Friday, January 26, 2007


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Homemade Yeast
I have been thinking a lot about this recipe and the bread I have made from past batches.. It is refered to as a barm, which is also a yeast rich foam that has risen to the surface of home made beer. In the beer the hops are used not only for flavour, but for their preservative attributes. This slows the bacteria growth. In bread this would keep the dough from getting too much of a sour flavour. Because of this, any bread made with this starter will have an undertone flavour from the hops instead of a sour flavour from a water/flour starter.

After all that thinking - what a waste of time - Elizabeth David says it succinctly and with a nice historical florish on page 101 of English Bread and Yeast Cookery.
Hops were usually included, more as a preservative, or preventative of sourness, than as a stimulant.....Until well on into the twentieth century and even after the First World War, there were still a few bakers making their bread with barm rather than with compressed distillery yeast; people accustomed to bread leavened with barm held that its flavour was much more interesting than that produced by modern yeast. It is one of those lost tastes.

Well, perhaps it can be revived. I will post a bread recipe using this barm next week, once my barm is done.

Spontaneous Barm

Ideally I try to use organic flour, and have found the barm successful using whole wheat flour. The whole wheat barm does not allow for a bright white interior to your finished loaf – this being a very desirable quality one hundred years ago – but with our love of whole grain loaves and variety flours, the whole wheat barm works very nicely.

2 quarts water
3/4 cups hops, loosely packed
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bread flour
12 oz. potatoes, cooked and mashed


Day One:
Combine hops and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to lukewarm. Strain out hops, discard flowers. Place liquid in a 4 quart container. Stir in sugar and salt. Add some of the broth to the flour in a bowl to make a slurry. Add the slurry back into the hops broth, stirring well. Set the bowl in a warm spot, stirring occasionally, for two days.

Day Two:
Continue to stir the broth occasionally.

Day Three:
Stir in the still warm, (but not hot!), mashed potatoes. Stir well.

Day Four:
The mixture should have started to ferment. Let sit until the evening, then strain and store in bottles filled ¾ full of the yeasty coloured broth. Store in the refrigerator until needed. Bring the yeast to room temperature before using.

Barm will keep 6 to 8 weeks.
Note: I store the liquid in thoroughly washed and dried milk bottles. You can seal them using the old lids, (washed well of course), or cork, or even just plastic wrap with an elastic band to keep it secure.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My House Stinks
Normally, this would be a bad thing, like in a fit of the blues I refused to take the garbage out for what smelled like forever.
But in truth I am starting the Spontaneous Barm. The hops are simmering on the stove, emitting a brewery kind of smell that would soak into the curtains if I had any. This is going to take four non-labour intensive days to make.
I found my hops in a health food store. There are umpteen types of hops to be found online. I have only used one type so far. In the brewing of beer the type of hop one uses is very important for flavour in the finished product. I’m not sure just how important it would be in a loaf of bread.
My inspiration for making breads without commercial yeast came from this letter, written in 1834 by an early Canadian settler.

In front of the stoup, where we dined, the garden was laid out with a smooth plot of grass, surrounded with borders of flowers, and separated from a ripening field of wheat by a light railed fence, over which the luxuriant hopvine flung its tendrils and graceful blossoms. Now I must tell you the hop is cultivated for the purpose of making barm, for raising bread. As you take great interest in housewifery concerns, I shall send you a recipe for what we call hop-rising.

Here is an excerpt for what Elizabeth David would call a Spontaneous Barm from a letter written by “the wife of an Emigrant Officer, 1838”, (Canada).

In every settlers house is a valuable substitute for ale or beer yeast, and it is make in the following manner:- take two double handfuls of hops, boil in a gallon of soft water, if you can get it, till the hops sink to the bottom of the vessel; make ready a batter formed by stirring a dessert plate full of flour and cold water till smooth and pretty thick together: strain the hop liquor while scalding hot into the vessel where your batter is mixed ready: let one person pour the hop liquor while the other keeps stirring the batter. When cooled down to a gentle warmth, so that you can bear the finger well into it, add a cup or basinful of the former barm, or a bit of leaven to set it to work; let the barm stand till it has worked well, then bottle and cork it. Set by a cellar or cool place in summer, and in winter it is best to keep it from freezing. Some persons add two or three mealy potatoes boiled and finely bruised, and it is a great improvement in the cooler months of the year. Potatoes in bread may be introduced very advantageously; and to the first settlers, who have all their flour to buy, I think it must be a saving.
The recipe I post tomorrow is a one person job of much smaller dimensions.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Seed

Here is a variation of the starter recipe that I originally posted many months ago. Use this to create the "seed" for creating a larger starter, or pre-ferments such as a biga, poolish and such.

