Reinhart. This time, even looserly based.

wpid-20140222_080348.jpg“looserly based” – phrase made up by BMary to describe adventures in making a mess and ignoring better judgement of others

As this was a real fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure, I feel that it would be okay for me to post the recipe. It’s not even close to the original.

wpid-20140223_105858.jpgcertainly worked though. yeah, baby, you eat that bowl, ya bad yeasty beasties.

Obviously, you would need a mother starter for this. If you don’t have one, well, you should make one. It’s not difficult, promise!

Francine is a whole wheat mother starter. There are as many varieties as there are types of flour. But they are basically wild yeast that you collect from where ever you choose to leave the flour/water mixture at. Don’t me intimidated. It works pretty flawlessly. Just be patient.

wpid-20140223_110034.jpgon the counter! this is like the best lazy person’s bread ever.

wpid-20140223_110347.jpguse a bench knife to cut it into strips. no shaping required!

wpid-20140223_120105.jpgbaked up decent, probably could still tweak it a bit.

wpid-20140223_134454.jpgwhat’s on the inside is what’s important.

Ok, so here we go:

2 and 1/4 C Water

3 and 1/2 C Bread Flour (or AP, whatever)

2 C Whole Wheat Flour

2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Mother Starter (that has been left at room temperature overnight)

Put water in bowl. Put starter in water in said bowl. Mix flours in gradually in said bowl. Add salt somewhere in between. Mix until consistent. Set on counter until the bread dough attempts to eat the bowl. Might be a long time. If it’s too late to bake, just chuck it in the fridge. Let it warm up an hour before you bake. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Like really, preheat that baby. Pull out dough onto well floured workspace. Stretch dough (try not to degass it!) into a rectangle shape. Cut with bench knife into long strips. Put onto a greased pan and allow to rest while oven preheats. Put bread in oven. (NO WAY!) After two minutes, turn down the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for another 7ish. Check to make sure bread is baking evenly and has not turned into a calculadora. Rotate if it is not baking evenly and bake another 7 minutes, or until bread is at 205 degrees and brown and delicious looking. If it turns into a calculadora, call the oven repair person or your local priest. Try to wait ten minutes before consuming all loaves. Don’t burn yourself.

This version is much less bitter than the last one, due to the reduction in whole wheat. I think my next attempt will be a boule which is fancy French speak for shaping dough into a ball. If I do attempt that, I am probably going to have to modify the proofing times. We’ll see what happens!

50% Whole Wheat Pita Party!

So this morning I decided I needed to make yet another batch of pitas. Because clearly it is impossible to have too many home made pitas.

wpid-20140114_112103.jpgyou can’t just have 8

If you want to skip to the instructions and not read my wall of text, they are below in a simplified version.

Ever since my first batch of whole wheat bread (which, um, was interesting) I haven’t bought bread. I refuse. Making homemade bread, sandwich, pita, or just a regular baguette is incredibly simple and inexpensive once you get the swing of things. So why not give it a spin? I promise to provide you with way too many tips. If you want to get further into depth with bread making, I would start at The Fresh Loaf and I would also recommend you purchase Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread which will be damn well worth your while. I just purchased his book, Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor and am working on making a mother starter for the recipes in it. I’ll keep you updated once my little starter is ready.

This particular recipe has been tweaked for whole wheat. It makes a pretty pocket and is tender. The whole wheat flour makes it a bit tangy and I feel more flavorful than white.

Some tips for baking bread for every day use:

  • Pick one day of the week to make your breads and figure out how much you need. If they require a starter, make sure to start it in the correct time slot. If you’re a beginner, worry about starters later and just make bread.
  • White bread is easier than whole wheat, so don’t change any white bread recipe until you have a feel for what you are doing.
  • If I am going to bake, I make a time slot of about 4 hours of open time. This doesn’t mean that I am staring at the bread for 4 hours, this is just the amount of time I feel I need to have blocked out.
  • While the dough is rising or proofing or resting or baking, feel free to do other tasks.

To store bread I follow the 2 Days Rule.

  • The bread, whatever kind I make, has two days to sit in the bread box (or on your counter under a towel) until I cut it up (for sandwiches) or break it down (for large baguettes) and then I put it in a plastic bag in the freezer. I reuse the freezer bags because I am crazy.
  • Pitas or rolls obviously just get shoved in the bag and into the freezer.
  • To reheat, sandwich slices for lunch on the go will thaw in about an hour and will taste just as good. For work, I will make my sandwich using the frozen slices and then just put it in the fridge. It will be ready by lunch. Same for pitas or rolls.
  • Also, sandwich slices can be toasted straight from the freezer and will be delicious.
  • To reheat baguettes, I put them in the oven at about 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Microwaves are not your friend.

So here we go. You will need some tools:


  • One big bowl
  • One smaller bowl
  • One baby bowl
  • Measuring tools
  • Rolling pin (I have heard a wine bottle works, but for Heaven’s sake, get a rolling pin)
  • Spatulas
  • Towel
  • Dough cutter (Invest in one, makes clean up easy and is incredibly useful)

Ok, now that we have assembled our tools, let’s start getting the ingredients together. There’s an order and method to this madness.


