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I've been jonesing for a rye bread, so when my most recent bread (a yeasted 100% whole wheat bread with tangzhong) developed mold before the loaf was half-eaten, I seized the opportunity. 

The first order of business was to pull my starter out of the refrigerator and give it a good feeding.  Although I have tended it, the poor thing has been in cold storage about a month and a half since it's last use.  Happily for me, it perked right up and was ready for use with just one refresh.  (Although not germane to the bread that is the subject of this post, we took delivery in April of the refrigerator and freezer pair that we ordered in February.  That's received in April 2021, ordered in February 2020.  Yes, more than a year later.  Thank you Electrolux/Frigidaire for getting right on that.)

Early that evening, I mixed both the levain and the soaker.  The levain went into my Brod & Taylor proofer overnight.  My one deviation from the recipe was to mill the flour for the soaker at a coarser setting and then use boiling water, rather than room temperature water, to hydrate it.  The soaker was then covered and allowed to cool overnight.

The next morning, about 7:30 or so, the levain was puffy and well aerated, so I went ahead with the final dough.  The KitchenAid mixer made short work of combining everything, following the recipe's directions for mixing times.  The dough went back into the proofer for the short 30-minute bulk fermentation. 

Hamelman's instructions talk about shaping the dough and proofing it in baskets for either round or oblong loaves.  But then, almost as a aside, he mentions that it works well in Pullman pans, too.  After checking on the amount of dough that he recommends for a 13x3.5x3.5 pan and scaling for my 9x4x4 pan, I found that the amount of the dough in the recipe would work perfectly for my pan.  Consequently, at the end of bulk fermentation, I shaped a single loaf and packed it into the pan, using wet hands to dome the top of the loaf.  Then I put it back into the proofer for final fermentation.

When I came back to check on the fermentation progress, I was surprised and rather concerned to see that it was at full proof and needed to go into the oven.  Just one small problem: the oven wasn't preheated yet.  Two, actually: it was also apparent that the lid wasn't going on the Pullman pan, since the dough was crested slightly above the rim already.  After re-reading the baking instructions, and checking another recipe that was specifically written to use Pullman pans, I elected to adhere (mostly) to the instructions for this bread.  There's an initial 10-minute bake at 470ºF.  Then the temperature is turned down to 430ºF for ____ minutes, depending on loaf size.  Between the directions for the two recipes, I guesstimated that 50 minutes at the lower temperature should get me pretty close.

When the oven reached temperature, I gently maneuvered the pan onto the center of the middle shelf.  Ten minutes at the higher temperature and 50 minutes at the lower temperature brought the internal temperature of the loaf up to about 203ºF.  The top was a chestnut brown and the sides, once depanned, were golden.  This:

To illustrate just how close to the edge of the over-proofing cliff I was, take a look at all of the pinholes in the top crust where bubbles were beginning to pop:

Luckily, there isn't a flying roof, nor has the top crust sunk after cooling.  The crumb shows some compression zones around the pan sides and bottom but I think these are more a product of the final expansion of the loaf's center during the bake, rather than overproofing tells.

For an 80% rye, the crumb looks pretty good.  It is very moist but doesn't coat the knife blade, some 30 hours after coming out of the oven. 

The flavor is surprisingly mild; just a faint hint of sourness and the earthy/spicy notes that I associate with rye.  There are no seeds or spices, so all of the flavor comes from the flour. 

To avoid a rerun of mold before I can use up the bread, I've cut the loaf in three pieces.  Two are in the freezer, one is in the pantry.



pmccool's picture

Using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook, I recently made teething biscuits for two great-nephews who are each 6 months old:

Peter (I've no idea why the picture refuses to display in the correct orientation.)


Getting them off to a good start with home-made baking.


pmccool's picture

A week or so ago, my sister said “Let's make bismarks.”  So today we made bismarks, aka paczki.  Two batches, as a matter of fact.  It was one of our favorite things that Mom made.  Today, there are a number of happy McCool kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids reliving memories of Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma Joyce and her bismarks.  

