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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cosie's Corner & Feed Bag (Moderator: Delmonico)  |  Topic: Yeast as a leavening 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Delmonico
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« on: May 09, 2016, 02:58:23 pm »


Yeast is one celled organisms in the Kingdom of fungi, in the past fungi were considered to be part of the plant kingdom, but have been now separated into a separate kingdom of their own.  This of course means there are also several Phylums, Classes, Orders and Families, Genuses as well as thousands of Species.  But despite that we are dealing with just a single species, here, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although many strains of it have been developed. 

Saccharomyces cerevisiae reproduces by budding; in the process of reproducing it converts carbohydrates (sugars and starch) to alcohol and Carbon dioxide, this is useful to humans because the alcohol is ethanol alcohol, the alcohol in alcoholic beverages, making drinks is not part of this discussion, but we will have to touch on it later.    How ever besides the alcohol it produces, I mentioned the Carbon dioxide, when this fermentation action takes place in a dough, the Carbon dioxide makes the dough bubbly and when baked it makes the finished product lighter and more tender, this of course is called leavening.   

Wild strains of this yeast are part of the component of the white film on grape skins and other fruits and our commercial strains have their origins in these wild strains these have been saved and improved on for thousands of years, the yeast often mutates to better suit the environment it lives in.   

Today making bread stuffs with yeast is fairly easy, we simply go to the grocery store and by a small package, a jar or a large package of dried, dormant yeast, we add it to the warm liquid to dissolve it and as long as it hasn’t been stored in a bad environment and isn’t too old, it will reproduce in the dough, consuming some of the sugars/starch and converting it to alcohol (which evaporates in the baking) and Carbon dioxide which leavens our bread.  Baking yeast breads have not always been this simple; in fact it was just before the middle of the 20th century before it got that simple, although a big breakthrough would take place in the last quarter of the 19th century.   

So with out being able to go to the store and buy nice, easy to use, freeze dried yeast, how does one introduce yeast to your dough to produce leavened bread?  Well one has to obtain a live yeast culture from someone that has one, maintain one of your own or produce a dried product. 

Although the making of alcoholic drinks with our yeast is not part of this discussion, the making of said beverages is a source of yeast, in America, the source was most often was beer.  This of course, like today is a popular beverage but before pasteurization, beer did not keep well or travel well, even if easy and quick sources were available.   This meant beer was brewed locally at a small brewery, at the tavern or even at home, also the beers that were popular in America at the time were English type ales that fermented at the top, this left a foamy substance at the top called barm that contained live yeast that could be used to leaven bread.  (In the second half of the 19th century, German/Czech style Pilsner beer took over as the more popular beers in America, these better keeping, bottom fermentation beers, as well as pasteurization allowed larger more centralized brewers to take advantage of the better transportation available.) 

Of course the amount and viability of the yeast would vary from batch to batch and brewer to brewer, this same barm was used to ferment the next batch of beer also.  Recipes from the period vary, just like recipes today, but most call for a gill (1/2 cup) of barm for a 2-3 loaf recipe, meaning a good place to start would be ¼ cup equals 1 package or 2 ¼ teaspoons of modern dry yeast.   I admit I have never tried this method, but there is no reason it would not work well, provided you were able to obtain a good viable barm to use from a top fermenting brew.   A friend who does there own brewing might be a good bet, although a local micro-brewer may be willing to part with some.   

One then simply replaces the dried yeast in your favorite bread recipe with the barm reducing the amount of flour slightly and work it as you normally do.   One must take into account that the modern freeze dried bread yeasts have been developed to work specifically in our bread recipes and a modern brewers yeast may not work in the same time frame when used as a bread yeast so one wants to give it plenty of time to work, if it ends up being ready before the time you want to bake it, punching it down another time or two will not hurt a thing,  I often make large batches of dough with modern yeasts and bake what I need as I go and keep punching it back down till I have it all baked.

The shelf life of the barm would not be long, no more than a couple days at best, without the grain of the brewing operation feeding it.   So if one was not close to a continuous brewing operation, then the baker would have to grow their own yeast culture.   There are several ways of accomplishing this, once one has a culture of a viable strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we have already seen that one could be obtained from a brewer (a wine maker or distiller also, but wineries were not as common as breweries in America and let’s face it a lot of distillers did not pay tax and would not be wanting a lot of visitors).   

A simple method for those who do a lot of baking, and do it everyday is rather simple, when the dough is ready to make into the loaves, they retain a piece of the active dough and set it aside for the next day, the yeast will keep multiplying and can then be used in the next batch.   The best way to utilize the left over dough is to put some more water and flour in the missing bowl, using the amount of water needed for the next day’s batch of bread.   One uses enough flour to make a slurry or a soft sponge, break the dough up and stir it in and it will multiply and the yeast will be distributed and active, ready to finish the next day, or one can keep it for 3-4 days and it will stay fairly fresh, the problem with it (or at least to some in the time, it was considered a problem) is the Lactobacillales (lactic bacteria) in the air and flour will invade the culture and turn some of the alcohol into lactic acid, this of course forms what we often call sour dough starter.     

