Friday, 11 May 2012

Herman the German

We've had a house guest the last couple of weeks - I was the lucky recipient of a portion of a work friend's Friendship cake. Apparently Herman is quite famous, and most of the baking world seems to have had him to stay at some point or other, growing him a bit, then dividing him into a portion to bake with, and giving the rest away to friends. At this rate, I would estimate that the world would be drowning (quite literally) in Herman beofre too long.
Obviously some people are not passing on their Herman as expected (evidenced by the continuing lack of a yeasty smelly tide swallowing Britain), but I found 3 lucky recipients, and baby Hermans were distributed round Leeds, and one even made it all the way to Hull, where apparently there is a waiting list for his offspring!

Having spent plenty of time growing all sorts of single celled organisms in the lab, I probably wasn't as intimidated by Herman as I know a few people have been. He is essentially a live yeast culture, and so I didn't stick too carefully to the care instructions - he was stirred every day, but feeding might have occurred at slightly less regular intervals than suggested, and when it came time to bake him, I made sure he was fed the day before, and then just used a cup of him as one of the ingredients in the cake mix. I've kept the remaining mix, and will have a go at freezing him and bringing him back to life - it should work - I'll update at a later point if it does. I'm also rather keen to see if Herman can be adapted into a bread culture - I'll be tring that over the next couple of weeks too and see if he's any good at using for sourdough bread. While Herman was apparently started with dry yeast, I am guessing he's been around for so long that he's more wild yeast (in a domesticated form) than commercially available stuff, and that's one of the things that makes sourdough so tasty. Again, I'll report back with the results, but for now, here is the result of my baking with Herman.


1 cup plain flour
1 cup Herman
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used brown cane sugar, but light muscovado would be good too)
1/4 cup oil
2Tbsp butter
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence

and then add whatever you like ... I used a baking apple, some dried dates (you could use some raisins), mixed spice and cinnamon.

I mixed all the base ingredients together, and then added the extra ingredients by feel/look - that's one of the good things about Herman - you can add as much or as little as you want. Next time I make a Herman I'll probably add a lot more spice and try an almost ginger loaf kind of cake.
Herman get put in a cake tin (whatever shape you fancy, though try not to have him too thin), and bake at 180ºC for about 45 minutes - check after half an hour using a toothpick/clean knife and test every 10 minutes until it comes out clean. I used a bit of butter and sugar as a glaze just by sprinking the sugar on top, and pouring some melted butter over about 15 minutes before the end of baking to make a crunchy topping. 

1 comment:

  1. I have had Hermans at various times and I have made sourdough with him and it worked really well.