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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reinhart's Transitional Sandwich Rye Loaf

Seigle and Transitional Sandwich Rye Loaf

To bake this loaf, I have gone back to my comparison baking experiments: I am revisiting the Sandwich Rye Meteil, and the Sandwich Rye Seigle, and I am baking the Transitional Sandwich Rye alongside of them.

But more than this simple comparison, I am experimenting with the delayed fermentation techniques.

Timing is Everything

The tricky part of baking these Reinhart loaves for me is the timing.

In reality, they are not time consuming: the actual work involved in making these breads is not all that much. But things have to happen in a certain sequence. One must be around to mix a dough, to refrigerate it, to take it from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature, to knead it, to wait for a rise, to form it and bake it. My greatest obstacle to making these loaves has been my work schedule.

Just how exacting is the time schedule that Reinhart gives for us in his recipes? With this experiment, I am pushing the timing of the soaker to the limit he suggests (up to 3 days). We shall see if and how that changes the final outcome of the bread.


I started this project several days ago. I had a 2 day stretch of working nights, so when I awoke prior to my first night shift, I mixed up the Soakers for each of these breads.

Three Soakers

It is easy to see from the soaker pictures above how Reinhart's thinking moves: the Meteil has only whole wheat flour; the Seigle has mostly whole wheat flour, and a little rye; but the transitional soaker is mostly rye flour with a little whole wheat.  But you can't judge the loaves yet based on the amounts in the soaker.

Overall Flours in these Loaves

On a paper napkin, I doodled a little chart to show the amounts of each kind of flour in these loaves. I have not included the motherstarter's makeup in this chart.  The amount of yellow you see is the amount of overall rye, in the soaker, starter (or biga), and final dough.  At a glance, you can see how much rye each rye loaf contains.

I wonder about what hydration medium is best. The milk I might use would be pasteurized (it is all I can buy here), as would the buttermilk. I want to stay away from the rice milk and the soy milk, they are too artificial. That leaves the yogurt: made from pasteurized milk, it nevertheless has lots of enzymes in it due to fermentation that have revitalized it. It is perfect for my autolyse.

Therefore, In all three of the soakers, I used yogurt to hydrate them. It does take some effort to get all the flours fully hydrated using yogurt when you are mixing by hand. But from experience, it doesn't matter what hydrate you use, these soakers are not going to be very moist.

I had a glance through the text again, regarding soakers. There is nothing in there about whether these mixes must sit out at room temperature for a certain length of time, before being refrigerated. I could, if I wanted, with my current work schedule, let it sit out about 15 hours and then refrigerate it. But because I am using yogurt and I had a bad experience once with yogurt hydrating a soaker being left out overnight (see this sourdough loaf), I decided that I would refrigerate these right away. They sat out at room temperature for no more than an hour. I wouldn't be using them for another 2 days.

The Biga and Starters

The three loaves either use a Biga or a Starter to get the enzymes and yeasts working in concert. The Biga is made for the Transitional Loaf; the Starters use wild yeasts to build the other Sandwich Rye loaves.  I used a Rye Motherstarter for the Siegle, and a Whole Wheat Motherstarter for the Meteil.

Two Starters

I mixed up the two Starters the next morning when I got home after work. They would sit out at room temperature until I awoke (hopefully about 6 hours), and before I went back to work I would refrigerate them. They wouldn't be used until the next day.

At the six hour mark, they had doubled nicely, indicating to me that my starter was viable.

One Biga

The Biga was made around the same time as the Starters were to be refrigerated. Since the Biga is to be refrigerated too, it didn't have to be built until the others were ready to get cold. Made with commercial yeast, Reinhart doesn't want it to get going until he is good and ready to use it.

Degassing the Starters

The starters must be degassed before being refrigerated.  Reinhart says to knead them, but I just punched them down.  The consistency is not something that you really can knead yet.  It is only slightly doughier than a meringue.  Intuitively, you think that the refrigerating period might change this.

Thoughts on Timing and the Aha! Moment, and is it all worth it?

