The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Leningrad Rye

agres's picture
agres

Leningrad Rye

An old friend seeks loaves of "Leningrad Rye" such as she had in Leningrad circa 1955.  The loaves were cob shaped, dense, firm, very dark, and damp inside. And, fragrant! Oh, and loaves would start being sold about 4 hours after the truck load of flour arrived at the bakery.  (People would be in line for bread, and see the trucks arrive!)

My guess from economic history suggests 80% rye flour, 4% flax seed (meal?) 4% sunflower seed (meal?), and coarse whole wheat flour.  From her accounts of fragrance, I assume some caraway, and salt?  Things like coffee and cocoa were simply not available. Some brewers products such as dark (rye?) malt, hops, and yeast were available.  On the other hand, the Leningrad bakers had long traditions of being able to produce good bread even in the face of harsh adversity.   

Somehow her descriptions suggest sourdough, but is there any way to produce sourdough breads that fast?  How would you approach authentic 1955 Leningrad Rye Bread?  This is not urgent as we do make very good, dark rye breads, both yeast and sourdough. Rather this  a quest for the taste and smell of her childhood food.

Or, were the Leningrad loaves of 1955 simply so much better than the Leningrad loaves of 1945? (made with cottonseed meal, and worse), and not nearly as good as the famous sourdough Leningrad loaves of 1845? Or, perhaps standing in line for hours in the cold Leningrad winter made the bread seem better? Am I on a fool's quest?

 

 

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

Your friend should check Stanley Ginsberg's book, "The Rye Baker," and his website theryebaker.com. Most of the ryes in the book are classics from Eastern and Northern Europe. Maybe the book has the loaf you're looking for, or something close to it.

jaywillie

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Was a looking in the history of breads and stumbled into Foodtimeline.org  and under breads I found some good reading 

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodbreads.html#breadhistory

What an interesting site...

agres's picture
agres

I have decided that much of the emotional experience that she remembers is the result of the bread being better than what was available during the Siege of Leningrad, and waiting for hours outside in the bitter cold. The warmth and fragrance of the bakery after waiting outside in the cold would have it seem wonderful. Then, the bread had a short fermentation, and thus it had a high glycemic index.  The sugar rush from the bread after waiting outside in cold would have made the bread seem wonderful.  Nothing, I can bake is going to seem so wonderful.

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

that it is not worth your time to try a recipe or two to see if it is close to what the lady remembers.  I hope that she has other friends who might be able to spend a bit of time checking out a few options to see if they can bring her some joy.

If she does have friends willing to look in to it further, please recommend that they check out the Rye Baker site and book, and maybe have a look at this recipe for a starting point: http://theryebaker.com/black-rye-breadjuoda-rugine-duona-lithuania/ or maybe a version of Borodinsky: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/48996/latest-rye-baker-blog-auerman-borodinsky 

Both Stanley Ginsberg (The Rye Baker) and Suave (one of the commenters on the Fresh Loaf link) are highly knowledgeable about this style of bread, and could very likely give a very specific recommendation of what would be the correct recipe to start with if they were contacted with the request.

With the Russian / Latvian history of sourdough breads, and the documented use of scalds and ripe rye sours, I would suspect that the bread being sold a few hours after the flour delivery would have had the rye sour and the scalds prepared the night before, and then just the final dough mix and bake in the morning.

Good luck to the lady trying to recapture some happy memories from her youth.  I recently had the privilege of bringing that kind of joy to a German ex-pat with some rye breads, and can tell you that it is more than worth the time and effort.

agres's picture
agres

I was hoping someone here had been a baker (or knew a baker) in the USSR, and knew something about the Soviet baking system.  The Leningrad Rye question is interesting, because it is about good bakers, with traditions, being subjected to industrial planning to maximize production and nutrition, in a time of scarcity.  Not the well documented terrible scarcity of the Leningrad Siege, but enough scarcity that people were waiting in the cold for bread that was not very good by the standards of modern bakers.  (As my friend often admits.)

By 1955, baking in the USSR was highly industrialized, so it was not traditional baking.  On the other hand, the modern commercial formulas and commercial flours produce very different, lighter, and higher volume breads.

I can make very good rye breads, either yeasted or all sourdough. Every-so-often my friend tells me that my bread is better than what she had in Leningrad as a child, and last year, she told me that my bread is better than the loaf brought to her in 2016 from Leningrad.  (Which again was not what she remembered from her childhood.)  Still, my bread does not have the taste and texture of the bread that she had as a child – So, I keep searching.  They made their rye bread in 4 hours.  I should be able to make a couple of loaves in 4 hours.  (There are only so many ways to make professional quality bread in 4 hours!)  I have come to think that their flour was being used as fast as it was milled and thus the flour was very fresh.  I have not been grinding my own flour for a while and have fallen to “commercial flours” to produce lighter, higher volume breads.  However, yesterday, I was reminded that many modern “whole wheat” flours are reconstituted, and do not have the full fragrance of stone ground flour.    I am backing away from roller milled flour for a while. 

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

for her - and that you are making her your good rye breads while you are searching.

As you say, the baking was highly industrialized by that point in time, and there were certain standards to get a consistent product.  The flour (are you using a medium rye, a light rye, a dark rye, or a mix?), the spicing (scalded caraway is far different flavour from just ground), the leaven (are you using yeast or a rye sour?), and the timing all have a huge impact on the final product.

What you have described sounds very much to me like a Borodinsky - and specifically, the Auerman Borodinsky.  The specific comment here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/359318#comment-359318, and the amendments to the post here: http://theryebaker.com/auerman-borodinskyborodinskiy-khleb-russia/  might give you some hints as to what alterations you could make to the flours / spices / timing that you are using.

