Challenge Accepted… Finally!
It took awhile, but this is my take on Karin’s Cecilienhof Ancient Grain Rye Bread challenge. The list of ingredients involved initially had me convinced I would stay on the sidelines for this challenge. But I had more of them than I realized on hand already and a little searching turned up the rest (ah, the power of the internet!). Still, I haven’t had to think this hard about a bread in a long time.
I wanted to stay as close to the original as I could, particularly with respect to the order of ingredients. Out of personal preference I omitted the fat, the yeast and the vital wheat gluten and out of necessity replaced the rolled barley with coarse barley meal because I couldn’t find any rolled barley. They used a spelt starter and I used a rye starter to get the fermentation going. Other than that I think I got everything else in the loaf. To the right are the weights in grams.
As mentioned by others, if you assume that the ingredients are listed in order of weight then the water becomes a problem. The only way I could think to get the dough up to a reasonable hydration was to turn this into essentially a sunflower seed rye with a very little bit of a lot of other stuff thrown in.
It still wasn’t going to be enough water, but then I found the answer! I happened to check the ingredients on a package of rye crackers: Whole rye flour, yeast, salt... but no water… how can there not have been any water? There must have been water in the dough, even if it all cooked out during baking… AH HA! I get it! They listed the ingredients by their weight in the finished product, not the dough! And since the crackers are bone dry when they are finished, they don’t need to list water at all!!!! Obviously this loaf isn’t going to be that dry, but it will dry out enough that I can pretty much add as much water as I want and still stay true to the original. Thank goodness!
I kept the process as simple as I could. Rye meal only in the preferment. All the other large or hard bits in a hot soaker. Then everything together and into a Pullman pan.
This loaf is mostly made up of meal rather than flour. Everything labelled “meal” in the formula was ground from whole grains in a burr coffee grinder. There is some dust-fine flour produced along with the meal. I sifted some, but not all, of it out so there is a bit more “flour” in this loaf than indicated in the formula. I’ll be tinkering with this aspect of the process down the road.
Long, slow, covered baking is something I started working on last winter. I never got a result I was really happy with before summer came along and put the experimentation on hold. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to start tinkering again so I went with a total of five hours in the oven. The biggest problem I ran into with the long bake was the outside of the loaf drying out before the inside could bake through. Even in a covered pan there was too much moisture escaping, but keeping the oven steamed for hours was never an option. The solution: Pour water directly on the loaf at intervals during the bake. Simple!
And then there is the waiting. As many before me have noted, a loaf like this really takes a couple days to fully set and for its moisture to even out. I never wait that long for a first taste, but it is worth waiting before devouring the rest of the loaf! This loaf came together very nicely after 48 hours. To avoid having the crust dry out I don’t wait until the loaf is completely cool before I bag it and put it in the refrigerator – yes, the refrigerator. This is the only style of bread I refrigerate. If I’m planning on eating it right away I will take it out again once it has chilled and leave it on the counter.
The result: happiness! Even the cat loves this bread (I thought that was a little odd, but a good review is a good review, right?). The flavor is complex and satisfying and the texture is moist with just enough chew. Now that I’ve eliminated the rock hard crust I see this style of bread becoming one of my regular bakes – at least during the cool months. And the possibilities are endless!