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Monday, May 21, 2012

Baking Day in May: Several Breads

Baking Day in May

My wife is away, and I have the whole kitchen to myself.  It is amazing how much of a mess I can make on my own, when no one's looking.  Especially when I'm baking.  I required some loaves to get me through the weekend -- I was working this Friday, Saturday and Sunday of our 'Holiday May 2-4 weekend', and my long shifts left me with little time to fiddle with recipes when I got home.  So I made Thursday my "Baking Day in May".

I made several loaves, but if you just want to see what I consider the most interesting, and best one, skip to #2: Sumac and Sesame Whole Wheat Wild yeast loaf

One of the loaves actually came out of the oven the previous night (Wednesday), but it is a 100% rye, so I've waited until Thursday to slice it -- thus, I think of it as a loaf from 'baking day' too.  Let's start with that one, and list what I've baked:

1. A 100% Rye loaf.
The dough was mixed when I got home following a night shift.  I was thinking that I might make a 100% rye bread with some rye sourdough I had elaborated from my whole wheat culture the day before.
I had in the back of my mind the idea that I would like to try my recent high-hydration sandwich loaf recipe using 100% rye, since it worked so well with whole wheat.  But I must have been overtired.  I realized after mixing the dough that I'd messed it up.  I used 400g of starter, and 700g of rye.  And rye doesn't stretch and fold like wheat does. After a couple of tries, I realized it wouldn't work, and I was too tired to stay awake any longer, so I just let the dough sit in the tin, and baked it when I woke up in the afternoon.

As usual with rye loaves, one ought to wait a day before slicing them.  I waited half a day, and the inside is still a bit gummy.  Mild taste.  This loaf has promise, but I still haven't mastered the 100% rye loaf.  Does it need a hotter oven?  Longer time baking?  I wouldn't mind a darker crumb, in fact I'd like it: but I don't want a burnt crust.  I have a lot to learn about 100% rye loaves.

2. A 100% Whole Wheat loaf with Sumac and Sesame seeds
There are lots of recipes online that one can find for flatbreads spiced with sumac and za'atar.  This is not from those recipes.  I had been thinking since last autumn that it might be nice to add some sumac to a bread. The bright red fuzzy sumac candles make a tasty lemonade when added to water, and I was hoping that the colour might give a bread a reddish tinge, and an interesting flavour.  But the one friend who I share my bread with dissuaded me from collecting the sumac berries, telling me that it probably wasn't a great idea for bread.  That stopped me last autumn.  But then last week when I was getting some spices together for some other bread, I noticed they were selling sumac, and it had such an interesting scent, I bought some.

This bread contains only about 2% sumac (21g).  The sesame seeds were an afterthought, and the sesames made the dough extra tight at 75% hydration.  I kept thinking I should have gone up to 85% hydration for these loaves, because the dough didn't stretch easily.  I think that the sesame seeds just soaked up a lot of the water.

I am told that za'atar has sesame seeds in it, along with other herbs, so this combination tasted interesting together.  The taste is predominately sesame, but there is a tangy finish to eating this bread that I find very interesting.  The bread itself is not sour, but the sumac gives it something extra.  It didn't make the crumb red like I supposed, though.

Sumac and Sesame Seed Whole Wheat Wild Yeast Bread
 This was the best bread of the lot.  I'm giving one of these to that friend who originally poo-poo'd my idea back in the fall.

3. A 70% Whole Wheat, 30% Rye bread
My everyday bread lately.  I took one of these loaves with me to yoga, the girls in the class have been curious about the bread I make, and have asked for a taste of it.

After the Shavasana and meditation, I sliced a loaf and let them try it with some very old cheddar.  I don't think any one was terribly hungry after our yoga set, but everyone politely tried some and they all said it was good.

One of the yogin said I can make her a loaf any time.  Yes, I find I can give my bread away to anyone, at least once.

4. A Dill Seed Bread

Here was another experiment with my recent Sandwich loaf recipe.  This was just whole wheat, but I added 2 TBSP of dill seed, which came to 12g.  The starter I used was 3 days old, and probably should have been tossed, but I wondered if the extra sour flavour would go well with dill.

