Monday, 13 March 2017

Something different

Six months ago I dropped down to working 90%. Which means I get every second Friday off.

Usually I spend the day writing and researching. Pretty dull stuff, chained to my computer. But it needs to be done. It was especially necessary in the rush to get my new Scottish book finished.

With the book and talk done, I had time for other stuff this time.

"I've won a bread baking workshop for two. Do you fancy coming along?" Dolores asked me on Tuesday.

"Yeah, why not? Should be interesting."

It involves yeast, baking. I can see a beer connection. I've never baked bread, either. Better than just sitting around the house drinking Abt. As much fun as that is.

The workshop is at one of Amsterdam's most famous bakers, Hartog's. A family firm that's been around since 1896. And for most of those 120 years they've milled their own flour. They don't trust industrial millers, evidently. Their main product is a compact, brick-like wholemeal loaf. It's incredibly popular, with punters cycling across time to buy it. There's always a queue in their shop.

We get to the bakery a bit early. But I've come prepared. I spotted a pub next door on the internet, Lokaal. They sell a couple of different beers, so it'll do. Not in the most attactive building in the world, but it's pleasant enough inside.

Dolores orders a Lowlander Witbier, but they give her an IPA instead. She's remarkably easy about the mistake. Especially seen how much she hates hoppy beers. I  play safe with a Zatte.

We're some of the first to arrive. Most of the others don't turn up until just before we're due to kick off. Most are obviously enthusiastic home bread makers. As is Dolores.  There's only one other novice like me. Before we get stuck into the neading, there's a bit of informal Q&A with the baker, which is dead informative. He's very enthusiastic and clearly knows his stuff.

We're making bread a very quick way. At the end of two hours we'll have a loaf of our own to take home. After a quick demonstartion from the make, we start getting our hands dirty. Very dirty, in my case.

The method we've been shown uses a very wet dough. It looks scary enough when the baker does it. I just end up with a sticky mess that gets all over the place but doesn't seem very keen on forming into a nice ball. Pretty sure it's going to be a disaster, at this point. The baker shoots me a few pitying looks.

Somehow I manage to get most of my streak of chewing gum into the baking tin. Apart from the half kilo or so stuck to my fingers. While it's baking, we get a tour aroung the bakery. I'm quite used to going around food production facilities. There a quite a few similarities with a brewery, mostly all the stainless steel.

Amazingly, my loaf has worked. It hasn't risen as much as Dolores's, but it's still proper bread. I feel ridiculously proud.

Hartog's Volkoren Bakkerij en Maalderij
Wibautstraat 77,
1091 GK Amsterdam.

Wibautstraat 85,
1091 GK Amsterdam.
Tel: 020 - 752 74 19


InSearchOfKnowledge said...

I was baking bread before I was brewing. I am currently baking with yeast strains I caught two years ago in a mix of white and rye flour. It should have been a sourdough, but it is not. In the first two weeks it was sour, it even contained pediococcus (smells like vomit). However, after the first bake-off, somehow the sour character disappeared when feeding the starter further. In good circumstances it mostly smells like bananas. The nice thing about it is that it is also active at low temperatures, in the fridge. I now make my dough in the evening, wrap it in cling film, let it overnight in the fridge, then take it out in the morning to let it rise in the course of the day and bake it off in the afternoon.

I have used this starter also to ferment beer once. I got an attenuation of 70%, and it was not sour, just a nice tasting beer, but I should experiment more with it. Since it is active at low temperatures, I should be able to start fermentation at lower temperatures. But that is still something that needs to be planned, and now spring and higher temperatures are here.

But, hey, it is fun fermenting things, be it beer or bread.

Anonymous said...

I think it was probably enteric bacteria making the sick smell, sour doughs are a bit like lambic in that there are iterations of different microorganisms, once the acid bacteria set in and the ph drops it usually limits the growth of those. If you lower your hopping rate slowly you should be able to influence the sourness of the beer.

Mick said...

Nice one Ron. I do a bit of bread baking, also naans and pizza bases. I often wonder about trying a brew with bakers yeast, just to see.....

Anonymous said...

Mick, Finnish brewers use bakers yeast in sahti, it is apparently heavy in banana esters.

Anonymous said...

This is a video from "Basic Brewing" where they made a simple beer with Fleishman's bread yeast

They said it worked fine with no off flavors. It wasn't great at floccing, and it worked very fast with 80% attenuation. It's obviously not an exhaustive test at different fermenting temps, different grain bills, hops, etc, but the basic verdict seems reasonable to me.