The Fresh Loaf

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wally's picture


I shared in a forum recently that I've been wanting to try to make what is in essense a rye mash instead of using the standard hot soaker.  The inspiration for this is the distilling experiences using rye of my friends Scott and Becky Harris at their distillery in Purceville, VA - Catoctin Creek Distilling Company.  Here they make two wonderful certified organic and kosher ryes - one casked and the other an uncasked white whiskey, and a rye based gin. (Unabashed plug, their micro-distillery products are now available in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC, and yes, the Sacramento area of California.)  I've been able to taste their rye mash, and it's incredibly sweet.  Way beyond anything I've been able to achieve using a hot rye soaker.

With this goal in mind, I contacted one our of resident experts, Debra Wink, to see how I might proceed.  Debra, in turn, drew on some of her expert baking friends, and with her help and their advice I decided upon a plan of action - namely, to attempt to slowly cook a mash of whole rye flour and water for nearly 7 hours at a temperature just below 170°F, which, I believe, is the temperature at which amylase, which is responsible for converting the starches in rye to simple sugars, becomes denatured.

So this weekend I set aside a day and proceeded first to build a formula.  I decided upon a 40% rye, with a mash equivalent to 40% of the total dough weight and a starter just over 20% of dough weight (more on this later). I used Hamelman's rye recipes as general guidelines in determining what percentages both the starter and soaker would be, though I deviated downwards significantly in the percentage of the starter in relationship to overall dough weight, and as we'll see, that may not have been entirely a good idea.  The rye flour used throughout is Heartland Mill's Certified Organic Whole Rye Flour which I am able to procure from my friends Scott and Becky.  Although it is a whole rye flour, in texture and composition it seems comparable to medium rye flours I've seen.  The AP flour used is KA's Sir Galahad.

The total dough weight was to be 1004g, just a bit over 2 lbs.  My overall formula is:

Ingredient      Baker's Percent   Weight
Flour                   100%                       560 g
Water                   76%                        426 g
Salt                        2%                           11 g
Yeast                      1%                           6 g


Rye Flour               100%                  112 g
Water                      80%                     90 g
Levain                       5%                       6 g


Rye Flour               100%                  109 g
Water                     264%                   288 g

Final Mix

AP Flour                 337 g
Water                        45 g
Salt                            11 g
Yeast                          6 g
Levain                    208 g
Mash/Soaker          397 g

I made up my starter approximately 10 hours before the final mix.  The soaker I began in early afternoon by mixing the flour and water in a double boiler and then bringing the temperature slowly up on my simmer burner.  My goal was to achieve and maintain a temperature of 160°F for approximately 7 hours.  This proved easier said than done.  I found it necessary to stir the covered double boiler every hour, after I achieved my desired temperature, which took me about an hour of stirring at 15 minute intervals until I was there.  However, maintaining a consistent temperature was difficult.  I had to add a small amount of cold water to the double boiler at hour intervals, and in the end, the temperature reached was 170°F which was cutting it close if not too high.

Frankly, a slow cooker would be the ideal way to do this.  Unfortunately, unless you are making mash for 15 loaves or so, there is insufficient volume to make this viable.  If anyone out there has any suggestions of other methods for maintaining a constant temperature under 170°F for 7 hours, by all means share.

I left the cooked rye mash covered overnight.  The next morning I uncovered it, and found that it was sweet - more so than my hot soakers, but less so than Catoctin Creek's mashes, and about the consistency of cream of wheat.  I realized after the fact that I should have taken some pictures, but....

The final mix was accomplished by mixing first soaker, starter and the final water, and then adding the AP flour, yeast and salt to the mixture.  I realized that during my hourly stirrings of the mash, a certain amount of liquid was being lost due to steam evaporation.  This was borne out as I mixed the dough, and I ended up adding an additional 20g of water, which is reflected in the formulas above.  I mixed the dough for 3 minutes on speed one, and then an additional 5 minutes on speed 3, at which point it showed definite signs of gluten development.

Using Hamelman's section on ryes in Bread I did a one hour bulk ferment, followed by shaping a batârd.  I couched it and left it for final proofing for one hour as I preheated my oven to 450°F.  I presteamed the oven, loaded the batârd and steamed with a cup of boiling water thrown on my lava rocks, then followed this again in two minutes with another steaming.

