Before I get into this bread I would like to to thank Karin Anderson, a colleague and blogger who has been helping with my brot's over the past few months. I recommend that you take a look at her blog Brot & Bread. She is dedicated to her craft and her love of German bread comes through in her posts. This is the first formula of hers that I have used, and although I have not yet tasted the bread, it is a beauty. Although my friend Alex has been helping me with translating, Karin has the insight of actually being a German baker. Although she never baked bread while she lived in Germany, she certainly is a German who bakes German bread. Karin knows a thing or two about a thing or two (That is at least four things)!
There are several ways that this bread is different than the normal rye breads that I bake. First of all, this bread is made with a whole wheat mother starter. I did not quite have a 100% whole wheat starter, so I fed a stiff levain at 60% hydration and gave it one feeding with whole wheat flour and provided it with a 75% hydration by flour weight. The result was a stiff levain with a good amount of whole wheat flour and a wonderful amount of gluten development. In the future, I will continue to feed this stiff levain with whole wheat flour and it will eventually come very close to becoming 100% whole wheat! Starters that are made with whole grain flours such as whole wheat, whole spelt or whole rye are stronger than their white flour counterparts. Whereas I am a Registered Dietitian, I am all about the "whole-grain" approach to bread baking and all cooking for that matter.
During this post, I will pay particular attention to the attributes in this bread which differentiate it from the typical German breads that I have been baking.
As I mentioned above, this bread is leavened with a whole wheat starter, but the build is actually fed with bread flour. This helps to develop gluten in the build and thus the final dough. Even though this build was only given eleven hours to grow, you will notice excellent growth and an almost smooth finish. Looking at it, you can see the flecks from the whole wheat starter that was used. Another difference with this bread is that it used a large amount of starer. Typically, when I bake sourdough bread, I use between 7-11 grams of sourdough starter (depending on the size of the bread) This recipe called for 114g for two 650 gram loaves. That is a nearly 16 and a half times the amount that I normally use. To give you a better idea of how much starter was used in the build, check out the picture. Karin's methods for building and feeding a sourdough starter are different. By all accounts, it is just a different technique for baking bread, one that I have simply not practiced before. It required me to build my starter up more often. If the loaf tastes as good as it looks, it will be well worth it!
Secondly, this grain soaker contained both whole wheat flour and whole rye flour. Typically, my soakers are made only of rye flour. Other than one of Hamelman's breads, they do not contain rye flour but rather chopped rye or cracked rye. Another change is that all of the rye flour in this bread is contained in the soaker. Karin notes that one can replace the rye flour with spelt flour, but I chose to use the rye. How could I refuse? Another difference was that all of the rye flour was contained in the soaker. The only other bread that I do this for is my 40% rye with caraway or Kummelbrot. I probably do not practice this because the rye breads that I make are typically at least 50% rye by flour weight. To include all of the rye in the soaker would be overkill.The next major difference was the water. There is no water used in the final dough. All of the water is contained in the soaker and in the sourdough build. My normal practice is to combine the water in the final dough with the sourdough build to help to break up the sourdough so that it is more easily distributed during the mix. This was not possible, so I tore the build into eight or nine pieces so that it would distribute during the mix. During the mix I had to take the dough off of the hook several times. I know that I should be using a paddle, but that is another practice I do not do. (That is mainly because my dough hook is in the attic and it is roughly 35 degrees Fahrenheit up there).
The fourth big change is that the sourdough build and the soaker are prepared in the morning and the final dough is mixed at night. I always prepare the soaker and build the night before and bake the following morning. The final dough contained all of the soaker and and all of the sourdough build, plus about 90 grams of whole wheat flour, 8-10 grams of honey, a little salt and a pinch of fennel and caraway. This bread is then divided in half and allowed to ferment in the fridge over night. The next morning it is shaped into boules and then proofed in bannetons, or brotforms. The bread is then baked at 475 degrees for 10 minutes and then baked at 425 for an additional ten minutes. The loaves are then rotated 180 degrees and baked for an additional 10-20 minutes. Typically, I do not rotate my breads in the oven, but I am glad that I did for these. This rotation provided a very even color to the finished bread.
All in all, this technique was new to me in several ways, and I am glad that I was able to bake this bread. Using my intuition as a baker, I made sure to guide the process along in each its stages. Although I have not yet tasted this loaf, I am certain that it will get the "hearthbakedtunes seal of approval" and I am anxious to take my first bite! Karin has given me two more formulas to try and I am looking forward to my next brot!
I just tasted this bread and it has a nice spice to it, but I think I would prefer the taste without the fennel and caraway. I think it detracts from the rye and honey in this formula! The crumb is tight, which makes sense, there is quite a bit of whole grain but the crust is simply beautiful but a bit too thick from over baking.
-DW, The Rye King