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, September 30, 2011

Variations on Shöner's Korntaler

Variations on Shöner's Korntaler

This is the first time I've made a version of Nils Schöner's "Korntaler", which he calls "The perfect 'Abendbrot'".  I would eat this any time of day.

What is a korntaler?
I'm not sure how to translate "Korntaler".  Korn is grain, but what is taler?  Is this referring to the coins, taler?  If so, maybe it means "Grain money".  I am reminded of the short fable by the Brother's Grimm, "Sterntaler", or Star money.

In that story, the first thing that the poor little girl gave away was her bread.  If she had kept the bread instead, she never would have received the star money, but if it was a bread like this one, at least she would be wealthy in grain! 
This picture of the poor little girl in Sterntaler is by Tera Grasser. 
Stop by her blog Tera's Art and see her art.
As I've mentioned in previous blogs, it is difficult on this side of the pond to make authentic German style loaves from authentic German bread recipes, because our flour is so different.  Furthermore, my interest is in whole grains, so any bread recipe I might find I would still like to try to transform into a whole grain version anyway.  So what I'll end up with is not going to be anything like the original, and won't be authentic to anyone.  But hey: I really just have to feed myself.  Others can take it or leave it.  I pretty much take as a given that, with in all this translation involved in any given recipe, I'll end up with something that probably few other people would want to eat.

Two Variations
I've made two different doughs here: one that uses all purpose flour as Nils' "Strong white flour", and another that ignores that ingredient entirely and uses whole wheat flour wherever Nils calls for strong white flour -- including in the sourdough build.

I've scaled the recipe so that each dough gives me two loaves -- with 1000g of main flour ingredients -- so that I can more easily compare it to the Tartine breads that I have been baking recently.  So lets have a look at the difference in methods between the two breads:

First, the sourdough build is substantially larger in Nils' dough when compared to Tartine's.  Instead of the Tartine 200g of wild yeast starter at 100% hydration, this Korntaler dough is 499g, at 60% hydration.  It sits at room temperature for 14-18 hours, which is perhaps a bit longer than the Tartine wild yeast starter that I refresh daily (which is ready in about 8 hours these days, at the cooler temperatures of our early fall settle in).  I made two sourdough builds, one with all-purpose and one with whole wheat.  Both were successful.  The whole wheat starter was more expansive, more voluminous (perhaps it didn't require that length of time), but the ap starter was gooier and more glutenous.
preparing the sourdough builds

Each dough had exactly the same ingredients for the soybean-seed mixture.  I would like to try this same mixture in a regular Tartine Country Loaf someday, I'll bet it would be great.  I boiled, dried and toasted the soybeans the night before, and while I was doing that, I measured all the other ingredients for the next day's baking.  The whole process took about an hour, but it substantially reduced the amount of time required for mixing on baking day.

preparing the soybeans

Mis en place: ingredients

three flours for the one with "strong white flour" (I used all purpose)

two flours for the whole grain version

LEFT: white version
RIGHT: Wholegrain version

The dough recipe calls for a hydration of 73.5%-88.2% (not counting the sourdough build), so I started with the lower amount.  As with the Tartine bread, I added the salt after a short autolyse of about 30 minutes.  And I could tell that I'd need the whole amount of water, so I added it with the salt at that time.  Even at 88.2% hydration, this dough was not super-duper wet.  It was soft, but not as soupy as I thought it would be.

gooey at first

before the salt

at the 30 minute mark of bulk fermentation

at the 60 minute mark of bulk fermentation

I think that the Tartine methods (of adding the seed mixtures on the second turn) would have improved the gluten structure of the bread; but because Schöner's  methods don't have nearly as long a bulk fermentation time (doesn't require it probably because the sourdough build is so much larger), there wouldn't be time enough for a second turn.  I added the soybean seed mixture to the original flour mixture, as Nils does.  Because of this, the dough seemed to tear a bit (both doughs tore apart rather than stretched, but of course, the whole wheat dough was worse).  But the hydration was high enough that I could smooth over any tears.

