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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sourdough Discard No-Knead Rye and Whole Wheat Breads

Long winter shadows cast by my bread, cooling by the window.
 Here we go again with a bread that I've made several times.  It is a way to use up some of my old sourdough starters.  I generally keep my discards, and then when I haven't anything else pending, I'll use them up in a bread.  This is based on the CIA bread that I once tried.  But every time I try it, I tweak something.  This time, I thought I'd add some rye kernels.

The reasoning behind this bread is that a starter discard has already developed lots of flavour, similar to a sourdough build or a biga that you might otherwise make for a bread.  Sure, it might be a little more sour than most people like, but there is certainly going to be some interesting character in the taste.  You may not be able to count on the yeast in it to raise the dough, so you add some.

The method is easy, even if every time I do it I have a different amount of starter discard.  First, I measure the sourdough starter.

The Rye
The rye starter I had was only 327g.  Consider that to be 92.7% of the total flour weight.  You can thus figure out how much flour you'll add by using this formula:

Total flour = n00 / 92.7

In this case, n=327.  So 32700 / 92.7 =  353g.
My total flour will be 353g.

Now I have in the past used 70 percent rye, 30 percent whole wheat here; but often enough I've just made a 100% rye with it, and that's what I wanted today too.

Once you have figured out the weight of the total flour, you can easily find the rest of the ingredients:

    •    Yeast is 0.8% of the total flour: 3g
    •    Salt is 2% of the total flour: 7g
    •    Water is 85.4% of the total flour 301g
    •    You can also add bread spice, about 5g for every 1000g of flour.  I used 4g here.

And in this case, I decided to add some boiled rye kernels. 

    •    One cup of rye kernels weighed 190g before boiling

The last time I boiled some rye kernels, I kept them at a rolling boil for 45 minutes.  My wife suggested that it would be more energy efficient, quicker, and less bother if I used a pressure cooker.  She showed me how to use it.  I tossed in 1 cup of rye kernels with 3 cups of water, and set the pressure cooker on medium heat.

Now, I've said in the past that our whirlpool stove and oven is one of the worst appliances we have ever owned, and the company's record in servicing and standing behind the product is crap.  We have never had good luck with this stove.  The elements turn on and off for no apparent reason, and a pot of water won't boil quickly.  A pot of tea can take forever.  So this pressure cooker, although it only took 20 minutes to cook the rye kernels, took at least 20 minutes to get the steam up to its cooking pressure.  At that point, you turn it down to low, and the 20 minutes of actual cooking is done at the lowest energy setting.  But I had no great belief that the elements, which turned on and off like a traffic light, were keeping the pressure up. 

I think that the kernels were a little undercooked, but I thought that I was now wasting time, so I just tossed them in the dough.  They wouldn't be as good as the ones that are soaked overnight in apple juice anyway.  I just needed something rye to fill out my rye dough, which was a little skimpy.

The Whole Wheat
I also made a 100% whole wheat bread with some starter, too.  Here, I used:

    •    632g whole wheat sourdough
    •    682g whole wheat flour
    •    5g yeast
    •    14g salt
    •    582g water
    •    4g bread spice

I added no extra boiled grains to this whole wheat dough.

Both doughs were put in my long thin pans, and set in a warm place on the mantel under a box for an hour. 

The rye is ready to be baked when it develops some surface cracks.  Perhaps I waited a bit too long.

I mixed a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt and some poppy seeds, and just before baking, I brushed the mixture on the top.  I was going to be baking these breads for a long time at a high temperature, and I didn't want the tops to burn.  Just before placing the tins in the oven, I docked the loaves deeply with a thin poker in several places.

Then they were placed in the oven at 450 degrees F.  I intended to keep them there for 65 minutes, and perhaps 15 minutes more out of the tin in a cooling oven. 

And I left to walk the dog.  My wife had careful instructions to remove the tins, if we were for some reason delayed.

