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Leader's Soulful German Farmhouse Rye

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Leader's Soulful German Farmhouse Rye

While it would be self-deception in the first degree to think that I have a lock on wheaten breads, I've been wanting to expand my repertoire to include breads with a high percentage of rye flour.  I enjoy the flavor and have been very impressed by the breads produced by other TFL posters.  So, I thought I'd try my hand with the Soulful German Farmhouse Rye from Daniel Leader's Local Breads.  This bread has been profiled in other posts on TFL, so feel free to search out those entries, too.


I maintain a single sourdough starter that is usually fed AP or bread flour.  Every now and then it gets goosed with a bit of whole rye or whole wheat, based on the needs of a particular recipe.  For this bread, I did two refreshments entirely with whole rye flour to build the rye sour it calls for.  About the only rye flour carried in supermarkets locally is Hodgson Mills whole rye, so it's not like there's a lot of choice in the matter.  Whole Foods and Wild Oats stores have some other possibilities, but the labeling doesn't always make it clear just what they are selling.


The formula calls for a quarter teaspoon each of coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, toasted and ground.  That turned out to be my first point of departure from the formula.  Recalling some earlier discussions on TFL, I substituted caraway for the cumin.  My first attempt at toasting the seeds in a skillet on the stovetop was, well, overdone.  As I was grinding the seeds, the predominant odor was that of something scorched, not something spicy.  After pitching those, I started over.  This time I dialed back the heat and shook the skillet every few seconds so that nothing had a chance to park on a hot spot and scorch.  I also kept a close eye on the fennel seeds.  They started out with a greenish cast, while the coriander and caraway already had a toasty color.  When the fennel seeds' color shifted from green to golden, I pulled the skillet off the flame and dumped the seeds into the mortar.  A few strokes with the pestle released a toasty/spicy fragrance that was much different and far better than the that of the first attempt.  


Despite Leader's recommendations, I opted for hand mixing and kneading the dough, primarily to understand how it looked and felt as it developed.  Now I know why the phrase "wet cement" figures prominently in writings about making rye breads.  Despite what you read in recipes, a high-percentage rye dough will not be silky; nor will it be elastic or responsive.  I'll probably use the mixer for future forays, but I know now what to look for.  The other departure from the formula was to use wet hands and a wet countertop for kneading.  Leader recommends floured hands, but I think that working wet has to be the better choice.  First, you can't work in too much additional flour.  Second, the same components in rye flour that make it so sticky also make it slippery when wet.  That means your hands don't get nearly as gummed up with dough as they would if you worked with floured surfaces.  Keeping a plastic bowl scraper in one hand while manipulating the dough with the other is also a good tactic.  


The dough came together rather easily.  Yes, it was sticky.  Yes, it was sludgy.  And no, it didn't seem the least bit soulful; at least, not compared to a dough made with wheat flour.  The second point at which I departed from the script was to add only half the amount of yeast.  A significant quantity of the rye flour is in the final dough, so I wanted it to have the opportunity to acidify before the yeast took over.  That stretched the fermentation times out beyond the times noted in the formula but I wasn't in any rush.


Leader recommends "dusting" the bannetons with rye flakes before depositing the boules for their final fermentation.  First, things the size of rye flakes can't be "dusted" onto anything, much less the sidewalls of a banneton.  Second, he recommends slashing the loaves with a tic-tac-toe pattern immediately before loading them in the oven.  Every try slashing a dough that is armored, sorry, "dusted" with rye flakes?  It ain't gonna happen, no matter what your slashing weapon of choice is.  (See picture, below.)  And that for a bread that, he says truthfully, isn't going to rise much in the oven.  I'll grant you that the rye flakes have a certain rustic appeal for the eye, but next time I'd rather use them as a soaker or leave them off entirely.


Here's how the finished breads look:


Soulful German Farmhouse Rye


These are compact breads, maybe 1.5 inches high and 7 or 8 inches across.  The rye flakes and the knife handle give you a sense of their scale.  The crumb, not surprisingly, is dense and rather tight.  The soulful part, which isn't appreciable here, is in the flavor.  The rye is front and center in this bread.  The spices, while discernible, are very much in a supporting role.  It's quite a bit different than Levy's NY jewish rye, which has 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds.  The crust is chewy, as is the crumb.  Then again, it's been in a plastic bag overnight.  Left out in the air, it would probably be rather hard-shelled.  It doesn't feel quite as moist as I had anticipated (probably a factor of the whole rye's absorbency) but it isn't crumbly, either.  I think it is probably a very good thing that I used water, rather than flour, to manage the stickiness while kneading the dough.  There's no noticeable gumminess in the crumb, so it appears that I waited long enough before cutting into it. 


All in all, an enjoyable bread and one that should go very well with the ham I purchased this weekend.

Comments

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Very nice loaves...I have a ham in the oven right now...wish I had some of your bread to go with it...We like lamb for easter and I also picked up a great ham on sale last weekend.


Sylvia

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I'm happy with them as a first-time attempt.  The flavor is very enjoyable.  Rye is definitely something that I will have to work with to develop any proficiency.


Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I'm happy with them as a first-time attempt.  The flavor is very enjoyable.  Rye is definitely something that I will have to work with to develop any proficiency.


Paul

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Your rye loaves look terrific, Paul. I'll have to get some rye flakes; they make the loaves look very professional.


