The Fresh Loaf

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wassisname

This is my version of the flaxseed rye posted by hansjoakim a couple of weeks ago.  I couldn’t resist this one.  Not only would it satisfy my ongoing and inexplicable craving for flaxseeds, but it also provided an opportunity to use-up some of the old bread I’ve had frozen and waiting for just such an occasion. 

I put together the soaker and rye sour the night before baking and the next morning both were looking good.  Then I made the mistake of starting the dough before I had my coffee.  Not usually a big deal, but this wasn’t one of my usual breads so I should have been a little less fuzzy in the head when I started.  I must have measured poorly to begin with because I could tell right from the start of mixing that the dough was too dry.  My muddled brain went from a groggy sort of panic to really bad decision making before I could stop it, and before I realized what I was doing I had added way too much water.  Ugh.  So I added flour and added flour, and the dough soaked it right up and just kept sticking to everything.  I probably could have added even more but I had been kneading for so long I felt like the dough had been abused enough. 

The sticky mess bulk fermented a bit longer than in the original method, about 2 hrs, but the dough looked pretty much the same as it did at the start.  I moved on anyway, this being a rye dough.  Shaping the dough was a whole other adventure involving plenty more flour.  I gave the loaves a fairly tight pre-shaping to try and build some strength and a very short bench rest.  With the help of yet another heap of flour I wrestled them into shape and dropped them into their baskets.  At this point I was expecting the worst and certainly expected them to stick to the baskets like they had stuck to everything else.  But they proofed up nicely and came out of the baskets cleanly.  They held their shape into the oven and my hopes began to rise.

They came out of the oven looking good (my attempts at creative scoring rarely turn out this well) and smelling even better, but I’ve fallen for that one before.  Waiting for them to cool was torture.  I took the dog for a walk; I puttered around the yard, and finally couldn’t wait any longer.  I put the knife to the bread and, hey, the crust felt nice and thin.  I started cutting and, hey, the crumb felt nice and light.  I can’t believe this turned out as well as it did.  The flavor is amazing!  This is a really great formula - highly recommended.  Thank you Hans!

Marcus

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wassisname

This bread is based on a recipe simply titled Roggenbrot (rye bread) from a cookbook called "Was kocht ma Guats in Schnaitsee".  I can't come up with an English translation for this phrase that has quite the same ring to it as the original Bavarian, but the gist is, "Good things we’re cooking in Schnaitsee."  The entire book is handwritten, accompanied by sketched artwork and favorite food-related sayings of the various recipe authors.   

The highlight of the too short bread chapter is this rye.  Based on how the recipe is written it's pretty clear that the author has made this bread many, many times.  The details that are missing are the same one's I might leave out if I was to write up one of my regular breads.  Even with a few blanks to fill in I felt I was in good hands.  The recipe features a two stage sourdough build, a bake at receding temperatures, and a reminder to have a bowl of water handy during kneading.  I like where this baker is coming from. 

With a lot of help from Mom, I got the recipe translated into a formula.  The first problem was the hydration.  It came out at 51%.  I checked the math again and again, but that’s how it came out.  I had to assume that something was lost in translation so I bumped it up to 70%. 

Next was the problem of sheer size – about 5.2 kg divided into two loaves.  I scaled it down to a single, still really large, loaf of around 2.3 kg.

I made two changes to suit my taste:  I left out the yeast, and substituted freshly ground coriander for the packaged breadspice called for in the original.

Otherwise, the formula that follows is as close as I could get to the original.

The result is a flavorful loaf with a sturdy crust and soft, fragrant crumb.  Very nice!  

Marcus

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wassisname

More tinkering with mixed starters.  This time, along with the usual rye preferment, I decided to preferment the whole wheat portion of the flour instead of the usual white flour preferment.  It worked out pretty well.  Using two starters must be providing a greater margin for error because no matter how I tinker I always end up with something pretty good. 

Adding the stiff whole wheat starter to the dough after the autolyse had one nice side benefit:  it provides a visual indicator of kneading progress.  I know that when the color of the dough is uniform I am just about done kneading.  It takes a surprisingly long time to get to this stage, the stickiness of this dough doesn't help.  But, once I'm there I know I can stop whenever I want.  In this case I gave the dough a short rest and then kneaded another minute or two.  I'll knead a little longer if I'm after a closer, more organized crumb.