Bake was for 15 minutes at 450°F, then 20 min. at 425°F, and finally 15 min. more at 400°F.

The loaf emerged from the oven looking nice.  I was pleased that my grignes had opened.  But the question that arose immediately in my mind was: So, would you do this again?  For the answer to that, I had to await a tasting.

Here are a couple shots of the bread:


One of the grignes and the crackly crust that developed:


The crumb was somewhat more closed than I expected, given a mere 40% rye. 


However, thinking about it, I realized that I used a much lower proportion of starter than Hamelman does in his recipes.  This was intentional - I wanted to devote more rye resources to my mash/soaker.  But I think if I did this again, I'd either find a way to raise the percentage of starter to around 30%, or, I'd up the yeast from 1% to 1.5% to compensate.

Notwithstanding, the crumb is in no way what I would call dense; it's very moist and it does in fact have a sweetness I haven't been able to realize with a hot soaker.

So, would I do this again?  Maybe.  If I had a day with nothing to do but putter around the house and stir my mash hourly, yeah.  But it's a time intensive method I've utilized, and I would be more likely to repeat this on a frequent basis if I could find a better way (i.e., less labor intensive) way of cooking the mash.

But when all is said and done, there is nothing quite like sitting down at day's end, with some fresh rye spread with good goat's cheese, and a Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye old fashioned.  Ahhh, the blessings of rye and mash!




ananda's picture


ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]

9 nights of our Summer Holiday in August 2010


We drove a short distance along the South Coast of Crete from Chora Sfakion to Plakias, in our hire car; a VW Polo which we nicknamed "the Hot Box", on account of the air conditioning system being wholly inadequate to cope with temperatures hitting 40°C.   A further few km on, around a hilly area, and we thought we were nearly there....think again!   We hit one of those dreadful tracks which used to pass for a road, now considered so rough that the road signs have all been blanked out.   Unfortunately, we had no choice but to take it anyway.   Nearly an hour later, having travelled all of 6km, we had finished bouncing along the dusty road, avoiding potholes and rocks; we found our little idyll, and home for the next 9 nights.

The garden was shaded with palm, fig and orange trees.   There was a pergola in the middle of the garden with table and chairs, and a hammock beneath.   4 sun beds were laid out for us to manoeuvre around to maximum effect.   On the side of the house was a "cooking station", consisting of charcoal barbeque, and...wood-fired oven!   On the front of the house was a sheltered terrace with space to enjoy an evening meal, and a couple of laid-back ginger tabby cats, happy to sleep throughout the day, sandwiched around the 2 meals we were able to offer, as the owner had left goodly cat food supplies!




Inside the house was fine, although the mattress on the bed was rock solid compared to the usual comfort we enjoy.   We had temporary supplies to keep us in food for a couple of days, including a bag of flour, and a levain in need of a feeding frenzy.   It was Sunday afternoon, and I planned to bake Monday late morning.   We had a brief evening stroll to get our bearings, and gathered a load of wood ready to fire the oven.

I awoke early, so got up and made dough using the leaven I had brought with me from the UK, and fed 3 times the day before.   Kicking, but cool from a few hours in a lovely cold refrigerator!   What to make??

Well, the flour was carefully chosen, as Alison can read Greek ok.   The text on the bag revealed the flour to be of Cretan origin, although I figured it was a mainstream flour, rather than specialist.   A protein content of 11.2% [see label], made me confident I could make reasonably good bread with it, although the example recipe given on the bag suggested water should be added at 57%, which I thought was a trifle low for what I wanted to make.   But, I had no scale!   Given the detailed formula I usually prepare for baking, the guesswork I was about to indulge in seemed a little daunting.   My estimate for total hydration used in the formula would be just over 70% [total guess]. 


The dough was pretty wet, but I knew it would work up well.   Sure enough, after 15 minutes "air-kneading" [© Andrew Whitley], the dough was soft, but silky and wonderfully extensible.   I placed it on a kitchen surface brushed with olive oil, and covered it over.   So, better get that oven fired whilst giving the dough a sequence of "stretch and fold", and preparing garlic for a Roasted Garlic Foccacia.




