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To Bread or Not to Be

To Bread or Not to Be

This week’s article is all about baking bread, and comes to us from our friend, avid breadmaker and homebrewer Alex Costa (@hot.breadz if you want to see some cool bread content on IG).  Below, he shares with us his no knead bread recipe and goes over making homemade bread with a couple of select active dry yeasts made for brewing and distillation.  This was a cool experiment that we all came up with to see what the difference was between bread yeast and brewers yeast, so grab a slice of homemade bread, slather it in melted butter, and read on, friends!


In what one could say is a timeless introduction for any period of humanity, I think Dickens said it best. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” For those who appreciate A Tale of Two Cities they know the intro goes on for another seventy some odd words. The message in those words however ring’s true today as much as they did in the late 1700’s. Now, I know what you are thinking. How does Dickens' account of the French Revolution relate to bread? Well if you'll bear with me for a few more sentences I will explain. Bread has been a staple of life for humanity since history began. In my example bread riots during the winter and spring of 1789 lead to the fall of the Bastille in Paris which kicked off a series of revolutions that influenced countless generations and shaped the world we live in today. The world we live in today is full of uncertainty, fear, and frustration. The struggles of Covid-19 are very different from the struggle of freeing oneself from tyranny and oppression. Luckily we have something the people of Paris didn’t have, delicious, warm, bread.

Several weeks ago I had a brainstorm with RJ and Josh at Brewchatter about doing an article about baking bread. We decided a fun experiment would be to bake several loaves of bread using distillers and brewers yeast. We chose Red Star Dry Active Distillers “DADY” yeast and Safale S-04 brewers yeast. Now I have baked loads of bread. I don’t consider myself to be all that good at it. I also typically only use bread yeast so this experiment was going to be very challenging! I felt that the best bread to make for this experiment would be a simple no knead recipe to limit as many variables as possible.

This is the recipe I used:
  • 500g bread flour (I prefer King Arthur but any good bread flour will do)
  • 300g of room temperature water.
  • 11 grams of yeast (If you want to use this recipe with bread yeast use 4g)
  • 7grams of salt

            1.  Add your 300g of water to a mixing bowl.
            2.  Add 300g of the flour, salt and yeast to your bowl combing with your hands or a large spoon.
            3.  Slowly add the remaining 200g of flour until fully incorporated into the dough.
            4.  Once a shaggy dough is created (see picture below) let the dough rest for 12-16 hours at room temperature.

           5.  After the dough has about doubled in size tip the dough out onto a floured surface.

      Flour sugar loaf pan

              6.  Take your dough and fold each side into the center then shape roughly into a nice roundshape.
             7.  Let your dough rest for another 30 minutes.
             8.  Bake at 500 degrees. If you are using a dutch oven (which I recommend) bake for 25 minutes with the lid on then another 20 with the lid off or until golden brown. If you aren’t using a dutchoven, line a baking sheet with wax paper and bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.

        Red Star Yeast Beer BreadSafale S-04 Bread Yeast LoafBeer Yeast Bread


        • A dutch oven will give you a thicker, flaky crust plus it will keep your bread from sticking after its done baking.
        • If you think your bread is done but are unsure, give it a few solid taps on the bottom. If the loaf sounds hollow it’s all done.
        • A lower temperature during the initial rise will produce a much better tasting loaf so let your dough rise in your coolest room.
        • Let your bread fully cool to room temperature before eating. As the bread cools it continues to cook and slicing into the bread too early will leave the inside of the bread undercooked, wet and dense.
        I baked 3 sets of loaves and found there are some significant challenges when using these two non traditional yeasts for bread. This first issue I found was that both yeasts reacted poorly to elevated salt levels. We add salt to bread to enhance flavor and it is essential to breadmaking.  I typically like a higher amount of salt in my bread, around 10g is perfect for my taste, however when I used that much salt neither yeast rose properly and resulted in thick dense loaves. If you find your dough is not rising consider lowering your salt level or add it after your yeast is

        dissolved into your dough. Salt that comes into contact with yeast directly can actually kill the yeast. Another possibility for your dough not rising is you may have yeast that is old and not up for the task of fermenting dough. If you get your yeast from Brewchatter, though, that won’t be an issue.

        The second issue I came across was my ratio of flour to water. My typical no knead recipe uses an 80% hydration rate. That means I'm using 80% of water by weight to flour. So normally I would use 500g of flour to 400g of water. When I tried this ratio using both yeasts, I found the dough just didn’t have the proper structure to deal with shaping right before baking. The dough was far too wet and instead of rising slightly and holding its shape before baking (Step 7), it just spread out and became a sloppy mess. After lowering my hydration percentage to 60% I found the dough far easier to manipulate during shaping, and had much better structure.

