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Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Inspiration: Nils Schöner's 75/30 Landbrot

A New Inspiration

The Dutch Crunch Connection

Breadwise, this week has been a time of serendipity.  No less than 3 resources that I have perused have mentioned "The Dutch Crunch". 

1. The first resource was The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, used in a recent bread I made (a combination Anadama and Entire Wheat bread, made from two recipes on the same page of the Fanny Farmer cookbook).  It turns out that on the page facing the two recipes I used, there was a recipe for the Dutch Crunch Topping, along with this interesting note:

"Bakeries used to make their breads look and taste terrific with this topping.  The secret had all but disappeared years ago.  The idea originally came from an old Sunset magazine recipe, and as a guide I have made some variations and adapted their recipe…Dutch Crunch splits and cracks as it bakes and forms a golden, crusty top to loaves, rolls or buns."

2. The second resource was jonalisa, blogging at "The Fresh Loaf".  The pictures of her Dutch Crunch rolls are so very pretty.  She writes,

"When I stored these overnight in plastic baggies, I found they had lost their crunch. I recommend baking and serving the same day."

I think that Jonalisa's Dutch Crunch rolls are even nicer looking than the ones shown on "", where she found her recipe (although those ones are pretty too.)  Bakingbarrister found their recipe in Beth Hensperger's 'Bread Bible'

Does anyone else but me see Gondwanaland slowly breaking apart in these rolls?

As lovely as these buns look, none of these breads are whole grain (all of these recipes use rich rice flour and yeast) and so none of them moved me to try the recipes.  That is, until I stumbled upon my third resource that mentioned the Dutch Crunch.

3. The Final Resource

One of my favourite, but infrequent bread blogs that I regularly monitor, "Ye Olde Bread Blogge", has a new e-book of bread recipes that is freely downloadableNils Schöner has written a fine cookbook with wonderful pictures.  "Every recipe has at least one picture of the finished loaf," he writes.  The number of different grains and textures he uses in these breads is amazing, and I became very excited, looking at the many pictures of various German breads, thinking that I might finally be able to bake some authentic German loaves.  I will still have to struggle, here in Canada, to find a way to adjust my flour so that I can follow his recipes, but with his book in hand, I'm finally beginning to believe that such a thing is possible.

Everyone should get their hands on this fabulous resource while it is still free and available.  And if you find it useful, send Nils a few Paypal dollars to encourage him to keep sharing.

But I digress.  One of Nils' recipes for a Country Loaf (Landbrot) "borrows" from the 'Dutch Crunch' technique to make a separate dough for the surface of the bread, applied during the final rest.  But Nils' recipe for the crust isn't full of extra sugars and refined flours like the others I was reading about this week: this extra dough on top of the rising loaf (inspired by, but not copying the Dutch crunch) he calls a 'Sourdough crust', and is made mostly of rye meal.  The result is, he writes, "a compact rye loaf reminiscent of old German baking techniques."

And because of the serendipity of the 'Dutch Crunch' technique -- and because his bread looks like the loaf I have always wanted to be able to make! -- his "75/30 Landbrot" is the first loaf from Nils book that I will bake.  I love that name and ratio: with the addition of the extra rye in the crust, there is more flour here than 100%.

Notes on rebuilding the German flours

I have emailed Nils asking him for an appendix for those of us on this side of the pond who have flours that are not graded by ash content.  I wondered how I might go ahead to rebuild the German flour with what I have on hand.  He wrote, "I admit the possibility that the recipes could be read as strict formulas that do not allow for variations in flours, did not occur to me." But he kindly jotted a few words in an appendix.  Incredibly though, I came away from reading it with the impression that I should use what I had!

Nil's 75/30 Landbrot

Sourdough Crust
This recipe has a separate dough that is put on top of the main bread dough during its final rise.  This is only like the original rice-based, enriched "Dutch Crunch" in that respect. It might have a crunch to it, but it is not so sugary and crackly.  Nil's crusty dough is based on a sourdough rye meal, with no enrichment.

I had a feeling that my rye meal was going to be a bit too chunky to properly act like a dough.  I was right about that much: it did not actually puff like he said it should ("The mixture will look inflated."), it just got a little foamy.  On the other hand, I wasn't using rye sourdough at 100% hydration, either.  Instead, I used what I had -- which was a rye sourdough at 75% hydration.  Instead of 1/3 tsp as he suggested, I used 1/2 tsp of that with 1/2 tsp of water, about 2 g of each.

This rye meal is a bit too chunky

What I did with the sourdough for the sourdough crust

Sourdough crust: before

For his 'Type 1050', I used what I had on hand.  That is, I used Arva Flour Mill's 100% Whole Wheat Flour, which is made with a high protein, spring red wheat.  It does have all the bran and germ in it, however, so I expected not as much of a meteoritic rise, with less of a gluten development.