I also decided to make a Ciabatta loaf, and a loaf with a swirl of Black Olive Paste through the middle.   The dough proved relatively rapidly compared to what I am used to in the UK.   Still, the wood I had gathered was tinder dry, so burnt straightaway...and HOT!   The main problem proved to be getting the oven to drop and settle ready to bake on.   The "Olive Swirl" bread was now in need of baking.   A quick scuffle of the oven, and I set the loaf in the oven, resting on the aluminium foil strip used for proving.   I covered the loaf with a large roasting pan lid, put the door in place on the oven, and left for 10 minutes to prepare to bake the other 2 loaves.   I then finished the first loaf without the lid, and it took colour beautifully.   Baking the other 2 loaves was very simple, and testament to good dough quality, guaranteed through careful product choice to match up to assumed flour characteristics.   This worked well, and we had a few days' supply of lovely breads for our lunches under the pergola.



On Tuesday we went off in the "Hot Box" to the nearest town, Spilli, some 25km over the mountains.   We came back with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and other supplies, including Ouzo, and another bag of the very same flour!   Over the entire time we spent at Anotlika, we didn't eat out once.   Yet we really did feast on fine food...which I cooked without wasting anything.   We lived quite simply, in many ways, and yet it seemed to cost so much money.   The £ to € conversion seemed always to work against us, and clearly the struggling Greek economy has hit food prices badly.   Still, we were on holiday, and loving every minute of it.


Back at the Beach House, we went swimming in a sea which became increasingly rough.   The weather stayed very hot throughout, so an afternoon swim became an essential feature of my day.   The beach was literally the other side of the road running past our house, so the trip into the sea was all of 25 metres.


The next bake was scheduled for Thursday 5th August.  I made a large boule, and also made a sweet dough which I flavoured with honey and cinnamon, and used both egg and olive oil to improve and condition the dough.   Last year during our stay at Finnix, we had been given bread at the local hotels and restaurants, which had been made to celebrate the Orthodox Festival "Metamorphosis".   The bread was made in the style of large boules, but it was sweet.   This year, the Priests had been much in evidence at the Old Phoenix Hotel where we stayed, but the actual festival fell on the 5th August.   So, my take on this bread did coincide with the festival itself; just for fun, neither of us have connections to the Orthodox religion.



Alison pronounced the breads to be as good as any of my breads she had eaten.   Of course, the context is of great importance too; being able to eat fresh bread just cooled, but straight from a wood-fired oven.   The cracks in the crust of the boule betray exactly how lovely the crust was on this bread.   Alison usually enjoys the heavy crumb texture of high rye doughs; feasting on this type of crusty bread at its peak was a novel experience, and she fully appreciated how special it was too!



After that I set 2 pans of vegetables to roast.   The pictures say it all.   I sun dried aubergines, peppers and courgettes before roasting them slowly in the falling oven for 3 hours.   Wow, these vegetables sustained several meals during the rest of the holiday!



We were shaken awake early on Sunday morning [8th August], by an earthquake out to sea, but very nearby at Gavdos.   The tremor was way below sea level but measuring 4.8, so we felt an obvious tremor beneath the house, which led to us rising from our bed somewhat earlier than originally planned.   See:

The holiday passed as we wanted it to.   Nothing had been planned in a way which interrupted our simple daily routines.   That had been the original purpose for going to this place.   Both of us had worked ourselves close to the limit by late July, and a break of this sort was essential for us to effect battery re-charge.

I did set about reading Stephen Kaplan's book on the renaissance of good bread in France.   It's a weighty tome, and I found I needed to take down a lot of notes as I read.   However, it's enjoyable to read, and the man's clearly passionate in a way I feel echoes my own approach to teaching.   There are some great references in the book too; I wish my French was better than it is!

Well, we really did not want to come home...of course.   The reality check kicked in on the last day, when we had to drive back to Heraklion and submit to the horrors of passing through a wholly inadequate airport as a holidaymaker amongst many, many others.   Three flights back to the UK, all within half an hour of each other, all checking in the same desk....hell on earth.   The flight arrived back in Newcastle at 10pm, and less than 12 hours later, I was back at work, excitedly putting in place the fabric which will become a Level 3 ["A" Level equivalent] Bakery course to sit alongside the other programmes I already run.   Quite a coup, but I'd have liked a longer holiday, of course!

