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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sourdough Bread

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Arie, came over to teach us how to make beer bread. I'm not talking about a quick bread made with beer. I'm talking about chewy, yeasted bread that uses wort in place of water! Wort is the amazing liquid created during the process of brewing beer. The boiling of grains and sugars create a sweet, malty aroma. Imagine a big giant bath of honey, grains, maple syrup, oatmeal, and brown sugar. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? The wort lends all of these flavors to create some of most flavorful bread I have ever tasted.

One of my favorite qualities about Arie is that he truly loves teaching and sharing his knowledge. I'd love to share that knowledge with you, but there were spreadsheets involved!

Like, Excel spreadsheets.

He busted out the metric scale and started talking about mathematical equations, baker's percentages and hydration ratios and I packed up my bags to leave my own house. No, I didn't. I got my hands dirty in the floury mess. But don't worry, Arie has detailed his process to share with you too!

The process starts with boiling malt grains to make wort that is typically used for brewing beer. I can't wait to show you what else you can do with these boiled grains!

If you get the chance to pop into a local homebrewing shop, go sample the various types of grains! The grains range from light beige to pale gold to caramel to amber to deep, rich chocolate. Crunchy tasty.

You gotta have a starter--a simple mixture of flour and water that sits out and collects the naturally occurring yeast in the air. Then, you add the wort and some bread flour to your sourdough starter and let it hang out. It sits out at room temp and bubbles up to make a "sponge".

This is where the spreadsheets come in--you weigh how much starter and water you used to determine how much bread flour and salt to add to create a dough.

The dough is heavy and dense and you can tell right away that it will pack a nice yeasted malty flavor.

After kneading and letting the dough rest, you can shape it into rounds or baguettes and let it triple in volume. Then, like a kid putting sprinkles on the cupcake, you can decorate with seeds, salts, and spices as you wish. Using a sharp knife, you can cut some slashes in the dough if you want to get really fancy.

I have always loved "everything" bagels, so I put on a coating of sesame seeds, dehydrated garlic, poppy seeds, oregano, fennel seeds and salt.

Bake. Bake. Bake.

And wish for a more evenly heated oven.

Thank you, Arie, for sharing your bread knowledge with me. With us.

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