        The final issue was the amount of yeast I used. I typically use a small amount of bread yeast on a no knead recipe somewhere between 2-4 grams. When I used that amount of yeast it took nearly 28 hours for my dough to fully rise. While that really isn’t a problem from a baking standpoint I simply refuse to wait that long for bread to rise. When I make no knead bread I generally make it before bed then bake it the next morning. This makes waiting 28 hours impractical. After switching to 11 grams of yeast I found the bread rose around my normal 12-16 hours, which is perfect for me.

        Bread Rising Top of the Loaf

        The top container is S-04, the bottom is “DADY”.  After 9 hours of rising you can see the S-04 was far less active.

        Besides a few setbacks, however,I found both yeasts made excellent bread with great flavor. I found the “DADY” yeast suitable for general bread baking and would be an excellent substitute for bread yeast. It rose well and tasted lovely. The Safale S-04 in all three tests did not rise as much as the “DADY” yeast and tended to produce a denser, flatter bread. I would recommend using the S-04 on a flatbread recipe like a focaccia, naan, or pita.

        I love making things with my hands and bread is no exception. It’s both wonderfully simple and outrageously intricate. I had a lot of fun doing this experiment and I will definitely be looking to use other yeasts for my future baking endeavors. Let’s all take to heart that while times are tough, we have it better than many before us. Let’s remember to enjoy the little things. I hope this article brings you warmth, happiness and, of course, yummy bread!

        We have to add here a HUGE thank you to Alex for all of his diligence, experimentation, and writing this article for BrewCranium!!  Beer yeast bread has been a hot topic on the interwebs lately, and it’s awesome to have some hard and fast results that end in delicious bread!  Let us know how your bread came out using distillers or brewers yeast in the comments below!  If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot!

        Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for awesome beer (and bread) content and to stay up to date on new products and general homebrew geeking out!  Check out our YouTube Channel at BrewChatterTV for all kinds of fun, funny and instructional videos!  Brew On!

        Update 5.20.20

        Kirk (you can read more about his process in the comments below) was kind enough to share some pictures of his recent experience using beer yeast to make his bread!  Thanks for contributing!

        Sourdough Beer Yeast Bread

        Sourdough Beer Yeast Homebrew Bread

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        Kirk Howell - May 21, 2020

        As it turned out, I couldn’t be happier. Simple sourdough french bread; just flour, water, yeast, and salt. Compared with using my own flour-based sourdough starter, or even dry bread yeast, the rise times were cut in half, the dough was way easier to work with (less sticky), the finished bread texture was smoother, it was easier to slice, and the taste was wonderful; a very subtle change in fermentation esters (which should be expected) but nothing unpleasant. And, it will be interesting to see if the esters change with the yeast. My next brew will use Imperial’s Tartan Ale yeast, and that should be an interesting twist. We had the bread with salad for dinner tonight, with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping, magnificent! And if you try it, don’t skimp on the yeast. I didn’t, and I think that was a good decision. Just like in brewing, a little extra yeast doesn’t hurt and insures you get a good fermentation.

        I will not be going back to maintaining a sourdough starter. This is how I will make bread from now on. As I was pondering about it today, back in the older days they must have used beer and wine yeast for bread-making. Sure enough, a little reading up showed that to be true. People would get their yeast from brewers as a norm.

        Thank you again for your article. I would not have thought of doing this without it!

        Kirk Howell - May 20, 2020

        Thank you for the article as I like to bake bread also, and you gave me what may be a great idea.

        I kegged beer today, and harvested some of that great, healthy, fermenter bottom yeast to make sourdough bread. Here’s what I have going:
        3 tbs (50 grams) fresh beer yeast from the fermenter (which is a starter).
        130 grams of warm water (100 deg f) (just over a 1/2 cup)
        120 grams flour (1 cup)
        Mix the starter and water together in a bowl to dissolve the starter, then add the flour and stir with a fork to combine. Cover and let sit 6-12 hours or overnight. This will make what they call a “sourdough levain”. It should become active and cover the surface completely with bubbles. Then add and adapt to your bread recipe.
        I’ll be baking bread tomorrow and can let you know how it turns out if you’re interested. Thanks again, I don’t know why I’d never thought of this before, but because of your article it might be a great idea! We’ll see if it works.

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