We never just make food.  We make a tangible expression of our love with everything that we prepare. And memories; strong, lasting memories. 


pmccool's picture

The last time I made this bread, I said I'd definitely make it again.  That was two years ago.  Two years!  At least I got back to it faster than MacArthur got back to the Phillipines.

Based on the prior experience, which was completely experimental, I made a couple of adjustments.  The first was in the grain bill.  I dropped the malt entirely and I swapped out 50g of the barley flour for 50g of rye flour.  The second adjustment was to bake the bread in 9x5 pans instead of 8x4 pans, which was a better fit for the dough quantity.

The revised formula is:

350g Whole barley flour

50g Whole rye flour

400g Whole wheat flour

400g Bread flour

900g Water

60g Honey

10g Active dry yeast

The process was unchanged.  Autolyse the flours, water, and honey (about 45 minutes this time around).  Mix in the salt.  Mix in the yeast.  Do three sets of stretch and folds at 20-30 minute intervals.  When the dough has doubled from its original volume, divide into two pieces.  Shape the loaves and place them in prepared 9x5 bread pans.  Ferment the loaves until they have nearly doubled, then bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 50-60 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 195F. Depan and cool on a rack, covered with a towel.

I like the addition of rye flour for this version of the bread.  It intensifies the whole-grain flavors without standing out as RYE!  The barley moderates the grassiness/bitterness of the red whole wheat and lends a certain fullness to the rest of the flavors. 

The crumb, while firm, is moist and fairly open for a bread with 66% whole grain, half of which are gluten-free or nearly so. 

Definitely a keeper and I think that I don't need to do any further adjusting with the flours.



pmccool's picture

About a month ago, I reviewed Daniel Leader's Living Bread.  In passing, I mentioned that I had baked one bread from the book and would post about it separately.  Well, finally, here is the promised post.

The formula is fairly straightforward: a liquid levain (40%), Type 65 flour (90%), whole rye flour (9%), water (77%), salt (2.5%), dry instant yeast (0.1%).  Note that I'm following Leader's baker's percentages; the T65 flour is really 91%.  He does give a separate table for the liquid levain build; all of the levain goes into the final dough with no carryover or discard.  While the dough has a nominal hydration of 77%, based on the water in the final dough, the actual hydration is closer to 81% when the levain's water and flour contributions are included.

Since I didn't have T65 flour on hand, I did a little noodling with Pearson's Square and came up with a blend of whole wheat flour and bread flour in the proportions (if memory serves) of 65% whole wheat and 35% bread flour.  This looked as though it would have an ash and protein content that is in line with T65 flour, even if it isn't the real deal. 

Since this was my first time making this particular bread, I followed the quantities and directions scrupulously for the levain, the autolyse, and the final dough; up to the point of the overnight cold retard.  The flours that I used would have benefited from slightly lower hydration.  The dough was quite sticky and grabby, preferring to latch onto any available surface instead of releasing cleanly.  That was after 15 minutes of machine mixing and two rounds of stretch and folds.

Since the loaner refrigerator that we have from our appliance dealer (it's only been a year since we placed the order for the fridge and the freezer, which doesn't seem to concern anyone at Electrolux) is rather small, I elected to skip the overnight cold retard and bake the bread after it fermented at room temperature. 

The second departure from the recipe came during shaping.  The text talks about shaping boules.  The accompanying photograph shows batards.  I chose batards, which precipitated the third and final deviation from the recipe: I baked them on a stone in the oven, with steam, rather than in a Dutch oven.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Preshaping and shaping this very sticky dough was a challenge.  Although I managed, it wasn't my best effort.  The shaped loaves (I made the dough into two loaves, instead of one very large loaf) went into bannetons for their final proof.  It turned out that the dough wasn't quite finished with me.  Slashing was ugly, with the dough grabbing the razor blade.  And, even though I transferred the loaves to a sheet of parchment on the peel, they still managed to latch onto the peel itself instead of sliding off cleanly.  That's why they look a little beat up in the photos.