I made up another series of simple napkin graphs here to show how the different flours are added as a function of time but there is a mistake in one of them.  However, the one here is representative.  It shows, in yellow, how much rye is in the Meteil (the yellow line) plotted as a function of time (when the ingredient was added).  The black line is the whole wheat.  The graph is impossible to read at this scale, but you can still glean from it the idea that over the three days of making this, things get added at different times, but it all comes together in a small amount of time at the very end.

Timing of the Flours: 
Motherstarter, Soaker, Starter and Final Dough Plotted as a Function of Time

I imagine Reinhart devising a similar but more complex graph when he was inventing these recipes: was he figuring out, and plotting via a timeline like this, just how and when certain amylases and proteases were starting to break open the starches and proteins? Was he figuring out ways to slow these enzymatic reactions until just the right moment? As much as I have teased Reinhart in the past in these blogs (and the way bread bloggers like me glorify his work), I must admit that there is a certain amount of genius in the way these doughs actually come together.

In the book, Reinhart discusses his genius 'aha!' moments casually as if they were a series of fortuitous meetings with better minds whom he seemed to encounter at precisely the moment when he was asking the right questions.  You have to like that about the man, his modesty.  He is very charitable about naming his sources.  One of these sources is Emily Buehler, whose book Bread Science is one that Reinhart has used to good advantage.  You can download an extensive excerpt of the book (or buy it) through her website.  There are also links to a nice little essay ("Enzymes: the Little Engine that Could') that she specifically wrote for Reinhart when he was working on this book.  When it comes to freely giving away her extensive knowledge, it would seem that Emily is even more charitable than Reinhart.  In this little essay, Buehler talks about her own 'aha!' moment, when she figured out that enzymes are key.

Emily Buehler Plots Enzyme's Catalytic Reactions in her essay

We understand enzyme reactions by reducing them, in our minds, to a single molecule acting on another single molecule or two.  But things change when you put thousands or millions of molecules together, and things change when there is different ingredients or mediums or heat, or pH.  Things become very complex.  Reinhart's genius is in concerting this complexity, and reducing it again into a very manageable sequence of events that must occur for special reactions to occur.  Though it happens time and time again, in your hands, between your fingers, it still seems magical.

This isn't science, it is alchemy.

The question for me, however, is: is it worth the extra trouble one must take to get these different preferments organized in time? There are a few things that would make it worth that extra trouble to me: (1) I would find a loaf that my wife and I could both regularly appreciate, and (2) it would be a healthy, whole grain loaf. That last point means, essentially, that the Transitional Loaves like this one are out of the running. All of these loaves taste good, however: Reinhart has certainly made sure of that, so the first point is sort of moot. That leaves a third point:

(3) Can I fit it into my life schedule?

I have to admit that the 5 min/ day breads do win out on this final point, for me. They are mindless, simplicity itself, and they do the job.  But do they taste as good? Are they as healthy? Frankly, I don't think they are.  Compared to Reinhart's loaves, they fall down on points 1 and 2.

Quantifying Taste

Taste is very difficult to quantify.  We rarely buy bread any more, but when we do (or if we have some in a restaurant) we are severely disappointed.  It is only then that we begin to realize that we have been eating a superior product from our own kitchen.  Even my failures are better than the stuff you can buy, around here.  As much as I complain about the Reinhart loaves being too sweet, they are usually the ones that disappear the fastest in our household.  And when I make some 5 min/day bread to tide me over, we can taste the difference.  My wife made some pitas from the Artisan Bread in 5 min/day last week, and it was just blah.  Better than anything you could buy in a store, of course, but compared to a whole grain bread, just blah.  And I am beginning also to train my palate to love the Reinhart bread's complexity of taste, over the whole grain bread from 'Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day'.  So baking my way through this book is also an education for my mouth.

I expect that eventually I will settle on 3 or 4 of the Reinhart loaves and make them regularly, when I am done with my experimentation, and my trip through the entire book. I should be able to make up some soakers and bigas and keep them refrigerated the same way one would keep the 5 min/ day doughs, and just pull them out as required. In theory, it should not take much longer than the 5 min/day breads.

I keep saying that, but I have yet to prove it to myself. So far, in my experimenting, I have not hit upon a loaf that is tasty enough for me to want to go to all that trouble (the Sandwich Rye Siegle was closest). But part of that is the thrill of discovery: like kayaking down a river, you keep going because you want to see what is just around the next bend. What if the next loaf I bake is extraordinary? Or the next one after that?