Once the dough is where I want it, it's into my new toy/tool/best friend - the proofer!

Nevermind what this has done in terms of the consistency and predictability of raising bread in my House of Wildly Varying Temperatures, what really has me deliriously happy is the effect on my starter.  No more slow, ever more sour, ever more painful decline over the course of winter.  This is like a box of summer right on my kitchen counter!  My starter rebounded with enthusiasm after just a couple of steady 70°F feedings and is showing no signs of slowing.

Then there is my latest fixation: mastering the tordu.  I remember trying to twist some of the first loaves I ever made.  The results were not very interesting (neither was the bread, as I remember) so I stopped twisting and stuck to more common shapes.  Eventually I bought a copy of Tartine Bread... and there was the twist!  It even had a name: Tordu.  The loaves pictured in the book were even more gnarled and beautiful than anything I had imagined.  More time passed and now I'm finally getting around to trying it.  It's harder than it looks. 

The trick, I think, lies in making it look like something you actually meant to do rather than something you simply failed to prevent.  The really hard part is getting the loaves gnarled-up enough in the first place, and then getting them to stay that way.  This may not be the best dough for the purpose but I'm not going to bake a bread I don't want just to get a shape I do want.  My enthusiasm has its limits.  These loaves show some twisty effect but not as much as I would like.  The dough is a little slack, so much of the effect is lost during the final proof.  A stronger dough might help, as would a really heavy dusting of flour just before the twist to keep the seams from closing-up.  There will be more of these loaves - it's just too much fun to to give up on.

Marcus

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wassisname

I don’t usually get much time to bake during the holidays, but when I was asked to bake some bread to go with Christmas dinner how could I possibly refuse?  This was the perfect opportunity to try Andy’s mixed leaven formula.  It’s the sort of bread that will go with just about anything and the overnight  bulk ferment suited my schedule perfectly.  The only major change I made was to bulk ferment in a 60°F part of the house rather than in the refrigerator to accommodate my seasonally sluggish starter.

I scaled the formula to make four kilos of dough for four loaves.  That is definitely the limit for my largest mixing bowl.  Though twice the size of my usual batch of dough it was a really nice amount to knead by hand. 

In search of that beautiful, even crumb Andy’s loaves have I gave the dough a long, gentle knead.  I may have overdone it a bit as the crumb came out tighter than I was expecting, but the texture was wonderfully soft and springy.  No complaints there!  The flavor was excellent.  The bread kept very well.  I’ll be baking this one again!

Just to keep things interesting I added polenta and toasted pumpkin seeds to two of the loaves at the end of kneading.  I have come to love this combination – highly recommended.

Marcus

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wassisname

I have been working through an abundance of whole rye flour and strong bread flour lately so I’ve dropped anchor in the sourdough rye section of Hamelman’s Bread.  I couldn’t quite make up my mind this week so I picked two.  First was the Whole-Rye and Whole-Wheat Bread, baked pretty much by the book.  Next was the Sourdough Rye with Walnuts.  I turned that one into something a little different.

This is my second try at the whole-rye and whole-wheat bread.  The first one was terrible.  I didn’t take enough care with the fermentation at any stage and paid the price.  At least I learned my lesson.  This time it turned out much, much better.  I made two changes to the book version – I left out the yeast (and so increased the ferment times) and I changed the bake temps, starting hotter at 500ºF and ending cooler at 425ºF.

I was happy with the result, but I don’t think this will be one of my favorites.  The flour proportions (25% rye, 25% ww, 50% bread flour) kind of leave it in no-man’s-land to my taste.  I think I would prefer it if one of the elements would stand out more.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve been baking more rye lately and my taste is leaning in that direction. 

 

Then came the Sourdough Rye with Walnuts… without walnuts… but with other stuff.  This turned into a big pile of pecans and cranberries (sweetened and dried from the store) wrapped in rye bread.  Oh, yum.  The dough is 50% whole rye as in the book, though I left the yeast out of this one as well.  The pecans are a bit over 20% the weight of the flour and the cranberries about 10%.  Beyond that it pretty much speaks for itself.