When I returned an hour later, I could smell the sourdough and yogurt tops of the loaves burning.  I opted to take them from the oven at 60 minutes, and to forget about any further baking.  The tops, with the poppy seeds, looked dark and interesting, but I felt the loaves had been baked enough.

I waited until the next morning to cut into the loaves.  The whole wheat is crusty, but holds together for thin slicing.  Curiously, the crust does not taste at all burnt.  Unfortunately, the loaf is rather tasteless over all.  I was hoping for a bit of sourdough taste here, but it really is not that pronounced.

The rye loaf is still a bit gummy in the interior.  Rye dough retains its moisture far longer than wheat will.  It could be that the gumminess comes chiefly from the boiled rye kernels which are still largely intact in the crumb.  But I feel that the rye loaf could have withstood an extra bit of time in the oven, too.  Still, the top crust has had enough time in the oven.  Despite the yogurt on top, any extra time might have just have burned it beyond using.  The poppy seeds have been exposed to the high heat at this point, and the burning smells I encountered when I returned from my walk were probably caused from them more than from the loaf.

Notes to Myself
  • Try this next time with some cooked rice that has been soaked in tomato juice.  That idea has been kicking around the back of your mind long enough.
  • The poppy seed and yogurt gives an interesting texture to the top, but it reminds me of cake more than bread.   
  • Try adding some boiling water to some grain that will release its gums -- e.g some cracked rye or cracked wheat, or even some boiled oats -- a combination of grains that when it meets boiled water, will form a paste that can be brushed on.
  • The whole wheat bread is done at 60 minutes; the rye bread could use an extra 10-20 minutes at least: but cover the top with foil so it doesn't burn during the final 15 minutes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beard's "William Melville Childs'" Health Bread

"William Melville Childs'" Health Bread

This bread was "perfected" by a Baltimore resident for a benefit cookbook put out by the Walters Art Gallery.  William Melvill Child's Health bread is supposed to use whole-wheat berries that are ground into course meal.  I haven't done that here, but if the bread is wonderful, I may decide to do so, next time I make it.  I wanted a fast bread that could be made in one day, and this one fit the bill.

James Beard's book, "Beard on Bread" includes a version of the recipe in the section on Whole-Meal Breads, and I jumped right in to making it without understanding the recipe and its variation; without actually reading all the ingredients first, to be honest.  In his discussion of the bread, Beard says "His variation on this recipe which follows, uses absolutely no white flour and has a somewhat denser texture; but also more flavor."

"That's for me," I thought, and I started measuring out the ingredients.  But I didn't realize that the truly 100% whole wheat version -- the one I wanted -- was the variation that Beard includes after the one I make here.

Beard does use some all-purpose flour in his version of the recipe.  By the time I got to that ingredient in the list, I just groaned and continued to follow Beard's recipe as faithfully as I could, all the while thinking, "He lies, he lies".  I really didn't get it, until I started putting the notes together for this blog entry.

Next time I make this (if ever I do), I will make the 100% whole wheat variation.

Here are the weights I measured as I made the (2) loaves:

  • 23g Active Dry Yeast
  • 177g Warm Milk
  • 15g Granulated Sugar
  • 533g boiling water
  • 201g quick-cooking Oats
  • 540g whole wheat flour
  • 193g dark molasses
  • 29g butter
  • 20g (sea) salt
  • 538g all-purpose flour

Hydration Math
I never know how to calculate hydration in a bread like this.  Does one add the molasses to the water and milk, since it certainly does add some liquid to the whole?  Does one add the oats to the flours, when calculating everything that, in baker's math, totals to 100%? 

Let's do it for every case:

Adding the milk, water, and molasses together as the liquid, and both flours, this bread is 84% hydrated; if you add the weight of the oats to the flour, consider it 71% hydrated.  Or, if you don't want to exclude the molasses as part of the hydration, the values are 66% (without oats) or 56% (with oats).


 The yeast is proofed in warm milk and sugar.  It expands and multiplies quickly. 

