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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a nice looking bottle of champagne there...from New Years?

Here is a current price list because I know you bought this bottle several years ago...

3:30 PM  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

Yes, and it was pretty good.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

That was me who showed up as anonymous, I don't know why...I was sure I logged in, sorry about that.

Um, go here to read a fun list about food in 1700's. Amy is working on romntic corset novels so she is always researching something interesting...

4:51 PM  
Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

So sorry I haven't been around in a while. I've been neglecting baking (except for pastry for steak and kidney pies, which didn't turn out, BTW - a huge failure on my part given my training...) and cooking and my foodblog. Very little motivation to keep it up lately. Not sure why. Nice to see you're up to lots, though!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Simmy said...

Wow - you are amazing and so inspiring Kiki. You try everything don't you? I was reading about this barm in ED's book and here you are trying it out. I'm still on the undercover baking!

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much of the liquid does one use at a time? I am only familiar wit packats--- how does this liquid translate?

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another recipe for yeast cakes from William Cobbett's "Cottage Economy" (c.1821) printed by Oxford University Press:

3 ounces fresh hops
3.5 pounds Rye Flour
7 pounds Corn Meal
1 gallon boiling water

Rub hops into boiling water, boil for half hour, remove hops, add Rye Flour to boiling water, stir vigously. Take off stove.

Leave overnight and dough will form. Add Corn Meal. Roll out dough to .33 inch thick. Cut with 3 inch diameter glass tumbler into cakes. Dry in sun turning as neccessary until "dry as ship cakes".

To use: break two cakes into hot water, leave overnight, use as you would any yeast the following day.

This apparently makes enough yeast for a year of bread! Dying to try but need to grow fresh hops first!

8:53 AM  

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