I was a bit startled by how much salt there was in the dough, 2.9% by my calculation.  But it actually requires it: after all, the sourdough build is quite large.  In fact, as I eat my first few slices with cheese, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe 2.9% is even enough.  Perhaps it is the roasted soybeans that seem to cry out for more salt, who knows?

So with a bulk fermentation of only one hour, instead of Tartine's 4 hours, I assumed that this dough would barely get a chance to "luft".  But in that time, and with only one fold, the dough did in fact get a bit airier.  I divided the dough, gave it a bench rest, shaped it as best I could, and set it in floured baskets.  The shaping was a bit problematic: this is a very gooey dough, which reminds me more of rye than of wheat.  One doesn't really get a gluten cloak that traps in the tightly wound strands of protein and fibre so much as a rheological stasis, a concentration of ingredients that is bound together by mere stickiness.  Still, I did my best.

Shaping the white loaves

Shaping the whole grain loaves

The final fermentation is 3-5 hours.  Since I had just come home from working a night shift, I fell asleep and set my clock to wake me up after 4 1/2 hours; that meant that the first dough (the one with white ap flour) got baked at 5 hours, but the dough with whole wheat flour took a bit longer while waiting its turn in the oven.

I used the Dutch ovens to bake these loaves, the same way I would a Tartine loaf.  The difference was in the time and oven temperatures.  Nils' recipe calls for 240 degrees C (464 degrees F) for 15 minutes, then 210 degrees C (410 degrees F) for 45 minutes (I took the lid off at the 15 minute mark).  Compare this to the 40 minutes total for the Tartine loaves, with the lid on for 20 minutes, then off for 20 minutes, at the higher temperature of 450 degrees throughout.

I'm happy with these loaves.  One of the white loaves went into the pan crooked, so baked unevenly, so it came out misshapen.  That's okay.  I was going to give one to my mother-in-law, so I guess she'll get the good one.  I just need one to examine the crumb and compare it to the whole grain version that I'll be eating.

The crust is a little bit tough, and a bit chewy, but it certainly is tasty.  There are crunchy, roasted moments when eating this bread.

Crumb of the Whole Wheat variation

Crumb of the AP variation

The loaves are dense and didn't have any oven spring.  I think that this could be improved if the soybean-seed mixture is added on the second turn.

UPDATE: My mother-in-law refuses to try the bread.  She can't eat beans.  It causes a flare-up of her gout, she says.  Oh well, maybe she can try the next Schöner loaf that I bake.

Notes to Myself

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ww, quinoa, spelt and rye raisin walnut bread

ww, quinoa, spelt and rye raisin walnut bread

Ah, walnuts.  It is that time of year again, when the fragrant nuts are falling.  I find them underfoot when I'm out walking the dog.  The bruised green husks are drying up, or rotting.  I lift the odd one to my nose and inhale the scent.  Careful: don't let the husk actually touch your nose, or it will paint your nose brown.  And brown is not typically a great colour for noses.

I have fond memories of collecting bags full of walnuts for my father-in-law.  He would, every fall, plant some in an effort to get some of the seedlings to grow.  He loved working with walnut wood, and planted trees that he knew he would not live to harvest.  Usually the biggest problem was the squirrels, who followed right behind him and dug up the nuts.  One year we tried placing a screen over where we had buried the nuts, but the squirrels dug right through it.  It never deterred him from trying again the next year.

There is a Canadian animated short film that made the rounds many long years ago, that deeply affected me, and reminds me of my father-in-law: The Man who Planted Trees, based on the short story by Jean Giono.

The actual movie "The Man Who Planted Trees" can be watched online here

Synopsis: An old man carefully selects a number of nuts every day before his walk, and places each of them in a hole in the ground.  After decades of unending toil, the groves that result provide recreation and joy for many humans and animals. 

