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, June 28, 2012

Chasing the Elusive Maester Crust of a half-rye, half-ww Loaf

My attempt at making a light 50:50 Plain Rye
It's nothing like Burdan's 50:50 Plain Rye

I hear about Red Cat Farm: Passion Bread
My mother-in-law called to tell me that the London German Club's newsletter had reported that there was a real German baker in the Goderich area.  Not only was she excited for me -- she knows of my interest in bread -- she was also excited at the prospects of tasting authentic German bread again.  She told me she would save the newsletter for me to read the next time I saw her.

I was too curious to wait to read it and began checking the Internet for more info.  I found the German Club newsletter article she mentioned (English version, a poor translation), as well as a May 11 2010 news piece from the Goderich SignalStar newspaper, and another feature essay from a food critic of EatDrink magazine.  Christian Burdan the Master Baker from Germany also garnered a brief note in Huron's Small Business Newsletter for May 2010.  And Burdan's Red Cat Farm Bakery is mentioned in  "Ontario's West Coast Vacation Guide" magazine for 2011, on p.78, and for 2012 on p. 79 .  The business has a facebook page, so interested friends can keep up with current events.  In 2010, the baker also did some bread baking workshops, as reported in the 2010 Taste Of Huron Event Guide.  I was saddened to see that his workshop was no longer being offered.  I missed it.

It was obvious that Christian Burdan's bread had caught the attention of several people and groups already.  I was impressed with the fact that it was said he makes organic healthy breads.  Furthermore, Christian wanted to grow his own grain to ensure its organic integrity, and have it milled locally.  This was a man passionate about bread.

A road trip was in order.  First chance we got, my wife and I traveled north of Goderich to find Christian Burdan's Red Cat Farm Bakery.  It was late in the day, and unfortunately we did not get to meet Christian, who was still asleep, resting up for his night of baking.  However, we did meet his wife Sophie, and she kindly took the time to show us around.  We purchased a few rolls and a couple of loaves of bread.  We would share them with my mother-in-law when we got home.  I asked for some pretzels too, but somehow in all the conversation they didn't find their way into our bags when we left.  Guess now I'll just have to go back.

The Oven
I was frankly baffled by Burdan's huge double oven, which dominates the bakery.  By all reports and from the look of his specially-made oven, he uses gas flamethrowers to blast heat sideways at the interior firebricks surrounding the loaves as the fully proofed loaves are put in the oven.  The inner firebricks retain the heat, and the loaves bake from the radiant heat of the bricks as the oven gently cools.

The oven

This, as well as his ability to control the steam in the oven, has an interesting effect on his crust, making it uniquely thin.  Most artisan bakers are trying to extend the length of time it takes for a crust to form, which gives the gas within the dough cells an opportunity to expand to their fullest.  From everything else I've read, most bakers will do almost anything to delay the formation of crust, so the bread will rise dramatically.

But the pamphlet that Christian has in his bakery, and the articles written about him, discuss how Burdan likes to have his crust fully formed in 15 minutes, which allows the loaves to retain maximum flavour.  This is an entirely new concept for me.  My own experience is limited, of course, but I've never seen this idea presented before.  (Most scientific articles don't discuss loss of flavour, they discuss the loss of mass during baking -- of course, this would be of more concern for mechanized loaf production).

I once read somewhere that most home ovens will fully form a bread's crust in 10 minutes, and because of that it is difficult to get enough expansion of home-baked loaves.  The problem of the home baker is that the crust will darken long before the interior of the bread is properly baked.  A number of ad hoc solutions have been proposed to keep the interior of the home oven full of steam or high humidity, so that the crust of the loaf doesn't entirely dry out before it expands to its fullest.  Home bakers are really just trying to duplicate the conditions of a traditional brick oven, fired by wood.  My understanding is that Christian's oven can be fired by wood, coal or gas.

The visit to Red Cat Farm Bakery had me researching many scientific articles, and even doing a few experiments of my own to try to appreciate what Burdan is accomplishing.  Part of my research was because I wanted to learn about crust.  You might say his loaves inspired me.




