All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Experimental Loaf with Whole Wheat, Rye Sourdough, Oat, Kamut and boiled grains

Experimental Loaf 
using whole wheat flour, rye sourdough, oat flour, kamut flour, and some boiled grains

Inspired by Nils Schöner's recipes (see the last post, a first attempt of his recipe for a 'German-style Sourdough') that incorporate so many seeds and other chunky cereal parts, I threw this experimental loaf together tonight to see what I might get.

I was also inspired by the latest 'Mother Earth News' (Dec 2010/January2011 issue) that had an article on bread making "Homemade Bread: Truly Easy and Delicious".  The author of that magazine piece, William Rubel (author of a forthcoming book on bread), said a couple of things that intrigued me: for one thing, he said that he rarely measured anything, but let the dough tell him what it required.  And he indicated that the dough must not be rushed.

This is interesting advice, but it makes a couple of assumptions that I can't always live with.  For one thing, I measure things not to be picture perfect but to help me, if I ever do bake a really great loaf one day, so that I can duplicate the procedure.  Secondly, the loaves that this author is talking about are enriched white wheat flour breads.  Perhaps the author can be forgiven for making such an assumption: everyone else seems to make these kind of breads.  But I am more interested in whole grains, and whole wheat is so very different from enriched white wheat flour, there is really little comparison.  Secondly, I am also interested in other grains besides wheat.  And each grain has its own characteristics.  You can't 'go by the dough' if you've never worked with a grain before, because every grain is going to perform differently.  Wheat and rye have gluten; a few other grains have some too, but not as much.  So why would anyone use them in a bread?

Well, people sometimes use other grains because of the gluten: more and more people are discovering the dangers of gluten, and many people seem to have a sensitivity to it, some even have an allergy.

Besides, it is probably not a good thing for humans or for the world's environment to eat only a monoculture of one grain.  If you do, you will lose out on the benefits of, for example, buckwheat's wonderful organic conditioning of the soil; or oat's amazing ability to lower cholesterol.  Or the wide variety of micronutrients that are provided in differing quantities in other grains beside those with which we are so over-familiar.

It was, in fact, the idea of eating more oats in my diet that interested me about this particular combination of grains for my experimental loaf.  I had some oat flour, and some steel cut oats; and I wanted to add this to some kamut flour.  And I was going to use some whole wheat flour and some rye in the form of a sourdough, as well.  I am, after all, not one of those who has a gluten sensitivity, as far as I know.

I had no idea how this particular combination would behave, so I decided to follow Nils' Schöner's basic schedule for his various rye sourdough raised loaves.  I was using a lot more rye sourdough, but I was hoping that this might make up for some deficiencies in the gluten forming ability of the oat flour and the kamut.

Here are the ingredients I weighed:

  • 2 c flour 316g
  • some rye sourdough @ 100% hydration 511g
  • 1 c oat flour 130g
  • 1 c kamut flour 177g
  • 1/2 c 8 grain cereal 52g
  • 1/2 c steel cut oats 87g
  • 1 c boiling water 231g
  • 2 tsp sea salt 12g
  • 1 3/8 c cold water 349g


Boil the water and stir in the 8 grain cereal and the steel cut oats.  Bring to a boil, stir rapidly, then cover and remove from heat for 15 minutes.

Mix the remaining flours, and salt and sourdough and add the cold water, mixing as thoroughly as possible.   I found I had the consistency I wanted when I had added 349g of water to my flour and sourdough mixture.  Here I was just going by feel, like Rubel suggests.

When the boiled grains have cooled slightly, fold them into the mixture and pour it onto the counter top to knead until everything is well incorporated.

The first bulk fermentation is 30 minutes in a bowl.

Then fold it one more time and place it in a buttered tin.

Wait 1 1/2 hours, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a pan for steam.
At the 2 hour mark, the oven is hot enough.
Dock the loaf, coat it with some egg white, and place in the oven with a cup full of water to provide steam in the closed oven.
Bake for 20 minutes and then turn down the heat to 400 degrees.  Bake for another 40 minutes, turning the loaf midway through the bake.

I was really quite amazed at the powerful oven spring that this loaf had.  I didn't score it, but it blew itself apart. 

The crumb is a little gummy: it could have used a longer and perhaps hotter bake.  I may have stopped the baking prematurely as the egg white wash on top made it look browner than it truly was.

