Three-Stage-Progress Rye Bread with Seeds
A little over a month into my bread baking adventure I received The Bread Builder: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens as Xmas gift from Birgit and Bob. I read the book in its entirety, pored over all the charts digesting a huge amount of information on flours, water, salt, temperature, yeast, lactic acid, acetic acid, and eventual natural starter –the soul of sourdough– that raises beautiful artisan bread. Apparently I had learned all sourdough-baking essentials from my very first bread book and gotten enamored with the knowledge that I came away with.
Continued baking with commercial yeast over the following few months I kept contemplating more and more about sourdough and in particular rye flour and rye bread because when we talked bread Birgit often reminisced the kind of rye bread she grew up with and how much she had enjoyed it. You see Birgit is not only from East Germany, she happens to be a bread person who knows good bread and often seeks out bakery in every locale that she travels to; furthermore if someone who Fed Exed pain Poilâne across the Atlantic to New York she is definitely serious about bread.
For Birgit’s fondness of bread and myself feeling quite educated about rye and sourdough starter (no, I had not actually ventured into sourdough territory yet) I set out to search for a recipe that would produce the rye bread that Birgit loves and appreciates but could not find in the US.
I came across and studied many rye bread recipes and somehow stumbled upon this. How I love its simplicity: 1000 g whole rye flour, 16 g salt, and water! Inspected closely its method, description and yes, its photograph I decided to settle upon it because it is quite clear to me that this recipe would produce the kind of rye bread that I was after.
So the birth of my very first natural starter –a whole rye– was born and my first loaf of sourdough bread was this Detmold 3-stage-process rye bread baked in a closed-lid pot as it was the only choice available for steam producing during my first year of artisan bread baking.
It’s a tough love if you are accustomed to fluffier texture and well-risen loaf of its cousin wheat (are they related? one is wheat grain and the other is actually grain from hardy cereal grass) but it makes up for in rich & hearty taste, resistance to stalling, and many health benefits. So I encourage you to try it out to see if you like it and you never know you might fall for it after all.
And if you already like rye bread but dreaded the finicky & temperamental characteristic of rye dough (a gooey mass when you mix rye flour with water; and if you over-kneaded it pentosan gum would leach out of rye granules and turn the dough into a giant sticky mess at which point you would never be able to fix it) ; but fear not, give this 3-stage-method recipe a try to see for yourself it’s not that difficult to arrive at a risen, moist, hearty and beautiful bread.
It’s important that you know a few things uniquely rye (read: pentosan, pentosan gum, gliadin and glutelin, amylase) and how each stage of this method brings out rye’s unique quality to produce a good risen loaf. I’ll delve into that at the end of this post or perhaps devote another separated post about rye, for now enjoy this funky picture of amylase knowing that sourdough and rye is a perfect union to deliver quality rye bread so a mature rye starter is strongly desirable.
So I digress, let’s move on to create the dough and bake some bread, shall we?
What follows is how I have done it a few dozen times as closely as possible to the original recipe accompanied with pictures as it is my wish that you successfully create this wonderful bread.
Preparing the rye sourdough leaven
- Begin at noon by mixing about 30 g of rye sourdough** with 50 g of flour and 55 g of lukewarm water. Place this mixture into a jar that keeps the temperature and humidity, and sprinkle flour on it. Cover the jar with a towel and leave it for 6 hours at 25° C (77° F). (As a result of the fermentation, the temperature inside the jar will be slightly higher.)** If you do not yet have any sourdough, use the following procedure to make it yourself from microorganisms (lactobacilli and yeasts) found in the flour and in the air (the weather should not be hot): Mix 60 g of flour with 85 g of water and leave it covered with a towel for 1 or 2 days (stir it gently once or twice during that time) at 25° C (77° F), until bubbles appear at the surface and it smells a little sour. Refresh this starter sourdough a couple of times according to steps 1 to 3 to get a strong sourdough leaven, the first time using slightly higher temperatures.
- Add 150 g of flour and 90 g of water and mix everything. Sprinkle flour on it and leave it covered for 14 hours at 20° C (68° F).
- Add 300 g of flour and 320 g of lukewarm water. Mix it and sprinkle flour on it. Leave it covered for another 4 hours at 28° C (82° F). (The jar should be large enough for the dough to rise to twice its original volume.
- Put 400 g of flour into a bowl, add the sourdough, 285 g of warm water and 16 g of salt. Knead strongly by hand for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle a small amount of the remaining 95 g of flour on a baking pan, and pour the rest on a work surface. Put the soft, sticky dough on top of it, cover your hands with flour, and put the dough in the shape of a ball by pressing one side of it from the top to the inside and then rotating the dough a little, repeating this several times, until most of the flour is in the dough.
Finally, cover the dough with the small amount of flour that remains, turn it (so the closure is at the bottom), and place it in the prepared couche. Then allow it to rise for 1 hour at 27° C (81° F).
(You can also let the bread rise in a special dough rising basket, which should be well dusted with flour. In this case the amount of water in step 4 can be increased by 15 g. Since you do not need the baking pan to let the bread rise, you can further improve the bread by baking it on a baking stone, which you put in the oven during preheating. It is not necessary to sprinkle flour on the stone.)
- Pre-heat the oven to 240° C (465° F).
Invert the dough onto parchment-line peel/inverted baking sheet, carefully peel off the linen and quickly load the dough, parchment and all into the oven heated with a baking stone and bake it for a total of 90 minutes, of which time the first 20 minutes with a lot of steam. Reduce the heat to 160° C (320° F) after that time.
- Put the bread on a rack to cool until the next morning. The weight of the bread is about 1400 g. To eat, cut 1 cm slices and spread butter on them, for example. Only cut as many slices as you want to eat at a time. Keep the bread in a dry place (not in the refrigerator, and not sealed) with the edge you cut from down. The bread stays fresh for about a week. Enjoy the taste of rye!
**There are several methods of preparing rye sourdough. The three-stage progress described here (beginning with a humid stage to increase the yeasts and a cool stage to generate acetic acid) is based on the traditional German method of making sourdough.
Making the bread
I use a sturdy spatula to fold the dough over itself about 50-75 strokes or until the dough is smooth. You should see gluten development.
Then leave the dough covered for 30 minutes at 27° C (81° F). Prepare a linen couche dusted heavily with white flour.
Modify this recipe to match your taste. Here are some ideas:
Mixed flour bread: Replace some or all the rye flour in steps 4 and 5 with the same amount of wheat flour (bread flour / strong flour / type 55 / type 550). For every 100 g of wheat flour reduce the amount of water (in step 4) by 10 g and the baking time (in step 6) by 5 minutes. You can cut slashes on the top just before baking to increase the amount of crust. If you use a high amount of wheat flour it may be necessary to use a lower baking temperature in the beginning or to turn it down earlier. The bread stays fresh for a couple of days.
Seasoning: In step 4 add a small amount of some of the following ingredients to the dough: coriander, caraway seeds, fennel, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. (Adjust the amount of flour and water if necessary). Or put caraway seeds, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or poppy seeds on the top of the bread in step 5.
I am delighted to send this bread to Susan of Wild Yeast Blog who generously hosts the wonderful weekly Yeast Spotting which features collections of yeasted baked goods from amateur bakers, bread enthusiasts and yeast lovers around the world.