Category Archives: kefir

38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain Bread

Sesame Crust Date Kefir Bread

Sesame Crust Date Kefir Bread – this one gets better every time!

For those of you looking for kefir bread formulae, here is what I have been up to. I mostly make the loaf you see above as we both just love it!

I hesitate to call what follows an experiment because home baking is really not very scientific or rigorous as my friend Sally at the Bewitching Kitchen would probably be the first to tell you!

I have no microscope or lab to tell me what is really going on in there, just a basic idea that the kefir is a mixture of yeast and lactobacteria and probably a whole bunch of other things that I don’t know are in there !

I do know from using it and from observation that it is different in many respects from a traditional water and flour fed sourdough culture. The kefir cultures milk primarily, though it can be adapted to use other foodsources,  and is generally slower to do so than an active sourdough unless it is really quite warm. Why use it? Because:

  • I like its tangy taste which is rich and satisfying without being overly sour.
  • It gives me a softer crumb than regular sourdough
  • and it gives me extra calcium for my bones and possibly other nutrients, I like fermented products generally and I don’t like drinking milk very much
  • it is also fairly easy to maintain, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and suits my baking schedules such as they are

If you culture the milk at a warmer temperature than my ambient temperature which varies from around 14 – 22 C for most of the year then it does go faster, gets very active and produces quite a lot of alcohol smells. I don’t particularly want the alcohol part so I keep the kefir cool and slow.

Most of the recipes for kefir bread that I have seen use some sort of sugar  product to give the kefir easy food.  No recipe for bread really needs sugar for yeast or levain to work, it is a choice you make because you want sweetness in the final product. Sugar in the dough promotes a deep rich colour in the crust and adds a caramel-toned sweetness to it. A sweetness that we don’t maybe register consciously but it is there. Really great bakers can get all that taste by careful selection of flours, manipulating the dough and the bake without adding sugar.

I came to kefir baking via Cecilia  @  thekitchensgarden.com who uses home raised honey in hers, I have been using date syrup in the preferment and this provides the kefir with a reliable and easy form of sugar food and this (as the loaf in the first picture above) produces my favourite of all the kefir breads I have made to date.

I have several friends though who don’t want any sugar in their breads over and above what is in the flour already for dietary and health reasons and so I thought I would work on making the dough without any added sugars.

My first attempts using my usual white stoneground flour just didn’t work well. I made a complete pig’s ear of one dough when I mixed it with all milk, thinking erroneously that this would give the preferment extra sugar.

Bad bread made with too much milk

It didn’t make a nice bread, it had a dense close crumb, and the bottom crust split all round and it had that texture of cooked but spongy heaviness that I dislike in a sourdough.

Just to show you what I mean by a poor crumb...

Just to show you what I mean by a poor crumb…

I have met this problem before making milk sourdough breads, so tend only to use milk as the main liquid in breads leavened with commercial yeast.  If you leave a sourdough mixed with fresh milk for long enough to develop properly you get this really unpleasant sour taste,  I have done that before and that is why I was pleased to find that the milk kefir can be used where fresh milk is not very suitable. It might be different with raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized but I don’t have easy access to that here.

There is such a wide range of taste when it comes to bread, I am sure some of you happily make sourdough with loads of fresh milk, but I find it unpalatable.

A surprise flower in the stormy weather !

A surprise flower in the stormy weather !

I then tried three variations of preparing a preferment and kept some basic notes as to what I saw and thought.  Each of the three was made with the same quantity of active fermented kefir, and with different flour or treatment.  I hypothesised that as hot water releases sugar in flour, maybe if I mixed some flour with very hot water first and then introduced the kefir to it it would find the sugar more easily and work faster.  I am not sure that it made a significant difference in the end. After 24 hours it did look as if it had more bubbles, but I wasn’t really convinced.

For some reason when I mix kefir with water and straight white flour the resultant preferment always ends up with that acetone/paint stripper smell that I don’t like and this proved the case this time too, so I didn’t make bread from those two as I had tried before with the acetone scented sort and didn’t like the bread it made then. This was more of a check to see if it happened again which it did.

Neat trick to keep track of what is in a bowl seen on the internet

Neat way to keep track of what is going on in what bowl and a memory jogger!

However, the kefir mixed with stoneground wholemeal and water produced a beery/fruity smell which Brian thought was acceptable so I built a test dough with it and baked it off.

It was acceptable to us, tangy but not sour, lean and clean, without any of the butter or syrup that I usually add to our soft kefir loaves. Brian claims that he couldn’t taste much difference, but I thought the crumb was slightly less sweet and the crust was definitely not as gorgeous as when made with the date syrup.

