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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mildred Orton's Simplest.RyeBread.Recipe.Ever.

Mildred Orton's Straight Dough Rye Bread

Mildred Orton's whole grain bread recipes continue to astonish me.  I skipped over the next-in-the-book, the Cottage Loaf.  I will be making that one, but the next recipe after that one intrigued me more.

I had a look at her Rye Bread recipe, and was intrigued with how simple it appeared.  No preferments.  No sourdoughs.  No long rise.  No overnight dough.  Nothing strange to alter the pH.  This rye bread recipe was the antithesis of just about every rye bread recipe I had ever seen.

The surprises continued when I read the instructions.  She expects me to knead this 100% rye dough?  She doesn't have me put it in a tin?  I can bake it free-form, with steam, on an oven stone?  Unbelievable!

The surprises continued even more when I weighed the ingredients:

Ingredient baker's% Weight
Scalded Milk 103% 498g
Shortening 2.28% 11g
Salt 1.45% 7g
Yeast 3.5% 17g
Water 12% 58g
Sifted Rye Flour 100% 482g

Now, a few words about my measuring of the rye flour.  Mildred would have you sift the rye flour in order to measure it, and then to sift it again when you put it in the (lukewarm) scalded milk mixture.  I only sifted one cup of the rye flour when I was measuring it, and I got 107g.  I merely multiplied that weight by 4 1/2 to get the amount of rye flour that her recipe calls for.  But notice what you get, when you do that: You have a rye bread that, with the milk and water added together, is 114.7% hydrated.  Whoa!  And tell me again, Mildred, how you expect me to knead this?  Without wheat flour?  And you expect me to shape it?  Without a putty knife?

Frankly, I just could not believe it.  And that is when I imagined Mildred standing behind me in a thought bubble, as wise as Yoda, saying, "You fail because you do not believe."

Because I did not believe, I dumped my measured rye flour back into the bin and started over, not sifting it as I measured it.  And this time, because of the settling of the flour into my measuring cups, the weight of the (unsifted) rye flour was 583g.  Now if you take this value as 100%, your hydration value falls to a mere 85%.  Even that, I thought, is going to be extremely challenging to knead and shape.  I mean, we are talking 100% RYE FLOUR.


Scald the milk, with the shortening.

Proof the yeast in the lukewarm water.

As the milk warms to scalding temperatures, the shortening begins to release its fat into the solution.  Take it off the heat and stir in some salt.  Then let it cool to lukewarm (I transferred it to a larger bowl for mixing while it cooled).  More fat seems to surface while the milk cools.

Add the yeast to the milk solution once it is sufficiently lukewarm.

Even though Mildred's recipe is wonderfully succinct, it contains a lot of description as to what the dough mixture is supposed to be like, as you add the sifted rye flour to the scalded milk mixture:   "Add enough to make a stiff but sticky dough, still moist enough to stir with a spoon," she tells us; and "Stir for 4-5 minutes as if you are folding in beaten egg whites."

I sifted the rye flour into the mixture a little bit at a time, until I felt that the spoon had a fair bit of resistance.  I felt that by adding more flour, the dough would become too thick to stir.  So I quit adding it.  

And I measured how much I had left over.  

It was 108g.

Darn near to a sifted cup.

The dough is left in a warm place for a couple of hours, until it is "light".  There is no mention here about doubling.  But it certainly does expand.

Now, after the bulk fermentation stage, you are supposed to dump it out on a floured surface and knead it.  I floured my surface with a fair bit of rye, because she expects you to knead it until it is "springy", and I kept encountering a dough that I would describe with the adjective "gooey".  I added more and more flour to the counter top, and bit-by-bit, lo and behold, it did indeed begin to get "springy".  

I continued to knead (mostly with the scraper, using it to fold the dough over and over on itself) until the dough actually felt like dough and not the same old familiar putty-textured rye slop or glop.  And when I finished, I realized I had added … wait for it...

… guess how much flour?

About a cup.

Needless to say, my admiration for Mildred Orton went up one hundred fold.  I don't know how she did it, but with this recipe, with these ingredients, by golly, it works.  She is a Jedi Master of Whole Grain Bread.  I couldn't be more impressed if I had seen her raise a broken X-wing starfighter out of a swamp with a wave of her hand.

The baking time is quite long (an hour and a half) and with far too much extra time on my hands
 (and with the greatest respect) I made this Mildred Orton as Yoda Picture for this blog.

Now I believe.  

Depending on how you measure it, here are the baker's percentages for the dough I put together.

Ingredient baker's% Weight
Scalded Milk 85% 498g
Shortening 1.88% 11g
Salt 1.2% 7g
Yeast 2.9% 17g
Water 9.9% 58g
Sifted Rye Flour 100% 583g

Now the dough proofs, and doubles.  It was doubled in one hour, but I preheated the oven and stone for 30 minutes after that, so the dough may have actually been a little overproofed.

The final surprises: I was amazed that this rye dough stayed firm when I placed it on the stone from the basket, and scored it.  Baking it at such a low temperature did flatten it out a bit, but not nearly as much as some other high hydration rye breads I've baked.  How did she do that?

Clearly, The Force is strong with this one.

But what about the taste?

Perfectly acceptable.  It is mild flavoured.  I prefer a sourdough rye, a sourdough brings out far more nuances in a rye bread.  But this is nice.  It would complement cheese, or jam.  Plain or toasted.  It's good.

I must admit that I did not wait until the next day to slice this open.  I needed bread today, and I got bread today.  I figured, Mildred has broken all the other "rules" with this rye loaf, why not see if it can be sliced as soon as it is entirely cool, instead of waiting til the next day like you are 'supposed to'.  And this loaf, about 6 hours after I made it, is incredibly moist.  The crust is moist, the crumb is moist -- without being the slightest bit gooey.  

Good girl, Mildred.

Notes to Myself
  • Believe Mildred Orton. She knows whereof she speaks.
  • What effect does the shortening have on the whole? When scalding the milk, the blob of shortening does not melt except with lots of stirring. Only when leaving it sit until lukewarm after the scalding does the milk show a lot of fat globules on the surface. What does this doe to the milk? How does it help the structure of the dough, how does it provide that little bit of extra support that the rye dough requires? I don't like using shortening, because of the trans-fats. But I just can't imagine anything else that would perform similarly. Would an egg, for example, provide some fat that would help a bread and give it a certain amount of firmness? Her description says that the dough gets stirred/folded like you are adding egg whites. What if you DID add egg whites -- instead of the shortening? How the shortening, the small amount that gets added, is so absolutely vital to this bread is quite a mystery to me.
  • In the next few days I'm going to be trying other grains (triticale, spelt) in bread. If those recipes (a mere 68% hydration) don't work out, I'm going to try this recipe with them. This recipe is simple enough that it can make a very good bread in a single rise, with a very high hydration.
  • You are using too much yeast.  One packet of yeast (I noticed later when I went to the supermarket to buy something else) is not 17g, but is 8g.  Next time, bake this with 8g of yeast.
  • What if you used sourdough instead of yeast?  Sure, a longer rising time might be the result.  Or not.  But I am sure that the flavour -- good as it is -- would improve.

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