I put the dough in the larger pan, not expecting it to fill the pan or rise too high.  Indeed, this is a pretty flat loaf.  The slices smell wonderful (if you like dill as I do) -- almost buttery (or was that the buttery scent from what I lined the tin with?) -- but the crumb is a bit gummy.  It could have used another 10 minutes in the oven, perhaps.  I like it anyway, toasted.  It is not sour enough.

5. Extra Dough

I also mixed up some other dough: some for pizza, some for other bread I might need if I end up giving away too much.  This didn't get used all weekend and makes up the next posting's question and experiment:

How long can Tartine Dough sit in the fridge before being used?  The 5 min/day bread people keep their dough in the fridge for up to a week or more at a time.  Does this work for sourdough too?

6. A second try at Dill Seed Bread

After yoga class, I also mixed up a stiff starter, so that I could try making another 'Dill Seed Bread' (since the last one smelled interesting but was obviously under-baked).  In addition to the 2 TBSP of dill seed (this time measured at 18g) I also added 2 TBSP of celery seed (17g). This time I decided to try a different method. Jim Lahey puts a fairly high hydration dough out for 18 hours, letting the gluten develop on its own.  Would that work for my dough?  Rather than do all the folds that I supposed were so necessary to the recipe, I would do one fold after adding the salt and dill, and then put it right away into the tin.  The tin would be left covered and refrigerated overnight (about 7 hours), and then baked in the morning while I got ready for work.

In the morning, when I took the tin out of the fridge, it looked like it had not risen much; but by the time the oven was preheated, the loaf looked a little expanded, and afterward there was even some nice oven spring.  All the same, I left this loaf in the oven an extra 6 minutes, because the last couple of tinned loaves were a bit gummy on the inside.  Verdict: still a bit gummy, but better than the last attempt.  I can't really taste the celery seed, except to note that the dill scent is not as strong now.  Curious.

Gee that was fun.  Yeah, it's like a party when the wife is away.  I'm such a party animal.  Now to get that kitchen clean before she gets back.

Notes to Myself
  • When you make a 100% rye bread, try a much longer time in the oven, even up to an hour; for the last 20 minutes, perhaps you can cover the bread with foil so the top doesn't burn.  What you want to have happen is the moist crumb has to be heated entirely through and through.  For that to happen, you need more time (I'm guessing).
  • When you make a bread with seeds (like sesame seeds, or dill seeds, as I've done here), you can expect to use a higher hydration, because the seeds will take up some of your water and expand.  This is one reason why some people roast the seeds (another reason is for a stronger, different, arguably better-tasting flavour) before adding them to dough -- once roasted, they won't take on as much water (I'm guessing).  The original size of the seeds will probably determine how much extra hydration you will require.  Here, the dill seeds don't require a lot more water, but the sesame seeds swelled up and took on more water.  Would they have benefited perhaps from a presoaking?
  • Sumac as a spice: here's the wiki, and here's the info from the bulk barn.  Note that sumac is fairly high in sodium, so perhaps if you're going to use a lot of it, you might have to reduce the salt in the bread.
  • Za'atar: here's the wiki, which tells us how to make it with sesame seeds, and the herbs oregano, basil, thyme, and savory.


  1. When you bake a 100% rye sourdough try to cover the loaf(with a similar pan) for the first 20 minutes (480-490F).It will rise in the oven(yours rye bread seems to rise too much/long before baking) and won't burn. Then bake another 20 minutes at 460-470F, and for the last 20 minutes remove the loaf from the pan and reduce the temperature to 400F.
    It works in my gas oven in NY, but when I've been trying to bake a rye sourdough in the electric oven in Europe this method didn't work at all.The breads looked great outside and was completely raw inside. I was so disappointed and angry. The sourdough worked great, dough looked the same way as always - but I had to throw away the breads. I hate wasting flour, my time and energy.

  2. Thanks for the tips. It is worth a try. Sounds like 100% rye is always a bit of hit-and-miss, though. An hour-long bake but with an oven that is gently cooling over that time: however did you hit on that method? I'm going to look into this some more.