New baker from California - interested in German breads
Just wanted to introduce myself and thank everyone for their participation on this forum.
I've been baking bread at home for the past 2 years or so, but almost exclusively with the Lahey no-knead method (both recipes from Lahey's book and from the Breadtopia website). My one experiment with sourdough starter was discouraging, and since I may not make bread every week, I found it expensive, wasteful and a lot of work to continually feed a starter. So I've been using instant yeast.
I just returned from a trip to Germany which rekindled my ambitions to make great bread at home, especially German style (i.e. whole grains, lots of seeds, hearty). I've found the variety and quality of breads in German bakeries to be outstanding. Since I speak German, I searched there for some cookbooks specializing in German whole grain breads, and found one (Brotland Deutschland, Volume. 3: Schrot, Korn and Pumpernickel by Franz J. Steffen) that seems to have cult-like status even on some German bread forums (i.e. the German equivalents of The Fresh Loaf).
Unfortunately, the book is intended for commerical bakers and is quite ambitious. However, I'm hoping to adapt some recipes for smaller portions and the equipment I have at home. The book definitely provides a lot of ideas about different types of breads (there must be at least 100 different types of whole grain breads in this volume). I was in fact surprised that most bread baking books in Germany didn't have that many recipes on whole-grain breads, which is why I picked this one up. It also seems that most bread baking books in English have little on this subject.
Before I jump into this intimidating world, I was wondering if anyone knew of websites or recipes in English that have some good German bread recipes to get started. Also, since all of the recipes in Brotland (and I assume other high-quality recipes) are using real starters, is it a real no-no to use instant yeast? Should I just accept the facts and start growing my own starter? Finally, many recipes I've been reading about call for some sort of steam in the oven. I've been using a Le Creuset or La Cloche (i.e. earthernware covered top for a while in the oven, then take the top off), which is a lot easier. Will that still work or do I need to perfect the tray with water / spraying water on the sides of oven techniques?
I appreciate any advice, guidance, encouragement, pointers, etc. that you may have and will look forward to sharing my experiences.