Beer Yeast Bread


Beer Yeast Bread

A few weeks ago I was researching sourdough.  Prior to a few hundred years ago, sourdough and sour beer were the natural results of all baking and brewing.  There was no way to maintain a pure culture, and using wooden containers and instruments just guaranteed infection.  The goal was to make a product that worked under these conditions, where sourness was just a fact of life.  Then came Louis Pasteur.   Because of  his work, a pure culture of a yeast could be managed and propagated for future use.  Also, the ability to prevent contamination with bacteria and unwanted yeasts became possible.  This revolutionized brewing, but it also changed baking.  Now, bakers could make bread without the tart, sour tang of the lactic bacteria.  Bakers would either propagate yeast themselves, often using barley mashes just like brewers, or they would simply get the yeast from the local brewery. It was very common to see the local brewery and bakery close to each other, doing a brisk trade.  This changed with the advent of dried yeasts for bakers.  However, bakers yeast and brewers yeast are the same species, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.

Today, I was washing the yeast from my Saison de Mars and ended up having plenty left over.  One of the key thing I have learned about brewing is the yeast strain impacts the flavor of the beer tremendously, so I wanted to see if this would carry through to baking.  As I was washing a saison yeast, with its intense flavor profile, I thought this would be a good time for an experiment.  This happens to coincide with my wife checking out a copy of the book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes from the local library.  If you are interested in baking bread, I highly recommend it.  It is quite technical, so I can see some folks being put off, but the information in it is outstanding.  So, using the left over washed yeast, I decided to make a very simple bread to try this out.  The recipe is as follows:

15 oz of bread flour

10 oz of washings from the carboy

3/4 tsp of salt

If you are not sure what I mean by washings, a synopsis is that clean, sanitized water is added to the yeast cake at the bottom of the carboy, mixed up, and then allowed to settle.  The heavier stuff drops out quickly, and you get a broth that forms on top of that that is full of yeast without the debris.

Washed yeast in the carboy


I combined the washings and the flour in the mixer, and using a dough hook, I let it mix on the lowest setting  for 2.5 minutes.  Then I shut off the mixer, and let it set for 20 minutes, to let the dough hydrate through, and to allow autolysis to progress.  After 20 minutes of sitting, the dough became very elastic, and I turned on the mixer again, added the salt, and kneaded the dough for 5 minutes on the 2nd speed setting.  After 5 minutes, the dough was placed in a lightly greased bowl, covered, and allowed to rise for about 4 hours, where it more then doubled in size.  I then folded it, shaped it, and let it rise a 2nd time.  This was then baked in a cast iron Dutch Oven as I outlined here at 425F for 30 minutes covered, and 20 minutes uncovered.

The bread rose well, and baked up nicely.  After it cooled, I cut off a piece to try.  It had a nice crumb, and very crispy crust, and it tasted like…basic bread.  It was good, but nothing very unique.  Even using a highly flavorful yeast like a saison strain, it tasted like it would have if I used a dried bakers yeast.   So, at the end of the day, I learned you can make a nice loaf of bread with that yeast in the bottom of your carboy, but it is probably not worth the hassle.

That being said, I did make a bread starter with more yeast washings and have that tucked away in my fridge.  After a few generations, we may have something unique on our hands.  It will be fun to see.


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