Another Horst Bandel Black Pumpernickel
Although this bread is the topic of a number of posts here at TFL, I wanted to make it as presented in Hamelman's Bread (as nearly as possible) so that I would have a baseline for future bakes. Since making it, I have re-read most of those posts and recognize some things that I will employ for the next attempt.
On my part, there were three departures from the formula as presented in the book. The first was that I did not have pumpernickel, or coarse rye, meal on hand but I did have plenty of a finely milled whole rye flour, which I used in place of the pumpernickel. The second was that I substituted cracked rye that I made by processing whole rye kernels with the grain mill attachment for my KitchenAide mixer in place of the rye chops that the formula specifies. I also used barley malt syrup in place of the blackstrap molasses, which Hamelman notes is an acceptable substitution. While these changes have some effect on the outcome, my assessment is that their influence is relatively minor.
The two factors that I perceive to have a major effect on the finished bread are both inherent in the formula.
The first is the degree of hydration. Hamelman's directions for this bread are unusually vague, compared to other breads in the book. He directs the reader to use the water left from soaking the altus for hydrating the dough but not to put any in unless it is needed. He mentions that the dough should have a "medium" consistency and that it will be "slightly sticky". This is a mostly-rye bread, loaded with whole rye kernels (soaked) and rye chops (dry). Not surprisingly, it is a heavy dough and supremely sticky.
The second factor is the suggested baking profile for home ovens; and it is only a suggestion. Not knowing exactly how my oven compares to his experience and knowing that my kitchen is rather cool at this time of year, I chose to depart from his notes in detail but tried to stay within the general intent. To that end, I baked the bread for an hour at 350F, 90 minutes at 300F, 90 minutes at 250F, and 2 hours at 225F. At that point, the oven was switched off and the bread remained in the oven for another 2 hours. The bread was baked in lidded pullman pans that measure 9x4x4 inches. I'll discuss the outcome a little further along in this post.
On a Friday evening, I mixed the rye levain and set it to ripen overnight. Not having any old rye bread on hand, I used some Vermont Sourdough (another Hamelman bread) for the altus. I also prepped the whole rye soaker, leaving the kernels to soak overnight in cool water. I was a bit surprised to see that the kernels had begun to chit by morning, so it's a good thing that the rye soaker has to be boiled before use. That prevented an enzymatic nightmare.
On Saturday morning, I boiled the rye soaker as directed, then drained and cooled it. While that was going on, I cracked the rye kernels as described earlier. The altus was also wrung out while the whole rye soaker was cooling. Then I weighed out the rest of the ingredients. When the rye soaker reached a usable temperature, all of the ingredients were mixed by hand. My impression was that the dough was somewhat stiff, so I mixed in a few grams of the water from the altus soaker. That loosened things up somewhat, although I would still not have described the dough as being wet. Having some prior experiences with too-wet rye pastes, I decided to call it good enough. The dough was covered and allowed to ferment in my B&T proofer at the recommended temperature.
During the bulk fermentation, the pans were greased and floured in preparation for loading with the shaped loaves.
At the completion of the bulk ferment, the dough was divided and shaped. I had to wet my hands a few times to keep the stickiness in check and used a plastic scraper to help lift the loaves from the countertop without deforming them. They were placed in the prepared pans and the lids were closed. The loaded pans went back into the proofer for the final fermentation at the prescribed temperature. When I checked the dough at the 50-minute mark, I found it to be within 3/4 of an inch of the pan lids, as Hamelman directs. The oven was preheated and the bread went in for its marathon bake, as described above.
The fragrance of this bread while it bakes is amazing! Lots of rye / caramel / malty / hazelnut notes that get "darker" as the bake proceeds and the Maillard reactions progress. Marvelous stuff!
When I was finally able to depan the loaves, I was surprised to find that they had shrunk by almost 1/2 inch in length. The side-to-side dimension stayed about the same. The crust was rock hard. My first impression was that if the bread wasn't edible, I'd at least have a couple of foundation blocks for that WFO that I may or may not get around to building someday.
When you look at the photo, below, a couple of things are noticeable. One is that the top of the loaf is slightly rounded, indicating that it never expanded all of the way to the pan lid. I attribute that to the dough being somewhat under-hydrated, since I was very careful to scale the quantities for the size pans I have. The other is that a lot of the flour from dusting the pan is quite stubbornly clinging to the loaf. That isn't the most esthetically pleasing thing but it does show just how much color change there was from the raw flour to the finished bread.
The bread was wrapped in cotton towels and allowed to sit 24 hours. I then bagged it in plastic in the hope that the moisture from the interior might soften the crust somewhat. That hasn't happened to any great degree. Cutting the bread, even with a good bread knife, is a struggle. I have an acquaintance who does a lot of woodworking. Maybe I could use his band saw to slice off the crusts... After trying to use the bread with the crust still on the slices, I've taken to cutting off the crusts before eating. No point in cracking that new dental implant on one of those rye berries.
The crumb, as shown in the headline photo, is very much what one expects with this bread; dense, dark, and chunky with whole rye and cracked rye. The flavor is fabulous by itself and in sandwiches. This is filling stuff, too. It can keep you going for several hours without any sense of hunger.
For the next bake, I'll follow Andy's excellent advice to weigh everything before and after soaking so that I can be more scrupulous about hydration. I'll also tinker with introducing steam for part, if not all, of the bake. That will be a significant departure from the formula but I can't help but think that an oven full of bread probably has a higher humidity than mine did with just two loaves. The lids on the pullman pans are obviously not able to retain enough moisture to prevent excessive hardening of the crusts during the long bake.
This won't be one of my go-to breads, simply because of the length of the bake. It is, however, one that I will make from time to time because it is so good.