I think you know by now that I want to encourage those who are yeast shy to at least try and make a loaf of bread. I've posted a couple of recipes on my blog here that are perfect for beginners, no kneading and yeast batter breads, and then a couple of other breads once you've built up your confidence. I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert, but I've made more homemade bread than a lot of folks so I say with humility that I think I have a feel for it. And it's a good thing, because you'll need it for what I want to share with you.
If you ever wanted to try your hand at making homemade bread, this is absolutely not the one you want to be your first. No, it's not difficult, there's no kneading, so that's not it, but it does require a "feel" when putting it together. And it requires patience.
I used a yeast starter called everlasting yeast. My sweet friend Peggy, of Peggy's Pantry, had posted an interesting article on long term storage of comfort food. This is a subject I'm greatly interested in, and Peggy has been an angel about sharing information and resources. She referred me to another one of her friend's sites, Jarolyn's Back to Basics: Provident Practical Preparedness, and it was there I found an interesting article on making your own yeast.
When I did the post on homemade butter, I lamented about the cost of butter at the supermarket. But have you seen the price of a decent looking loaf of bread? Gasp! Almost $6.00 here. For a loaf that is comprised of mostly air, it's $3.00. Absolutely outrageous, in my opinion. The cost of yeast isn't exorbitant, but it's not inexpensive. With some time and attention, you can have yeast that will last long enough to become a family heirloom, smiles.
Yet there was the tiniest issue with the everlasting yeast. I wasn't able to find a bread recipe that specifically used it. I asked Jarolyn and she suggested I use the water and starter in place of the liquid in the recipe, and adjust the flour accordingly. So, I had to experiment.
I loathe experimenting with recipes. I am pretty much a recipe follower. Oh, sure, I might add a little extra this or a little extra of that, omit an ingredient if it's something I don't like, or swap one thing for another, but that's about the extent of my creativity ~ and my courage.
But I had a quart of starter and now I was committed to use it. I figured I needed a big recipe because of the volume I had (and no where have I found does it say you can use less and keep the rest...but that's an experiment for another day). I found one that worked satisfactorily, but let me cut to the chase to share the recipes for the starter and the bread, and the mixed reviews of the results.
We are talking a farm-sized recipe here.
Mix all the ingredients together in a glass, plastic, or ceramic container (not stainless steel). Loosely cover the top with a cheesecloth (I just kept the lid to my container ajar and it was fine). Leave in a warm place to allow the mixture to ferment. I stirred it a couple of times as the ingredients will separate, and then left it overnight on the counter. You will see it start to bubble and if you smell it, it will smell yeasty and perhaps a little like alcohol. Don't worry. It's supposed to. I then put it in the refrigerator and it sat there for a couple of weeks, and I stirred it every couple of days, while I looked for a bread recipe.
The night before I wanted to use the starter, I took it out of the fridge and let it set out overnight on the counter. Stir well just before using. Use the entire starter, reserving one third cup of the to starter for the next batch of everlasting yeast. To your one third cup of reserved starter add everything except the 1/2 tablespoon yeast, and follow the steps as explained in the beginning.
The Bread Recipe
As I said I could not find a recipe that specifically required the use of the everlasting yeast. The following is an adapted recipe.
1/2 cup butter melted, warm
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) salt**
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs slightly beaten
1 full batch of everlasting yeast (minus 1/3 cup for next batch of starter)
11 cups all purpose flour, plus more to achieve appropriate dough consistency
In a very large bowl, combine the butter, salt, sugar, beaten eggs. Add the everlasting yeast. Mix well.
Add 3 cups of flour to the wet mixture and stir until well combined. Add another 8 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing well in between.
Now, at this point, the dough was still too gloppy for me, and I sifted in 1/2 cup of flour at a time, stirring with each addition, until I achieved a proper bread dough consistency. There is where prior experience and a feel for bread making is important. I can't tell you how much I added, but it was probably another 2 cups and even then the dough was very soft, more like a stiff batter dough, definitely too wet to knead. At the risk of making the dough too heavy with flour and ending up with a doorstop I decided it was enough. Plus, I had qualms on how well the everlasting yeast would work in making the bread rise.
I greased my bowl and let the dough rise, until double in size, 90-120 minutes. I punched it down, and divided the dough into thirds, putting two of the thirds in greased 8x5 loaf pans and making a round loaf (slashing the top for decoration) with the remainder. Let the dough rise a second time, until double in size, another 90 minutes or so. Dough rose beautifully, but more slowly than "conventional" yeast breads.
Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 375*F. Put the loaves on the middle rack and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the bread from the oven and turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
This made 3 loaves of bread, but only because I used one portion to make a round loaf. That last portion could have been divided into 2 loaves, for a total of 4.
Bread Review: The first thing we noticed is that the bread was not salty enough. I followed the original recipe using only the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the bread was bland. (I've since made another batch of bread using the starter, 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat, and a full 1 tablespoon of salt and it was very good!).
The bread was not particularly beautiful to look at, smiles. It looks rustic but not artisan, if you know what I mean. Perhaps it needs an egg wash to give it a bit of a glaze or some melted butter after it comes out of the oven.
This bread keeps very well. Even after a week, the first loaf I had cut into still seemed fresh (though I wonder if credit could be due in part to those special amber colored bags produced just for preserving bread). Also, while I generally don't like frozen bread, this bread froze and thawed beautifully without loss of flavor or texture.
As I hinted above, I have made a second batch of bread, with some changes and greater success. I'll share that story in another post.