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wild yeast

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This bread was placed in ridged banneton baskets to raise, to give its unique rings.

This bread was placed in banneton baskets to rise, which gives the bread its unique rings.

Did you know that you don't need commercial yeast to make bread? I learned this fact and more at a two-night Artisan-Style French Breads class at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York. There is natural, wild yeast in most environments, and if you give dough a bit more time, it will collect this yeast from the air and start to ferment and rise. You start with sponge, which is just water and flour (could be wheat, rye, or bread, depending on the recipe, but you want to start with coarser flours as it will promote more yeast activity). Each day, you add more flour (ever finer) and water to the starter as well as salt (it can inhibit yeast, so it isn't added at first). This is how San Francisco sourdough is made —bakeries have been feeding their sponge for years.

Our instructor had already started some the bread bases before our first night of class because the fermenting and rising can take 4 days or more. Over the course of two nights, we worked with several doughs and used various tools and pans to create the baked breads. We added additional ingredients, such as nuts, herbs, and dried fruit, to some of bases, too. We also got to work with brioche dough and made pain d' espices, two other traditional French breads. Check out my photos to see some of the items I baked. And for more bread pictures and recipes, visit the Wild Yeast blog. It has a weekly YeastSpotting post that features some beautiful breads.

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This is a wheat bread base on day 3. My friend Janelle and I added more flour and water to it and then it was put in a mixer to knead for 10 minutes.

1 This is a wheat bread base on day 3. My friend Janelle and I added more flour and water to it and then it was put in a mixer to knead for 10 minutes.

The dough after it came out of the mixer. It would rest overnight and then be used the next night to make several styles of bread.

2 The dough after it came out of the mixer. It would rest overnight and then be used the next night to make several styles of bread.

A hazelnut, fig, and wine mixture was kneaded into a dough. We formed it into fougasse, French flatbreads that you cut slits into to make leaf or tree shapes. My shape was more like a sand dollar.

3 A hazelnut, fig, and wine mixture was kneaded into a dough. We formed it into fougasse, French flatbreads that you cut slits into to make leaf or tree shapes. My shape was more like a sand dollar.

The baked fougasse.

4 The baked fougasse.

I learned that it's important to slash narrow rolls and baguettes to help the bread hold its shape in oven.

5 I learned that it's important to slash narrow rolls and baguettes to help the bread hold its shape in oven.

We rolled out brioche and then covered it with egg wash. Goat cheese rounds were placed in the center before it was baked. These were a hit with hungry bread makers.

6 We rolled out brioche and then covered it with egg wash. Goat cheese rounds were placed in the center before it was baked. These were a hit with hungry bread makers.

We also cooked the brioche in traditional fluted brioche molds.

7 We also cooked the brioche in traditional fluted brioche molds.

Comments (1)

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    You made some beautiful breads in the class. A fougasse with hazelnuts, figs, and wine sounds amazing!

    Thank you for linking to my blog and mentioning YeastSpotting. It's so wonderful for me to be able to showcase the incredible breads that people make in their own kitchens every week.

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