Forget “new car” smell, driving home from class today with a bag full of still warm, fresh baked bread made for a truly heavenly commute. Today marked a departure from all the cakes, sweets & treats we’ve been making up until now and began our journey into the world of yeast. I have a few loaves under my belt (figuratively and sadly, literally) thanks to Artisan In Five, but I was really looking forward to experimenting with more traditional bread making methods. Today’s recipes included Rustic Country, Challah, and Rosemary Olive Breads but it was really all about my new single-celled little friend, yeast.
Yeast can be broken down into 3 types: freeze dried, compressed/cake, and starters. Freeze dried yeast is what most of us use, sold in the grocery store in a jar or those convenient little packets. This is yeast in suspended form and once its activated creates a fast rise, perfect for the kind of breads we made in class today.
Compressed or cake yeast is better suited for slow rise breads and pastry like cinnamon rolls. To ensure best quality, avoid grocery store cake yeast, instead buying it at specialty stores or by mail order and always keep it in the fridge.
A starter is made by gathering wild yeast from the environment, made with a combination of mashed grapes (or some other fruit or vegetable) and flour, covered in cheesecloth and left outside for about 24 hours which causes fermentation and creates a bubbling mixture brimming with live yeast. Kept in the fridge and fed often, it will last 2-3 weeks, is the ultimate slow riser, and creates a tangy, complex bread which is most commonly sourdough.
Phew, so much information and we’ve barely scratched the surface to understand all we need to know about bread making. Lots more yeasted fun to look forward to in the coming weeks classes- can’t wait to share what I’ve learned. Until then, give this challah recipe a try.
adapted from New School of Cooking Curriculum
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
1/2 cup neutral flavored oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour
poppy and sesame seeds
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water
Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve. Combine with oil, water, sugar, salt, eggs and half the flour. Mix well. Stir in remaining flour, cover dough and let rest 10 minutes. Turn onto a floured board and need for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to proof until doubled.
Turn dough onto counter and divide into 3 equal parts. Shape into long strands and braid loosely, tucking in the ends. Brush with beaten egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.