Memories of Czech Rye
It's around this time of year that I tend to make rye bread of some kind more often than not. For me the flavour and texture of a hearty rye bread helps to dispel at least some of the cold and damp days we have and will continue to have for the next few months here on Vancouver Island.
This latest rye bread started out to be Dan Leader's Light Silesian Rye from his book “Local Breads” which he discovered on a visit to the Czech Republic. After entering his formula into my spreadsheet format to have a better look at it I began tinkering around with it a bit... and then a little bit more...
Well I tinkered so much that in the end I wound up with something quite different from Leader's original formula. My initial intention was to make just a few minor adjustments to it by slightly increasing the rye content, adjusting the salt, and hydration levels, but the more I played with the formula the higher the percentage of rye became. It seems that what I really had in mind was the type of rye bread that has a smooth, and very even cell structure to the crumb, reminiscent of one I had in Prague two summers ago.
That bread was almost certainly a mass produced commercial product which I probably wouldn't find as tasty today as I remember it being then, but in fact the texture of it was what I enjoyed more than anything. The bread was what a street vendor used to stack thick slices of smoky ham on top of, glorious huge hams that had been cooked over the wood fire right next to the stand, then sliced from the bone to order. The bread did such a good job of holding the ham, mustard, pickles and fried onions together in a coherent package as we wandered around Old Town Square, it was really the perfect medium for a big juicy sandwich like that.
Leader's formula comes in at roughly 18% rye content, and confident this wouldn't give me the texture I wanted it was eventually increased to 68%. With the higher percentage of rye some extra water would be needed to achieve the smooth even crumb I was hoping for so the hydration was bumped to 76% over the original formula's 67%. The commercial yeast included in Leader's formula was turfed in favour of an all rye sour leaven and an addition of non-diastatic malt powder was added for flavour and colour. Since I like seeds in my rye bread, toasted pumpkin seeds were added to the mix along with wee bit of ground caraway to round things out. For a high ratio rye bread like this the procedure would need to change as well, primarily with the bulk ferment and final proof times and temps being warmer and shorter respectively than those for a lighter ratio rye bread. Mixing time went from 10-12 minutes down to 5-6, ample time to develop the gluten in the 32% ratio of bread flour used. Not even close to Mr Leader's formula any more, but I do have him to thank for the inspiration, and for reminding me of the bread and the wonderful sandwich I enjoyed with it that afternoon in Prague.
Although I didn't manage to get exactly the type of smooth and even crumb I'd hoped for, it came fairly close. The flavour is mildly sour, with a pleasant after taste accented by the toasted seeds and hint of caraway. I can't say for sure how much influence the malt had on the flavour but tend to think it contributed to the overall balance of it.
I'm kicking myself now for not putting a ham in the smoker to have with this loaf but I'll make do with some smoked ham from the deli and make a note to self for next time.
Link to spreadsheet *here*
Link to procedure *here*