My brother-in-law, a graduate of Guelph Agricultural University, says that the film is utterly implausible.  But that never stopped him from planting walnuts with his father, nor from transplanting some of the seedlings that did grow, nor from working with walnut wood himself.

With every bite of this walnut-filled bread, I will remember my father-in-law as the man who planted walnut trees.

Here are the numbers for this raisin walnut bread, in percentages.  Walnuts and raisins are given in grams.

  • ww 50
  • quinoa 20
  • spelt 20
  • rye 10
  • wild yeast @100% hydration 20
  • salt 1.9
  • water 75
  • walnuts 107g (11)
  • raisins 185g (19)
  • golden flax seeds (a sprinkling)

Method: A la' Tartine: i.e. mix dough, let it rest and then add salt and 5% of the water.  Fold during bulk fermentation x 3 hours, Q30min.  Add walnuts and raisins on 2nd turn.  Divide, bench rest, then form and proof in baskets overnight in fridge.  Bake 40 minutes in an Iron Dutch Oven at 450 degrees, the first half with the lid on.

This dough was a pleasure to work with.  It seemed really slack at first, but it was silky-gooey.  I wondered if it was the quinoa that was so sticky on my fingers.  But I wet my hands with water at each turn, and it helped.  Indeed, as the bulk fermentation progressed, the gooeyness ceased, the gluten strengthened and the dough became somewhat firmer.  The feel from beginning to end was substantially different.

The taste is great.  Strange how the crust was so much improved by just a few of those golden flax seeds on the top.  They add a distinct toasted flavour, and offset the sweetness of the loaf's raisins in the crisp crust.  The walnuts add something special -- of course, they turn the surrounding dough purple (you can't detect it so much in the digital photos, unfortunately).  This is just how many walnuts there were in a small package that I bought at a local store: there is really no need to fill the bread up with so many nuts you taste walnuts in every bite, as in the official Tartine bread that contains walnuts.  Who needs too much juglone anyway?

A very nice bread indeed.  There are lots of different textures here to consider as you chew.  I like it with cheese, or with nothing but a little butter.  It toasts well too.

Notes to Myself

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A couple of whole wheat and "00" breads

Whole wheat and "00" breads

I had some "00" flour that I bought on a whim when I was last in Ottawa, and I decided to make a Tartine country loaf with it for my sweetie, with 70% "00" and 30% whole wheat flours; but I also made a couple of loaves for myself, with 70% whole wheat, and 30% "00" flour.  I've added salt at the first turn, and at the second turn, I've added 80g of Sesame Seeds (unlike the official Tartine sesame bread, I haven't toasted the sesames).  So the two breads, in terms of ingredients, are somewhat symmetrical.  I'm using a kg of each flour, its just that each dough is lopsided to the different end of the whole grain equation.

I became curious about the"00" flour as I used it, and did a bit of research on it.  It is as fine as talc, and it has a protein percentage of 9.5%.  I found it kind of expensive, but I bought it just to see what it was like.

It comes to us in Canada from Italy, from the Divella company (google-translated here).  The Divello family started the company about 120 years ago in Rutogliano, a central city in Apulia.  The Apulian region is the breadbasket of Italy, where Durham wheat has long been grown.  It was here in 1890 that Francesco Divella, a wheat trader, decided to build the first of his Durum wheat mills.  About a decade later, he also built the first of his pasta factories.  Today, the company is run by another Divello (a fourth generation Divello: is he also named Francesco?  or is it Vincenzo?), who is the great grandson of the company's founder.  In addition to flour, and 140 different pastas, the company processes a great deal of vegetables that go great with pasta, and now they have begun to make biscuits and cookies.  The company is not publicly traded.  It remains in the family.  It's motto is "Quality above all." 

