Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everlasting Yeast and a Bread Recipe

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.

Everlasting Yeast

1 quart (4 cups) warm, unsalted, potato water
1/2 tablespoon dry yeast (1 1/2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white or whole wheat flour

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.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Potato Pizza

I was having one of those blue, low energy, need-lots-of-carb days, and boy, oh boy, does this delicious pizza fill the need and then some.  If you are one who likes stuffed or twice baked potatoes and pizza, I believe you will enjoy this.  This pizza combines the best of two worlds and was a winner with both me and Sweetie-Pi.

The original recipe said to bake the potatoes; I boiled mine in unsalted water, but only because I wanted the potato water for something else I was making (everlasting yeast, a post to come soon).  For those who are in a hurry, the microwave would work well here. I think this recipe is pretty flexible; add more bacon, substitute with sausage, onions instead of the scallions.  Whatever you like on your baked stuffed potatoes would probably work here. I skimmed through the reviews on Allrecipes, and some of the folks said they used half sour cream and half ranch dressing.  Now doesn't that sound tasty!
I use an easy and simple pizza crust recipe  (found here)  that  requires no rise time and no kneading.  I have given up attempting to duplicate the wood-fired oven, pizza parlor pizza  (no wood-fired oven for starters and I don't own a pizza stone either)  so I've settled for ease and convenience as well as a good homemade bready crust.  This crust is thick enough to hold the heartiest of toppings.
Baked Potato Pizza
(adapted from  Allrecipes.Com)

Your favorite prepared pizza crust or recipe

3 medium potatoes, unpeeled, baked and cooled, cubed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (I used a mix of thyme, basil, basil)
1 cup sour cream
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions (scallions), chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Have a crust ready to go in a 14" round pizza crust pan.** (Make sure you have a bit of a rim on the crust because the toppings you are going to put on are going to make a thick pizza.)  Bake for 400*F for 5 to 6 minutes or until crust starts to brown and feels just firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In the meantime, put the cubed potatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with the melted butter, garlic powder, and seasoning. 

Spread the sour cream over the pizza crust; top with the potato mixture and then scatter the bacon, green onion over that, and add the grated cheeses over all. 

Bake at 400*F for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before cutting into slices.

**Okay, I don't have a wood-fired oven, a pizza stone, and I don't have a pizza pan.  I just use my rimmed cookie sheet for a pizza pan and have a rectangular pizza, cut into squares to serve.  Tastes the same no matter how it's sliced, grins.  The crust recipe doesn't quite fill the pan from side to side, but that may be because I don't stretch it as thin as some might.  We tend to like a thicker crust for homemade pizzas and considering the weight of the toppings on this pizza, I would urge you to consider it if you are one who prefers a thin crust.

Pizza Crust
(found on

1 1/4 ounce package yeast (equals 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup water, warmed to about 110*F
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for the pan, nice but not necessary

In a medium sized bowl, combine the yeast and water and stir to dissolve. The yeast should start to bubble after a minute or so.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

Sprinkle the cornmeal if you're using it on the bottom of the pan.  Press and gently stretch the dough into the pan.  (I might oil my  hands a little to give the dough a little more ease.) 

Bake at 450*F for 15 minutes or until golden brown.