 The boiling water is added to the whole wheat flour and oats;

 when the temperature here is relaxed somewhat, the warm mixture of salt, molasses and butter is stirred in,
 as well as the yeast mixture. 
 Finally, the all-purpose flour is added, all but about one cup, which later gets kneaded in anyway.

The dough rises to double,

is kneaded for 12 minutes, the rest of the flour incorporated,
before kneading

five minutes of kneading

ten minutes of kneading

and it is divided and placed in pans. 
Again the dough is expected to double,

the loaves are scored,

and then it is baked for an hour at 350 degrees F.

When shaping the loaves, I tried two different techniques.  The loaf on the right was shaped as a boule, and then slightly elongated to fit the narrow pan.  I didn't worry about pressing it down into the end corners.  The loaf on the left was pressed flat, and then rolled up tightly before fitting it into the pan.

The boule-shape, the one I was slightly more gentle with, saw a greater rise while proofing., and filled out into the corners of the pan all by itself.  The other dough, the one I rolled up tightly, was perhaps a bit overhandled. 

I also slashed both loaves differently.  The one on the right got two slashes, the one on the left was slashed once, lengthwise.  In my opinion, the one that was slashed twice was deflated more because of it.

I used a pan of water to make steam during the initial part of baking.


This is a typical sandwich style loaf, fairly sweet.  There are enough oats to see some some of them in the crumb, but not really enough to change the taste or structure of the bread.  I'm still not completely sold on molasses as a sweetener, but it does complement the natural bitterness of the whole wheat, so I can see why it has been traditionally used.


Notes to Myself

  • This bread uses a lot of sugar (both granulated, and in the form of molasses), and a lot of yeast.  I was frankly alarmed at how much yeast I was using.  Two tablespoons!  Of course my dough rose quickly, especially when I put it in the other room near the wood fire, where things are nice and toasty.

  • I could use a lot less yeast in this dough and achieve the same results over a slightly longer time, I'm sure.  I might not get the same sort of amazing rise in the loaf if I did this, but I would feel better about it, and no doubt the taste will be superior, I'm sure.
  • Next Time: use 1 Tbsp Yeast.  Use the Whole Wheat variation of the loaf.  Use less molasses.  Use a longer proofing time.
  • Use a tight boule shape before putting this dough into the pan.
  • Before baking, give it one quick slash along its length.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Variations on a theme of Nils Schöner's 60% Rye with Apple Juice Soaker

Experimental Variations
on Nils Schöner's Recipe
for a 60% Rye Bread with Apple Juice Soaker

Ever since my mother-in-law tasted this loaf, I can't seem to get away from making it for her.  I have told her I want to experiment with other recipes, even some of Schöner's other German recipes.  She says that is okay, just don't stop making this one.

The only trouble with this loaf as I have made it so far, as far as I can see, is that it uses all-purpose flour, and I like to use as much whole grain as I can.  Now I should say that Nils' original recipe uses the German flours that are available to him, and not the ones that are available to me in Canada.

The last time I made this loaf, I vowed that I would try making it using whole wheat instead of all-purpose flour.  Not sure how the mother-in-law would like that, though, I decided to make the loaf both ways, for comparison purposes.

Then while I was preparing the rye kernels for their 45 minute boiling prior to soaking them overnight in the juice, I decided to try the same recipe, only using whole wheat sourdough and with wheat berries in apple juice soaker, to see if the recipe was as good for a wheat bread as it was for the rye.

This, then, was an experiment of variations on Nils original 60% rye recipe.

The Soaker

Rye Kernels
Wheat Berries

I measured the rye kernels and the wheat berries. I wish I knew more about the exact type of grain I am using, but I have no info on the seed types.  I know that the wheat is a hard red winter wheat, but beyond that, I haven't a clue.

The seeds are dumped in pots, and water to cover. They are then boiled for 45 minutes. Nils gives a time range, and from previous experimentation, that seems to be the number that works best for my mother-in-law's teeth!  At this point, they will still provide some texture to the loaf, but they won't be too hard for her to bite into.  We want the grains nice and plump, and to have some of them popped, so they will take on the flavour of the overnight soak in the juice.