In terms of Italian pasta manufacturers, Divello is nowhere near the largest.  It has captured only 6.5% of the Italian market.  But they have grown through exports, and now they are in 80 countries around the world, and their cash-flow is respectable at 300 million Euros per annum.  That pales when you place it beside the larger pasta manufacturers of Italy of course: Barilla, founded in 1877, now handles 4.2 billion Euros annually and sits in the number one position; following on its heals are Buitoni, founded in 1827 in Tuscany, and DeCecco, founded in 1886. Like the rest, Voiello was also started as a family-owned and operated business; but now Barilla owns it. And Buitoni is now owned by Nestles.

Divello is quite proud of its product.  They are passionate about pasta, and concerned about using the best ingredients and methods for it.  And Italians in general are proud of their long tradition with pasta.  They are quick to point out that Marco Polo did not bring pasta back with him from China, that there is evidence that it was already here before he got back.  But the time-margins of that evidence are slim, and it seems clear that China had it long before Italy.  It is simply that Italy perfected it, using their local ingredients.  Now, the famous Mediterranean diet is intriguing the world with its healthy properties.  The Italian diet wasn't always so healthy, as the book "Garlic and Oil: Food and Politics in Italy" by Carol Helstosky points out.  But the efforts of companies like Divello seem to have made an impact.  I gather that Francesco Divella has also delved into politics (he is a congressman in the FLI party -- which seems to be somewhat of a right-wing reaction to the Berlusconi scandals, and an attempt to put ethics back into politics.  The FLI has only been around since Feb 2011, and as of now it seems as if its future as a party is still in flux).  Helstosky points out that political will has been necessary to change the diet of Italians for the better, too.

I found it interesting to learn that the Apulian region no longer grows enough Durham wheat to feed Italy -- so Italy is now a net importer of grain.  I believe they get some from Canada, and some from the U.S., and they mix it all together to make their flour a standard quality.


The 70% Whole Wheat and 30% "00" dough worked up easily and the bread  tastes great.

The 70% "00" flour, with 30% Whole Wheat made a really nice crumb, and tasted fine too.  It was a hit with friends and family that I gave it to.

Notes to Myself
  • While making this bread, and thinking about pasta, and using the "00" flour, it got me curious about making pasta from my own sourdough. My first attempts were disastrous, but I may learn enough to eventually blog about it.  Here is my starting point for the next attempt.
  • What is the first thing that one thinks about when one hears about a successful, family-owned, world-wide Italian business? I'm afraid that the first thing that comes to my mind is the Mafia. (Or rather, as the Apulian version of the crime network is known, "Sacra Corona Unita",  or SCU )

    The fact that the Divello family is by all appearances religious (as the article in "Famiglia Cristiana" (Google translation here) shows) is not immediately going to change my first impression of a successful Italian company -- after all, there is a religious element to the SCU as well.

    I have no evidence that this company is involved in organized crime. But one wonders how an agricultural processing business could become successful in that time and region without encountering the SCU, or rubbing shoulders with it somewhere along the line. I would imagine a business such as Divello would attract organized crime, if for no other reason than that Divello could easily handle some of its smuggling.  But this is all pure conjecture on my part.

    I found only a brief mention of Divella in a news article regarding price fixing (going back to 2007), but using Google Translate I can only get a glimpse of the lawsuits that took place. It seems, however, that Divella was accused, along with 29 other Italian pasta companies, of price fixing.  Divella was the only company that launched a counter suit against the Competition Authority (presumably because its good name was besmirched?) but apparently it lost the case.

    It is a shame that I have immediately drawn the conclusion of the stereotype.  It is a shame that I did not simply think that the secret of Divello's success is hard work, investment in appropriate technology and a quality product.  It seems that Divello really
    is working hard, world-wide, to change that stereotype of the Italian Mafioso with all the smuggling and money laundering that goes with it -- the first thing that leapt to my mind.  Divello is exporting a quality product, which should eventually change the stereotype, drawn from fear, of the Mafia -- Italy's infamous export.  For that, I will give Divello credit, and until proved otherwise, the benefit of the doubt.  Good luck, Divello!