The lead photo shows both loaves after baking.  The following photo shows a close-up of one of the loaves.  The crust color is excellent and, suprisingly, there are some blisters in the crust even without the cold retard step.  The loaves exhibited quite a bit of oven spring, which was a real relief considering how much they were degassed while trying to release them from the peel.  Cleaner scores would have allowed for even better expansion with less tearing.


The crumb, shown in the following photo, also attests to the miracle of oven spring.  I really thought that the wrestling match to get the bread into the oven would thoroughly deflate it.  The crust was thin and crisp.

So, how did it taste?  Pleasant, with a mild tang, but nothing to write home about.  I suspect that the cold retard would allow more flavor development.  One could also do away with the yeast kicker to slow fermentation further.  The texture was firm with a respectable chew but not tough.  Not surprisingly the crumb was moist, although it didn't go so far as to be custardy; which was fine by me.

I'm not sure that I will make this specific bread again.  It doesn't have any glaring deficiencies but neither does it have much of a "Wow!" factor to elevate it above other pains au levian.  I will give it points for tenacity, which is most likely a product of the extended mixing time and the relatively high-protein flours used.  Most breads would have come out of the oven as frisbees after being subjected to the struggles I had with getting it off the peel.  Then again, a dough with a lower hydration wouldn't have been nearly as sticky.


pmccool's picture

Michigan's deer season opens this coming Sunday, November 15.  My brother-in-law and some of his cousins will set up camp on Friday and Saturday, continuing a tradition begun by my late father-in-law.  Accommodations are rather Spartan, in the form of a converted school bus.  I've volunteered to bring bread as my contribution to the groceries for our stay. 

Knowing that one of the cousins is very fond of pumpernickel, I baked a loaf of Westphalian Pumpernickel from Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker.  It is an extremely dense bread, since the only leavening is from the steam that the bread produces during its 24-hour bake.  The ingredient list is very short: coarse rye meal, water, salt.  That's it.  The bulk of the rye meal is incorporated with boiling water in a scald.  After sitting for a few hours, the remainder of the rye meal and the salt are mixed in.  This is one of the rare breads for which I use my KitchenAid mixer and it's a really good thing that I have a 7-quart model.  The rye paste receives a 20-minute mix, which is way more than I would want to attempt by hand.  Then it's into the pan and into the oven.  It turns out that this oven has a safety feature that switches the oven off after 12 hours, so I had to restart it before going to bed.  The resulting bread looks very much like the picture in the book.  That's it in the foreground, 9 inches long and 4 pounds:

I'm not sure whether the pumpernickel lover is acquainted with this style of pumpernickel, or is more accustomed to the light rye colored with caramel that is often labeled pumpenickel.  We'll see.  Either way, I suspect he'll like it just because it is really good bread.  I find myself picking it up now and then just to marvel at how much bread can be packed into such a small volume.  There are no colorants in the bread.  That deep, dark shade is entirely due to the long, low-temperature (220F) bake.

The other bread in the photo is a Borodinsky Rye, also from The Rye Baker.  In the following photo, the Bododinsky is on the left and the pumpernickel is on the right:

I made the Borodinsky simply because I enjoy it so much.  It's also been ages since I made it previously.  The scald, the sponge, the sponge/scald combination, the rye malt, and the coriander produce a palette of flavors that is unmatched by any other bread.  This is another bread that benefits from using a mixer, rather than mixing by hand.  Since I didn't have fermented red rye malt available, I toasted regular rye malt until it was quite dark, though not so dark as a crystal malt.  When ground, it was similar in color to cocoa powder; sort of a red-brown shade.  Although the bake time for the Borodinsky is far less than for the pumpernickel, there's almost as much elapsed time from start to finish, given the timing for the different stages.  The fragrance that permeates the house while this bakes is heavenly.  I'm very pleased with how the bread turned out, at least in appearance.  It rose well with no signs of shrinkage or collapse after baking.  The real proof will be in the eating.

I plan to slice both of these breads either Friday or Saturday before going to camp and will try to remember to get crumb shots then.

