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, 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.


  1. Nice experiments and nice post. Here i won't get rye berries.

  2. With the predominance of wheat in our culture, rye is still tricky to find here too. Historically, rye might be older in the human diet than wheat (if we are to believe Hillman and his associates who studied what was eaten in the Euphrates valley in the Holocene.) German bread bakers perfected its use because rye was easier to grow there than wheat during hard times; I just like the taste of it. And of course I'm interested in it because with its lower market share than wheat, the seed companies are less likely to want to change its gene profile (less money in it for them).

    Still, I think that this experiment shows you can use this boiling/soaking/sourdough technique with any grain. The sourdough is necessary for the rye to develop its gluten, but not as necessary for wheat which develops gluten differently. Probably a wheat biga of some kind rather than a wheat sourdough would have worked too.

    Your nice blog ( shows that you have access to lots of other grains, especially rice: perhaps rice can be used the same way I've used the rye and wheat berries here. I've often wondered what soaking the seeds in tomato juice would be like. Perhaps I'll try soaking some boiled rice in tomato juice and put it in a bread sometime! Or you could do it, and let me know how it worked...