Raisin' Bread in the Farmhouse
Lovering Farmhouse Bread - a signature bread named for the for the 1830's Lovering Farmhouse--where our bakery is located--and former resident and baker Jenny Lovering (in the 1890's pic below standing in front of what is now the BLB).
Our Lovering Farmhouse bread, based on a recipe by the Swiss-born White House pastry chef Albert Kumin as passed on by Jeffrey Hamelman, is fermented with the naturally occurring yeast on the raisins in the starter, creating a creamy, sweet taste. This fermentation technique is traditional in isolated, Alpine farming communities where commercial yeast was hard to get in the winter and dried fruits, like raisins, were inventively used instead.
Curious about what raisin water looks like? Here's a video of our raisin water fermenting in the bakery kitchen.
What makes bread fermented with raisin water taste sweeter than traditional sourdougs? Raisins, like grapes and other high-sugar fruits, have naturally-occurring yeast microorganisms on their skins. The ones on raisins are primarily non-saccharomyces cerveisiae, the strain of yeast commonly used for for winemaking and bread baking. In the first few days that the raisin water ferments, these non-baking yeast multiply quickly, but our sturdy saccharomyces cerveisiae yeast starts taking over and are at their peak around day four of fermentation. This is also the time that lactic acid--which makes most sourdough breads taste, well, sour--is at its lowest. When you ferment the raisin water for 4-5 days, then use this to start your bread, the result is a naturally-leavened loaf that tastes almost sweet with very little of the acidic profile of its sourdough bread cousins.
Our Lovering Farmhouse Bread is made with cranberries and walnuts and is our tribute to the agricultural roots of our New Hampshire region. While I don't know whether the Lovering family had any connections to Switzerland, it's likely Jenny knew how to make a good loaf of sourdough and would appreciate how make this and all of our naturally-leavened breads.