This experiment today is all about refrigerating the dough, and waiting to bake it until I am ready, rather than when the dough is ready.  How far can I push that?

To that end, though, I was in a time crunch, and now it wasn't my work schedule, it was a play schedule.  When I awoke on Friday, I would need about 5 hours to get the preferments to room temperature, put this bread together, let it rise, form it, let it rise again, and then bake it.  I would have to fit this five hour slice of time into my schedule: but there was dinner when I wouldn't be able to use the kitchen unfettered, and then later a garden party I could attend (but it wasn't mandatory).  I couldn't wait until tomorrow because there was yoga, then lunch, and then a trip to the herb farm all planned.  And it was my wedding anniversary.  If I waited until the day after, it would be too late, the preferments would break down.

So the problem with the timing of these recipes is a very real one, for me.

The Final Dough

I blew off the garden party.  Any other man would have loved going: the only male in a backyard party where beautiful women were drinking and having a great time.  But I am actually quite shy, and feel out of place in that sort of environment.  It was quite easy for me to just stay home and bake bread.  I am, after all, an exorphin junkie.

I took the soakers and starters and biga from the refrigerator at approximately 1620.  I figured that I could begin to make the final dough in two hours, after dinner.  While the refrigerated ingredients came to room temperature, I gathered the other ingredients for the final dough.

The Meteil - Final Dough ingredients

The Seigle - Final Dough ingredients

The Transitional Rye - Final Dough ingredients

Although I did not mix the ingredients before the 2 hour mark that Reinhart advises, I did use the flour of the final doughs to coat the cut pieces of the soakers and starters and biga, and I tossed all of the ingredients together (except for the final yeast).  I waited the full 2 hours before mixing.

Meteil, Seigle, and Transitional awaiting Mixing

I began hand mixing the Meteil.  This is a very sticky dough, and I mixed it by hand, letting the gooey stuff ooze through my fingers.  I thought of the mud pies I made as a child.  This final dough was made with the Whole Wheat Motherstarter.  It did have a scent to it, and I thought it reminded me of apple cider vinegar, as Reinhart said it might have when mixing the starter.

The Meteil is mixed, kneaded, rested and kneaded, then placed in an oiled bowl to rise

I found the Meteil dough very difficult to knead, as it was very wet.  I did incorporate a bit of extra rye dough, and I had a bowl of cool water nearby to help me keep my hands from picking up goo.  But what I really found helpful was keeping the pastry cutter near.  I would use it to knead the dough, pickup up one side of the dough from underneath it, pulling it up and away, and then folding it overtop as far as it would go,  before turning the dough 1/4 turn and doing it again, and again.  I could feel the dough coming together and forming the gluten as I performed this maneuver.  

The Seigle is mixed, kneaded, rested and kneaded, then placed in an oiled bowl to rise

The Seigle I mixed and kneaded as per the directions.  I have to say that this dough did not have the scent that the Meteil had; remember, I had used a Rye Motherstarter in the starter here.  I also believe that this dough had more gluten.  I could feel more cohesion as I kneaded it.  But I did knead it the same way I had done the Meteil: by hand for the first few minutes, and then when my hands became too sticky, I continued on using the pastry cutter.  This resulted in a nice, smooth ball of very tight dough.

The Transitional Loaf is mixed, kneaded, rested and kneaded, then placed in an oiled bowl to rise

Mixing this dough was an altogether different experience, after the first two doughs.  It was far more difficult to mix.  The high-gluten, Canadian all-purpose Hard Red Winter Wheat flour that I used required much more strength to combine all the ingredients and ensure that it was well mixed.  But once mixed, it was easier to knead this dough by hand.  There was far less problem with it sticking to the hands.  It would sooner stick to itself than stick to my hand.  In the interest of keeping all things more or less the same between the loaves, I tried to use the pastry cutter to knead it.  And this was a disaster.  The dough did continue to get tighter and tighter, and it became more and more difficult to use the cutter to pull the dough outwards and then back overtop.  Three minutes of this was too long.  I persevered, but you can see that the dough became very resistive, from the photos.