I think the kefir organisms consume most of the date syrup used in the preferment leaving very little sugar in the final dough, but one would have to have a lab to test the bread to know the truth of that, and we are all so inured to hidden sugar tastes in our food that maybe my palate just doesn’t register it as sugar.

So here is a little formula to be going on with… Misky @ The Chalk Hills Kitchen pointed me towards this shortcode for recipes that WordPress now offers. Fiddly or what? What do you reckon to my first attempt at coding? Does it make it easier to read and print? It took me ages and many edits to bodge my way through this. Practice, practice….

38% Wholemeal Milk Kefir Levain Bread

  • Servings: finished loaf weight 400g approx
  • Print

38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain

38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain

To make the preferment:-

Day 1

7.30 pm

  • 25g fermented and lively fizzing/bubbling milk kefir
  • 35g room temp water
  • 60g stoneground wholemeal flour with reasonable protein levels i.e. not pastry flour

Mix and leave  in a covered bowl at room temperature for  36- 48 hours   (15°- 19 C)

Check for fermentation during this period (if the preferment is full of good bubbles then use earlier!)

Day 3

3.30 pm

Mix dough with

  • 50g of  above ferment
  • 172g room temp water
  • 80g stoneground wholemeal bread flour (Stanway Mill)
  • 80g white organic bread flour (Stanway Mill)
  • 90g very strong (manitoba type) bread flour (Waitrose/Marriages)
  • Short autolyse ( of about half an hour)  before adding salt
  • 4g salt

Once mixed leave in a covered bowl while the dough is proving, the time this takes will vary according to temperature.

Two short folds at intervals of approx 1 hr rather than intensive kneading are adequate to give the dough shape and structure. Susan Tenney demonstrates dough folding here for anyone who doesn’t know what this means.

7.30 pm

Shape dough and place in banetton, covered on a tray, whatever you prefer.

Leave to prove for another 3 hours. Think about preheating your oven at some point.  Do not expect the dough to puff up like a yeasted dough does when proving. Do a finger test to see if it is ready to bake. If your gentle prod leaves a dent that doesn’t come back after five/ten minutes then bake the bread in your preheated oven.

Prepare dough for oven, slash top etc

Bake at 10 30 pm on a pre-heated tray at 210° C for 38 minutes with steam.

Crumb of 'sugar free' Kefir Levain

Leave to cool on a rack. Cut when the sun shines in the early morning!

Recipe Credit : zebbakes.com 

PS

For kefir grains there are sources on the internet or if you live near someone who has some just ask them nicely if they would mind sharing when they have some spare or trade something you have made or grown. It seems to be getting more popular again so they shouldn’t be that hard to source. If you have serious difficulty let me know by contacting me on Twitter, (Zeb underline Bakes) comments on posts close after a while as old posts collect spam so badly.

Cheese and Leek Toasties

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast3

Inspired by Heidi’s comment about grilled cheese sandwiches  on the cheese and pickle post, I rifled through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Vegetable book and found a lovely  simple recipe for cheese and leeks on toast which I have customized slightly to use up half a red pepper as well as my leeks. It is the sort of book that if you are an experienced cook and a vegetarian you probably know most of the methods and techniques in it already,  but I like it for its simple layout and clear straightforward recipes. I think, going by this article I just found, HFW is very fond of cheese on toast. Lots more of his ideas here of things to put on toast : – Posh cheese on toast recipes.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast2

As I was making vegetable soup anyway and sweating leeks, I borrowed a couple of spoonfuls of the leeks from the early stages of the soup to make this treat. I am going to make it again today as we have lots of leeks in our vegetable box this week.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast4

Pepper and Leek Cheese on Toast for Two

  • 1 medium leek
  • Half a red pepper (capiscum)
  • 50g of favourite cheese
  • 3 spoonfuls of half fat creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper
  • Thyme or favourite herbs
  • Two chunky slices of favourite bread – here I used my kefir date bread with sesame seed crust

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast1

  1. Sweat the sliced leeks and pepper in a little butter or stock on a low heat
  2. Grate cheese and put to one side
  3. Once leeks and peppers are soft and glistening lower the heat
  4. Slice some bread and toast lightly and put the grill on
  5. Add the creme fraiche and mix in
  6. Add about three quarters of the grated cheese and stir well
  7. Season to taste, add thyme
  8. Pile onto warmed bread and divide the remaining cheese between the two slices
  9. Pop under hot grill and cook till bubbly and browning
  10. Eat!

