Challenged! Make Your Own Yeast

May 12, 2009

raised doughBe careful what you joke about.  After watching a food challenge cooking show, I joked that Kent and I should come up with challenges for each other.  He immediately challenged me to make my own yeast for bread making.  Well, I couldn’t back out of it so I started researching.

There are actually several options for making your own yeast.  Most sources talk about using potato water but they called for hops.  I didn’t want to mess with trying to track down hops so I kept hunting.  Finally, I came across a site with a recipe for yeast water that seemed like something I could easily do with what I already had at home.  It uses raisins.

I put the raisins in a jar with tap water.  In about a week, the raisins were floating and there was a layer of foam across the top.  I used a peasant-style pot bread recipe from Nancy Baggett’s Kneadlessly Simple cookbook. It is a kneadless bread that relies on a slow rise of over 18 hours.  For the second rise, you fold in the outer edges of the dough.

preparing for the 2nd riseThe recipe is available at

Instead of mixing instant yeast into the 2 cups ice water, I simply used two cups of the yeast water.  And guess what?  It rose!  Woo Hoo!From the photo, it looks like it didn’t rise on the one side.  That is more the result of my clumsiness in moving it from the bowl to the hot stew pot.  In transferring the dough, I accidentally collapsed the one side.  I really liked this bread despite it being a white bread.  That’s mostly because of the crust.  Placing it in the hot pot really created a wonderful chewy yet flaky crust.  This is a crust that you do not want to cut off.

I’m not sure if I can just add water to the jar and continue to generate yeasty enough water, but I’ll give it another try with another bread.peasant pot bread


Flops – What happens when you forget the egg in rhubarb bread

March 22, 2009

flopped-rhubarb-breadToday’s post is about flops.  Totally.  As in the bread falling completely apart.

One of the great things about rhubarb is that you can quickly chop it up and pop it into the freezer for baking later.  In a few months, fresh rhubarb will be available.  So I thought I would finish up the rhubarb in the freezer.  Rhubarb bread is one of my favorites so you’d think I’d pay more attention while putting it together.

Unfortunately I forgot the egg.  Egg is very important.  According to Darra Goldstein in the Baking Boot Camp, eggs are necessary for stability (2007).  Eggs work with flour to add structure.  During the baking process the two ingredients react to each other and solidify the batter for its final form.  Without eggs, everything falls apart.  As evidenced by the photograph.

The flavor is still pretty good.  I’m thinking of getting some vanilla ice cream and crumbling my learning experience on top.

Rhubarb Bread

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. oil
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. salt
1 t. soda
1 t. cinnamon
2 c. flour
2 c. rhubarb

Combine all the ingredients.  Pour into two greased loaf pans.


1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 T. butter

Melt butter, mix in sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle mixture on top of batter.

Bake for 60 minutes

Goldstein, D. (2007). Baking boot camp: Five days of basic training at the Culinary Institute of America.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Cooking perfectly fluffy rice

February 17, 2009


Last weekend I cooked Chicken Korma and reported that the rice dampened the flavor of the dish.  I have a history of hypertension, and although my blood pressure readings were normal the last time I visited the doctor, I still try to limit sodium where I can.  So instead of adding salt to the cooking water, I abstained.   I followed the directions on the package, sans salt, and the rice came out sticky like it usually does for me.  Having had basmati rice at Indian restaurants before, I knew it could fluffy.

So I consulted Cooking, by James Peterson.  The solution was simple, prepare it “…in the same way you cook pasta.” So I brought a gallon of water to boil, added a tablespoon of salt and a cup of brown basmati rice.  Once the water began to boil again, I reduced to a simmer.  Once I saw the kernels start to plump up, I began to check.  When the rice was al dente I poured the whole lot into the colander.  Low and behold….. the rice was fluffy!  Not only that, after spooning leftover chicken korma over the rice and tasting, we discovered the dish had much better flavor and texture than before.  A small adjustment in technique can really make a difference.

I found cooking a cup of rice in a gallon of water is a little overkill, in terms of water.  Next time I’ll try a half gallon of water and a half tablespoon of salt.  If anyone has a preferred method of cooking fluffy rice, please share.

Author: Kenton