Friday, June 1, 2012

Fermented Friday: Jalapeno Beer Bread (with a few tablespoons of science)

Fermented Friday: recipes featuring yeast, wine, beer or some form of fermentation

Double fermentation, again!  Most beer bread recipes use baking powder for leavening rather than yeast.  The really simple ones use self-rising flour which already contains baking powder. Since it's Fermented Friday, we're using yeast in this beer bread.  Last week I finally found the manual to my bread machine and it had a recipe for jalapeno beer bread, score! (It's driving me crazy that I can't get the tilde over the n in jalapeno for this post. Trust me, I've tried.) The bread machine (got it for $1 at a thrift store) has been passed onto my brother for the summer while he's off at his internship.  I thought it was pretty cool that he wanted to take it with to make his own bread.  To cut down on ingredients he needed to buy I measured out all the dry ingredients he would need for one loaf and put them in resealable bags.  I labeled the bags with the additional wet ingredients he needed to add for a complete loaf.  Only time will tell how that all works out, but at least he showed interest.  Sorry, back to the beer bread.  

Now, you know me, I have to play around when I try out a recipe.  If it's in the manual it should work just fine, so why not try a few tweaks to bump it up a notch and see what happens?  I'm all for a good experiment.  The longer I'm away from school the more I realize  how much I miss the science behind food.  A few years ago I read CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, The Secrets of Cooking Revealed   by Shirley O. Corriher.  If you're a food geek this is a must read.  I read it cover to cover and was completely fascinated.  Then I read her next book Bakewise.  I can't say enough good things about these books. Once you understand the science behind the recipes you hold in your hands the power to create anything. Or at least you feel that way, it takes a lot of hands-on experience in addition to the understanding.  I'm going back through CookWise this summer and the first chapter is on yeast breads.  I decided to try out a few principles from her book in this loaf.  

For starters, she explains all about the different types of flours.  Bread flour has around 11-12% protein while all-purpose ranges from 7.5-11.7% depending on what part of the country you live in.  Flour in the south tends to have less protein based on the variety of wheat used and the discretion of the millers.  There are about a million things I could tell you just about protein content, but you might as well just read the book, Shirley explains it much better than I can.  

The recipe I started with called for bread flour (and rye flour) but I had all-purpose.  Both rye flour and all-purpose flour are lower in the crucial protein needed for good bread.  To compensate I added vital wheat gluten.  Since I didn't know the exact percent protein in my all-purpose flour, I went a little on the high side with the additional gluten.  

The second thing I tried with this recipe was intended to increase flavor.  Shirley mentions soaking the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water overnight and using this in place of a 1/2 cup of your liquid.  I also wanted to increase the beer flavor, so I let the yeast ferment in 1/2 cup of beer overnight.  Since the yeast loses some leavening power overnight she also writes about adding a little extra yeast the next day.  Unfortunately she didn't specify how much extra to add.  I went with 1 tsp, which in retrospect was too much.     

Side note: It's a good idea to play with only one variable at a time.  But at that rate I'd be baking bread the rest of my life. Saaaayyyyy, there's an idea! I'm still keeping the bakery option open for my potential direction in life list.  Maybe someday, we'll see...  Oh, and while I'm off topic you should know my brother made the cutting board in these pictures.  

This loaf rose so high in the machine it hit the lid and then collapsed a little.  Between the pre-ferment, the beer and the additional yeast on baking day, there was too much leavening power.  The open crumb structure is another clue that I had too much yeast.  While this made the bread light and airy the additional gluten contributed a tough, slightly chewy texture.  Light and airy combined with tough and chewy is not an ideal texture for this style of bread.  Don't get me wrong, it's still much better than the stuff they call bread at the store. The extra gluten also effected the water (in this case beer) absorption.  I had to add 2 extra tablespoons of liquid during the kneading because the dough was so dry. Even so, the loaf had an uneven and knotted top indicating not enough liquid was available in the dough.  

The crust was slightly crisp with a medium golden brown color. Using rye flour provided a crumb color close to that of a light wheat bread.  The chopped jalapenos were barely visible after baking.  After the extra step of pre-fermenting the yeast in part of the beer, I was expecting a lot of flavor.  All considering, both the beer and yeast flavors were disappointingly faint. However, the jalapeno flavor came through in the aftertaste.  

What do you do with a loaf like this? My brain instantly poured out so many ideas I couldn't decide, but here's a few options:
-Grilled cheese: jalapenos with cheddar, Swiss or Pepper Jack 
-Caramelize some onions, then add mushrooms and a little beer. Cook until reduced.  Use this along with a little Blue cheese in a grilled sandwich.
- Peanut butter makes everything better.  You've heard of peanut butter and banana and some people go for peanut butter pickle sandwiches. Sooooo I went for toast with peanut butter and jalapeno...

If you're interested, the ingredients and technique I used are given below. But remember, there was too much yeast and gluten so adjust with you own discretion.  

 Jalapeno Beer Bread
adapted from West Bend bread machine manual

3-1/4 tsp active dry yeast, divided
8oz warm beer, foam removed, divided
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp sugar
2-1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup rye flour
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbsp chopped jalapenos,drained

* The night before, sprinkle 2-1/4 tsp yeast over 4oz (1/2 cup) warm beer.  Let stand overnight.
* Pour yeast mixture and remaining warm beer into bread machine pan.  Add canola oil, sugar, all-purpose flour, gluten, and rye flour.  Add salt and jalapenos in corner of pan.  Make a well in the center and add remaining 1 tsp yeast.
* Bake in machine according to manufactures instructions for a 1-1/2 lb white loaf.
* During the initial kneading you may need to adjust the flour or liquid accordingly.  (I had to add 2 Tbsp water.)

Food for Thought: "Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try."

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