If one is away from a reliable supply of yeast from a brewer, this is a good option to keep a yeast culture going, this as we know from history was the method often used by prospectors, ranch and cattle drive cooks as well as others.   As long as some is removed and more water and flour added every few days, with care they can last for years.   Sourdough has some advantages, despite complaints in the time of being served “sour bread” at places like stage stops, one is one can use the lactic acid to make a quick bread instead of a yeast bread by using salertus (baking soda/Sodium bicarbonate) as the alkaline part, a process I covered in my document on chemical leavenings.   Also the acid in the yeast breads will inhibit the bread molding, giving sour dough bread a longer shelf life, an important property in the time.

There are many ways to start a sour dough starter, some involve capturing wild yeast in the air, and some introduced yeast into the culture by adding yeast from a brewer or today commercial dried yeast.   One just needs a medium to grow it in and these are easy to create.  There are many methods of doing this, some recipes call for using boiled potato water, some call for boiled hops water, almost all of them include flour to provide the carbohydrates to feed the yeast, some add sugars and milk, this will get the Lactobacillales working faster since they don’t have to wait for alcohol to be produced by the yeast in quantities enough for them to multiply and form lactic acid.   

I am not going to get into depth on sour dough this time, I will do a document on how it works, it’s feeding and care and how I use it as well as how to convert any yeast or quick bread recipe to use it.

Another method of having yeast to use to raise bread in the era was to make what was called yeast cake, this involves taking some or all of our active fresh yeast culture and thickening it into a stiff dough using regular flour, corn meal or rye flour (recipes vary, but the results would be the same) rolling the dough out to in most cases, about a ¼ inch thick and cutting it to about the size of a soda cracker, then drying it in a warm, but not hot place, till fully dehydrated.   

These so called “yeast cakes” (not to be confuse with cake yeast which I’ll get to)  were then crumbled up and used to make a sponge/slurry like the yeast from the brewer, like the brewery yeast, start the process at least a few hours before needing to make the bread to revive the yeast, overnight is best, none cracker size yeast cake is what is called for in most recipes I’ve looked at, although like recipes do this can vary, but that’s a good guideline, extra will just get it going a bit faster, less will slow it down.   

These methods are the proper ones to use to make yeast breads from the time this country was founded and to the time right up to and right after the Civil War, and of course they are also proper methods to use after, because although radical changes were coming fast, not everybody changed right off, because of both cost, sometimes availability and just as important, they kept using the methods they always had used.   

Just before the Civil War Louis Pasteur was able to fully describe how yeast caused fermentation and with the recent development of a device known as a filter press which could extract yeast from a medium, the stage was set for a new development, in which yeast was extracted, and package for sale, a process said to have first started in Holland, but improved in America by two brothers from Austria-Hungary, Charles and Maximilian Fleischmann, who along with capital from an American, James Gaff, founded a company, in Cincinnati Ohio, the Fleischmann Yeast Company in Cincinnati Ohio in the late 1860’s.  Their product was not the freeze dried yeast we use today, but a small compressed cake of moist yeast and a starch filler.   Fleishmann’s big break through would come at The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, where their concession The Vienna Bakery attracted fair visitors to a demonstration of their product by the smells of fresh baked bread. 

Retailers, wholesalers, commercial bakers as well as house wives, were impressed with the cake yeast, this created a big demand for this product; it rapidly became the yeast product of choice in the last two decades of the 19th century.   These cakes of yeast do have a limited shelf life and must be kept cool; they did allow bread to be baked with out keeping a sourdough starter and not being depended on yeast from a brewery.   Kept in a cool place, this yeast will last 2-3 months, although it may last longer, the yeast starts to weaken after a while, like the brewery yeast and sourdough based yeast recipes it is a good idea to place the cake in warm water and a bit of flour ahead of time and make sure it’s viable.

For those who wish to use cake yeast it can still be obtained, it is still carried in some stores, most often in the cooler around the eggs and milk, the winter holidays are the best time to look for it, the demand is greater at this time, due to the demand to make traditional family recipes at that time of year, if your local store does not carry it, it will not hurt to ask for it, they may be able to get it for you.   If not in our modern world, the internet is a good source and a bit of searching found several sources, although most seem to be in Europe.   My searching shows that the cake yeast comes in different sizes; Fleishmann’s comes in a cake of 0.6 ounce, Red Star sells a 2 ounce cake and some bakery supply wholesalers have 1 pound and 50 pound blocks.   

So let’s assume you have obtained some cake yeast and want to bake bread, but the recipe for the bread you want to make calls for modern dry yeast, how do we proceed?    Fleishmann’s tells you one of their 0.6 cakes is equal to 1 of the envelopes of dry yeast: which is ¼ ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoons of bulk dry yeast.   Red Star says their 2 ounce package will raise 9-12 cups of flour and 1/3 of a cake will equal 3 packages of dry yeast and a quick check of course shows 1/3 rd of 2.0 ounces is 0.66 ounce which is close enough.

