I have been unemployed for three weeks now and have a lot of free time on my hands. With nothing else to do, I started to bake bread – I love bread. So far I have made quite a few loaves of focaccia bread, a loaf of braided French style bread, dinner rolls, croissants and standard white bread. Baking bread is dead simple and incredibly satisfying, plus it will make your house smell amazing. If you haven’t made bread before you must give it a try.
Making bread is very similar to making beer. In ancient Egypt, it is suspected that brewing and bread baking took place is the same place and possibly by the same people. In Egypt, a brew master would also be a baker. After all, the ingredients are almost the same, including grain, yeast and water. Hops are the only ingredient that separates beer from bread; however, hops are a recent addition to brewing and would not have been available to Egyptian brewers.
Baking and brewing, siblings at birth, have sadly been torn apart for thousands of years, and now I, Erik Wolfe, am going to reunite them together again. We shall once again have balance in the world. To do this, I have decided to go back in time and use the same baking & brewing techniques that Egyptians may have used thousands of years ago.
The first bread ever eaten would have been an unleavened flatbread made from an ancient grain such as farro. Without cultivated yeast, which was not available at grocery stores back then, bread will not rise and beer will not ferment. Fortunately, wild yeast is floating in the air all around us just waiting to eat some sugary grain. Early forms of leavened bread and beer would have been fermented with wild yeast. In present day, bread made with wild yeast is called sourdough bread and beer fermented with wild yeast is called a lambic beer. Once a baker or a brewer has fermented their beer or bread, they can cultivate the yeast by continuing to feed grain (sugar) to the yeast, allowing the yeast to be reused again and again. In the form of bread, this is somewhat difficult without refrigeration, but beer is easy to store and is shelf stable at standard room temperatures. By adding beer, instead of water, to grain flour the bread receives a healthy dose of cultivated yeast allowing it to rise and turn into bread.
To recreate a piece of food history, I made a sourdough starter by adding 1 part wheat flour to 1 part beer, my own home brew of course. The starter has been sitting and being fed grain for three days and is bubbling away nicely smelling just like fermenting beer – only brewers enjoy the smell of fermenting grain. The yeast from the beer will continue to eat the flour creating more yeast. Once it has been a few more days, and I have a good amount of yeast in my starter, I will add it to a standard bread recipe and make bread as usual. I will keep you all posted, including the recipe when it is complete.