Prepare yourself for a real miracle!

Old making bread technique brought back to life

The first lock-down for the Covid-19 pandemic made me discover an old bread making technique, one I would have never thought about. Since yeast disappeared from the store shelves, I urgently needed to use something else for baking bread at home. I didn't trust buying bread from the store anymore (and even if I would have trusted it, there was no way of going out everyday to buy bread from the store) so I had to make my own bread at home. At first, I thought of using the sourdough starter I already had, however I hadn't used it in a long time, so it took me about 10 days to revive it. Meanwhile, I only had three dried yeast packages left. And that was only going to make bread for 3 days, so I really needed another idea for making bread. The idea came while chatting with a friend, who told me about the apple yeast water, which can be used for making bread, instead of the usual fresh or dried yeast. At first, I was surprised and couldn't believe what my friend just told me. However, when she explained it to me in detail, I understood every phase of the process. I followed her instructions completely and made a beautiful and tasty bread.
The process of making such a bread is similar to the sourdough bread making process. I already knew that technique, because there was a time when I was baking sourdough bread at least once a month. That was of great help, otherwise it would have been harder to make the apple yeast bread.

A bit of chemistry information

The chemical explanation of how some apple chunks, placed in plain water, starts fermenting is simple. First however, do you know what a fermentation is? They say it is a biological process which converts sugars into cellular energy through a type of fungus called yeast. Yeasts can be found anywhere in nature, from the fruits' skin to animal guts. The yeast converts carbohydrate (sugars) into carbon dioxide and alcohols during the fermentation process. A fermentation process has many uses, such as ethanol fermentation to produce alcoholic beverages or bread, but also lactic acid fermentation to produce acidic dairy products or pickled vegetables.

How to make apple yeast water

I found the apple yeast water very easy and really fast to make. My friend told me to cut one or two apples in chunks and put them in a sterile two pound jar (a quart for North American readers), then fill it with filtered water. Use organic fruits or wash well to remove any pesticides. The apple slices start fermenting in the absence of oxygen, with the yeast's help. I covered the jar with the lid, without tightening it. That allowed some of the the carbon dioxide to come out and release a bit of the energy in the jar. I kept the jar in a warm place during the night and moved it in a sunny window during the day, to accelerate the process. The warmth made the apples ferment faster. Whenever I went near the jar, I sealed the lid and shook the jar, to help the yeasts spread throughout the water, then unsealed the lid again. Do this at least a couple of times a day. The water in the jar started to make bubbles the next day, which was a sign that the fermentation started. The second day, I could see the yeast at the bottom of the jar, before shaking it, while the bubbles were bubbling with noise, just like soda pop. The apple pieces and skins floated up and the yeast water remained at the bottom of the jar. When the fruit floated it was time to start to making the bread. Some videos on YouTube show how to use any other fruits for making yeast water , however they kept them fermenting longer than I did, for at least 4 to 5 days. That makes the yeast water even stronger to leaven the dough when making bread. I never tried the other fruits, so I will just write about my experience, but you can try the process with fresh or dried fruits and tell us how it was. Raisins or dates do well, as do most dried fruits.

Apple yeast water with apple chunks in a jar

Making apple yeast water bread process

The whole process follows the same phases as for making a sourdough bread. I added the ingredients in specific measurements, which I had to weigh on a kitchen scale. It is a long process, but the result is worth it.

