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A Tale of Two Yeasts [Aug. 20th, 2010|09:56 pm]
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So...after the previous not good batches of bread done with the bulk yeast, this morning I set out to try again, increasing the amount of yeast.   Initially, the yeast bubbled up nicely in its mini-sponge bowl (I had mixed 2 tablespoons of yeast with four tablespoons of flour and a little sugar, then added the warm water and stirred it up.)  I went on and committed to the whole four cups whole-wheat flour, plus enough white flour to make a thick batter, and the rest of the ingredients,  stirred madlyand gave it time to bubble up.  It did.   I thought maybe this had done the trick.

But as soon as I added more flour, got it sort of balled up and onto the counter for kneading, I knew it wasn't...it didn't feel right under my hands.  It was wanting to tear into bits.  Nothing to do at that point but go on...did my best to get it to first rising, put it in the big dough bowl in a warm place,  checked on it, and it did double.  But when I punched it down, it  let out a weak feeble hiss, not the healthy gust that a happy dough gives.   I messed it around on the counter, trying to restore its intent to rise, shaped the loaves and put them in the pans, and as soon as they'd risen to just lift the covering towel, put them in the oven. 

And they flopped.   They actually went down in the oven, instead of puffing up higher in those first minutes.  I knew within minutes it was a FAIL...I could see through the oven window the sagging, wrinkled tops as they subsided.

These are the most pitiful, misshapen, excuses for bread loaves....and they're heavy.   If they didn't go soggy in water, they'd make fine construction materials.  They are destined for other than table use, although we had discovered with the earlier batch (that did about the same thing, only it didn't even spread sideways to fill the pan) that  the bread doesn't taste bad, particularly, and is a pretty good bread for dunking in soup. 

I called the yeast manufacturers and had a moderately lengthy chat with the very pleasant lady on the phone who, after I'd described my experience with making bread, the way I'd stored the yeast, and how the dough behaved, agreed that yes, it was the yeast.   Quite probably, the yeast had started to deteriorate early because of excess heat in some warehouse or truck; it was nearing its use-by date but hadn't reached it.  They're sending me coupons.  

However, what I really wanted was some of my own bread,  the right size and texture, to eat.   Also, after several failed batches in a row, I was beginning to doubt that I really did know what I know.  So off I went to the store to buy yeast in the little foil packets.. and I made another batch--same recipe, same flours--and knew as soon as I turned it out to knead that I was back in home country.   It held together--in fact got more "together" as I kneaded it.    I put it to rise (still nervous) and it rose strongly and let out a hearty "WHUFF" when punched down.   Now it felt even more like healthy dough, and smelled like it, as I divided it, shaped it into balls to rest.  Rolling it flat to shape the loaves themselves, it held together (didn't try to tear under tension.   The loaves rose smoothly; I put them in the oven when they were lifting the towel just about the same as the failing batch earlier, and....  

That's the kind of loaf I usually turn out, with one of yesterday's FAIL loaves beside it.   I was so anxious to make sure they were OK that I didn't let them get as brown (but they're completely done and sounded healthily hollow when tapped.   These loaves came through baking with perfectly round tops, but since I didn't give them the extra ten minutes for a harder crust, their softer tops did wrinkle a little on cooling--but nothing like the flabby wrinkles of the fail-bread collapse.   And the crumb was perfectly even, when I cut the first loaf.  .

So it was definitely a yeast problem and I haven't lost my "bread hands."   

The remaining "bricks" may turn into bread pudding.  Or  be cubed and dried for stuffing the turkey in a few months (frozen after drying, yes.)    Or used as bread crumbs, for us or the birds.



[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-08-21 02:59 am (UTC)
I have absolutely NO idea why my post is covered with READ MORE like post-it notes.

But if you like READ MORE, you've got it.
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[User Picture]From: aiela
2010-08-21 03:02 am (UTC)
Those show up when you use lj-cut.
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[User Picture]From: moiety_tx
2010-08-21 03:30 am (UTC)
I like the looks of (the second batch of) that bread! I'm scared of kneading, but for the right bread would learn. Is it a recipe you could share?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-08-21 04:10 am (UTC)
My recipe is taken from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, known for years as "The red and white plaid cookbook." I've made some changes, though.

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed*
4 teaspoons salt**
3/8 cup of shortening (or 6 Tablespoons if you use non-hard)***
Put these in large mixing bowl

2 Tablespoons active dry yeast + pinch of flour, pinch of sugar
1/2 cup LUKEWARM water (check yeast packet for temp if not sure)
combine these in small bowl to soften yeast

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cold water

4 cups whole wheat flour, stirred (not packed)
4-6 cups (approx) all-purpose flour

Set yeast to soften while water boils. Then pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over sugar, salt, shortening and stir to dissolve/melt these. Check yeast. It should be showing some activity and smell yeasty.

When shortening is melted, add 1 1/2 cups of cold water. In about a minute or sooner, you'll have lovely right-temperature mix of liquids.

Add the whole wheat flour and two cups of all-purpose to the liquids, stirring vigorously. Add the yeast-water mixture and beat until batter-like (50 strokes.)

The "batter" should begin to show bubbles.

Stir in more all-purpose flour until the dough "comes together) and pulls from the side of the bowl. Turn out on a floured surface (table, counter...), flour your hands, and start messing it about. Kneading develops the gluten, so you want to mess with every part of the dough equally. There are many ways to knead, and many people to insist that only their way is right. And it is right for those people. My way works for me. I push and shove the dough into a rough oval and then beat it down with a sort of Swedish massage move, using the edge of my hand down its length, until it's flatter. Then I roll it up (like a jelly roll) turn the whole thing 90 degrees, and do it again. And again. And again. Early on it will stick (to the counter, to my hands) and I add flour to deal with that. Flour the top. Use a floured scraper (I use heavy plastic painters' tape-and-float tools which are a lot cheaper than that fancy wood-handled steel scraper) to get the stuck bottom loose. You do this until it wants to hold together, and feels firm and "resistant." I like a firm dough; some people like it "wetter" and "softer." It's your bread--play around until you know what you like.

