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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Variations on Firtig's Caraway Rye

A Quick Rye based on Firtig's Caraway Rye

Scheduling Bread

I find I tend to gravitate toward no-knead breads, for convenience, when I only have a couple of days off work: the first day off, I am often physically and emotionally exhausted, and just need to catch up on my sleep and other bad habits.  I simply don't have the energy to mix up ingredients.  The next day, I can bake bread: but by then, it is generally too late to build a sourdough or let a biga soak, etc., before I have to return again to work.  And that means, making a Reinhart style bread in those two days I'm off, is not going to work.  There are times when I have 3 days off in a row, and making those (better) breads is going to work; but if I only have 2 days off, I have trouble fitting his recipes in with my schedule.

I think that today, in addition to this no-knead loaf, I will also try setting aside the ingredients for one of his loaves that will not get made for several more days: I will try to bake it on my next "first day off" from ingredients I put together today (my "last day off before working again").

Today's No-Knead Bread

But for today, so I am certain I'll have some bread to take with me to work this weekend, I'll bake a no-knead bread.  The base ingredients and methods for this rye bread came from Judith Fertig's book, "200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads", a book that I have had for a long time but haven't used much.  The recipes in this book are all mostly just variations on a theme, and all of them have unbleached bread flour, none of them are (completely) whole grain.

Ingredients are slightly altered

For this recipe, I have just swapped out the bread flour for some whole wheat flour, not doing any further adjustments in how much liquid I add.  Let's see how the recipe performs without tweaking it any further than that.

Curiously, the measurements are all cups and millilitres: it seems rather strange to be measuring flour and other ingredients by volume rather than weight, but that is what Fertig does.  Here, I have ignored the volume measures and have used the cup measurements, weighing ingredients as I went.  Here is what I got (your mileage may vary).

  •    697g Whole Wheat flour
    •    257g Rye flour
    •    22g Yeast
    •    15g Caraway Seeds
    •    15g Kosher salt
    •    115g Molasses
    •    723g Lukewarm water

The other innovation I made on the recip: I added

    •    1 cup of rye kernels (181g dry weight),

that were pressure cooked for 25 minutes (the whole process, with our blasted whirlpool stove, took 50 minutes).  I should have measured the cooked kernels before adding them to the mixture, but I didn't think of it.

The recipe uses Caraway Seeds, which my wife hates, so I guess this bread is going to be for me alone.  She has actually been buying bread lately, so I'm not going to worry about her tastes too much anymore.  Every time she buys bread to eat, it is a commentary on how inedible she finds my loaves.  It is only when I bake with all-purpose flour that she likes it.  But she knows I'm trying to find a different way: I so very rarely use all-purpose flour any more in my breads.  This has to be a conscious effort, and it is always an uphill battle, because breads are so much easier and nicer looking with bread flour and all-purpose flours.  You really have to insist on whole grain if you believe in it (and for me, the jury is still out), or it just ain't gonna happen.

Method is Slightly Altered

As per the instructions, I mixed the dry ingredients, warmed the wet ingredients, and when my rye kernels were fresh from the pressure cooker, I mixed them into the water mixtures and added it all to the dry flour mixture.  When this mixture is fully moistened, I was supposed to move it to a bowl and do about 40 stretch and folds.

At this point, my mother phoned: I had only done about 5 stretch and folds.  After talking with her for a couple of minutes, I asked her to wait, did a couple more stretch and folds, and set it back into a container for its 2 hour rise by the hearth.  Then I picked up the conversation with my mom.  So I didn't give it as many stretch and folds as I might have otherwise.

before bulk fermentation

30 minutes

60 minutes

The dough rose nicely and rapidly.  So rapidly, in fact, that after 1 hour (rather than the 2 specified), I decided to try and set it in a basket for the final proofing.  I lined a basket with a cloth and some flour, and tried my best to stretch and fold this goo before setting it to rest.  This is extremely moist dough, and probably would have been better off in a tin than to try and make a free-form loaf from it.

end of bulk fermentation

It is at this point that I decided to figure out the percentages: how hydrated is this dough, anyway?  And what percentage of rye is the loaf?  These are things that Fertig should have told us.  Why is it such a big secret?

    •    total flour weight: 954g
    •    total ratio of rye to whole wheat by percentage: 27% : 73%
    •    total water by percentage:  76%
    •    total molasses by percentage: 12%
    •    total ratio of all hydration to all flour: 88% : 100%

So this (nearly) 1/3 rye is (almost) 90% hydrated.  No wonder I had some trouble gathering up the dough to put it into a basket. 

Likely it will be a very flat, free-form loaf.

A loaf only a crusty baker could love.

very moist dough, pretty tricky to stretch and fold: extravagant gooeyness.

basketed for the final proofing


Thirty minutes into the proofing, and I was in trouble.  For one thing, the dough was climbing out of the basket.  I did scrape some dough off, which probably negatively affected the bread, but it couldn't be helped.  I set that smaller amount in another smaller basket to proof.  It was either that, or scrape it up off the floor.

dough climbing out of basket on the hearth

turned into 2 loaves.

More importantly, my mom & dad were now coming for lunch, and my wife needed the oven just when I thought I might require it.  This dough had to sit longer than I thought it might require.  I decided that I would retard it in the refrigerator (or rather, because our fridge is currently full, I would put it out into our very cold garage).  That might slow things down until I could use it.  It might also help firm up the dough, so it would retain its shape while it baked on a hot stone.


My wife gave me another idea.  I knew that this loaf was going to spread sideways as soon as it hit the hot stone in the oven.  I thought I might use something to shore up the sides, and I was looking at a plastic ring that she uses for cold cake flans.  With alarm, she told me I couldn't use that -- surely it would melt in oven temperatures -- but that I might try some foil instead. 

Hmmm.  A Foil Dam (patent pending).  That just might work  I would have to make a foil dam (patent pending) just larger than the basket, and hope that it would contain my high hydrated dough just long enough for the interior to set.  Worth a try.

I made myself a foil dam (patent pending) by wrapping it around a similarly sized basket.  I baked the first loaf for 30 minutes with this home-made foil dam (patent pending) at 450 degrees F., and another 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.
foil dam, patent pending
The second loaf got about 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.  As predicted, the loaf did not rise well; but the foil dam (patent pending) did seem to contain the loaf from spreading sideways.  Clever girl.

the dough on the hot stone, surrounded by foil dam (patent pending)

I can smell the caraway in the freshly baked bread.  I'll crack into this loaf tomorrow when I'm making a lunch to take with me for work.  When it cools, I'll knock some of that extra flour off, outside in the snow.

I sliced up part of the small loaf, the next morning.  It is baked evenly, and it has a scent and flavouring of caraway.  Without that spice, it probably would be fairly tasteless.  I had an end piece with a bit of havarti cheese, and a larger middle slice with some native chokecherry jam.  I found the bread complemented each nicely.  Because of the caraway, I doubt if my wife will eat this.  Too bad: she might otherwise like it.

Crumb of the bread made in a foil dam

Notes to Myself
  • No, there is no real "patent pending" on the foil dam idea.  It's a joke.
  • No doubt the flavour of this loaf would improve if you were to refrigerate it; or better yet, use sourdough to raise it, not the commercialized yeast.  But this is a FAST loaf.
  • I think I would try 30 minutes for a whole grain like rye in a pressure cooker, at the quantities I used (1 cup of grain to 3 cups of water).
  • I kept the boiled rye water for use in the next bread.  Probably contains some vitamins and minerals and flavours that would be hard to get any other way: I'll plop it in my next rye bread.

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