With regard to Greek bread, I had only limited opportunity to explore the local offerings.   We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel in Heraklion on the first night.   The breakfast offer the next morning seemed outrageously extravagant to Alison and me!   We enjoyed muesli and lovely stewed prunes with yoghurt and honey, then had scrambled eggs with some rye bread we could slice off.   Everybody else seemed to be tucking into the fluffy white enriched breads and rolls to support vast amounts of bacon and sausage.   This frequently ran to seconds, before a final return to gather up indulgent Greek pastries.   The rye breads were ok, but I'm sure they were made from a "pre-mix", straight out of a bag with a Bakels, or IREKS name attached; just add water and yeast.   The bread at the Old Phoenix Hotel is always good; it comes from nearby Chora Sfakion, and is made as large white boules of clearly beautifully fermented bread.   We had a visit to Rethimnon on the way back but had no time to investigate the one bakery recommended in the Rough Guides for its rye breads.   The restaurant where we enjoyed a gorgeous lunch did put out very simple, but tasty homemade white and wholemeal slices of bread with a tapenade, and a beetroot and yoghurt dip...everything clearly homemade: yummy!

Best wishes to all


dmsnyder's picture

We had a leisurely drive up to South San Francisco today for the SFBI Artisan I workshop which starts tomorrow and lasts 5 days. We're staying at one of the hotels nearby - 1.5 miles from SFBI itself.

We drove over to see where it is. SFBI is on a hill with a beautiful view of the hills West of the Bayshore Freeway (US Hwy 101). It's in the heart of the Bay Area biotech enclave. In fact, SFBI and TMB are essentially an island in the Genentech campus, which is huge. Immediately to the East is SF Bay. There's a wonderful walking path that goes for several miles along the bay here.

We drove into San Francisco for dinner at Out the Door, a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant in the food court adjacent to Bloomingdales. (Not your usual shopping mall food court, believe me!). We had had reservations at Fringale, a favorite French-Basque restaurant, but I got a phone call from them just before we were going to change clothes for dinner. Fringale had "an emergency" and was closed for the evening. I was thinking the chef had dropped dead or something, but it turned out the exhaust fan in their kitchen went out. Hopefully, it will get replaced tomorrow and we can get another reservation during the week. (They make a delicious duck confit served on a lentil ragout. I need some.)

So, I'll attend the first session of Artisan I starting at 0830 tomorrow. I've my brand new chef's jacket and beanie (Yes. Really.) in my back pack, along with the suggested note pad, marking pen and calculator. And two cameras.

I don't know who the instructors will be yet. I have expectations regarding the curriculum, but I'm prepared to be surprised and expect to have a blast.


lief's picture

Here is the second recipe I've made from Amy's Bread, and my first pumpernickel ever! After having been burned by modifying the methods for the 100% spelt bread recipe (mine ended up VERY sour) in the same book and not knowing what to expect from pumpernickel flour I stayed very close to the original recipe. However, when I put together the final dough, it was absolutely nothing like the description! There is some sort of disconnect here and I'm not sure what it is. The recipe describes a dough that may need to have water added to it a tablespoon at a time if it is too difficult to knead. It describes a dough that should be very easy to handle when it comes time to shape it. My dough was very, very wet and although manageable I would not describe it as easy to handle. I thought that perhaps I measured something wrong, but the final dough weight was in the ballpark of what I expected it to it be after all ingredients were accounted for. My suspicion is that the course pumpernickel flour should have been put in a soaker the night before, as prescribed for the sunflower pumpernickel bread in BBA. My inclination was to make a soaker but I did not because it was not in the recipe as written and I was trying to stay close to the recipe.

These concerns aside, the bread tastes great! The recipe contains a good portion of sunflower seeds and it really seems to go well with the pumpernickel flour. It has a smooth and nutty flavor (duh!) with a pleasingly chewy crumb and a very crunchy crust. I felt like it would have been great with some butter, but I never actually ate it that way... instead preferring to eat the slices plain but lightly toasted. The crunchy crust was undoubtedly helped along because I brushed one loaf with oil and the other with melted butter because I could not fit both loaf pans under my foil pan. This was the suggestion given in Amy's Bread to achieve even coloration if insufficient steam was causing white streaks on your breads. It certainly worked to get a nice even color on top of the loaves, and I did enjoy the crunch imparted on the crust, but at the same time it made the bread a little "oily" like it had been lightly fried or something like that. I'm not sure I'm so keen on that, so I may not use that technique in the future. Perhaps I'll try an egg wash instead?

