The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Yeast flavor/dough layering

JackWells's picture

Yeast flavor/dough layering

I'm very new to this, and haven't had time to search this forum very thoroughly yet, so excuse me is this is inane.  I was thinking about the process of making beer, and how  beers can be made using multiple yeast strains at diferent stages, or how batches of beer can be blended with other fermentatons to create complex flavors.  I then began to wonder if bread could benefit from a combination of variously formulated preferments.  For example, I could cultivate one type of yeast that favors wheat flour into a nice starter, then cultivate a brewers yeast into an AP flour with some DME in it, and generate some of the flavors accociated with ales like clove, banana, pepper, butter and on and on. 

Does this seem do-able, or worth trying, or does it just seem destined for failure, or over complicated?

goetter's picture

We certainly can and do blend flavors from different pre-fermented elements when making dough to bake bread - think hot soakers, cold soakers, different levain cultures at different temperatures and hydrations, different baker's yeast sponges at different temperatures and hydrations, final dough spikes with baker's yeast.  However, the differences between wort and dough, between secondary fermenter and your oven, between beer and bread are so great that I would urge you to forget for a little while your ale-crafting experiences while learning baking.  The similarities are only superficial.

First, dough is a much less rich growth medium than wort.  Most of a dough's nutrition remains locked up in a starch matrix, unavailable to the culture, whereas in malting and mashing we've gone through a fair bit of trouble to make most of the grain (depending on how far we saccharified) available to fermentation.  A dough is mostly solid-phase instead of liquid: flocculation (and indeed the density of culture that results in floc, let alone the motility) is completely unknown.  And in dough we even deliberately create stuck fermentations (or what would be stucks, were we brewing) while retarding the rise.  So a dough ends up hosting a much less dense microbial culture than a wort, and hence contains far less of the elements that create ale character.

Second, a hot oven is not a hospitable environment for the various esters and ketones that comprise so much of ale character.  Much of those that are not destroyed outright by the heat will be boiled off.  The organic acids that contribute tart lambic style mouth notes seem to survive baking better (perhaps because they're detected in the mouth rather than the nose... see next item).

Finally, the medium of baked bread is not as suitable for detecting those surviving notes as the medium of liquid beer.  A slice of reasonably fresh bread certainly has a delightful bouquet, but it is a fleeting, fragile fragrance.  A weak solution of ETOH is a much better place to harbor those essences.

So in conclusion, leave the ale in the alehouse for now.  Once the bread is out of the oven, go tap yourself a glass and enjoy the two very different products of the grain field.

jkandell's picture

I don't disagree with Goetter's remarks, but, still, Jack, I'd encourage you to experiment with applying beermaking insights to bread baking.  I know for instance that developing malt (zvarka) is quite similar in beer and east european ryes like Borodinsky, you need to keep it at the optimum temperature for several hours.  

JackWells's picture

So I wiil work on my fundamentals, while never leaving my ale loving knoledge behind.  I'm realizing that I have to start with basics anyway.  These picture perfect loaves I see are not east to make.  TIme to go punch down some dough and enjoy a smoked chocolate porter.