--Pamela

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The rye flakes are eye-pleasing, I agree.  I'm not in love with the reality of having to sweep them off the cutting board every time I get a slice of bread, though.  Right now I'm just dumping the strays into the canister with the granola.  It's another toasted grain, right?


Paul

LindyD's picture
LindyD

For writing about your experience with such detail.  Sometimes the best things come in small packages and I think your rye is a good example.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

With bread-making, a lot of the really important stuff is in the little details.  I have learned much since finding TFL and the bakers who detail their experiences, so I try to return the favor when I write something here.  One never knows what might be an "Aha!" moment for someone else.


Thank you for your compliment.


Paul

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am sure it looks "soulful," if you have a German soul.


You sure plunged into rye bread baking head first!


David

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

David,


Having only been to Germany once, and then only having had the opportunity to sample bread in its liquid form, I'm really not qualified to say what might appeal to the German soul. 


I may not spend as much time in the deep end of the pool as our friend Pat, but I do like to paddle around there every now and then.  This definitely counts as a learning experience and I need to learn more.


Paul

blackbird's picture
blackbird

Making notes for the future, thanks, looks great.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

If there's anything in my account that helps you, make maximum use of it.  Thanks for your comments.


Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You've done very good! 


I still haven't purchased rye flakes yet!   Sometimes I like to roll my dough into the smaller rolled oats first, coating the dough and then into a floured banneton or straight into a casserole.  I've been looking for smaller deeper bannetons too, just because I think the larger ones don't help the shape much.  A lot depends on the dough to banneton ratio.


I bought some Kamut berries the other day and because they cook up like rice, threw them into the rice cooker 30 min ago.  I plan on using some with my next rye loaf.  I washed them in a seeve but low and behold!  I ended up pouring the grain into a big bowl and running water over them pouring water off the top to wash out bits of hulls and dust. Aroma now coming from the cooker smells good.    


Did you notice the rye dough change as you kneaded it?   Maybe not because of the water but did you take note of any changes?    I normally knead with flour but like you pointed out, it's easy to get too much and have many times added more water back into the dough.    I do love to let rye dough just sit there in the bowl for 30 min before kneading.   I don't know if it is a habit or because it works better.  


Mini

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

You are definitely in a better position than I to know whether the bread looks anything like that which is made in Germany.  All I've had are the thoroughly Americanized versions of so-called Euro-style breads, so I have no real basis for comparison.


My take on the rye flakes for this recipe is that they are purely ornamental. None of them are actually in the dough.  The flakes that I purchased (from Wild Oats) are much thicker than a typical rolled oat flake.  For someone planning to make this bread for the first time, I might almost recommend that they simply flour the banneton as they ordinarily would, particularly if they want to slash the breads before baking.  My bannetons are from SFBI; I have two smaller ones (which I used for this bread) and one larger one.  Even after rising (which wasn't anything to write home about), the dough came up no higher than half of the bannetons' depth.


Your kamut write-up in your blog was interesting.  I haven't done anything with kamut yet, so I'll be interested to hear how it works in your bread.


There wasn't any notable change in the dough texture during kneading.  Leader recommends an 8-minute knead "more to mix the ingredients thoroughly than to develop elasticity", followed by a 10-minute rest (covered) on the counter, followed by a second 5-6 minute knead before the bulk ferment.  The dough was sludgy when I started and it was sludgy when I finished; not at all like a wheat dough that goes from slack and raggedy to elastic and smooth as it is kneaded.  Other rye kneading directions that I've read would suggest that little kneading is good and less is better.  Leader's directions read more like the directions for kneading a wheat dough.  I can only surmise that he is trying to maximize the gluten development of the small fraction of bread flour that the recipe contains.  I think I made the right call by kneading with water rather than flour.  My impression is that the bread would probably have been too dry, otherwise.


Thanks for your comments.


Paul

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

making my first rye with a rye sour was one of those OH..hmmmm..Oh experiences. I had no idea that the dough I was kneading would seem like a leaden mass, such a turn around from lovely, smooth wheat doughs. I did slash my loaf, but quite frankly it didn't do anything for the loaf or it's appearance. Your loaf looks very nice! Are you slicing it thinly for your ham sandwiches?


Betty

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

With a crumb that tight, there's a lot of bread in even a skinny little slice.  I used some for a smoked turkey and swiss cheese sandwich today, with the bread sliced about the same thickness as a melba toast slice.  The first thing I tasted was the spices, but by the third bite they weren't noticeable anymore.  While I've heard that the first bite (of anything) tastes best, it was a bit surprising to experience just how fast the body switches from "wow" to "ho-hum".


Paul

Moriah's picture
Moriah

goes real good with Swiss Chees and smoked salmom ...

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Moriah, here I am with a full stomach and you've made me hungry again!  A sprinkling of fresh dill weed probably wouldn't hurt the flavor any, either, would it?


Paul

joshua shuffman's picture
joshua shuffman

Try it with toasted dill seeds, if you want to salmon it up.  I've found scoring unnecessary on these types of breads, too, as the surface will ALMOST CERTAINLY crack during baking anyway.  It's worth investigating Dan Lepard's method of using some gelatinized rye flour in the dough to simulate gluten, and also as a final brush-on to give some elasticity to the crust.  Also, i've had good success using the bran sifted out of pumpernickel flour to roll the loaves in before they go into the banneton (i think Mini mentioned this technique as easier than trying to "dust" the banneton with something so large).