My last rye experiment involved a variation on Hamelman's 66% rye sourdough found in Bread. The variation was the inclusion of a boiling rye soaker (brühstück) and toasted sunflower seeds. I was pleased with the result, especially the sweetness imparted by the soaker.
Since then I have ventured farther away from his recipe with two further experiments.
The first involved repeating my earlier variation, but with the addition of a portion of old rye bread (altus). I soaked the bread in hot water for 4 hours, and then attempted to wring as much water from it as I was able. But it almost immediately dawned on me that the addition of this (I added 15% of total dough weight in altus) was going to complicate my attempts at arriving at the proper hydration level since I neglected to weight the stale bread before soaking it. Nevertheless, I decided to press ahead and assume as a matter of fact that the overall hydration would be in excess of 75% which is called for in the formula.
Once I began mixing the dough it became evident that the hydration was way in excess of 75% - the mix resembled a thick pancake batter, and it never came together even somewhat during the 10 minute mix on speed 1. I poured it into a bowl and gave it a 45 minute fermentation.
Following that I attempted briefly to handle it with wet hands and see if I could shape it. Failure - the dough/batter was simply too wet to allow for shaping. So I scraped it into a bread pan, allowed it to proof for another 45 minutes, until it had just cleared the sides of the pan, and then placed it in a pre-steamed oven (to the extent you can presteam a gas oven), and baked it for 75 minutes.
The initial temperature was 475° F for 15 minutes, followed by a reduction to 425° for 30 minutes and then a final 30 minute bake at 400°.
As you can see, the loaf slightly deflated - it came out of the pan level with the rim, whereas it was slightly above when I placed it in the oven. I feared for the worst - insertion of a toothpick seemed to indicate that the interior had collapsed. However, I dutifully allowed it to cool, wrapped it in a linen towel, and waited 24 hours before cutting into it.
My surprise was that it had not collapsed, and though I think the openness of the crumb may be an indication that I pushed it almost to the point of overproofing, it has been (and remains) very good. It is quite moist, but not gummy. And between the altus and hot soaker it has a wonderful flavor, full of sweetness and dark caramel tones.
Should I attempt this again (and given the flavor I probably will), I will weight the althus before soaking it, so that I can retain some control over how hydrated the final dough is.
As I now realized that even a hydrated dough that resembled a batter could yield good results, I spent the last couple weeks thinking about a further variation on Hamelman's rye - one that still incorporated the hot soaker, but went for considerably higher hydration levels. As luck would have it, inspiration came in the form of SylivaH's wonderful seeded bread and hansjoakim's very timely seeded sourdough rye that features a quite wet dough.
So, I decided to draw from these and construct a rye that would be an all-sourdough bread with no commercial yeast, use a boiling soaker, and feature the addition of other seeds. The general numbers I had in mind were a levain that comprised 40% of total weight and a soaker of equal weight. Thus, I was looking for fully 80% of the dough to be either preferment or soaker. Here is the formula in full:
I should mention that the 'high gluten' flour I use is KA's Bread flour, which, with a protein content of 12.7%, is at the low end of what can be called high gluten flour.
The levain and soakers were created 12 hours in advance of the final dough mix. I first mixed them together with the small addition of water to fully disperse the levain, and then added the remaining flour, seeds and salt. The first thing I noticed was that while the hydration here was 100%, the dough was still more dough-like than batter-like, and I attribute that to the amount of water absorbed by the flaxseeds.
I had planned on a primary fermentation of 45 minutes, but as the pictures below show, in just 30 minutes the dough had doubled in volume and was threatening to climb out of the bowl it was in.
I'm assuming that the fact that the levain accounts for 40% of the dough weight is responsible for this - my other rye experiments generally involve a levain that constitutes about 25% of total weight.
The dough was divided and deflated and then shaped and placed into the bread pans.
I had the forethought to immediately begin preheating the oven which was fortunate, because in just a little over 30 minutes the loaves had risen just above the rim of the pans and I knew that they needed to be placed into the oven at once or else risk overproofing and collapse.
The total bake time was 75 minutes, beginning at 475° and then decreasing the temperature by 25° in 15 minute increments, so that the final 15 minute bake was done at 375°. I cooled the loaves, shown below, and then wrapped them in linen for 48 hours.
This afternoon I finally cut into one loaf and found a very agreeable crumb that while moist, is nowhere near as moist as the previous loaf made with altus.
The addition of sesame and flaxseeds to the toasted sunflower seeds is quite noticeable and the sesame seeds add a nice complexity of flavor and balance out, along with the sunflower seeds, the sweetness from the hot rye soaker.
I must admit that I have become smitten with ryes. The flavor(s) and texture are just exquisite. I grew up hating rye bread, because the only rye I was ever exposed to was the caraway seed laden version sold in most groceries. I hated caraway seeds as a kid, and I've never outgrown that. So it was not until quite late in life that I've finally discovered the wonders of rye.
Better late than never - and even better with a little goat's cheese!