Though fairly dense from all the rye and nuts and berries,  there is enough bread flour to keep it soft.  Just add butter and breakfast is served!

Marcus

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wassisname

I didn’t have time to get creative this week so I flipped through Hamelman’s Bread and settled on the 40% rye with caraway seeds.  The only significant change I made was to leave out the yeast.  The rye sour (all of the rye flour is prefermented) raised the bread just fine on its own, it just took longer.

What a nice bread this is!  The flavor of all that prefermented rye is nicely complimented by the caraway seeds.  This is going to make great sandwiches all week.  (And, don’t be put off by the yellowish color, that’s just me not getting the white balance quite right on the camera.)

Marcus

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wassisname

I haven't been able to get pumpkin and sunflower seeds out of my head since Franko posted about the combination here.  In the end I went in a little different direction, using 25% whole wheat instead of rye and adding flax seeds.  No special reason for either change - the flax seeds just happened to be beside the other seeds in the freezer, so in they went, and I've been on a light whole wheat kick lately that isn't quite out of my system.  So, I came up with this:

The pumpkin and sunflower seeds were toasted in the oven at 375ºF for 6-7 minutes.  The flax seeds were soaked in all the cold water they could absorb for about 8 hrs.  I drained the flax seeds before adding them to the dough so the water used does not figure into the formula at all.  I should note that the weight in the formula is the dry weight of the flax seeds.  I didn't think to weigh them after the soak... hmm... throws my formula off, doesn't it... sorry, too late now.  Between the toasted seeds and the wet flax I think I came out about even on the hydration.

For the final dough the white flour and water were autolysed for 20 minutes.  The starter and salt were then added.  I kneaded until the WW starter and white flour portion were fully incorporated.  Easy to see because of the color difference.  Then I added all of the seeds by flattening out the dough, spreading the seed mixture over it and folding repeatedly.  When it turned into a sticky mess with seeds falling out everywhere I gave it a five minute rest.  It behaved much better after the rest and I kneaded another minute or two until everything was evenly incorporated.  The dough was given 3 S&F's at about 45 minute intervals before I went to bed.

The weather had turned chilly so I decided to use an overnight bulk ferment in one of the cooler corners of my house.  That corner turned out to be considerably cooler than I expected and by morning was 42ºF.  Oops.  So much for shaping the dough first thing in the morning!  It took a couple of hours more in a warm place before it looked even close to ready .  Probably could have used longer but I was tired of waiting. 

Final proof was about 3 hrs (75ºF - 80ºF).  I baked at 450ºF for 15 minutes with steam, then about 40 minutes at 410ºF.

The result was delicious!  The smell filled the house and was almost too much to bear.  The "bread" turned out mild and tasty but the seeds are, of course, front and center.  I mixed a little honey and butter "just to see how it would go with the bread" and went weak in the knees.  More seeds please!

Marcus

 

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wassisname

This is my salute to the land of pinyon pines and sage brush, aka home.  I can't resist buying locally gathered pine nuts every autumn, even if it means shelling them myself.  Of course, shelling them myself means my fingers smell like pine pitch for days but that's half the fun - at least I don't have to go out and fight the squirrels for them.

Not only does sage fit the theme, but it seems like a natural accompaniment to the pine nuts.  There's no shortage of wild sage brush in the neighborhood, but I'm not sure I should be eating that, so I use domestic sage from the garden. It gives a distinct savory flavor to the bread that, combined with the nuts, reminds me of bread stuffing.

The sourdough could be any sourdough.  This one happens to be 15% whole wheat, no rye.  It makes a good foundation for experimenting with different add-ins.  The percentage of pine nuts seems high, but they are so dense that the weight is a little misleading.  It isn't as much as it sounds.

This bake reminded me that the seasons have definitely changed.  Summer is well and truly over when my starter goes into slow motion mode.  I picked-up on this about 3 hours into the first rise, did some quick math, and realized that even keeping the dough warm I wasn't going to have time for a full proof.  I considered retarding the final proof but the timing wasn't going to work for that either, so I gritted my teeth and went ahead with the bake.  I must be getting better at judging my dough because this bread behaved exactly as I expected.  Woefully under-proofed but tasty! 