Post script Date Kefir Loaves

This is the same bread as the previous date kefir bread post but I have reduced the quantities to help my kefir buddies. I would have tacked this onto the end of the old post but it would get a bit long. So forgive me doing it this way. Please read the other post for full method etc. This makes two loaves which should fit in a domestic oven if you shape into ovals like this:-

20130908-084248.jpg

Numbers for a smaller quantity of dough which should give you two good sized medium loaves of approx 630g each (baked weight) or 1 and a half lbs – and thus less likely to make a mixer struggle.

For the preferment

115 g room temp water
150g fresh live kefir
187g strong bread flour
35g date syrup

mix well and leave in covered bowl for 18 hours

Final Dough

all of the above preferment plus…

225g – 275g water, hold back on some of the water till you see how dough comes together
640g bread flour – the final shape and lift of the loaf will depend in part on the type of flour you use, I tend to use about 50% very strong flour to get the crumb that Brian likes amd vary the other half to use stone milled flours.
12-15g of salt, depending on your preferences
20-30g of melted butter. I thnk it improves keeping quality and softness but you can leave this out or experiment with an oil you like instead.

Dough takes between three to four hours to develop to the point at which you shape it. I suspect it would start to get more sourdough like in taste if you retard it and that is not my goal with this bread. My aim is to get it baked roughly 6-8 hours after the final mix.

You can divide this into two and shape and bake in tins or shape free style, or make rolls, stuffed breads etc. If you mix with more water and maybe olive oil you could try for a foccacio type bread too. Possibilities!

I used new Herbert Birnbaum 750g oval banettons with wooden bottoms for these loaves, like my very first ones from Germany, where I ended up sending Euros in an envelope, not a method I would recommend! These ones were purchased from The Weekend Bakery using PayPal (see Friends and Inspirations page for links) who offer excellent customer service and have a wonderful site packed with bready knowledge. You don’t need banettons to make this, you can shape freeform or use tins or improvise with a colander and an old well floured teatowel, or buy a florist’s wicker basket and line with a cloth.

20130908-084453.jpg

Fran (aka Narf7)  has just sent me photos of her uber cool home made organic soya kefir bread! Hoping she will write a post soon so I can link to it.  Link here now! I love the way bread brings people together across the world. Waves madly at Tasmania!

Abby has made the bread here on her Magic Ingredient post

Of bread and quinces’ has blogged here about ‘milk kefir bread and what we have in common’  and here on a water kefir hazlenut sage bread!

and my friend Fran M (aka Fancybake who lives in the North of England) has been busy making kefir bread too, she doesn’t blog so here is a picture that she sent me of her raisin kefir bread. She is a wonderful home baker who I met in Yorkshire.

and Pete in Swindon has made a formidable loaf topped with sesame seeds – read his delightful  blogpost  by clicking on the link.

kefir bread with raisins by Fran M

FancyBake’s  (Fran M’s) raisin kefir bread

If you have a go and don’t blog and want me to add a photo here let me know in a comment or if you want me to link to your blog post I will add it in here.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread

Date Syrup Kefir Bread

10th August 2013

Here is one for my kefir buddies!

For those of you reading this for the first time, kefir is a living fermented product made by an organism commonly referred to as a ‘kefir grain’.

Kefir Grain Zeb Bakes It isn’t a grain but a culture in the acetobacter family that includes kombucha and vinegar mother, ginger beer plants and so on,  that looks a bit like a brain or a cauliflower. It grows and lives in milk but is chiefly interested it would seem in the sugars that it finds in there. You can either get kefir grains from a nearby friend who has spare or buy them online from various sources.  I believe you can buy kefir in cartons in some places, I have no idea if that would work to leaven bread as I have no experience of it.

 Once you have some healthy grains, they should last a long time, reproducing and being happy providing you treat them right.  There are various websites devoted to all things kefir if you have a little search. I don’t drink kefir unlike some people, but I do make a sort of soft cheese with it which I love and I bake bread, using it as an alternative to both conventional yeast and sourdough starters.

I have changed the formula I have used previously for the kefir bread to make a pre-ferment which doesn’t separate into a watery layer and a top bubbly layer. I am pleased with the results this new formula gives. The preferment came out looking much more like a regular sourdough ferment though it smells nothing like it.

My formula makes two large 900 gram loaves, so you will need to cut the quantities back if this makes too much bread for you. I have frozen one of my loaves from this bake.