A selection of some of Christian Burdan's breads, late in the day.
Not all are 'German' but they are all 'European' in style.

Burdan's 50:50 Rye:Wheat loaf
I was frankly disappointed that Burdan had no German Vollkorn Bread -- although it being late in the day, he may have been sold out.  I don't even know if he bakes it.  And I was a bit disheartened that he had some obviously white-bread loaves (e.g. a French Bread, and an Italian Loaf), not at all in keeping with what I had assumed was his determination to make healthful loaves.  Where are the whole grain loaves?  But when I later read the pamphlet we picked up in the bakery, I noted that it contains a lot of educatory material: he is trying to explain the benefits of sourdough and wholesome ingredients to what is essentially a rustic southern Ontario population ("Sourdough does NOT mean Sour Bread! It means "Healthy Bread"!).  I detect behind the words a tiny bit of frustration.  People are going to buy what they know, and will be suspicious of bread that is darker, or full of whole, unmilled grains, or stuff that takes effort to chew.  People won't even try a bread that is too unfamiliar.  They'll stick with the tasteless, cheap, leaves-you-hungry extruded dough machine-formed loaves with the paper-thin waxy crust, full of dangerous ingredients, rather than try a more expensive hand-made true whole-grain loaf, that will leave them satisfied.  That's the way it is, in rural Canada, in the year 2012.  I suppose that like most bakers, Burdan has to make the best loaves he can sell.  If he can't sell them, he might as well be a home baker, like me.  And that means white bread, because unfortunately that's what (most) people want, it is all they know.  That means processed flour.   That means not whole grain.  He calls it organic, so it is indeed the very best ingredients, and it is all within the letter of the law, but I am still left frustrated when I can't get whole grains without making it myself.

One of the breads we bought and shared with my mother-in-law was what Burdan calls a "German Rye Plain": a 50% rye and 50% wheat loaf, with a lovely thin, flexible tawny coloured crust (the loaves on the third shelf down in the picture above).

I want to say only nice things about Burdan's bakery, because I appreciate what he is trying to do.  So I want to go on record here and say that it is not fair for me to zero in on just one of Christian Burdan's loaves, purchased at the end of the day, and the end of the week, and make any sort of critique or statement about his bread or abilities as a baker.  That's absurd.  But I want to talk about this particular bread, because that is what I first experienced, and this loaf intrigued me.  And though I'm discussing Burdan's bread a little, this is mostly a blog about my own bread, so eventually I'll be blabbing on more about my own loaves than his.  And I'll be writing about what I've learned about bread after examining and trying his loaves, and thinking about how it was made.

I have no idea when this loaf of his was baked, but I have to admit that to me it seemed a bit stale.  And stale bread lacks flavour -- which seemed to me to raise serious questions about Burdan's technique of sealing in the flavour with a 15 minute crust.  "Different parts of Germany, and Germans from different areas prefer different kinds of bread," my wife's mother patiently explained to me, later.  She referred to some friends of hers who originally haled from the Ruhr area who always let their bread become quite stale before they used it.  "Maybe that is the kind of bread that he likes, or that is the kind of bread that was demanded of him in his bakery in Germany," she suggested.

I tried to keep an open mind about the cultural shift I was experiencing with his loaf.  I bet when the loaf is fresh, the taste is spectacular.  But when I got it, I found the bread good, but merely mild tasting.  For a sourdough, I didn't detect in his loaves the full complex flavours that my own wild cultures imparted to bread.  It was of course, better than anything you could buy in a supermarket, hands down.

On the plus side, I found that Burdan's 50:50 loaf stands up to a very thin slicing.  I asked them not to slice it for me, as I was hoping it might keep a bit longer.  You will need a good bread knife if you choose this option.  I like this bread lightly toasted, but it is also strong enough to support sandwich items even when sliced thinly, without toasting.  It continued to stale further over the next few days, and to me it seemed to be staling much faster than my home-made loaves.  I began to search for everything I had ever learned about staling of bread to try to understand what was going on; probably what I learned will be written in a later blog.

