The Fresh Loaf

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Whole Rye (Volkornbrot) crust problems

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fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

Whole Rye (Volkornbrot) crust problems

I have attempted to make a whole rye loaf similar to what my German wife enjoyed eating back home.  I have not been successful using the formula from Dan Leader's "Local Breads" book.  I used that recipe because it called for (finely ground) whole rye flour and rye berries, both of which I can find in Atlanta.  I finally decided to try Hamelman's version which calls for rye meal and rye chops.  I ground my own rye meal and chops using a small electric chopper.  Not the most efficient way I know, but I thought I'd give it a shot.  I sifted the contents through a regular kitchen strainer.  What came through the strainer I used as the "meal".  What was strained out I used as the "chops".  Working with these ingredients felt more "right" to me as I followed Hamelman's instructions.  I baked it in a loaf pan with no cover, just sprinkled some meal over top.  It looked real nice when I took it out of the oven 90 minutes later.  I let it cool for a couple hours on a rack and then wrapped it with a kitchen towel and left it on the counter overnight.  My wife eagerly tried it this morning (about 14 hours after it came out of the oven) and e-mailed me at work to say it was very hard still, but tasted good.  Will the crust soften as it continues to cool?  I know Hamelman recommends 24-48 hrs before slicing.  I thought this was more about the crumb stabilizing than the crust softening.  Is there any reason why the crust would come out this way and how can I get a better crust in the future?  Sorry for the long-winded post and thanks for any replies.


Mike

blackbird's picture
blackbird

Hi Mike,


I am very curious.  What do you mean by a hard crust?  If you can slice it or tear it then it can't be hard.  Many, perhaps all, of my breads are firm crusts very unlike commercial breads.  They are chewy, sometimes crunchy, always tasty. 


Most commercial breads are rather soft to very soft, even quite like sponges or balloons.  I still see people squeezing the breads on the shelves in the stores, etc.  My homemade breads would never pass their tests and opinions from them would be full of laughs directed to me.  It's happened, you see, and not just once or twice.


I 'd love to see a photo.  Your writing indicates to me you have done well.  I certainly admire German Volkornbrot and wish to know more so I can make them.


Robert

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

The crust isn't just crisp like a good hearth bread.  It's done in a loaf pan, so it's not really a hearth bread anyway.  If you try to press it with your finger there is no give whatsoever.  The bread is 100% rye, with rye chops and sunflower seeds, so it's by nature a very dense, chewy loaf.  But the outside shouldn't be that hard that it's a chore to cut through.  My wife is the expert on how it should be, so I have to defer to her.  She did say the taste (and appearance) was much better than my previous attempts, so that's something at least.  I'll try to post a photo later.


 


Mike

Julie J's picture
Julie J

Hi Mike,


I am a beginner and I don't know what rye chops even are, but my husband has  been making a Finnish rye for 20 years that is not baked in a loaf pan, but hand kneaded and made into a couple of round loaves on a jelly roll pan...the Finns bake really dense and hard crusts with just about all of their loaves.  My husband has a starter in the freezer that he uses and ferments this overnight and then makes a loaf the next day...it seems to be more soft the first day and then it gets harder every day thereafter.  I have to use a large serrated knife to cut into most of his rye bread.  Sometimes I have to let him do it, it is so hard to cut into.  I think this is just the nature of rye bread!!!  His has 100% rye and just his starter and water and salt.  It is really good bread, but very dense and hard to cut!!!


Good luck,


Julie J

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

And I don't mean that in a bad way.  My wife would tell me if I got it right, and apparently I didn't get it right.  Unfortunately I only have her opinion to go on because I have never really eaten a true German Volkornbrot myself--at least not that I can recall.  I love the bread over there, but I usually ate some sort of multi-grain roll or even a mostly white flour type of bread and not a 100% rye.  My wife sometimes buys the packaged versions that are imported from Germany that aren't too hard to find in supermarkets around here.  I haven't tried them myself, but they seem to have a moister crust--almost like there's no difference between the crust and the crumb.  It would be nice to make a fresh version for her to enjoy that has the right texture.  I'm enjoying the challenge so far.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Did you use the rye sourdough starter called for in the recipe?

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

I prepared the sourdough according to Hamelman's formula using my just-refreshed rye starter (refreshed 100g water, 75g whole rye flour).  The internal temperature of the finished bread was 206F, so I don't think I baked it too long.  It starts out fairly high (450 I think) for 15 minutes w/steam, then lower the temp to 380F for 1 hr 15 min.  Maybe I should lower the temperature and bake it longer?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I don't think you should lower the initial 470F temp, Mike.  You want that hot temp for oven spring, at least for the first 15 minutes.


If you didn't cover the loaves during the final fermentation, that would cause crust problems, but I doubt very much if you did that.


Since you ground your own rye meal, I wonder if that had any effect.  I found one reference stating:  "Rye Meal-This is ground rye with the bran bolted out which contains the elements of rye "light" flour and the coarser pumpernickel flour together. The rye kernels are ground to a coarse texture into a meal form, used similar to rye flour or whole wheat flours. (sift or bolt through a 16 to 18 mesh screen."


If the crust is still too hard for you, move the loaf into a plastic bag and keep it there.  The crust will soften.