I was inspired by Fran who blogs half a world away in Tasmania at The Road to Serendipity –  she is expert in kefir and its ways.  She juggles her feeding routines between home made soya milk and milk and has found that kefir grains are greedy for her home made date paste. I don’t have any date paste but I do have Basra date syrup* and I thought this might give a lovely colour to the finished loaf as well as be less sweet and insistent in taste as the honey I have been using up to now.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread Crumb shot

We really like this bread. It ticks the box of having a soft open sourdough style crumb, no sour taste (so not one for all you acid bread lovers) a bit of extra calcium for me and a gentle subtle flavour and a lovely colour crumb. It is as good with sliced chicken and garden lettuce as it is for morning toast. I am going to make this one again.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread round

Zeb Bakes Date Syrup Kefir Bread

Started 12 midday Thursday  : room temp 22 ºc

Make a preferment with:-

  • 150g  room temperature water
  • 200g fresh kefir (made with semi skimmed St Helens goats’ milk)
  • 250g  strong (bread) flour
  • 50g Basra date syrup

Mix these well together and leave in a covered bowl for approximately 18 hours in a warm room (20 – 22 C)  at which point it should be bubbling and thick and looking ready to go.

Ingredients for the final dough:-

  • All of the preferment (as above)
  • 850g bread flour ( I used a mix of 350g of Stanway Mill bread flour and 300 g of Waitrose Very Strong and 200g of Carrs bread flour)
  • 282 – 320g  water ( I find the amount of water I need can vary by up to 50g or so)
  • 20g salt
  • 30g melted butter
  1. Using a Kenwood Mixer I put the starter in first, added the water and then the flours and mixed for about three minutes on the lowest speed.
  2. Leave to develop in the bowl for 20 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and trickle the melted butter in while the mixer is going and continue mixing till the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. You may need to adjust the dough with more water if your flour is very absorbent.
  5. (If you mix by hand then go with a more traditional order of ingredients, i.e. mix the water and starter together and add these into your bowl of flour. )
  6. I took the dough out once it was reasonably developed and put it into a big bowl, covered with a teatowel, and left it for about three hours. During this time I folded it in the bowl twice, as much to see how the fermentation was progressing as anything. Folding in the bowl is simply picking up the dough from one side and pulling it out and over the main bulk of the dough, like light kneading except you don’t put it on a board. You can put it on a board. There are no rules here!
  7. Once it was showing good signs of activity and had increased in size by roughly a half. I  weighed it into two equal portions.  Then I split those two portions in the ratio 85:15 using the % function on my scales. If you don’t have one of those, it would be about 135g for the small ball to 765g for the main ball.
  8. With the first portion I made a boule which I divided into four quartiles with a thin dowel rod and made a smaller boule with the small ball and put that in the middle.
  9. With the second portion I made a pointy ended baton and then a plait with the remaining ball which I placed along the top of the dough – because the dough had such a long second prove this didn’t come out quite as I had hoped but I like the effect that it gives anyway. A good way to create a nice looking effect on a loaf if you are finding slashing difficult.
  10. I put both loaves on baking paper on trays and tucked them inside clean binliners to prove.
  11. Second proof time was about three hours. Be patient, these are just as slow as a more traditional sourdough to rise.
  12. I eggwashed the crust with a mixture of egg yolk and kefir whey and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top for interest.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven (with steam) either on the trays or slide them off onto a baking stone or kiln shelf which is what I use rather than a stone.
  14. Starting at 220 ºC for the first twenty minutes and then dropping back by stages to 190 ºC for the last ten minutes of the bake.  About 40 – 45 minutes in all.
  15. Leave to cool on a rack as normal once you are satisfied the loaf is cooked, a nice hollow sound when you thump it is a good sign.
  16. For a .pdf file of the recipe click here → Date Kefir Recipe.pdf.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread  and Zeb

I was wondering if Fran or anyone else would consider making this using soya fed kefir and see if it performs the same magic trick of leavening the bread. I suppose the next step on from that would be to see how it does with gluten free flours and then all those of you who don’t eat either dairy or gluten would have another trick up your sleeves.  I am not very experienced in the gluten free world, but I know it is very popular these days so it would be good to know if this worked. (* Sept 2013 I tried making a perferment with Doves GF white blend and it ferments it but it is very smelly and sulphorous and I didn’t fancy baking with it, something in it that wasn’t to the kefir’s taste? Wish I was more of a scientist…)

*Basra Date Syrup is available online and you can find it in quite a few shops in Bristol these days, like Bristol Sweet Mart in St Marks Road, Easton.

My camera is away at the menders so hope these pictures give you a reasonable idea of how the bread came out, a borrowed camera is never quite the same.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread 2

 And now you can see how Fran (Narf7) got on with this when she adapted it brilliantly to her vegan kefir by clicking here and visiting her Tasmanian kitchen.

Raisin Goats Milk Kefir Bread (no 3)

Raisin Kefir Bread Cooling Copyright Zeb Bakes

This is the third time I have made bread using kefir inspired by Celi @ thekitchensgarden.com.

