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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


  1. I could almost 'taste them' with your description, must give them a try some day.

  2. Looks very tasty! For sure I'll give it a try; I like seedy, whole grain breads.