The crust is fine.  The taste of the interior is somewhat unusual, and I'm thinking that it is the kamut that gives it this unnameable essence of flavour.  Since the interior is still somewhat moist, toasting it seems to improve it.  The steel cut oats and the 8 grain cereal that I boiled are completely lost in the taste: either I need more, or I need to use them as a soaker, not as a boiled ingredient.

Notes to Myself

  • You are unlikely to make this combination of doughs precisely the same way ever again - mostly because of the excess of rye sourdough used.
  • If you are just using up starter in these experiments, try once to make it with a different sourdough, too -- perhaps using the one you've been keeping now, refreshing weekly, for about a year, at 75% hydration.
  • Make it with 20% more ingredients.
  • Make it the same but don't roll it up as per the instructions, just fold it and stretch it and put it in the tin.
  • Try scoring the loaf.
  • Instead of boiling, try soaking the steel-cut oats overnight.  And use more, lots more.

Nils Schöner's German-Style Sourdough Bread from 'Brot'

Nils Schöner's German-Style Sourdough Bread

This is another of Nils Schöner's loaves, from his recipe book "Brot": his 'German-Style Sourdough Bread'.  I think that I had better play with this recipe some more to get a proper feel for it.

Like some of Nils' other loaves that I've tried, he does a couple of things that to me seem somewhat unusual: for one thing, his sourdough culture inoculates a sourdough build made up of coarse rye meal.  This sits for 15 hours -- slightly longer than just overnight.  One might not think that the wild yeast would have quite enough sugary starch to get going, on pure rye meal.  But in fact, they are quite active.

And that leads to the second unusual tactic:  The bulk fermentation is only an hour, and the final fermentation is only 45 minutes.  

There is a seed soaker, and it must stand at least 3 hours.  I soaked my flax seeds and sunflower seeds overnight, the same 15 hours that the Sourdough build sat, and this was adequate to make some very interesting goo, as the gums within the seeds began to ooze into the water.  This adds not only texture to the final dough, but also a lot of gumminess, which will support the shape of the final loaf.

I followed the instructions pretty carefully, I thought.

Sourdough build with Rye Meal


Mis en Place


Bulk Fermentation


But once again, I'm thinking that this dough needs to be scaled a bit for our North American size pans.  I don't know, maybe I'm just not getting the proper rise from my wild yeast to fill the pan.  So I guess I should practice a bit before making a pronouncement on this bread.

The picture in Nils' recipe book has some flour on top, so I put a bit of an 8-grain cereal on top of my loaf, along with a tiny bit of Spelt flour.

The loaf had no real rise in the oven, and I was a bit disappointed in that.  I really think that it has to do with my yeast not performing well.  I'm not sure why that might be, I had recently refreshed my yeast, and I assumed it was viable.

I will of course be making this bread again.

How's it taste?  Wonderful.  The sunflower seeds add a really nice touch.  The crust is a nice crunchy texture.  The cereal and spelt I chose for the top crust adds something too.  I'm pleased with the taste, just not the rising of the dough.

Notes to Myself

  • Make this again.
  • Make it with a different sourdough, too -- perhaps using the one you've been keeping now for about a year, at 75% hydration.
  • Make it with 20% more ingredients.
  • Make it the same but don't roll it up as per the instructions, just fold it and stretch it and put it in the tin.
  • Try scoring the loaf.
  • Try a bulk fermentation of about 2 hours

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Desem - one big loaf instead of two

My Take on Desem, week 3

Here is the 3rd week of Desem. I wanted to see if I could bake it larger, instead of dividing the dough. I also used store-bought whole wheat flour for the final bake, since I was beginning to think that the flour I was milling was not quite fine enough. So the starter in this bread is hand-milled, but the bulk of the flour (4 cups worth) is whole wheat flour purchased at Arva Flour Mills.

This desem was refreshed daily with 1/3 c of fresh hand-milled whole wheat flour, except on the last day before the bake, when I added 1 full cup. One quarter of the desem was then reserved, and I built the bread with the 3/4 desem. Here was the full feeding schedule (as far as I know it):

Start: Desem 215g of 2 week old desem

Tues: 50g wwflour, 25g water
Wed: 49g wwflour, 17g water
Thurs: forgot to measure ingredients. Desem at end of feeding was 418g. Possibly added 50g wwflour, 16g water?
Fri: 49g wwflour, 19g water
Sat: 47g wwflour, 19g water
Sun: This day I added the ingredients quite late in the day, in the evening rather than in the morning. There was a smell of acetone. 48g wwflour, 20g water
Mon: 47g wwflour, 19g water
Tues: 1c = 156g wwflour, 97g water

End: Desem 912g

Of the end product, I reserved 228g of desem for the next week's build. But I would not refresh next week's desem daily -- rather, I would follow The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book's (LKBB) suggestion for a twice-weekly refresh, it seems somewhat less grueling.