Also, the loaves were a bit flat because I over proofed them. It's been quite some time since I've made bread with commercial yeast, and being accustomed to sourdough time tables I wasn't keeping a proper eye on the dough. Before I knew it, they were ready for the oven... but it wasn't even pre-heated yet!! Oh well... the taste was still very nice and that is what is important. My next pumpernickel bread will be from BBA so I can compare the two recipes.


louie brown's picture
louie brown

I am interested in improving my roll shaping skills. This is a very basic sourdough formula of about 67% hydration, bulk fermented for about 3 and a quarter hours in a warm city kitchen, then shaped and proofed for about another hour and a quarter, baked with steam.


I tried some fendus, which, while they had the right shape, were rather bloated for my taste. I prefer the slimmer shape, with a nice point for rolls. I think this will require a wider "hinge" and a narrower body.


I also tried a shape I believe I saw here, although I am not sure. A dowel is pressed into the side of a round roll and a flap is rolled. This flap is then pulled over the top of the roll, making a lovely effect. If this sounds familiar to anyone, I'd appreciate some guidance.


The rolls shown, in a "teardrop" shape, are, as far as I can tell, an original idea, cut to a point with a bench knife from a round shape that has been lengthened a little. People seem to have fun eating them.


Additional discussion about rolls, especially shaping, would be welcomed.


I'm including an additional crumb shot of the batard just because I like the picture.





Jw's picture

For some reason I have been avoiding baking bagels. It's not are national dish, but they pop up in more and more bakeries. Even the better ones. So time to give it a try with (plain) yeasted bagels (Reinhart's Crust and Crumb).

Pretty much followed the recipe, but got a warning signal, when the dough did not float in 15 seconds in my pan of cold water. Actually, no floating at all here. This is where I could have stopped, but what the h.. At least there was a consistency, because there was hardly any floating in the almost-boiling-water the next day either...

The windowpane test was ok, guess I need to work on the structure of the dough. Next time I will make a few different versions. Think my flour is maybe not the right kind.

BTW: it's bagel for a birthday, don't think I can fail here. Don't know yet what they taste like, but it sure smells great.

Note to my self: use our real oven next time.

Happy baking,

trailrunner's picture

I am sorry for being so slow.  All  posted in the original thread on the SJ bread. I tried to answer all the great comments and questions. If there is something else please do ask. I love sharing and receiving on this board. c

wassisname's picture


If ever there was a time to make a hearty rye...

When mom returns from a trip to Germany with an assortment of Brotgewuerz and mustard recipes (gotta love a mom who knows), I think that's a sign that I need to get back to some rye bread.  She whipped up a few test batches of mustard, all mouthwatering, some sinus clearing, so I baked up some crusty rye.

It's about 60/40 whole wheat / whole rye using Peter Reinhart's method from WGB.  I fed my WW starter with rye and let it ferment for 12 hrs at room temp.  Worried that the starter may have spent too much of itself overnight I added a little instant yeast to the final dough, though originally I had intended to leave it out and go full sour. 

Things got a little wetter than they should have.  Not only was I a little out of practice on this recipe, but I switched WW flours as well.  "Sticky mess" would be one way to describe it.  But I persevered and went with it.  Every step was a near disaster but eventually I got the two loaves in the oven more or less intact.  The one that didn't try to ooze off the edge of the stone made it into the picture.

They went flat and wide, of course, but otherwise came out about as well as I could have hoped.  Crusty, airy, chewy, yummy.


Unfortunately, I ran out of mom's homemade pickles last week, drat!  So these will have to do.


dahoops's picture

We took a final trip to South Haven, MI to the DeGrandchamps Farms for another 20 lbs of fresh blueberries yesterday.  I've been baking muffins, pies and generally eating a pound at a time of their delicious blueberries. 

I may be related to Dr Frankenstein since I decided to make a no-knead with some of the fresh blueberries (I know - weird).  But, the loaves turned out surprisingly moist and tasty.  Not a very open crumb, but certainly worthy of some butter and/or cream cheese if toasted.  I used about 1.5 cups of fresh blueberries, 3/4 cup of slivered almonds and a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon in each 2 lb loaf.  What do you think?  ; )


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