Put bread to rise in a warm draft-free place (above 80 degrees; 90s are fine) until roughly doubled in size. If you have a big pottery bowl, this is a great use for it. Grease the inside of the bowl, form the dough into a ball (sort of ball) and dump it in, then turn it to grease the top side. Cover with clean towel.

Punch it down when it's all puffed up, turn it out on the counter/table again, and shape into loaves. How to do that depends on whether you want to use bread pans or a baking sheet or something else (you can bake in casseroles that have straight or flared sides.) It rises again (covered again) and then you put it in a 375F oven--time depends on the size of loaf you want to make, but it should brown some on the top and sound hollow when you tap it with a wooden spoon.

Bread is very forgiving if a) you don't kill the yeast (or it's not already half-dead) and b) you put all the ingredients in, in near the right ratio. Liquids must be lukewarm to warm when they contact the yeast. Yeast you've added to water must be fed (especially the Rapid-Rise type, designed to grow fast and thus a greedy feeder.) Don't expect your first batch to be great (if you were born with "bread hands" it might be) but keep trying.

* (I like dark brown sugar)

**(I use Morton's Lite-Salt, which has half the sodium of regular salt and also has potassium chloride--which helps prevent muscle cramps in hot weather. But regular salt works, too.)

*** cup method: fill one-cup measuring cup with COLD water to halfway between the half & three quarter marks. Add shortening, keeping below water surface, until water reaches one cup. Say thank-you to Archimedes. This only works with solid shortenings, but you don't get greasy fingers. When I'm using bacon drippings in bread (yes, this works just fine) I have to use the tablespoon.
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[User Picture]From: galbinus_caeli
2010-08-21 03:36 am (UTC)
I need to try baking more bread. (And try different yeasts, apparently)
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[User Picture]From: elentarien
2010-08-21 04:16 am (UTC)
Yup. Those 'bricks' are exactly what my bread tends to look like when I take them out of the oven. And yes, they *do* go down, rather than up while baking.

I'm actually feeling MUCH better about my bread baking now. Not that I wanted yours to fail, of course. But it means it wasn't my inexperience making batch after batch fail. Nor is it my location or me attempting to learn during the winter. (Yes, I'd put it to rise in a warm room, right over a heat register. It *usually* worked for my mom, and should work for me.)

So I guess the question is. . .what do we do with half-dead yeast in abundance? (and how do we find the good stuff?)We have at *Least* a two pound brick - and pound from the opened brick - to go through. o.O And I"m betting you have most of a pound still.
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[User Picture]From: torrilin
2010-08-21 11:31 am (UTC)

I bake bread a lot, and a small jar of yeast usually lasts me about a year. Even for shelf stable stuff, I don't like to keep more than a year's supply on hand. But I bake in a pretty low yeast style, and I hate having staples go off.
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[User Picture]From: replyhazy
2010-08-21 04:20 am (UTC)
If you crocheted them some pretty covers, I'm sure they'd make lovely doorstops! I once tried a a beer bread recipe that turned out really similar to the failbread photos.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2010-08-21 05:12 am (UTC)
lol. I'm glad you sorted out your problem. I'm not surprised it was the yeast.
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[User Picture]From: gotica
2010-08-21 07:48 am (UTC)
I have ninja'd your recipe to try at a later date. One thing you could use a dense loaf for is to creatively serve dip for guests. A friend of my had a habit of making a really delicious water chestnut dip and serving it in a hollowed out loaf of bread with the left over bread being used as dipping implements.

One of my other friends often uses it for a baked cheese fondu style dip.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-08-21 01:38 pm (UTC)
Ah--they'd probably be good for that. I may keep a loaf in the freezer and try that out. They do have a certain structural quality...
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From: keleri
2010-08-21 04:24 pm (UTC)
In chemistry as in cooking... if you've checked your technique, it's usually the reagents. :D

Now I want some bread!
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2010-08-21 11:13 pm (UTC)
I quite like breads with a heavier texture. As long as they don't turn out like my first try (dwarf bread - flat, solid, and potentially deadly), I'm ok with not rising a great deal. I'm also amazed how much care and attention you lavish upon your yeast - mine gets thrown in with flour, salt, insta-sourdough and whatever else I put in my bread (linseed, other seeds, whatever is at hand), left to stand on the radiator to rise, patted into shape, and baked.

I tend to use dried yeast because I don't bake often enough (I'm supposed to eat low-carb, and I love bread too much to keep it around often), but I used to be able to cadge small amounts from the bakery at my local supermarket (their idea, they advertised it) - I did like the results better, but since moving away I've lost that source.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-08-22 04:35 am (UTC)
Heavy-textured bread that's supposed to be heavy-textured is one thing. Bread that's heavy textured because the yeast was inadequate is quite another.
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[User Picture]From: alfreda89
2010-08-22 02:33 am (UTC)
Bread pudding and dunking sound like a great use of the dead bread. Probably good for cubing, too. I have been trying to come up with some small sourdough recipes to try, with whole grain flour. Can't eat much bread -- too much temptation to make a large loaf, I'd eat it!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-08-22 04:31 am (UTC)
It would be reasonably decent dwarf bread if double-baked, yes. As is, I could bash a cockroach with it. It doesn't quite require a hacksaw to cut, yet.

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