Most important, I think, is using a ripe rye sour and the scald prepared the day before, which allows for mixing, proofing, and baking all in less than that 4-hour window while still allowing the full development of flavour.

Good luck to you and your friend, and keep baking happy!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and a little bread flour.  I'm sure the bakery has some "sour" sitting around until the next delivery to speed things up.  I'm sure they didn't use all the rye that was delivered into the bread direct but put some aside to ferment for the next day.  That or they were using some kind of preferment liquid like vinegar or wine or even beer or sauerkraut.  

Cabbage raw finely cut can also be worked into the dough but it would not keep as long as sauerkraut.  Try about a cup of sauerkraut per loaf and squeeze the liquid out between cupped hands before adding.  Or toss into a blender to puree with some of the liquids to add up to the recipe amount.  Adjust while mixing if more water is needed.  Sauerkraut would have been a resource food in Russia and it is loaded with LAB's.  That combined with brewer's yeast and some caraway would have served up well and quickly.

 

agres's picture
agres

More data suggests that the loaves were wheat and rye, with no additional flavoring such as caraway. It is clear that they were masters of roller milling, even if the mills were not well maintained. Trials and sampling suggest that using fresh milled flour is one of the important factors.

 

 

agres's picture
agres

It seems that the bakery produced 10 or 15 thousand loaves per day, mostly bricks of "black bread" for workers, with some "gray bread" for professionals, and some white bread for elites. The black bread was terrible - with a gap between the crumb and the upper crust.  It is clear that all the bread was produced as cheaply as possible - no caraway. My friend was able to mostly eat the gray bread.

The gray color suggests that it was rye, with a flour made from a Durham wheat. Durham can give very good flavor and  aroma, but tends to produce a dense loaf. Yes, the gray bread was dense.

I think  the bakery used byproducts  from brewing in the bread, in particular yeast. Using yeast would allow very rapid production cycles. I expect that there was also a good amount of malt in the dough.  

My  current approach is  to use  fresh ground flours, sifted to remove most of the bran.  I am  also sprouting, drying, and milling malt, to speed the rise.

This approach seems to show the  most promise. 

 

agres's picture
agres

It seems that the bakery produced 10 or 15 thousand loaves per day, mostly bricks of "black bread" for workers, with some "gray bread" for professionals, and some white bread for elites. The black bread was terrible - with a gap between the crumb and the upper crust.  It is clear that all the bread was produced as cheaply as possible - no caraway. My friend was able to mostly eat the gray bread.

The gray color suggests that it was rye, with a flour made from a Durham wheat. Durham can give very good flavor and  aroma, but tends to produce a dense loaf. Yes, the gray bread was dense.

I think  the bakery used byproducts  from brewing in the bread, in particular yeast. Using yeast would allow very rapid production cycles. I expect that there was also a good amount of malt in the dough.  

My  current approach is  to use  fresh ground flours, sifted to remove most of the bran.  I am  also sprouting, drying, and milling malt, to speed the rise.

This approach seems to show the  most promise. 

 

agres's picture
agres

Lessons from the Leningrad Rye Study

1)      Good flour makes good bread.

2)      High extraction (HE, whole wheat sifted to remove the bran) wheat flour makes working with sourdough much easier.  Sourdough and HE wheat/HE rye flour makes a system of baking with minimal effort, but the system works best with an 18 to 24-hour cycle.   HE wheat with malt and/or HE rye with yeast is much faster.  If you must make bread as fast as possible, use yeast.

3)      Fresh (just milled) flour makes better bread.

4)      Sifting/bolting the bran out of fresh milled flour gives much better volume. It will not be the high volume of white bread, but it can be a very appealing volume that none would call “dense”. (Only commercial bakers need the high volume of white flour.)

5)      It is worth-while to malt (sprout & dry) and mill some fraction of the grain.

6)      Whole-wheat or HE Durham flour has good flavor/ aroma, but tends to produce low volume in bread. Durham whole wheat or HE flour tends to produce a gray color. If you want pretty yellow pasta, use Durham semolina from a roller mill.

7)      Bran in whole wheat flour will damage the gluten strands, and reduce loaf volume.  On the other hand, whole wheat flour from hard wheats, can be used for some kinds of pastry because the bran cut gluten reduces toughness.

8)      Modern commercial wheat produces use Round-up to kill their wheat and make the harvest more uniform. This is an off-label use of Round-up and, some of the herbicide is taken up into the wheat. While Round-up has very low acute toxicity, it tends to cause birth defects in the next generation. If you are young enough to have children or the foods you prepare may be eaten by young people, this is a good reason to avoid commercial wheat, commercial flour, and bread baked from commercial flour.  This off-label use of Roundup makes organic grains and breads a sound investment in the long-term health of your family.

agres's picture
agres

We have decided that we would rather have better bread than an authentic 1955  Leningrad Rye. The winning program is a 1-2-3 recipie of 1 part (by weight) sourdough, 2 parts water, and 3 parts flour.  I use 2% salt and a pinch of instant yeast. The flour is fresh milled, and comprised of 5% sprouted wheat, 20 % rye, and 75% hard red winter wheat. The grain is tempered to ~12 % moisture, milled, sifted, then passed through the mill 3 more times. The flour is golden, and produces a light brown crumb.

The dough is fermented at kitchen temperature for at least  3 hours, retarded for at least 6 hours, and proofed back at kitchen temperature for at least 3 more hours. Stretches and folds are used to speed changes in temperature. The dough is divided, shaped and gets its final rise in cloth lined plastic colanders. The loaves are baked on a pizza stone at 450F for almost an hour. 

Yes, it is much better than any of the "pain de campagne" that I had in France. This is a bread that I have been trying to make for a very long time.  Fresh milled flour is a big deal.