Ingredients for one large loaf of bread of about 1.5 lbs

- 1 lb all purpose flour, plus 8 ounces more (about 628g)
- 1 1/2 cup (about 354 ml) apple yeast water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Necessary kitchen utensils

- 1 kitchen scale
- 1 large bowl of 4 lbs (holds about a gallon)
- 1 rectangular pan (40/20 cm) (9x13 pan for US. bakers)
- 1 square oven tray (cookie sheet or half sheet pan for US bakers)
- 1 clean cloth
- 1 kitchen bread basket or a bowl, oval or round
- razor blade or very sharp knife for scoring the top of the bread
- 1 zipped large plastic bag (big enough to hold the bread basket inside)

Shake the apple yeast water in the jar, then strain it through a tea strainer. Put the bowl on the kitchen scale, return it to zero and add 1 lb plus about 4 ounces (about 564 g) of flour, weighed on the scale. Return the scale to zero and weigh 12 ounces (354 ml) of apple yeast water. Start to stir the ingredients by hand, for about 5 minutes, until the flour is well incorporated into the apple yeast water, the dough will be sticky with no lumps. Clean the dough stuck on the hand using a tablespoon or the back of a knife, then let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with a clean cloth, for 30 minutes.

Don't add more flour to the dough, it has to be moist. Prepare a tray and spread 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil all over it, using the palm of your hand. After the dough has rested, spread a teaspoon of salt over the rested dough and start kneading it, with the greased palm (so it won't stick to your hand), by bringing it from the edge of the bowl to the center, then press it. This way you add more air to the dough. Don't add more flour to the dough, it needs to be moist. When the dough doesn't stick to the bowl and hand anymore, take it out of the bowl and pour it as it is, on the greased tray.

Cover the tray with a clean cloth or with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 50 minutes. After that resting time, put both hands in the oil that covers the tray and spread it on both palms of your hands, so they won't stick to the dough. Spread the dough, by pushing it down with your palms, on the whole tray and mentally divide it in 3 equal parts, on its length. Fold first third over the second third and third third over the folded two thirds. Then turn the tray and divide it again in 3 equal parts on the new length and fold it the same as before. Let it rest for another 50 minutes, than repeat the process. Let it rest for another 50 minutes.

Spread the remaining 4 ounces of flour on the counter and pour the dough from the tray over it. Knead with the floured hand, by bringing the dough from the edge to the center and press it, for a few times, until it feels elastic. This way you add more air to the dough. Shape it in a ball. Let it rest for 20 minutes on the counter and cover with a cloth.

Meanwhile, prepare the bowl or bread basket, where you will put the dough to rise. Take a clean cloth, large enough to be folded under the basket. Spread a generous flour layer over the cloth inside the basket, so the moist dough won't stick to the cloth while rising.
After 20 minutes, knead the dough again and give it the shape of the basket or bowl, round or oval. Put it in the basket (or bowl) on the floured cloth. Put the whole basket with the dough inside the plastic zipped bag. Let it stay for one hour on the counter, then put it in the fridge for 8 hours to rise, preferably over night. I usually start preparing the bread at 4-5 p.m. so it will be ready for rising inside the fridge at 10-11 p.m. Or, you can start preparing the dough in the morning, say at 9-10 a.m. and put it to rise at 2-3 p.m. This means that you can either bake the bread in the morning, or in the evening.

Wash the rectangular tray, to get it ready for baking the bread. After 8 hours, the dough has doubled in volume. Take it out of the fridge and then out of the zipped plastic bag. Let it stay on the counter for an hour. Turn on the oven at 445 F (about 230 C) to preheat it. Pour 2 cups of water in the baking pan and put it in the oven, on the lowest floor or rack
After the resting hour passed, flip the dough over on the clean rectangular tray. Make 2 or 3 cuts with a blade or knife between 1/2" and 3/4" (2 cm) deep into the bread. Open the oven carefully, because the steam from your pan of water can burn you. That means stay further from the opened oven, until the steam goes out. Put the dough into the oven to bake at 445 F (230 C) for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes open, still carefully (because of the steam), the oven and take out the pan with the remaining water. Let the bread bake for another 30 minutes, without steam, at the same temperature of 445 F (230 F).
After 30 minutes, the bread is baked and looks golden brown. Take the tray out of the oven and turn it off.
Use a kitchen towel and a kitchen glove to put the bread on a cooling rack. It's better to let it cool before slicing it because that is still part of the cooking process.

See the whole technique here.
Have a good appetite!