My first attempt I made the bread in tinned form and encouraged by the enthusiasm with which they were received I have had a couple more goes.

I have switched to feeding my kefir grains with goats milk as I prefer the smooth results I get with this and I can make a simple cheese with it too.

Room temp 67.6 º F 19.8º C (new thing, I am going to try and always note the temperature of the room if I can when baking) as it makes a huge difference to how fast or slow the processes go.

Kefir Bread Preferment
Stage 1
Make a pre-ferment with
  • 150 g  room temperature water
  • 200 g freshly fermented bubbly kefir (made with semi skimmed St Helens goats’ milk)
  • 150 g very strong flour (Canadian 15% protein from Waitrose)
  • 2 dessertspoons Glastonbury honey

Mix the above ingredients together well till they form a smooth mixture.

Leave in a covered bowl for 15 hours at about 19º C, it will ferment quicker or slower depending on your ambient room temperature.

If you make a note of the temperature and the times each time you bake then you will get an idea of how it works where you live and in your season.

Stage 2
Put the pre-ferment in a bowl
and add
  • 350 g very strong flour (high gluten 15% protein)
  • 350 g Stanway Mill (all purpose culinary white stonemilled flour)
  • 14 g salt
  • 185 g water room temperature
  • 40 g light olive oil or softened butter if you prefer butter
You will also need :
  • A big handful of large raisins or whatever fruit you have available

Mix all the above ingredients (except the raisins) together well to form a dough. I am currently mixing in a stand mixer and it takes about 3-4 minutes to get a good dough which leaves the sides of the bowl by the time it is ready. Be prepared to adjust the water (or, heresy I know add more flour if the dough is not to your liking),

Leave to prove for 2 – 3 hours in a lightly oiled and covered bowl until you can see that there are bubbles forming in the dough and it feels alive under your fingers. It should have risen by maybe a third to a half.

Divide the dough into two parts and make one part as a plain boule and the other as raisin bread.

I used some very large raisins to do this. I wasn’t happy the last time I tried this.  I had added the raisins at the mixing stage and they broke up and smeared inside the dough and I couldn’t control their distribution very well,  so this time I did it differently.

I patted the dough out into a very rough rectangle and placed my raisins over one third of the rectangle. I then folded this over the centre part and placed more raisins on top of the fold and so on, always keeping the raisins inside the dough. I then patted it out again and repeated. I then gently shaped the folded parcel into a boule and tucked it seam side up into a well floured banneton and popped the usual shower caps on top to cover the bannetons.  As you can see in the final photo it came out a little tight at the bottom but none of these huge raisins were on the outside burning and I was pleased with the distribution inside.

Kefir Bread Proving Zeb Bakes CopyrightThe second prove was a leisurely five hours in length and could probably have gone for another hour I suspect.

The loaves were baked at 220 C  (conventional electric top bottom heat on a kiln shelf) for the first twenty minutes with steam in a tray and then the oven temperature was lowered to to 200C  for another twenty five minutes. I put the loaves back in the oven once I had turned it off for another ten minutes as they felt a bit soft.

So I reckon you could bake them for at least 50 – 55 minutes if I make them again.

This bread is soft and mild and full of good calcium for old bones like mine and it has been a hit with everyone who has tried it. I have experimented with mixing the kefir with some white sourdough starter and it produced a much more sour flavour to the bread. It still rose but we prefer this mild and delicate taste.

Copyright Zeb Bakes Raisin Goats Milk Kefir Bread

A couple of other lovely bakers making kefir bread with their tweaks and variations are:-

Carl Legge  and ofbreadandquinces both of whom have good experiences with doing this and I suspect there are many other quiet kefir bakers around the world. Real bread – but made a different way from the normal sourdough.

Oh and Zeb likes it too, but he likes most things apart from pickles…

And after all that I completely forgot (birdbrain that I am)  to show you Kefir Levain no 2.

I have the minutest video clip of Brian cutting the finished bread in half on my Flickr Photos

listen to that crunchy honey scented crust!

Cecilia’s Amazing Kefir Bread – did I doubt her?

11th March 2013

Kefir Grain Zeb Bakes

In 2012 I was lucky enough to be sent some milk kefir grains by Carl Legge, a generous and enthusiastic baker, grower and published author who lives in North Wales.

Kefir FermentingI fed them for a while and experimented with making rudimentary soft cheese with it, but found that the grains grew bigger and bigger and fermented the  milk faster and faster and I couldn’t keep up. So I followed instructions on Dom’s Kefir! and froze them. I defrosted them about a week ago and have been giving them lots of love and so far they seem to have survived freezing fine. Continue reading