I dug my starter out of the refrigerator on Thursday and started refreshing it without a clear notion of what I would use it for, although some type of rye bread sounded good. Even though it had been 2-3 weeks since it was last used, it bounced back quickly and I had enough by Friday evening to start two different batches of bread. After browsing through recipes, I decided on the NY Deli Rye from Reinhart's BBA and a sourdough Dark Rye from the new KA Whole Grain cookbook.
However, before I could get started on either one, my wife asked whether I remembered that "we" were going to make some lemon-blueberry scones for her women's retreat at church the next day. I confessed that I did not, but since she was about to leave to go do some setup work for the retreat that "we" would get right on it. After looking at the recipe, I saw that the end product would probably be delicious but it wouldn't be a scone. It called for melting the butter and stirring it in with the rest of the wet ingredients, rather than cutting it (cold and solid) into the dry ingredients. I also saw that it would require about 4 batches to yield the required number of servings. After assembling all of the ingredients within easy reach, I got to work on the first batch. The dry ingredients called for:
2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
The wet ingredients included:
8 ounces lemon yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
After mixing the dry ingredients, stir in the wet ingredients just until everything is moistened (it's better to stop when things are still a bit lumpy). Then gently fold in 1 cup of fresh (or thawed frozen) blueberries, trying not to crush the berries. Spoon onto a greased baking sheet (yields 12-15 scones/biscuits) and bake in a 350F oven for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven when they flecked with brown, remove from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.
In my case, as soon as one batch went into the oven, I started working on the next batch. I was very grateful to have my scale on hand, since the yogurt came in 6 ounce packages, instead of 8 ounce packages as they used to. Score another one for the marketing geniuses who tell us that they are doing us a favor by selling us a smaller package at no additional cost! Remember (here in the U.S., anyway) when coffee was sold in 1-pound increments and you could but a 1/2 gallon container of ice cream? Aack! Okay, end of rant.
Because of the butter and sugar content, these tend to spread out as they bake. The finished scones/biscuits are softer and more cake-like than traditional scones or biscuits. I'm not sure what would happen if the solid butter were cut into the flour mixture, as is more traditionally the case for scones or biscuits. It's possible that the resulting dough might be too stiff to allow easy incorporation of the berries.
With the scones out of the way, I turned my attention to the bread. First, I chopped and sauteed the onions for the NY Deli Rye and then set them to cool. Then I prepared the soaker for the Dark Rye. That called for rye flour in a pumpernickel grind, which I have not been able to find locally. So, I dumped an equal weight of flaked rye into the food processor and whirled that I had a coarse rye meal. The recipe called for soaking it overnight in strong coffee but I'm not a coffee enthusiast, so I opted for water instead. If I had had some dark beer in the house, I would have used that. By the time the soaker was, well, soaking, the onions had cooled enough to start the preferment for the NY Deli Rye. Once that was assembled, it went into the refrigerator until I was ready for it on Saturday. After that, it was time for some serious dish-washing.
On Saturday, I started the day with some errands (including buying a new lawnmower, but that's another story). After returning to the house, I took the NY Deli Rye preferment out of the refrigerator so that it could begin to warm up. Then I got to work on the Dark Rye, combining the soaker with the rest of the ingredients. The recipe writers apparently have a warped sense of humor, since they direct you to knead the dough until it is "smooth and elastic". Give me a break! This is rye bread! Anyway, I kneaded it (including some stretching and folding) until it was, um, well, more elastic than it started and about as smooth it could hope to be. It was still thoroughly sticky, of course. Setting that aside for the bulk ferment, I moved on to the NY Deli Rye. Since I have made this before, it didn't take long to have it pulled together and ready for it's bulk ferment. I set both doughs on the counter immediately above the dishwasher to take advantage of the heat coming from that, so both were ready for shaping a little sooner than normal. I baked the NY Deli Rye first, since it was ready first (it had been spiked with a little yeast), in bread pans. I also put the stone in the oven to preheat while the NY Deli Rye was baking. When the NY Deli Rye came out, I slashed the boules of the Dark Rye and set them to bake on the stone, with steam. They had very little oven-spring, preferring, instead, to spread sideways. As a result, they are rather low; maybe 1.5 to 2 inches thick at the highest point.
The NY Deli Rye is consistently delicious. The Dark Rye is also very good. The molasses flavor over-compensates for the sourness of the soaker, leaving the finished bread just slightly sweet. Had I used coffee instead of water in the soaker, the coffee's bitterness might have reduced the sweetness. Since I don't like coffee, I think the tilt toward the molasses flavor is a good thing. The sweetness will be a good foil for savory accompaniments like ham or corned beef or cheeses or pickles. I'll definitely make it again.
All in all, a good weekend for baking. And, since I already have bread in the freezer, I had gifts for a neighbor's birthday.