I left a small heel of Burdan's loaf to see what would happen to it.  As the moisture left the crumb, the crust gently curled around the heel of bread.  Just as with my bread, there was never any spoilage.

Burdan uses sourdough as leaven, as do I, which naturally inhibits mold.  But he uses a more complicated multi-stage process for his wild yeast culture -- similar if not exactly the same as the famous German Detmolder process, which I always felt was a bit too difficult for me as a home baker to try, mostly because it requires devout attention to temperature and pH and length of time for each stage of the leaven, and I am unable to guarantee the temperature at each stage: I just don't have the proofing box or fridge space, nor can I ever guarantee that I will be around when the wild culture is ripe and requiring attention.  No doubt Burdan's technique drastically alters his sourdough culture's mix of yeast and lactobacillus, maximizing results beyond anything I myself can achieve -- even though I believe the flavour of my sourdough is at least comparable and curiously my bread doesn't stale as quickly.  I am beginning to believe it is because my homemade dough is more hydrated, something I probably have to do because I do all my mixing by hand.  I don't have a mixer that would handle a less hydrated dough, and I don't have the stamina to develop by hand the gluten in a tighter mixture.

I was enamoured with the crumb of his 50:50 loaf.  "Look at how the bubbles in the bread do not elongate vertically," I showed my wife enthusiastically, "as they would in most brick ovens.  In a normal brick oven, most of the heat is in the masonry of the overhead bricks, radiating down.  That makes for a vertical hole as the gas expands in the cells.  But in Burdan's loaves, the holes are closer to horizontal.  It must be because of the flamethrowers which heat the oven from the sides!  And despite the more or less horizontal holes, the bread still achieves a nice rise in the oven, instead of spreading sideways.  What you get is a loaf that 'plumps' rather than rises." In my home oven, there is more irregularity in the holes, since the heat is not coming from any single direction. "And how did he get a half-rye loaf to build such a great tight gluten structure in the crumb?  That much rye in the mixture would make it very difficult to achieve."  Most of my home-made partially-rye breads are at most only 30% because of this very difficulty.  "It must be his mixers," I mused.  "That's the only way the gluten wouldn't tear."  The mixing would have to be very slow, and gentle, and timed to coincide with the addition of the sourdough, else the high content of rye would not form a decent length of gluten.  This is because rye's gluten is nowhere near as strong a gluten as wheat's, but also because rye's gluten develops more easily in an acidic environment.

And I gushed about the crust, too.  "Look how thin the crust is.  And the colour!  How did he accomplish this?" I wanted to know.  I was aware that throughout Europe, there is a concentrated effort  by health officials to try to reduce the amount of acrylamides that people ingest (in North America, concerned attention has fallen not to bread crust yet so much as it has to fried potatoes, which also contain a lot of these compounds.  I guess we eat more french fries).  Although the Maillard reaction leaves crust with a lot of flavourful molecules, some of them are thought to be unhealthy (although I've read a couple of more recent scientific studies that come to different conclusions). In general, one can say that the lighter the crust, the less acrylamides, and therefore the healthier it is for you.  Burdan's crust is very light, very thin -- and therefore, one assumes, very healthy.

UPDATE: Christian Burdan of Red Cat Farm has contacted me, and pointed out that he never claimed this particular "German Rye Plain" loaf contained "whole" wheat.  So much of what follows -- my attempts to duplicate his tawny crust made of 50% wheat with my 50% whole wheat -- now seem quite ridiculous and moot.  I've gone back to my original photos of his loaves, and the sign clearly says "wheat," not "whole wheat," so I apologize for my confusion.  I hope I haven't mislead anyone.  But I still think that the exercise I went through here has taught me something about crust, so I'll leave it as-is, unless there are further objections.

