Bread! Part 2 – The first few attempts

Because beer is a likely source for baking yeast, but because modern beer doesn’t contain enough active yeast to bake with, I’ve started my experiments by taking my friend Alex’s standard, tried-and-true bread recipe and substituting beer for the water. On the first attempt, I didn’t have the first clue what Anglo-Saxon beer was like, so I bought a six pack of Sam Adams Cold Snap for no other reason than that it looked yummy.

First Attempt

My first attempt was straight-up beer bread, using the basic, modern bread recipe and subbing beer for the water the recipe calls for.  It was perfectly respectable sandwich bread, but didn’t actually taste like beer.

Second Attempt

For the second attempt, I upped the beer quantity to “the whole bottle.” Now, I had beer bread that tasted beery.  And it was pretty good.

Third Attempt

This is where I decided to start playing with spices.  I picked three I like and had on hand from Bede’s collection: cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.  For a four-cup loaf, I used the following recipe:

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • One bottle of Sam Adams Cold Snap
  • 1 tablespoon of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cardamom and a heaping 1/4 teaspoon (because I didn’t have a 1/2 teaspoon handy) of cloves

It baked at 350 for 25 minutes, then an additional 15 at 300 to finish.

It smelled absolutely amazing, but didn’t have as much of a spice flavor as you’d expect from the aroma.

Fourth Attempt

The fourth attempt is currently rising in the bread machine. (Why yes, I am cheating with the bread machine dough cycle.  Eventually, I’ll make a loaf by hand, but my general thought is that it’s primarily a labor-saving thing rather than something that dramatically changes the finished product.)

This uses a recipe much like the third, but with Newcastle English Ale instead of Sam Adams and doubled spices. Oh, and slightly less butter.

  • 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • One bottle of Newcastle English Ale
  • 2 teaspoons of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (because I was out of honey)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon and cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cloves

I switched to a 50/50 ratio of bread and AP flour because I had the impression that bread flour was a modern cultivar. But at this point, I’m not entirely sure.  I would be willing to bet money that modern bread flour is higher-gluten than Anglo-Saxon wheat flour, whether it’s the same species or not, just because of the amount of time there’s been to select for that trait in bread wheat.

For an Anglo-Saxon bread, sugar probably shouldn’t go in it.  (According to Hagen, it was known, but very rare, and used more as a spice than a sweetener.)  But, since it’s not there for sweetening so much as feeding the yeast, I’m not terribly concerned.

The Newcastle Ale was the only “ale” I could find at the local liquor store, although it turns out that modern ale and medieval ale are not remotely the same critter.  Medieval ale doesn’t use hops, and doesn’t keep very long at all (Regia Anglorum).  It’s also pretty weak so it might actually not add tons of flavor to the bread.  I do have grand future plans of conning my home-brewer brother into helping me whip up a batch and making bread with it.

Update on the results of the last attempt to come. So far, I can say that it rose nicely and smells fantastic.

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