I also had to change the yeast.  Nils uses fresh yeast (and when I had started this recipe, he had not yet added his helpful appendix about converting fresh yeast to dried yeast).  I looked up on various sites to check conversion rates, and discovered that I should use in the range of 33%-40%-50% of the fresh yeast amounts.  Now the Poolish only calls for a tenth of a gram of fresh yeast.  50% of that would be a twentieth of a gram.  And my kitchen scale does not handle fractions of grams.  I guess I could measure out 1 gram, and then use a 10th of that volume, and then cut that volume in half, and that might be a close approximation.  What would that leave me with?  Perhaps a couple of grains of yeast. I began to wonder if perhaps Nils had made an error in how much yeast to use in the Poolish.  I looked at the recipe again: "No," I thought, "If he had not put the zero in front of it, I might have believed there was an error in the recipe.  But there is no mistake.  There is not much yeast here."

I ended up using a bit more than he asks for anyway.  I ended up using about 1/8th of a tsp, or about half of what it took to register 1 gram on my kitchen scale.

The dough itself contains some sourdough at 100% hydration, and my sourdough was at 75%.  I decided to make a 100% sourdough from mine, using 180g each of rye flour and water, and adding to that 1 tsp of my starter.  This I also left overnight, with the crust and the poolish.  Nils advises that the sourdough crust is to stand 12-18 hours, and I was at the outside of that; the poolish is to stand 12-16 hours, and I was around 17 1/2 hours for that; and the sourdough was probably sitting about 17 hours before I mixed it all together into the dough.

I mix up my 75% hydrated motherstarter to make a 100% hydrated rye sourdough

Overnight, the sourdough doubles

Again I used what I had: some Dark Rye, and some whole wheat flour from Arva Flour Mills.  Mixing it into a wet and sticky dough, I let it sit for an hour as instructed, and didn't see much rise.  I shaped it with wet hands and set it in a baking-paper lined basket.  Then I spread the Sourdough crust on top of that.

Mise en place

Poolish and sourdough goes into the final dough

This is a tight, gooey mass that has to rest for an hour

I cut some baking paper to fit my basket

After an hour, the rye ball has smoothed and relaxed somewhat

I was a little disappointed in how tiny my loaf looked.  That was the effect of going with whole wheat, I'm sure.  And no doubt it was also due to my weak sourdough.  I will have to probably toss my sourdough and start over again, using Nil's methods, in order to keep a 100% hydrated sourdough starter on hand.

Now, Nils gives us an interesting flip-technique for getting the proofed dough out of the basket, and I didn't think I would be able to do it.  Plus, I didn't have the right brotform.  What I did instead was, I cut some baking paper to more or less fit my basket and set the dough in there.  I would later try to just lift it out of the basket onto the hot baking stone.

That worked pretty good for me.

I shape it with wet hands and put it in the basket

I paint it on the dough

I wait an hour: not much rise yet

My loaf looks nothing like Nils.  How could it?  I changed so much.

But now, because of him, I am less interested in duplicating something, and more interested in chasing what tastes good to me.  I'll be playing with this loaf a bit more, to make it more like my own.

I waited overnight to cut into this loaf.  The crust is very hard.  My wife will have difficulty cutting into this loaf.  And the texture of the crust is such that my wife and my mother-in-law would have difficulty chewing it (it reminds me of the crust that I made that my mother-in-law broke her tooth on).

Of course, I love it.  To me, it has a remarkable nuttiness about it, with excellent flavour.  The rye interior is mild, and could actually have stood to be baked a bit longer, in my opinion.  What that would have done to the crust, I don't know.

I was amazed at how hard this crust got.  I am thinking that it almost acts like an exoskeleton on the spreading free-standing rye loaf, during the very hot oven baking.  Once the exoskeleton is formed during the first 10 minutes, the temperature of the oven is turned down a bit, and it is allowed to bake for a long period of time (at still quite a high temperature).  The loaf doesn't spread much.  I think that if I had had the right basket or brotform, this loaf's shape might be more like what Nils' bread looked like.

I think that I will be baking my way through Nils' book - at least the whole grain recipes (of which there are eleven).  This bread in particular is worth another try.

Thanks Nils!

Notes to Myself
  • Did I miss a step?  Does Nils use a floured banneton?  His crust looks very different from mine. 
  • On the crust: consider making your own rye meal, to control the size of the particles.  The consistency used here was more like cracked rye than rye meal: grind them finer, but not so fine as flour.
  • Try using egg yolk to bind these ingredients together (or would that make it more or less hard?).  Or what about adding yogurt to the rye meal sourdough (to get a crust similar but different to what you use on my recent 100% sourdoughs?).  
  • The idea of the Dutch Crunch, I suppose, is to get a more expansive loaf underneath, and a less expansive but sweeter dough on top, so they both get oven spring but at different times, and the top one gets pulled apart decoratively.  Nils' sourdough crust is not a true Dutch Crunch in that sense.  To closer approximate the Dutch Crunch, make a real dough of a sweeter  consistency on top of the main dough of the bread. 
  • Get the right kind of brotform to make this bread.  Try Nils' way a couple of times, to see if you can do it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for making the bread and mentioning the ebook! I don't think you missed a step. A floured banneton would work nicely. As topping I've used meal that was a little finer, coarse meal usually gives a very hard crust because the warm soaker might not soften the grains sufficiently. I once followed the direction in a German book that said to "sprinkle withe rye grains before baking". They turned to granite pebbles in the oven.