UPDATE: Take a closer look: that's 50% rye, 50% wheat -- NOT "whole" wheat

"I have never been able to achieve a crust like that, not ever, on any of my loaves."  I remembered the sad time when I tried to make Wolter & Teubner's wheat germ bread six times before giving up, and I never did achieve a crust like the one in W&T's picture -- which was light brown and tawny doe-coloured like Christian Burdan's loaf.  I had even tried a potato-starch wash to get that crust, and it just didn't work.  I eventually achieved a decent loaf but still it never once looked the same as the picture in Wolter & Teubner's book:
Wolter & Teubner's light-coloured loaf

It must be the oven, I thought.  It must be the ability to bake it in a moist, cooling oven.  Is this really whole wheat and whole rye (he doesn't say it is whole rye), or has he used light rye and some processed/baker's flour?  Is he growing a weaker-protein wheat, a softer wheat, like they have in Germany, or is he using Canadian hard spring wheat like me, and if the latter, how is he getting this light colour?  Is he using white whole wheat?  I just didn't get it (see UPDATE above).

"I don't know how he does it!" I finally admitted to myself.

My wife didn't really understand what I was talking about, so I decided to make my own version of a  50:50 rye and whole wheat bread to show her what I meant about the crust, and how different his loaves look than anything I have ever been able to bake.  I'd show her how difficult it is to do what he is doing.  Here I was not trying to reverse engineer his bread, I was simply going to show her how his results vary so widely from my efforts.

My first attempt at baking a 50% rye, 50% whole wheat bread
My earliest attempt was a spectacular failure, but it was also an experiment of a different sort, too.  Here I used double the amount of starter that is in my sandwich loaf (which is already more than a Tartine Bread would have).  Using non-standard Tartine math, this bread uses 600g (60%) of starter for a 1000g (100%) of flour in a loaf.  That's far too much, of course, and the results were spectacularly bad.  The bread overflowed in the proofing baskets.  And even the extra acid did not even allow me to tease the rye's gluten to a good length.  My dough kept tearing.

my stiff starter, the night before

my stiff starter, day of baking



Cut off the legs

Buns too dark, bread no rise

The bread I made looks nothing like Burdans.  How does he do it??

Despite the too long baked crust, these buns are not well baked inside.
And look how DARK the crumb is, compared to his.

The bread looks okay, but it hasn't risen much.  And it tastes too sour.

My crumb is much darker than Christian Burdan's loaf.

I did my best to fix the first loaf once it was out of the basket and onto the peel, but nothing could really save it from the wiggle it took as it slid onto the baking stone.  The second loaf, I didn't even bother to try, I just scraped off the mess that overflowed while it was still in the banneton, and made some buns with the scrap.  The bread baked fine, but of course, it wasn't able to rise because I had cut off its legs.

But despite these mishaps, you just have to look at my ugly loaves and compare them to his lovely tawny loaves to see that my 50:50 mixture will never ever perform the same way as his 50:50 loaves.  Even the colour of the crumb is different.  Mine looks like dark rye, dark whole wheat, again his is a tawny creamy beige colour.

I may never be able to achieve that elusive Maester Breadmaker crust with whole grains in my own home oven.

Second Try: Baking in a Cooling Oven
About a week later, when I was finished with the bread I'd bought that Christian Burdan had made, and the loaves I had tried to make, I decided to try a 50:50 loaf one more time with less starter.  And this time I would try to bake in a cooling oven, after a 15-minute blast of heat to set the crust.

I stayed with an 85% hydration.  I tried to develop the gluten structure very slowly, with much more gentle stretches and long rests, every 30 minutes, for about 4 hours, during the bulk fermentation.  This actually worked: if you keep tugging gently at the dough in this way, it will develop elasticity, a couple of hours into the process.  It will never develop as much gluten as wheat dough will on its own -- I can tug that a couple of feet at least, before folding it back, and this one only ever achieved a few inches, perhaps max 6-8 without beginning to tear -- but it certainly was improving over my earlier attempt at making a 50:50 rye:ww.

I looked longingly at the crust of the stale heel remainder of Burdan's loaf (all that was left of it), and then at the picture of the Wolter & Teubner loaf that I compared Burdan's crust to, to get some hint about the how it was accomplished.  That W&T loaf had no rye in it, but the crust, the crust was what I was interested in.  To bake that W&T loaf, they used a slightly cooler oven and a longer baking time: 400 degrees F for 50 minutes.  Somewhere in the material I found online, I noted that Christian Burdan baked at 350 degrees (except for the initial blast of heat that set the crust).