Pre-ferments are starters with varying degrees of water content and flour blends. In Peter Reinhart's book the Bread Baker's Apprentice, he uses commercial yeast in his pre-ferments. Instead I subtitute a starter, or my homemade yeast, (a variation of Elizabeth David's Spontanious Barm from English Bread and Yeast Cookery) for the commercial yeast.

Eventually I will include the recipe for the Spontanious Barm, but I am still working on it with the pre-ferments.

Leaven Recipe modified from
The Handmade Loaf
by Dan Lepard

Notes on Flour: I use organic flour for most of my bread. You can also substitute all purpose flour for the bread flour, or use whole wheat flour with success.
Notes on recipe: I don't bother using weight measures for such small quantities, and I also don't feel that starters are such an exact science. But I like the addition of raisins, although I do not believe they are necessary to create a natural starter, they just introduce different yeasts, enzymes and bacteria to the starter.

Day 1
1/2 cup water at 20 C
2 rounded tsp rye flour
2 rounded tsp unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon organic raisins

Mix all the ingredients in a 750 ml jar, (3/4 quart jar). Cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2
1/4 cup water at 20C
2 rounded tsp rye flour
2 rounded tsp bread flour

There won't be much happening that you can see, but don't worry, the yeast is getting busy in there. There may be water on the top and sludge on the bottom and this is fine. Give it a good stir, add the above ingredients, water first, (giving it a good stir before adding flour), cover and let sit 24 hours at room temperature.

Day 3
1/2 cup water at 20C
4 rounded tsp bread flour
4 rounded tsp rye flour

The raisins are now going to be smooshy and giving off a brown colour - this is all good. You may see a trace of fermentation forming on the top of the mixture - or not. Not to worry, just add the water and flour as said above, cover and let sit the 24 hours at room temperature.

Day 4
1/2 cup water at 20C
3/4 cup bread flour flour

You should be able to see evidence of fermentation, froth and bubbles will be forming. It won't be all that smelly yet, that comes with age. Stir, then remove 3/4 of the starter and discard. Add water, stirring well, then strain the raisins out of the soupy mixture, discard the raisins. Wash the mason jar, (not necessary, but I like to), pour the liquid starter back into the jar and stir in the flour. Cover and let sit 24 hours.

Day 5
1/2 cup water at 20C
3/4 cup bread flour

The starter should be bubbly, and you will smell a little sourness. Remove 3/4 of the starter and discard. Stir in the water, then the flour. If you like you can add a little more flour to make a thick dough like levan. It will take longer to rise and fall. Let sit 24 hours at room temperature.

Day 6 Onwards
Take the lid off the jar, and you will see the mixture bubbling. Each day, as you remove some leaven for baking, replacing it with the equivalent amount of flour and water, the aroma of the leaven will become stronger and more sharply acidic.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This Is Getting Ridiculous

I have written nothing, taken no pictures and am generally out of focus for the time being. In a bit of a personal slump at the moment. As soon as I do ANYTHING related to food, I will post.

Although I did make a beautiful chili yesterday with a pot roast. Cooked it for five hours, then removed the roast and shredded it by hand (what a mess!) back into the almost burgundy sauce seasoned with chili powder, roasted ground cumin, garlic, hot paprika and chipotle. I will throw in a handfull of cooked black turtle beans just before serving it. I like the look of the glossy black beans in the red sauce. It is going to taste pretty darn good when I serve it with rice, salsa and creme fraiche - perhaps I will remember to take a photo and post it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No Starter/Barm Recipe Yet

I seem to be having some difficulty getting stuff done around here. I will eventually get my starter notes posted.

On that note, does anyone in Vancouver want some starter? It is getting a bit silly around here, either I have ridiculous amounts of bread around the house because I don't want to waste the starter or I throw 3/4 quarters of my starter out. I promise to get my notes on line for those who would need to know how to use and maintain the starter.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy New Year Everyone

I have been offline for some time now, but I plan on being back in the saddle right quick.
Just writing up some stuff on keeping your starter alive, for you especially WC. Should be ready by tomorrow.