Consistency has much to recommend it but a person needs some variety in life, too. Hence the first bake from this past weekend - Hamelman's Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread. Mostly. It seems as though I've had more than my share of white breads in recent weeks. It wasn't the result of any grand plan, just happenstance. And they were good breads, too. They just left me wanting something browner and grainier.
In thumbing through Hamelman's Bread - 2nd Edition, I came across his Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread. It sounded like just the thing to break the white bread streak. The formula is pretty straightforward:
Bread Flour 50%
Whole Rye Flour 25%
Whole Wheat Flour 25%
Mature sourdough culture 5%
Yeast, fresh 1.25%
In spite of the yeast in the formula, this is a sourdough bread.
I did take some liberties with both ingredients and process. First, I left out the yeast. That allowed for a fuller sourdough flavor and a slower rise, which fit better with the day's other activities. The recipe calls for 6 minutes of mixing in a spiral mixer. Wanting a close-textured crumb for sandwiches, I opted for approximately 18 minutes of hand kneading. Finally, I mixed together the levain, the water for the final dough, and the whole wheat flour, allowing the mixture to sit for about an hour. This gave the bran in the wheat flour an opportunity to absorb liquid and soften somewhat before I mixed in the bread flour and salt.
So, other than changing nearly half of the variables, it's exactly as Mr. Hamelman intended.
Since my starter had been refreshed the previous weekend and put back in cold storage, I simply used the called-for amount straight from storage to build the levain. The mixed levain was covered and allowed to ferment overnight. By the next morning, it had grown appreciably and was bubbly throughout.
As noted above, the final dough water and whole wheat flour were combined with the starter and the bowl covered. After an hour or so, the salt and most of the bread flour were mixed in to make a rough dough. The dough was then treated to an extended session of hand kneading. Kneading was a bit of an effort. Twenty-five percent rye flour, pre-fermented, equals sticky dough. I had held back perhaps 20 or 30 grams of the bread flour in anticipation of needing it for bench flour. That turned out to be a good call, as the dough wanted repeated flourings to stay manageable. By not adding more flour or water than the formula called for, the dough was at the intended hydration level when kneading was complete.
Finally, it was covered and allowed to ferment for until approximately doubled, which only took slightly more than three hours. The loaves were pre-shaped, rested, then shaped into batards, placed on parchment sheets, covered with plastic wrap and allowed to ferment without any side support. Happily, there was a limited amount of spreading during the loaves fermentation. With the warmer temperatures this time of year, the loaves were ready to bake in less than three hours.
The loaves were slashed, then baked with steam at 460F for 15 minutes. After that, the temperature was turned down to 440F for another 20 minutes of baking. At that point, the loaves had reached 208F internal temperature, so they were removed from the oven.
Oven spring was good, with slightly more than a doubling in height from the unbaked loaf. The slashes opened up very cleanly, with no tearing. As always, I need more practice to get uniform cuts.
I'm becoming a fan of Hamelman's penchant for bold bakes. While I won't push as far as he does, getting a dark crust and browning of the grigne is as pleasing to my tongue as it is to my eyes.
The resulting crumb was very much what I wanted, well aerated but able to retain condiments:
This bread is more to my liking than the Vermont Sourdough and its variants from the same book. It has a significantly higher wholegrain flour content, for one. The blend of rye and wheat seems tastier than either one alone, too. Even at 68% hydration and 50% wholegrain flour content, the crumb is pleasantly moist. It's close to a week now since I baked the bread and it shows no sign of staling. My wife sliced some today and made a bruschetta of sorts with a balsamic-fig reduction spread on the bread and scattered bits of goat cheese. That was toasted in the the toaster oven and, oh, my, was it good!
The good news is that this is a bread worthy of being in the regular baking rotation. The bad news is that there are so many other good breads in Bread that I don't know when I might get back to it.