The third bread that I made is a simple potato bread from Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.  There might be somebody at camp who isn't into hearty rye breads, so I figured a soft white bread might be a good thing to throw in.  As with the others, I'm pleased with the bread's appearance:

That's this week's baking.  Though there have been other recent bakes, like the stollen that are ripening for Christmas, I wasn't so diligent about getting the camera out to record them.

Since the refrigerator and freezer that we ordered in February still haven't been delivered, my hunt this year will be conducted with a camera instead of a rifle.  The current delivery forecast for the appliances is sometime in January.  Maybe.  If I get some good pictures, I'll share them.


Updated for crumb photos.  



pmccool's picture

We knew that 2020 would be a momentous year, long before we ever heard of COVID-19.  We had no idea just how much the virus would affect our plans. 

Fortunately for us, we have not had to endure any illness.  Nor have we lost any family members or friends to the disease.  We recognize that as a true blessing and are grateful.

I turned 65 this year.  Our intent was to retire in May and move from Kansas to where we grew up in Michigan.  Because of the virus, we postponed both the retirement and the move date by a month.  That let us mitigate some of the effects of the shutdowns in both states.  And it gave me some time to recover from some severe back pain and sciatica that had initially manifested in March.

Our house sold surprisingly quickly.  Twice, as a matter of fact, since the first buyer backed out less than 24 hours after we accepted their offer.  We had another, better, offer within another 24 hours.  We got a mover lined up, did all of our own packing, and were on the road to Michigan on June 24.  Our goods arrived a few days after we did and were unloaded into the garage of our new home that was still under construction.  We had done well to eliminate as much stuff as we could before the move, because it just barely fit in the garage.

We initially rented a cabin on the Manistee River from a high school classmate for our first 10 days in Michigan, observing a soft quarantine of sorts.  Then we bunked at my wife's brother's house for the next nine weeks. 

I won't bore you with just much COVID screwed up the construction process.  Some of it was real, some of it exposed and exacerbated existing flaws in supply chains, and some of it was a convenient excuse

We finally moved into our new home on Labor Day weekend.  That left us with another two weeks of carpenters finishing the interior doors and trim, the screen porch, and trim on the front porch; plus painters finishing their work.  Wherever we could without getting in the way of construction, we started unpacking.  Family members have helped with lugging in the really big and heavy items and with some of the furniture reassembly.  I've been astonished at the amount of weight that I've toted in without aggravating my back.  And I've assembled enough book cases and other items that I now loathe Allen wrenches. 

The house now looks and feels like a house, rather than a construction site.  One of our two vehicles is in the garage.  I need to organize the garage stuff to make room for the other vehicle.  Our lawn was hydroseeded in August and has come in nicely.  Yesterday I dug 50+ holes in the ground and planted Shasta daisies, Brown-eyed Susans, boxwoods, hydrangeas, barberries, lilacs, roses, a magnolia, a red twig dogwood, and a pair of apple trees. 

I've had several queries about how I'm enjoying retirement.  So far, it's been like another project assignment and I've had to work harder than I did in my previous job.  But, as the intensive moving-in work winds down, I'm beginning to see some possibilities...

There have been a few bakes so far.  The only quirk I've noticed with the new oven is that the convection fan cycles on and off during the conventional bake.  That's apparently a design feature, according to the users manual.  Otherwise, temperature settings appear to be pretty reliable.  I haven't played with the so-called steam bake capability, yet.  There's a smallish steam tray that clips onto the rack but precious little guidance about how to use the steam bake cycle. 

TLDR: We've retired, moved, and built a house.  Lots of stessors but we're putting down new roots.


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While I have Ken Forkish's Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, I don’t often bake from it. I'll admit to being put off by some of his notions but that doesn’t mean I should deprive myself of good bread.  So, I decided to have another look when I needed to bake a couple of weekends ago. 