The dough is set aside to rise for one hour... which time, it is supposed to be 1 1/2 times the size.

All the doughs have seen some expansion, but the Meteil looked a little flaccid to me.  It was rising so much as sagging, I felt.  The Seigle was right on track, and the Transitional was just a bit behind because I had kneaded it last: it hadn't had quite as long as the others to develop.

I formed the Meteil and placed it in the loaf pan

This was a bit lop-sided, to be sure.  I was hoping that the proofing stage would even things out somehow.

I formed the Seigle and placed it in the loaf pan

There is a bit of flour on the counter that is being picked up by the dough as I form the loaf, but I don't think I've overdone it on either of these loaves.

I formed the Transitional Loaf and placed it in the loaf pan

The Transitional Loaf was fairly well formed, compared with the other two.  I think that the addition of the high gluten dough leads to a stronger gluten structure, and a tighter loaf.  Definitely easier to work with.

Meteil, Seigle, Transitional

The oven is preheated and these are ready to bake.

They all score well, but the worst is the Meteil

I followed the instructions for baking, turning all the loaves at the 20 minute mark.

Meteil, Seigle, Transitional

Every baking day will have its successes and failures, I find.  These loaves look fairly nice, straight from the oven, I think.  It has been a success, so far.

The smell of the freshly baked loaves filling the home, I wondered if they would be loose enough to just slide from my well-oiled, non-stick pans.  I picked up the Meteil and inverted it over the cooling rack to test it.  Why yes, I do believe it shifted a little.  Perhaps just a shake or two, and it will come out clean...

... and so the fail

No such luck.  It came out of the pan, all right.  But not in one piece.  Vaguely I remembered the last time I made the Meteil and almost cursed Reinhart because my loaves didn't look anything like his Meteil pictured in the book.  Well, let's just say I bit my lip.  My Meteil is once again crap.

Three days of 'work' ruined in 5 seconds.

I decided to let the other two loaves just rest 5 minutes in the pan before I attempted that again.

The Seigle

The Transitional Rye Sandwich Loaf

Thank goodness this one came out nice, anyway.  This is the one I mostly wanted to bake today, to cross off another one of Reinhart's recipes.

A Final Comparison: Meteil, Seigle, Transitional Rye Sandwich Breads

Here are some 'crumb' shots.

The Meteil, The Seigle, the Transitional Loaves, exposed

This morning, in a side-by-side taste test, I ate a piece of each.  The Meteil, what is left of it, is very sour (and by now fairly dry).  The sourness predominates.  There are hidden flavours there, but this is overwhelmingly sour.  I can't really taste much rye in all this.  There is sweetness behind the sourness, but I'm not sure it is any grain, it may be the enrichment (honey, molasses).  The Seigle is nice.  I didn't detect a sour note until the loaf was down the esophagus, and then my mouth said, "ah, there is the sour note."  The bread was sweet but not overpoweringly so.  The rye could be tasted.  And it gave that rye tang at the very front of the tongue, an astringent sort of overtone that intensifies over a couple of minutes.  I liked the crust.  The Transitional loaf tastes good.  There is a sort of flatness to the flavour, it hits the tongue all at the same time, it doesn't touch the tongue lightly in different areas.  Nothing overwhelms here.  It is sweet and grain-like.  You can taste the rye, but as an undertone.

It is difficult to describe taste in words.  Especially breads with such complex flavours.  I prefer the Seigle, of these three.  But that is just me.

A couple more crumb shots, of the two that worked:

Notes to Myself:
  • What can be said?  Obviously: Don't shake the loaves when they are fresh from the oven.  Pretend these are your babies.  People who shake babies go to jail forever.
  • If you ever make these loaves again, try a batard shape.  These loaf pans are for sissies.
  • Don't curse Reinhart because of your own failings.
  • Wasn't this more fun than a party full of giggling girls?

1 comment:

  1. Wow what detailed information and gorgeous photos.
    Home-made bread always tastes MUCH better than the store bought stuff. The only thing is that it dries out and spoils so fast that at least for me it seems that two days is the longest that it stays fresh.
    Sorry about your broken one but the other two look great.