Rye Kernels after 45 minutes of boiling
Wheat Berries after 45 minutes of boiling

I used the juice we had on hand, that we had cooked up in our dampfentsafter (a steam juice, more popular in Germany than elsewhere, but something my wife is very familiar with) this year -- a combination apple, peach and kiwi juice. I'm sure that the cider tastes better, but this was going to be less expensive.

Rye Kernels in Juice

Wheat Berries in Juice

Sourdough Builds: Rye and Whole Wheat

I'm afraid my sourdough isn't up to snuff.  It does give the rye a lactobacillus-rich environment in which some flavour (and even gluten) develops, but the wild yeasts are pretty much spent, and I need to work on my starter with more frequent feedings to get it back into good shape for rising dough.  The fact of the matter is, I just don't bake nearly enough bread to use up my sourdough.  Thus it languishes and grows impotent.  Here I am using the 100% rye starter I once made using Nils instructions in the appendix of his book.  And for the whole wheat, I am using a whole wheat starter that is about 70% hydrated, that I made long ago following the methods of Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice", and which I have since adapted for his book "Whole Grain Breads".  While neither is completely dead, they certainly don't have much living yeast in them, and they need to be fixed.  Fortunately, this recipe uses some commercial yeast too, so this can be corrected somewhat.

The Dough

Mis en place: ingredients for 2 rye experiments on the left, 2 whole wheat on the right

After the seeds had soaked for 18 hours, I began gathering ingredients for the various experiments.  The sourdough builds and the seed soakers are common to the pictures below, and so aren't included.  Also, the water is going to be assumed.

1. The first rye loaf would be the same old, official Schöner recipe, with rye and all purpose flours, that I would make and give away to my mother-in-law.
ingredients for the rye and all-purpose loaf

2. The second rye loaf would be exactly the same, except I would use whole wheat flour in place of the all purpose flour.

ingredients for the rye and whole wheat loaf

3. The third loaf has no rye in it at all: it is 100% whole wheat, with soaked wheat berries and wheat sourdough build.

ingredients for the 100% whole wheat loaf
4/ And lastly, I didn't know what variation I should try.  At first, I thought I would try one with some all-purpose flour.  But then, I thought against it, and decided to try a rye and whole wheat combination, like as in experiment 2; the only difference being in experiment 4, the texture would be provided by a whole wheat soaker and there would be a whole wheat sourdough build in place of the rye soaker and rye sourdough builds.

original idea for experiment #4: rye and all purpose flour

Second thoughts: swap out the all-purpose for the whole wheat.

Take away the all purpose flour: we won't be using it
Experiment #4 -- rye and whole wheat with whole wheat sourdough build and soaker

1-2-3-4, the yeast for each loaf is mixed with some of the wheatflour and set aside for its first rise for 90 minutes. 

As soon as I mixed up the fourth experiment, I realized with horror that I had mixed warm water for the first three (as I should have), but used cold water for the last.  That meant that the experiment would not have similar conditions for all of the loaves.  I decided to move the blue bowl with experiment number four in it to a spot close to the wood fire.

Then I decided to move all of the bowls to that nice toasty spot.

At the beginning of the yeast and flour mixing

The end of a 90 minute rise with just yeast
The yeast seemed to like this cozy spot, and they were bubbling away nicely in each bowl when it came time for me to use them.

I forgot to take a picture of the rye kernels after being soaked for 18 hours, but here is what the wheat berries looked like

1. The yeast love this all purpose flour.  The bubbles are very easy to see on the surface of the mixture, before the sourdough build, flour, salt and rye kernels are added.  The mixture is then covered and it is allowed to sit for another hour.

2. The yeast also liked the whole wheat.  As you can see, there is some bubbling action, but it is not as visible as it was in the bowl with the all-purpose in it.  The consistency is similar, though: very light and jiggly.  To this is added the rye flour, and the rye sourdough, and the rye kernels.