Following the volume measurements of the Desem recipe in LKBB, I added the rest of the ingredients by weight:

  • actual desem: 681g (I may have lost a few grams in the transfers from bowls)
  • wwflour: 143g of hand-milled, 1359g storebought, for a total of 1502g
  • sea salt: 18g
  • water: 325g
 Mis en place

 Desem soaking in the lowest amount of water
 Mixed as well as I could in the bowl: going to start to knead in a few minutes

I deliberately tried to keep the water at the lower volume throughout, i.e. 1 1/3 c of water.   This made for a very stiff dough, when I was kneading.  The problem with this tight a dough ball is that the gluten cloak you are trying to form around the loaf continuously tears as you knead it.  This was such a problem toward the end of the 20 minutes of kneading (around the 16 minute mark) that I was forced to wet my hands to try to allow the dough to incorporate some of the extra drops.  But the fact of the matter is, this dough was probably just too dry.  My wrists were sore long after kneading this dough for 20 minutes.

 Kneading after 5 min
  Kneading after 10 min
  Kneading after 15 min
  Kneading after 20 min

Why was I keeping it so dry?  My intention was to make a free-standing loaf, baked on a stone covered with a roasting pan, to simulate the casserole baking idea. A wetter dough, I felt, would not properly stand up to the freestanding size.

But a few other things went wrong anyway, as per my usual baking process.

First of all, I mixed this up after working nights, and fell asleep following putting the dough in a bowl for the bulk fermentation.  This was only to have taken 4 hours, and I didn't get back to the dough until 6 1/2 hours had passed.  That surprised me: this qualifies as a pretty good daytime sleep, for me.  But of course, although I obviously needed it, my dough probably didn't.  By then, the top of the loaf was quite dry.

 Before I fell asleep: 0900
 When I woke up: 1530

Instead of dividing the loaf into 2, I kept it whole and just pounded it down and tried to make the folds.  This turned out to be not so pretty.  The gluten cloak just tore everywhere.  There was still some internal gluten structure that you could see through the tears, but this was very difficult to fold.  Like when you are folding cardboard into smaller and smaller pieces, and the last few folds are not true folds but are more like imperfect bends.

 Flatten out the dough

 Fold it: look at that dry reptilian gluten cloak

 Somehow manages to be a ball
 End of the second folding: gondwanalike crust drift
High Hydration
After the 2 folds with a 15 minute rest in between, I let it sit in the basket, covered with a bag to keep the humidity in, within my warm excalibur dehydrator,  for 1 1/2 hours before pre-heating the oven.  It took the full 30 minutes to get to the proper temperature because I had so much paraphernalia in there: baking stones, pans for water, roasting pans.

 All folded up, awaiting final 'proof'
 Into the humidified bag
 2 hours later: time to bake it

Now here I think I made another error: I canceled the timer on the oven by hitting 'cancel' instead of touching another button, and so the 450 degree F. oven was actually turned off for the first 15 minutes of the bake.  In other words, just when the oven should have been the very hottest for the rise of the loaf, with steam, it was instead a cooling oven.  At the 15 minute mark, I corrected this, but from then on the baking only went at 350 degrees F.  I did give it an extra 15 minutes at the end of the hour, not only for this mistake, but because this was a larger loaf.  The cover was taken off for this final quarter hour.
 This ugly loaf is my 3rd attempt at Desem
This is a spectacularly ugly loaf.  The folds unfolded, leaving the loaf with ugly crevasses throughout.

I have tasted some this morning, however, and it tastes fine -- and unbelievably, it is still fairly moist, or at least, not as dense as some of the stale ends of loaves that I have hanging around.  All in all, I'm impressed with the loaf's possibilities.  Although I think that the crust has suffered somewhat from the uneven baking.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and I have a lot of friends and relatives celebrating over there.  For us in Canada, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and anyway it is not such a huge event here as it is in the South.  But today, as I eat my Desem bread, despite all its ugliness and mistakes, I think of my friends, and give thanks for them; and I try, for this moment at least, to be grateful for the food that has come into my hands.

After all, any loaf you can eat when you are done baking cannot be a total failure.

 My desem bread crumb: crust reveals an uneven baking

 But it tastes fine

 And it slices evenly

Notes to Myself
  • Do it over.  Too many mistakes to know where to begin.
  • Give thanks for every bite.