1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast*

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

*if you’re even remotely serious about baking bread, buy the bulk jar of yeast. The packets will not suffice. Keep it in the fridge, it lasts for a year

Ok, pretty simple, right? Let’s lay it all out:

wpid-20140114_080600.jpgWater and yeast go into the big bowl. Mix the two flours into the smaller bowl and the salt into the baby bowl. We won’t add salt until later, because this makes kneading easier. Let the yeast sit for a little while, until it smells, well, yeasty. Then add the olive oil. Then add about half the flour and mix well.

wpid-20140114_080756.jpgsomething like pancake mix

Add all but a handful of the rest of the flour. I prefer to start my doughs a little wetter because I feel that it is easier to add flour rather than add water.

wpid-20140114_080926.jpgtrust me, things are going to be sticky

Pour the remainder of the flour onto the counter into a pile. I like lightly flour the work area, and leave the majority of the flour in a line above where I will be kneading. This helps add the flour in gradually.

wpid-20140114_081010.jpgladies and gentlemen, that is what flour looks like. 

wpid-20140114_081111.jpgslap that batch of dough right in your work area. don’t forget, we haven’t added salt yet.

Scoop the dough out and onto your work area. Flour your hands and start gently moving around the dough in the flour until it is firm enough to dig in and knead. Feel free to add more flour to your work zone. When I knead, I press the dough into the larger pile of flour, turn and repeat. This way I am adding a little flour at a time. I also really enjoy kneading. Keep kneading and adding a little flour, for this batch I had to add about 1/4 cup more. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. It should also smooth out and not be shaggy looking. I knead for at least 10 minutes, sometimes more. If your hands get tired, go take a 5 minute break. The dough is not going to grab it’s little dough knapsack and leave. I sometimes knead for about 5 minutes, clean out my bowls and tools and then come back to it.

wpid-20140114_084941.jpghuzzah, i made a ball

When the dough becomes smooth and tacky and has taken in most or all of the flour, you are ready to knead in the salt. This is sort of a personal preference for me. If you don’t feel like fiddling with salt at the end, add it to the flour in the beginning. I prefer to knead it in at the end because it seems to make kneading easier. I add the salt about a half teaspoon at a time, fold, add, fold, add, knead until it’s combined. You’ll feel it.

Onto the rise! If you haven’t already, clean out the bigger bowl, it doesn’t have to be sterile, but you need to get any of the dough and flour that was left behind out. Pour about another tablespoon of olive oil into the bowl. Roll the dough ball into the olive oil, rolling it around to cover the sides and then turn the ball over to coat the entire ball.

wpid-20140114_085739.jpgit’s shiny

Cover with a towel. The dough needs to double in size. Sometimes, this will take an hour. Sometimes this will take 2. Set a timer for an hour and then check it. If it’s ready, go ahead, if not set a timer for another 30 minutes, et cetera until it doubles in size.

wpid-20140114_103716.jpgyou have at least hour until we get here. go play. do clean up your area, however, first.

When it has doubled, turn your oven to 400 degrees. If you have a pizza stone or a baking stone, this would be ideal to get in there now. If not, use the back of a cookie sheet, upside down. Get her heating up. At least a good twenty minutes.

Flour your counter again and gently sort of roll the dough out of the bowl. It should come out nicely. This recipe makes 8 pitas. Cut the dough in half with your dough cutter, and then in half and then in half again. Eight pieces. Mine usually end up as triangles. Give this like 5 minutes to relax. Go clean up your tools.

wpid-20140114_104022.jpgthat’s the weirdest pizza i’ve ever seen

Then get these babies into balls. Don’t worry if they aren’t terribly pretty. If there are seams, pinch them together and roll between your hands.

wpid-20140114_104038.jpgput your hand into the “ok” position and push dough through with your thumb

wpid-20140114_104110.jpgis this a better picture? push those lumps into the gap between your thumb and index.

wpid-20140114_104150.jpgit will end up something like this. gappy like madonna’s teeth.

wpid-20140114_104205.jpgso pinch those seams together and then roll between your hands. don’t get caught up on getting it perfect, the rolling pin will help.

Lightly flour the balls as you make them. When you’re done, roll them out into pita shapes about 1/4 inch thick. If this isn’t going easily, let them rest for 10 minutes and try again.

wpid-20140114_105332.jpgThen lightly rub a little flour on the top and the bottom of the pitas so they don’t stick to the counter. Place them in order of being rolled out. The first one you roll should be the first one in the oven. After they are all rolled out, I give them about 5 minutes to rest. Or if it has taken you a while to get from Pita 1 to Pita 8, go ahead and get Pita 1 in the oven. I can get about 4 pitas on my baking stone (I got the biggest one I could find) but you don’t need to rush. Do one or two at a time. Open the oven with the hot stone or baking sheet and put one or two on it, not touching, and bake for 3 minutes, they should begin to puff up.

wpid-20140114_111253.jpgit took me a second to open the oven, pull out the rack and get my camera, so they fell a little bit, don’t worry, they’re supposed to

To get them out of the oven, I use a metal flipper and a wooden spoon. I get under the pita with the flipper and balance it with the wooden spoon. I then set them on a towel to cool.

wpid-20140114_110850.jpghot stuff coming through

Continue to bake until all the pitas are done. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy! 😀

Recipe For 50% Whole Wheat Pitas

1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

Activate yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Combine flours into a separate bowl. Add olive oil to water and add half of the flour. Mix well. Add most of the remaining flour and mix well. Knead dough on the counter with remaining flour for 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed. After dough becomes smooth and tacky, knead in salt for about 5 minutes. Oil a clean bowl and roll dough into bowl to coat with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and cut into 8 pieces. Roll into balls and use a rolling pin to roll them until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for3 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.