3. Also a whole wheat and yeast mixture.  This too saw some decent yeastly bubblation.  To this mixture I would not be adding any rye, but rather a whole wheat sourdough and some whole wheat soaked berries.

4. Finally, the last bowl, the one I was so worried about because I hadn't used warm water.  This too is whole wheat and yeast mixed with water; and to this I was going to add some rye flour, as in experiment 2, but here I would use whole wheat berry soaker and whole wheat sourdough.  It is hard to tell in this larger blue bowl, but I think that the warm conditions in which it sat made up for the mistake of adding cold water: this yeast performed as well as the other whole wheat, I think.

Here is the one downside of performing all of these experiments: you increase the number of bowls you have to clean up.  During this time, I cleaned up and prepared my final bread tins, lining them with butter.

Now all of the bowls with the complete mixtures are moved to a place by the fire again, for the bulk fermentation of thirty minutes.

After 30 minutes, all of the bowls are seeing a substantial rise in volume.  These mixtures are ready to be panned.  Experiment 4 had to go into an aluminum pan that was slightly smaller than the others.  I knew that it would over-flow, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Once again, I set the mixtures close to the fire, and let the warmth there entice the yeast to get busy.  I took the plastic wrap off the first experiment because it was sagging into the mixture already.  I just covered it with a cloth that didn't touch the surface.  I should have done so for all of the pans.

After 60 minutes, these are ready to be baked.  If I had not covered each with plastic, they would all be cresting over the top of the pan nicely.  Removing the plastic caused the dough to retreat slightly and it changed the surface texture: too bad.

I had all the loaves de-panned by the time I had to leave for yoga.  Experiments 3 and 4 required a bit of persuasion to come  out of the pans.

The loaves all have a hint of apple juice scent to them. Despite the differences in top textures, the bottoms all look pretty much the same.

Here is a crumb shot from experimental loaf #3, the whole wheat bread with no rye in it whatsoever.  My wife says that my mother-in-law would like this bread too (but that is just from the first nibble of it).  It is dense enough that you can slice it really thin, and it does have a nice flavour.

What can I say?  Yum.

A couple of days later, we cut into the experimental loaf #4.  This one has rye and whole wheat, and is elaborated from whole wheat starter and wheat whole grain soakers.  I found this bread to be tasty, but it did not keep as well as the original recipe.  It became stale quite fast.  On the other hand, we were eating it AFTER the first loaf was finished.  So who knows for sure? 

Here also is a rather strange commentary, and one I'm sure I can't prove, since there are an infinite number of other variables to consider, that can't be ruled out:  but I noticed that while eating this bread (#4, the one made with whole wheat and rye and whole wheat soaker and whole wheat sourdough), I had much drier membranes in the interior of my nose, and was more susceptible to boogers!  Is it possible, I wondered, that the phytochemicals in this bread were somehow getting into my bloodstream, perhaps monkeying around in the fine capillaries of my nasal membranes, and causing this to happen?  I realize that this is an absurd thought, but I just throw it out there because it crossed my mind.  I don't know how it could be proved or disproved.  It could rather be anything else, from weather patterns, to things I was exposed to at work, or in the home, or any one of several hundred things I ate or drank during the time I was also eating this loaf.

Notes to Myself
  • It would appear that you can easily substitute whole wheat flour for the all-purpose you have been using in this recipe, without altering substantially the appearance of the final loaf.  The question then becomes, would my mother-in-law accept a whole wheat version of this loaf?  Maybe you should give her both loaves and see which she prefers?
  • The whole wheat loaves (experiments #3 and #4) rose slightly higher than the ones made with the rye sourdough, which leads me to suspect that my 70% whole wheat sourdough build was slightly more powerful, or had more wild yeasts in it than the 100% rye sourdough I used.  Probably it doesn't matter which sourdough you use, since you are using such a small amount of it.  Whichever one works best should be used.
  • Get a new pan so you don't have to work with this old aluminum pan any more.
  • Obviously, you ought not to cover the pans with wrap for the final proof, just cover them with a towel that will not touch their surface.  An upturned box would work nicely.