Friday, 16 October 2009

Porter and hops bread (World Bread Day)

Bowl with flour, scattering of hops, yeast in a jar, beer in a glass
A recurring theme of this blog is the relationship between bread and beer. Both are among the oldest known cultivated foods and exist in our culture in a kind of symbiosis. We rely on fermentation to give us both products, and for most of history the brewery was close to the bakery ... and often the same enterprise. So my World Bread Day post has to also involve beer.

This is the beeriest bread I've made yet. It doesn't just contain beer as the liquid, it is also raised with beer yeast and has added malt and hops.

world bread day 2009 - yes we bake.(last day of submission october 17)I hope it's not too bitter. When I've used beer yeast in the past I could detect residual hop bitterness in the finished bread. That didn't bother me but some people might dislike it. This one actually has dried hops added to the dough too and I wonder if it'll retain any of the wonderful hop aroma, or just their bitterness.

The malt should give munchy bits, dietary fibre and possibly unwanted enzymatic activity that will devour the entire dough during the night, leaving only a puddle of sugar syrup.

If you brew, this is an easy bread to make, because you have the malt and hops, leftover yeast and spoiled beer handy. If you don't, it's probably more trouble than it's worth.

450g white flour
50g spelt flour
20g yeasty gunk from the bottom of the fermenting bucket
13g salt
20g crushed pale malt
2g crushed hops (I used Boadicea)
320g of some unsuccessful home-brewed porter beer

Straight dough, no faffing about. Bake it as you like it.

Baked bread with a slice cut off

The hops give the bread a distinctive, though not very pronounced, hoppy aroma, and also, as I thought it might, a bitter finish, which is quite nice once you get used to it. You probably need to like hops a lot though. The crumb is relatively heavy for a white-flour loaf, but soft and moist; the crust is soft and chewy.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Morrisons barley malt and hops bread

I bought a loaf at Morrison's tonight. I don't want you all thinking this blog is just an elaborate hoax and that I actually eat Sunblest and Warburtons all the time. I generally only buy bread in supermarkets as a stop-gap, but I could not pass this by:

Picture of a loaf of Morrisons Barley Malt and Hops bread, price 99p

I had to buy it just to see what it was like.

The crust is kind of Shreddies-like in aroma which makes sense I suppose, although it's not nearly as malty as those. Eating it is kind of like if the malty bits in granary bread were the whole loaf. The texture is as cotton-wool fluffy as most supermarket bread, in fact I think it's slightly fluffier.

A very slight hop bitterness is discernible and also the odd faint aroma of green chillies, heaven knows where that comes from.

And there are small bits of actual malt the size of couscous grains scattered through the dough. These are the best bits.

As soon as you put some butter or ham on it, though, you'd never notice the difference between this and any other fluffy supermarket bread.

I wonder who at Morrisons thought this would sell? ... and how many meetings he or she had to sit through, explaining what hops are.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

World Bread Day

world bread day 2009 - yes we bake.(last day of sumbission october 17)

World Bread Day is this Friday, the 16th. What shall I bake??

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Mango Chutney Nano-Brewery (part 2 of 657)

Here in the UK the latest fad among homebrewers is the mango chutney boiler. It is, essentially, a large food grade plastic drum of the type that Indian restaurants have chutney or pickle delivered in, fitted with one or more electric elements and a tap.

I finally got around to fitting the element to mine. I used a hole saw attachment to a cordless drill to make a 38mm hole in the wall of the drum. I then unscrewed the element from a cheap kettle and threw the kettle away. The rubber gasket and the element from the kettle can then be mounted in the 38mm hole.

A post on attaching the tap and hop-stopper will follow.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Random bakery pictures

A closed bakery is a sad sight.

These are in Lochwinnoch.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Barm bread a la Dan Lepard

In my continuing attempts to discover what proper Parisian barm is like, I baked Dan Lepard's barm bread from his book The Handmade Loaf. His short-cut barm (intended for people who don't have malt and hops lying around the kitchen ) involves gelatinizing some flour with hot beer, then inoculating that (once cool) with a leaven or yeast culture.

Things I learned:

1. Measure the hot beer and flour separately, then combine them swiftly with a whisk. If you try to pour beer onto the flour while keeping an eye on the scales, tenacious clumps will develop that are near impossible to remove again.

2. The barm didn't appear to be fermenting when I looked at it next morning. This is nothing to worry about.

The barm is stiff on mixing, as the flour cooks, then it liquidises on cooling.

My only quibble with the recipe is that Dan tells you to use a bottle-conditioned ale for it. This is a massive red herring because it makes people assume that the live yeast in the beer has something to do with making the bread rise. But it doesn't, as the yeast dies at about 40ºC, long before it reaches the 70ºC where you're supposed to stir it into the flour.

You use bottle-conditioned ale for the same reasons you use stone-ground organic flour. If you don't understand these reasons, the recipe will still work.

I made this as a control experiment, to see whether my Parisian barm from scratch tastes any different. It does, however, make fine bread anyway.

It tastes great. I used 3% salt rather than the usual 2%, and you can taste the difference. The crumb is cream-coloured, firm and spongy. The crust is crunchy and ever so slightly burnt. It reminds me of the Scottish plain loaves my mum used to feed me when I was a kid, but much nicer. As Scottish bakers were the last in Britain to cease using barms, this kind of makes sense. I now need to find out how they get that odd gelatinized texture nowadays.

Bizarrely, it tastes more of beer that when I've used beer as the liquid in a straight dough.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


This is loaf of mostly white flour, with a bit of spelt and rye, and caraway, linseed and pumpkin seeds to add interest.

People always say that you should put a bowl of water in your oven when baking bread to maximise "oven spring". The theory is that the steam keeps the crust soft as long as possible while the dough is expanding due to the sudden heat, so you get the maximum volume of loaf without it splitting round the sides.

I've tried this before and it didn't seem to make much difference. Moreover, the bowl of water always got in the way when I was trying to put the dough in the oven.

But the other day I was reading about traditional pizza ovens (as you do) and found that traditional Italian ovens apparently have small holes in them. People would stuff wet rags into the holes to create steam.

It sounded mental enough to work, so I tried it. I got an old bit of cloth, soaked it and laid it in the oven just underneath the baking tray with the dough on it. And it worked – the slashes opened up nicely.