Dark Rye with Raisins & Sunflower Seeds
A couple of weeks ago I was reading through some pamphlets and brochures that my friend breadsong  had picked up at the IBIE Expo in Las Vegas this past October and had thoughtfully sent on to me to have a look at. One of the brochures, put out by the California Raisin Marketing Board, had a number of interesting looking recipes in it, all having raisin paste as one of the ingredients in the mix, with a recipe submitted by Craig Ponsford  looking particularly good. The bread, a Pumpernickel , used raisin paste, whole macerated raisins, rye sour (as well as instant yeast) along with the other usual ingredients one finds in a Pumpernickel type bread. Well OK, this sounds tasty, lets give it a try I thought. Other than the raisin paste, all the other ingredients I already had in stock but figured I could use my meat grinder to make a raisin paste with, instead of trying to track down a commercial product. With a pass through the coarse plate and another through the fine plate, the meat grinder did a fine job of rendering the raisins and in a few minutes I had a thick, dark mass of paste to use in the mix.
I followed Mr. Ponsford's formula , sticking to his percentages and procedure with the exception of including the instant yeast he calls for, wanting to use only a natural leaven for the mix. The loaf came out of the oven looking pretty good I thought but I wasn't thrilled with the texture or the flavour.
I'm not sure if I made an error somewhere along the line or if this was the way the bread was meant to be. Whatever the case I decided to have another go at it but with a completely different approach from the original formula and procedure.
No doubt that in Ponsford's skillful hands this is a very good loaf of bread, but my first attempt at making it convinced me I needed to try another path to arrive at the flavour I expect from a Pumpernickel type bread. Still, I liked the idea of including raisin flavour in mix, feeling the sweet/sour combination held a lot of promise for the very complex and deep flavours I associate with Pumpernickel. Having made Jeffrey Hamelman's Horst Bandel Black Pumpernickel a few times in the past and enjoying the flavours that result from the long descending bake that he uses, that seemed like a good starting point for the next bake.
With Ponsford's inspiration and the Hamelman/Bandel method in mind, along with a sponge technique for high rye breads that I picked up from Andy/ananda  during my visit with him this past Summer, a formula started taking shape that I hoped would deliver the rich flavour of a slow baked rye bread with the added flavour factor of dried fruit. The percentage of raisin paste was increased from Ponsford's formula and sunflower seeds were added to the mix, as well as to top the loaf with. At the last minute I decided to macerate the whole raisins in amber rum instead of water to try and squeeze more flavour into the mix and jazz it up a bit.
When final mixing was complete, the dough/paste had a 40 minute bulk fermentation, then panned in a Pullman tin and on to a final rise of just around 2 hours. Total baking time was 13 hours, the first 4 hours of which were at relatively high temperatures starting at 400F and gradually descending to 340F where it stayed for 2 hours. Just before going to bed that night the temperature was dropped to 180F and the Pullman tin (lid on) was placed on a broiling rack over a shallow roasting pan partially filled with hot water. Then a deep roasting pan was placed over top of that to hold as much steam in as possible and off to bed I went. One of the things I like the most about these extended bakes is the lovely aroma that greets you when you wake up the next morning. It's difficult to describe the scent accurately but think caramel and fruit, and for anyone who's baked a similar type of bread they'll have a good idea of what I'm talking about.
Once I'd removed the pan from the oven and slid the lid back I could tell immediately that the loaf was well baked as the sides had receded from the pan, and the colour was very dark but with no hint of the odour from over-baking. The loaf slid straight out of the pan with out any coaxing as well, and that's usually a pretty good sign that things have gone they way they should have.
Next came the part I like least about making these breads and that's the long waiting period for the crumb to set up before taking the first slice, in this case more than 50 hours. What I found when I made the first cut however was ample reward for having waited so long.
This is easily the best tasting pumpernickel style bread I've made to date, no exceptions. The loaf is moist, but thoroughly baked out, leaving no smear on the knife when it's sliced other than from the whole raisins in the mix. The crust yields easily to the knife and the bread slices like a firm cheese, allowing very thin slices to be taken. The sweet/sour balance leans slightly towards the sweet side because of the raisins and needs a bit more sour next time I make it, but as it is the flavour profile is deep and complex. The initial texture is smooth but then it has some bite to it from the whole grains and sunflower seeds, giving it a variety of sensations and flavours as it's eaten, making for a very satisfying eating experience. The only two accompaniments I've had this bread with so far have been butter and a sharp old cheddar, but it's every bit as enjoyable just on it's own, the flavour is that good. Apparently a benefit to using raisins in a bread mix that I found on the California Raisin Marketing Board's website is their ability to inhibit the growth of mold because they “contain a naturally occurring organic acid called propionic acid”. This is good to know, but somehow doubt this loaf will be around long enough for mold to ever become an issue.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow bread-heads in the USA.
Link to Formula 
|Dark Rye with Raisins and Sunflower Seeds||%||Kilos/Grams|
|Enter desired loaf weight in yellow cell.|
|Pumpernickel Rye Meal||20.00%||8.56|
|Rye Flour -dark||80.00%||34.22|
|Mature Rye Starter-100%||3.00%||1.28|
|ripen for 12-15hrs at 75F|
|Rye Meal Soaker|
|Pumpernickel Rye Meal||100.00%||34|
|Whole Rye Grain Soaker|
|Whole Rye Grain||100.00%||69|
|Soak overnight, drain and simmer in enough fresh water to cover.|
|Cook till soft. Drain and cool. The grains should be moist, not wet, and|
|there will be extra left over that can be frozen for later use.|
|Whole Wheat Flour||100.00%||102|
|Rye Meal Soaker||72.72%||74|
|Whole Rye Grain Soaker||135.00%||137|
|DDT 75F Bulk Ferment for 3 -4 hours at 75-78F.|
|Rye Flour -dark||100.0%||298|
|Amber Rum *note* macerate raisins overnight with rum.||11.1%||33|
|DDT 78-82F Bulk Ferment for 30-45 minutes. Final proof for 1.5-2.0 hrs.|
|See Procedure  for baking times and temperatures.|
|Whole Wheat Flour||18.66%||102|
|Pumpernickel Rye Meal||7.74%||42|
|Whole Rye Grain||12.60%||69|
|Rye Flour -dark||60.88%||332|
|Whole Grain Rye Flour-from starter||0.12%||1|
|Total Pre-fermented Flour||45.39%||247.52|