Damped and Driven

March 3, 2008, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Not School, Recipes, Science and Other Nerdiness

On Saturday, the much anticipated bread-off finally happened. The idea had been born at the Kyle love party and Anna and i had been exchanging bread pun smack talk for the last 2 weeks. The Bread-0ff became one part of a literal smorgasbord of activities involving soup, bread and beverages. It was a ton of fun and also made me think of a science topic.

Anna made French bread and i made beer bread. It’s interesting because these are two entirely different leavening mechanisms representative of probably the two most common ways to make bread rise. French bread uses yeast as leavening. Beer bread is a ‘quick bread’ or ‘soda bread’ like banana bread that rises because of a chemical reaction.

Bread leavened with yeast is more difficult to make. Yeast is a fungus, (interestingly Saccharomyces cerevisiae (thanks Russ) the same yeast used to make beer) and as such you sort of need to feed and care for it to get it to come out and play and make the bread rise before you bake it to death. This involves mixing the ingredients together including the yeast and a little sugar if theres not enough carbohydrates in the flour it can feed on. As the yeast feeds on the sugar it puts out carbon dioxide and these little bubbles of gas are what cause the bread to rise. You let the bread rise, then punch it down and let it rise again, this gives the bread more flavor and texture. Interestingly, there is protein, gluten, in the flour that allows the bread to be elastic and hold its shape. If you don’t use bread flour, it doesn’t have as much of that protein, and as a result if you try and make bread with all purpose flour it will probably end up denser than you’d like it to.

Beer bread is sort of a trick play as it’s a quick bread, taking only an hour or so, while yeast leavened bread takes probably 3 or more hours. Beer bread works differently, rather than fungi, its a chemical reaction, not too unlike the baking-soda vinegar volcano you think of from middle school science fairs, except its baking powder and beer and it makes bread instead. The beer is slightly acidic and the baking powder has sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in it. When the acid and base react this also forms carbon dioxide gas. This is what causes a soda bread to rise.

Anyway, people were feeling the beer bread and voted it the winner. I’ve had good luck with it so i though i should share the recipe. Check out:


Its super easy and I only tweak it slightly:

I do one cup white flour, one cup wheat, and one cup rye. Also, instead of the brown sugar, i use about 1/2 brown sugar, 1/2 molasses. As for the beer, i just use a can of humble miller light, but would imagine using different, more flavorful beer could be really good too. Thats half the fun of it- just messing around with the recipe. Oh, and also pouring a can of beer into something you’re going to eat.

Also, a side note.. All recipes http://allrecipies.com/ is pretty awesome. The recipes are reviewed so you can find good recipes fast and there are also about a million recipes to choose from.