One then just dissolves the yeast water 90-95 degrees (most recipes call for 110-115 for dry yeast) then proceed with baking as per dry yeast.  If one wants to buy a supply of cake yeast and if will not be used up in a timely fashion then the yeast is freezable, one can just thaw out the amount needed. 

Today most of us used the dry granular yeast in our baking, this type of yeast was developed at the start of WWII for the United States military, it had several advantages for use in their bakeries, it did not require refrigeration, it had a much longer shelf life and it took up less space and weighed less.   It quickly because the yeast of choice for most home and commercial operations for the same reasons it was liked by the military.   

When buying dry yeast today one will often not more than one type, even in the same brand, Active Dry Yeast are the same product from the WWII era, but you will also see yeast with the terms Rapid Rise, and Instant Yeast as well as the term Bread Machine Yeast, the latter is self explanatory, it is designed to work well in bread machines, the other two can be a bit more confusing.  So what are they really, well there may be slight differences, between them, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, all three are similar and are nothing but our older active dry yeast made up in finer granules, this has two advantages, one is they dissolve in water faster, also they can be added to the dry ingredients and water added instead of having to be dissolved in water first.   These can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for the older dry active yeast, but the reverse is not always true since the larger dry yeast works much better if dissolved in water before adding the dry ingredients.  Because the granules of this type of yeast are smaller than the older type when using it in a recipe for that type of yeast the volume amount needs to be reduced bye about 1/4th, (Individual packages contain the same ¼ ounce by weight.)  A little simple math will show that to duplicate the amount that a single package of dry active yeast holds (2 ¼ teaspoon) with the finer granules it comes out between 1 ½ teaspoons and 1 ¾ teaspoons, for simplicity either will work fine, the difference is not that great, it actually being closer to 1 2/3rds teaspoon.   

Now that we have the yeast figured out as to what, where, why and when, we have to decide what exactly we are going to use in our camps and demo’s.    Unless one brews at home or has a friend that does, and does the older type top fermentation and not the bottom fermenting lager, one is going to have to find a local brewery that one can obtain some barm from.   One can always make up some of the homemade dried yeast cakes or use a sourdough starter; these will need started the night before in most cases to be able to bake bread in a timely fashion to be able to bake the bread when you have the majority of the visitors around.   This makes it difficult if you are doing a day trip only, most times the bread would not be ready to bake till late afternoon and evening, most of your visitors in these living history demonstrations will be in the later morning and earlier afternoon.

Probably the simplest way is of course to use commercial yeast, most of what I do is more geared to the 1880’s so that is correct, I do not use the cake yeast, the main reason being cost, the last time I bought a cake of yeast to experiment with almost 20 years ago, it cost me close to $4 at a local store that only stocks them around the winter holidays, today I can get them off the net for around $3 plus shipping, but since each will raise about 1 pound of flour, (a normal loaf) and most weekends on trips I do at least 10 or more pounds of bread and sometimes when I’m demoing and not making full meals for a group, but baking bread for visitors to sample, I can go through 15-50 pounds of flour a day, making cake yeast very expensive. 

To be honest, I just use the modern dry yeast; I buy the two, 1 pound packages of Instant Yeast packed together for about $6, this is stored in the freezer, in a canning jar after the package is opened.   By using this type of yeast, it allows me to start my bread in the morning, after breakfast, but still before most visitors arrive.   This is not to deceive anyone, but when people ask about what I am making, I tell them yeast bread and most do not ask about the yeast, many would not know that any different yeast was used in the past, but know bread was an important part of the diet and dates way back to at least Biblical times. 

To those who are interested enough to want to know about the yeast and the history, I freely admit what I used and why, for those interested I give them the information on the history of the types I gave above, but for most that is just more information than they really want, the fact you are making bread outside and baking it in a dutch oven is a big surprise for them, I let the visitor tell me by their questions and comments what their interest level is, you will hold many better if you don’t give them more than they can process other will lap up all the information you can give them, you just have to know how to work the crowd. 

Like always, I hope this information on the history of yeast in 19th century American and how I solve the problems of baking yeast bread in camp helps, on one further note, I most often make my bread up as dinner rolls in shallow ovens, this makes them easier to serve.   

The pictures I have included this time shows an 1845 recipe for homemade yeast cake as well as some pictures of me making bread over the years.


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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
Delmonico
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2016, 02:59:35 pm »

Some more.


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Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
Delmonico
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Posts: 24285



« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2016, 03:05:37 pm »

The rest.


* g.jpg (94.39 KB, 640x426 - viewed 129 times.)

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* i.jpg (102.79 KB, 640x359 - viewed 141 times.)
Logged

Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.
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