After poring through the recipes, I settled on the Overnight Country Brown.  It was appetizing and I had the time to devote to it.  But, before launching, I had a very thorough read to see what Mr. Forkish says about temperatures.  After seeing repeated mentions of room temperature, I found his definition buried deep in a discussion about desired dough temperature.  According to Mr. Forkish, room temperature is 71F.  That explains why there are so many frustrated FWSY bakers, most of whom probably expect room temperature to be in the mid-70s.  

Since my kitchen temperature during Kansas winters is typically in the 67-69F range, I felt I had a decent shot at using the formula's timings without over-fermenting the dough.  

My first departure from the formula was to make 250g of levain, not the full kilogram that Ken calls for.  The final dough only requires 218g.  Remember me mentioning that some of his notions are rather off-putting?  Making and discarding massively excessive quantities of levain is one of those.  

The levain was eventually ready a little after 5:00, so that was when I assembled the final dough; almost exactly as instructed.  The deviations were an additional 50g each of freshly milled barley and rye flour, along with 50g of flax meal; hence the “+” in the title of the post.  I backed down the amount of bread flour by an equivalent amount to keep the hydration in balance.  

After mixing in the salt, the dough was treated to four or five minutes of slap and folds until I could see that the gluten was moderately developed.  It was rested for 30 minutes and then given a round of stretch and folds in the bowl.  After three additional rounds of stretch and folds, each at 30-minute intervals, the dough had plenty of body even though it was still quite sticky.    

The dough was left to ferment for 15 hours.  At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough was absolutely beautiful.  It was 2.5 to 3 times its original volume, silky, and still sticky.  

I elected to divide the dough into two loaves.  Each was shaped into a tight boule and deposited, seam side down, into bannetons that were liberally coated with rice flour.  

While the loaves fermented (slowly), I prepped the oven for baking by placing a baking stone on the center shelf and a steam pan on the lower shelf.  While I salute those who use Dutch ovens, I am more comfortable working without them.  Based on what came out of the oven, my final deviation from Mr. Forkish's instructions was quite successful.  

The seams opened up to allow plenty of oven spring.  There was some fissuring along the sides of the loaves but not enough to cause problems.  

While the loaves felt light for their size, the crumb was only moderately open and fairly even in texture.  This might be the result of the slap and folds after the initial mix.  In any event, the crumb was perfect for the bread's intended purpose: sandwiches.  It also worked well as toast.  


The bread's flavor was outstanding.  Lots of roasted nuts and caramel notes from the crust, with the crumb contributing a creamy blend of grains and mild acidity.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  

This is definitely worth a repeat, although it may be more of a challenge when things move faster in warmer temperatures.  


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Some things are worth repeating.  Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread is solidly in that camp. 

We had arranged dinner with friends who will move away soon. During that conversation, I offered to make a bread for them as a going away gift.  Since they enjoy dark, hearty breads, I knew a rye bread was in order.  It took a while to peruse various recipes in several books but Bandel's pumpernickel kept drawing me back.  

This is a bread with a lot of moving parts.  Rye berries are soaked overnight and then boiled.  There’s an old bread soaker.  Rye meal forms the basis for a rye levain.  And if that isn't enough rye, there's also cracked rye in the final dough. 

Before making the bread, I dug back through the TFL archives.  One of the most important finds was Andy's (ananda's) advice that the final dough should be about 85% hydration.  Hamelman is uncharacteristically vague about the water content of this bread, so that was a helpful data point.  

The other iffy part of the instructions for this bread is the baking profile.  Hamelman baked this bread in the dying heat of a commercial oven in his bakery.  There really isn’t a way to replicate those conditions in a home oven.  More about that later. 

This past Friday evening, I began by milling the rye meal and the cracked rye with my Komo Fidibus grain mill.  My starter was already primed for action after two refreshments, so it was mixed with the rye meal and water and left to work overnight.  The altus was combined with warm water to form a soaker.  Finally, the rye berries were covered with water.

On Saturday morning, the rye berries were boiled for an hour, then drained and cooled.  I also wrung as much water as possible from the altus soaker.  After that, it was time to put everything together.  There was just one small concern: the retained water in the rye berries and the altus pushed the overall dough hydration to 97%. 

