The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking, si! Blogging, not so much - Part 1

pmccool's picture

Baking, si! Blogging, not so much - Part 1

Although there would be no way for you to know it, I have been baking.  It’s the blogging bit that has suffered in recent weeks.  This will be the first step in addressing the shortfall.

We are on the downhill run toward moving from South Africa back to the United States.  My wife will return in mid-September and I will follow in mid-October.  Two years looked like a long time when we first arrived.  In retrospect, it seems to have passed by very quickly.  We have seen and sampled much of South Africa, with a few forays into neighbouring countries, but there is much that remains on our list of things to see or do. 

Coincidentally, getting ready to leave means saying goodbye—quite often, as it turns out.  We have received a number of invitations to dinner with friends recently, with more to come.  Those often include a request: “Could Paul bring some bread?”  (Lest this seem one-sided, let the record show that my wife is frequently asked to bring a dessert, or “pudding” in the local idiom.)

On the weekend of August 13-14, baking had two objectives.  The first was a vollkornbrot for local friends, one originally from the Netherlands.  The second was a sandwich loaf and honey whole wheat bread, an old favourite, was selected. 

While it is possible to locate rye breads in the local markets, they tend to be more in the light-to-medium rye vein.  Good sandwich breads, yes, but not the hearty, earthy base that works so well for pickles, cheeses or cured meats. 

In looking through various formulae, I was at first drawn to Leader’s version in his Local Breads book.  Upon closer perusal, I realized that the formula had discrepancies in the quantities that I did not want to have to sort out.  Still, the extended bake at lower temperatures was attractive.  Further looking led me to a formula in another book.  I believe it was in the KAF 200th Anniversary cook book but cannot verify that because our household effects, including cook books, are somewhere between Pretoria and Kansas City.  In the baking equivalent of a shotgun wedding, I used the formula from one source with the baking instructions from another, after first ascertaining that the finished dough quantities and characteristics were (probably) close enough that disaster wasn’t lurking.  And the results were good, if I do say so myself, which I do.  More to the point, so did the recipients, which is the important thing.

In the accompanying photos, you can see that the bread achieved the brick-like profile that is de rigeur for vollkornbrot.  And that the crumb is suitably dense without being completely solid.  The flavour was entirely rye: earthy with a light tang from the sour.  The one thing that I had hoped for was a deeper coloration of both crust and crumb from the low and slow baking profile.  Apparently it has to go lower and slower to allow the Maillard reactions to produce a truly dark bread.


The honey whole wheat is one that I have made for years.  My primary purpose for mentioning it here is because of the finished bread’s size and shape.  Although it is written as a straight dough, I used a 30-minute autolyse to help soften the bran in the coarsely-ground whole wheat flour that I had on hand.  This was baked, as suggested and as I have done previously, in a 9x5 loaf pan.  The bread barely rose to the rim of the pan.  I think that there are a couple of contributing factors.  One, as noted, this particular flour has a rather coarse grind.  Two, despite information from the recent interesting discussion about pan capacities, my experience with this and other formulae suggests that 3 cups of flour won’t produce a loaf that adequately fills a 9x5 pan.  There will be some variation in the final size of the finished breads, but very few can expand adequately to fill the pan without overproofing. 

Pretty or not, it makes a tasty sandwich and toast.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I tend to like the 4" wide pans for vollkornbrot.  Your loaves look fine.  Actually a nice size for open face, any bigger and they would have to be cut in half.   How did you steam them?   I find I get the best color when I attack first with high heat and then reduce to lower heat to finish the bake.  That sets up the crust and the color "creaps" into the loaf.  (others will disagree)

It also darkens a few shades within days and quickly when exposed to air.  After slicing, and before serving, the loaf can change color quite a bit.  Throw a cloth or napkin over the bread basket letting it "air" like a good red wine before serving.

Has it been two years already?  The Korean project is coming to an end.  The opening ceremony was Monday after almost four years!  

pmccool's picture

Funny, that!  This was baked in a 4" pan, or the metric equivalent, anyway.  I don't have a pullman pan, so created a Frankenstein-ish substitute by placing a jelly roll pan upside down over the loaf pan (having greased the side facing the bread).  That was held in place by two casserole dishes parked on top, each full of hot water.  I had hoped that even if the improvised lid didn't seal in the moisture as effectively as the lid of a pullman pan, the oven would at least be well humidified until I removed the top to permit the loaf to brown somewhat.  Since the bread never rose as far as the "lid", I'm not sure that all that effort produced any better results than baking it without a lid but with more aggressive steaming.

I'll note your comments about starting hotter, then dropping the temperature, for when I take the next shot at this bread.  The ideal, of course, would be to park the pan in a WFO at the end of a day's baking, then pull it out the following morning.  Or so the story goes.

Yes, my two-year assignment is almost finished!  What a strange mix of "Finally!" and "So soon?"  And I imagine your husband is happy to see the Korean project reach completion, too.