 

arneskaug's picture
arneskaug

I've been making a similar bread for four years now, and the crust is hard, as it should be. I'm not German, but Norwegian, and we have baking traditions that are in some ways similar to German traditions. I believe that the commersially produced rye bread you can by, like pumpernickel, is baked in a totally different way than home baked bread. They may be baked in air tight trays with lids so that the dough loses less moisture during baking. It may also be baked in a steam oven that reduses vaporisation as well.


Anyway, if you don't like the "eruopean" crust, you should try covering the bread while baking with alu foil, and/or wrap the freslhy baked bread in alu foil while cooling, hence reducing loss of moisture.


I bake my bread at 475 degrees for five minutes, then I lower the temp to to 350 for the remainder of the baking time. I have settled for a core temperature of 185 degrees as perfect for my bread, although I don't usually don't use a thermometer. I can actually smell when it's ready.


Good luck with your baking!

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

We like the European crust, but apparently what I created is not what my European wife expects a crust to be.  I do think it might be a good idea to turn the temp down after only five minutes instead of the 15 Hamelman suggests.  I didn't cover it this time, might try that next time.  I don't have a pullman lid, but I can improvise something.  I also find it interesting that you only look for a core temp of 185 F.  That is a lot lower than the 200+ generally recommended in all the books I have read.  But maybe that's all the difference I might need to get a slightly softer bread.  hanks for the input.



Mike

Julie J's picture
Julie J

Mike,


My husband (who is Finnish) had also mentioned that you might try turning the oven temp down a little to get a softer crust...


Julie J

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sorry I didn't see this topic sooner. 



I let it cool for a couple hours on a rack and then wrapped it with a kitchen towel and left it on the counter overnight.



This only works to soften the crust if you have a cool house and high humidity but that is rarely the case.  Next time the loaf has cooled on the rack for several hours and is cool,  put it inside a plastic bag or tupper with lid type bowl overnight.  That usually softens up the crust and crust cracked grains.  I do it all the time!   Works like a charm.


A while back, I froze a sliced fresh rye loaf without letting it stand overnight (which would have balanced the loafs moisture)  and today when I thawed out the slices,  we found the crust very tough.  We still bit through but as the meal progressed my dog seemed delighted to stay under the table.


Mini

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

I agree the plastic ziploc bag is the best way to soften the crust once it's cooled down.  I came back to post some pix that I took and forgot to upload.  Other than the hard crust there was also the problem of the crumb tearing apart creating a big fissure in the bread.




xaipete's picture
xaipete

Your loaf looks terrific.


--Pamela

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Great picture!  Looks like a Walnut rye.  (I've always wanted to try Roasted Pecan Rye.) 


Time to learn about docking or driving sharp pointy intruments into the loaf lots of times before baking.  Docking releases any large air pockets that might have formed deep in the loaf while shaping.  A clean knitting kneedle, ice pick, thin chop stick works well.  Get it wet each time and poke straight down almost to the bottom of the loaf.   Do this about every 2 - 3 cm or every inch.  One can come up with some interesting patterns.   


Another technique is to avoid trapping air inside the loaf.   Shape with wet hands, no flour, and when finished, roll into flour to "dust" before placing into a bread form.


One other thought...  Was the rising surface of the dough covered to prevent it from drying out before baking?   This can be done by direct covering with plastic wrap or placing the loaf pan inside a larger covered container.    Keeping the surface moist is important.


I would also be tempted to find out how hot your oven bakes.  Maybe the oven is hotter than it claims.   A simple oven thermometer is cheap and handy.


Mini

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

I have docked breads when called for specifically in the instructions.  I use a metal skewer.  I didn't see that in Hamelman's formula, but I can see where that might've helped.  He did mention dusting the top with rye meal to help keep in moisture, as well as covering with plastic.  I did both.  I liked the way it looked actually.  As far as shaping, that could've been my downfall as well.  I handled the dough very little since it was so sticky, as 100% ryes tend to be.  I will try to be a little more patient and use the wet hands technique to get a tighter cylinder next time.  Thanks for the tips!


 


Mike

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

Tried again last weekend and had a major breakthrough.   The main difference is I used freshly ground rye meal and "chops" from my new Bosch attachment.  I used setting "1" for the meal--it was a good deal grittier than the whole rye I can buy in the stores.  I used setting "4" for the chops, which I guess was not really chops but just very coarse bits of rye berry.  I docked the loaf using a metal skewer.  This made a big difference.  No more canyons in the crumb.





About the only thing that didn't work out perfectly was I think I let it overproof slightly.  It had risen almost an inch over the top of the pan, but the docking helped it keep from deflating.  My wife was finally able to give me the official German seal of approval.  She loved this one.  Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and encouragement.


 


Mike

photojess's picture
photojess

I haven't done that to any of my breads, but also havn't had any fissures either.  Do you do this after it has risen, or before, when it is being shaped?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, photojess.


Docking seems to be a technique used for rye breads only. It is done after proofing, just before loading the loaves in the oven. I have seen recipes where docking is done a second time part way through the bake.


Hope this helps.


David

photojess's picture
photojess

but doesn't that deflate it?  I guess not, but what was written and the pictures, but why doesn't it if it doesn't?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Really delicious looking, Mike.


--Pamela