Since I was making two loaves (hey, I like it too!), I used my 7-quart KitchenAid mixer.  While it had enough power to handle the load, the extra water in the dough made it very sticky and caused it to cling to the sides of the bowl.  In effect, it received more of a massage than mixing.  I found it necessary to use a spatula repeatedly to shift the dough back toward the center of the bowl where the dough hook could grab it.  Even so, I found some dry flour in the bottom of the bowl at the end of mixing and had to work that in manually.  

After the short bulk fermentation, the loaves were shaped and placed in Pullman pans.  When the top of the loaves were nearing the top of the pans, lids were put in place and the pans deposited in the preheated oven.  Because the dough was wetter than recommended, I chose to not seal the pan lids with foil.  I wanted that extra water to bake off.  

The baking profile I adopted was an educated guess.  The first hour was spent at 375F, per Hamelman's recommendation.  The second hour was at 325F, the third hour at 275F, and the next five hours at 225F.  Then the oven was switched off at about 10:00 p.m., with the bread remaining in the oven for the rest of the night. 

The pans were still slightly warm when I took them from the oven at about 7:30 Sunday morning.  Upon opening the pans, I found that the loaves had pulled away from the pan walls, slightly.  There was quite a bit of condensation on the inside of the lids and the pan walls.  Since I wanted to drive off some of the water, that was a welcome sight.  The crust was quite firm but not rock hard as happened with one of my earlier bakes.  I placed the loaves in plastic bags immediately after removing them from the pans.  The risk was that too much moisture would be retained.  The reward was that the crusts would soften.  

It was Wednesday before I cut into one of the loaves.  It is very moist and gums up the knife blade but fully baked.  

The flavor and fragrance are marvelous.  That long slow bake converts some of the starches to sugars and then caramelizes those sugars.  In the process, the grayish dough turns a deep mahogany brown; not quite black but close enough.  The crumb is barely aerated and packed with chewy, plump rye berries.  This is seriously good bread. 

Our friends were delighted with their loaf.  And I am delighted with mine. 


pmccool's picture


The lead photo is Auvergne Dark Rye from Leader's Local Breads.  While I won’t know until tomorrow how it looks inside, I really like the way the crust turned out.  I expect it will be worlds better than my disastrous first attempt with this bread a few years ago.  

The big difference is hydration.  Leader describes the dough as “soupy” but the water quantities (50g in the levain and 350g in the final dough) only work out to 53% hydration.  Something is obviously amiss.  My prior experience taught me that a soupy dough doesn’t work.  Some googling this morning brought recommendations for 475g to 550g of water in the final dough.  After considering it for a few minutes, I opted to use 500g of water.  The dough was definitely soft but nowhere near soupy.  

Leader doesn’t say anything about using bannetons for the final proof of this bread, which seems peculiar.  The dough is supposed to be very soft, so why not give it some support for the brief (20-30 minute) final proof?  Since I was already straying from his non-instructions, I figured I’d proof the boules seam-side down and let them fissure naturally, instead of scoring them.  Ah, yes, boules.  Plural.  Leader recommends a single large boule.  From my previous experience, I thought the smaller boules might bake out better than one great big boule, especially at the 500F oven temperature he recommends. Like I said, the appearance is encouraging.  Now to see if the crumb is as good as the crust.  

Since I was in the book, I also made Leader's Classic French Sourdough, including the seeded soaker.  For the soaker, I chose millet, steel cut oats, rolled barley, and cornmeal.  Given that combo, I also chose to use boiling water instead of room temperature water.  The thought of cracking a tooth on a millet seed or an oat fragment that hadn’t fully softened before baking even harder just didn’t appeal to me.  Other than adding a quarter teaspoon of ADY to the final dough, the rest of the process went as per instructions. 

The batards also turned out well, at least on the outside.  We might get into one of those with our dinner this evening.  

After some recent bakes that ranged from disappointing to frustrating, it feels really good to have two good ones in the same day.  


Auvergne Dark Rye crumb:

As good as hoped for.


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