So close!  Another hour or two would have been magic.

It did make for some interesting photo opportunities.

 

I think I'll go get another bag of pine nuts and try this one again!

Marcus

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wassisname

     This bread is growing on me.  If I'm going to keep baking it, it needs a name.  A really cool sounding name that may or may not make sense in it's native land.  A name like: Doppelsauer Bauernbrot.  Now, that's a name that sounds like it means business.  There's something about Oktoberfest season that always brings my German roots bubbling to the surface!
     The first version of this bread was so tasty I couldn't help but try it again, especially after getting so many insightful comments.  My first impulse was to change everything!  Then I came to my senses and decided to keep the changes to a minimum.  I wasn't looking to end up with an entirely different bread, there's time for that later.


     I made a number of small tweaks based on how the last one behaved, but the primary change was to let the rye starter ferment twice as long.  In the last version both starters were at a stage where I could have let either one raise the bread on it's own.  That didn't really test the idea I was trying to work out in the first place so this time around I let the rye ferment far longer than I would if I were expecting it to raise the bread.
     The monkeywrench in all of this was the vigor of my starter.  It was a little too happy.  The WW portion of the build that was meant to be the lively, energetic component was already past it's prime and sagging by morning.  Oh, well.  I can test that next time, along with the myriad variations I already have swimming around in my head. 


     The result was another nice loaf of bread!  And, what seems to be a fairly forgiving recipe.  The crumb was a little more uniform than the last one.  The flavor had a more distinct tang from the well-soured sour.  There was even enough spring in the oven to get the scores open.  I am a happy baker!  A thin slice with a little butter is just... something to savor.
     Someday I will try this without the WW starter and see if it even makes any difference.  Of course, then I would have to come up with another name...

    

A note on the scoring - I've always liked the swirly, organic look of seam-side-up ryes.   With breadsong's recent posts imprinted on my brain I just couldn't resist trying it.  I'm sold.  Not only is it easy on the eyes, but now there's no more standing over the loaf, knife in hand, frozen by indecision.  Let the loaf be what it will be... with a little help now and again.

Marcus

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wassisname

     I've had salzstangerl (salt sticks) on the brain for a while now. I loved these in my younger days and ever since I saw them mentioned in Bread I've been looking for an excuse to try them.  Hamelman recommends his 40% rye sourdough dough for the purpose.  It's been quite a few years since I've had one, but I can say with confidence that the German bakeries in southern California I once frequented were not using a dough like this.  They were more like straight pretzels.  Probably no rye and certainly not sourdough.  As with most breads I'm sure there are innumerable variations, but I'm a sucker for rye sourdoughs so I went in the Hamelman direction. 
     I already have a 30% rye that I like so I used that instead of the recommended 40% rye.  The dough came together nicely, then I began shaping...  oh, the poor unsuspecting dough.  The look I was going for was a long, slender, gently tapered roll.  Imagine a croissant, without the layers, and straight, and not so plump in the middle, and sprinkled with coarse salt and caraway seeds.  Easy, right?  Heh, heh, heh...   I was laughing aloud by the time I "shaped" the last of them.  "Sea slug" was the first association that popped into my head.  Having since looked-up photos of sea slugs I don't think that was entirely fair... to the slugs.  Ba-dum-bum!
     They still turned out pretty well, but not quite what I was after.  The recipe for Czech Crescent Rolls in Leader's Local Breads actually sounds closer to what I remember.  I think somewhere in the middle is where I want to be.  The next batch will have less rye, less prefermented flour, and lower hydration.  I'll add some butter and maybe some yeast.  And now that I know how not to cut the triangles the dough will be less abused during shaping. 

 

The nice surprise came from the other half of the same dough:

Clearly this is what this dough was meant for.  I was really happy with this one (though, by the look of the crumb, I still need to work on the ol' shaping skills) and it only got made because I didn't feel like shaping another pan of salzstangerl!  The dough is 30% whole rye (all fermented @ 100% hydration) with a final hydration of about 70%.

I've been tinkering with my oven set-up, testing the lower limit of my top stone placement.  The loaf sprang more than I ever thought it would and just touched the rack above it.  That's cutting it a little too close!

-Marcus

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