I decided I would back off my heat in stages, to mimic a cooling oven, but I'd keep the heat on fairly high for the first fifteen minutes.  But how long would I bake a bread in a cooling oven?  I worked out a tentative schedule for this loaf:
  • Preheat stone, steam tray, (or dutch oven) 30 minutes at 500 degrees F
  • Cup of water in steam tray and Loaf on stone (or loaf in Dutch Oven if using) and turn oven to 450 degrees F.
  • 15 min later (time elapsed, 15 min): turn oven to 425 degrees F
  • 10 min later (time elapsed, 25 min): turn oven to 400 degrees F
  • 10 min later (time elapsed, 35 min): turn oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove lid from dutch oven, if using.
  • 10 min later (time elapsed, 45 min): turn oven to 350 degrees F.  Open door and turn loaf on stone for even baking.
  • 10 min later (time elapsed, 55 min): keep oven at 350 degrees F.  Check loaf for doneness
  • 10 min later (time elapsed, 65 min): remove bread if done (if not, check q5 min), and rack it.
I made 2 loaves of this 50:50 rye:ww mixture; the first was in a banneton with the usual rice flour, the other had no flour on the surface, but just sat in a banneton lined with a towel.  Burdan's loaves do not have flour on the surface, they are bald.  I wanted to see if I could make a similar bald crust.

I tried a couple of different things here:
(1) the cooling oven, and
(2) not putting any flour in the banneton (for
one of the loaves),
and baking longer at a lower temperature. 
Turns out the one without flour was closer to the tawny colour.

I did not score the initial loaf, noticing that Burdan did not score his.  But by the time I had my temperature down to 350 degrees and opened the oven door to turn it, I knew that my loaf was not going to come close to Burdan's.  It had a pitted crust and a deep sulcus had formed through it.  At 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven, disappointed in how it had deflated in the oven.  I brushed off the surface flour, disappointed in the crust.  But I felt it wasn't quite done so popped it back in the oven for a final 10 minutes.

The second loaf of the pair I baked here, I gave up on my q10min schedule, simply kept the loaf in at 350 degrees F after the initial 15 minutes at 450 degrees F.  I did some gardening, and didn't even look at it until I got to the 55 minute mark.

This loaf was closer to what I was going for, but still the crust was too dark.  Furthermore, the 85% hydration was too wet, and the loaf sagged and flattened in the oven, despite my gentle nature.

Comparing my loaf to Burdan's 50:50 --
you can see at a glance that I'm still far away
from Burdan's colouration of crust and density of crumb. 
I'm not even close.

I also felt that these loaves I made were a bit too sour for my tastes.  They were likely overproofed.

Third Try
Here I backed off on the hydration to 75% and tried baking it in a cool oven, without extra flour on the surface of the loaf.

While I was fiddling with ideas of what to do with this bread to get that light colour of crust and crumb, some anonymous person replied to an old blog entry of mine, where I had experimented with a simple meteil.   I re-read that ancient blog entry and chuckled to myself.  That meteil was almost a 50:50 rye:ww loaf, and back then I was desperately trying to make the crumb darker -- exactly the reverse of what I was trying to do here.  I guess I'm just never entirely happy with my bread.

With this 3rd attempt (which I assumed would be yet another failure), I also made a 30:70 rye:ww bread (because I know I can make that bread okay), as well as made some pizza dough with sourdough (made with 50% ww, 50% all purpose flour).  You can see the difference in colour of the doughs when they are side-by-side.  From the top left, clockwise:  50:50 rye:ww, 30:70 rye:ww, and 50:50 ww:ap doughs:

I could easily get the colour that Burdan achieved if I didn't insist on whole grains.  But he says his is whole wheat and rye (er, no, he doesn't.  See UPDATE above).  So how does he get that doe-coloured light crust and crumb?

This is my 50:50 rye:ww dough ready to be formed, bench-rested and then proofed:

I proofed them in a basket lined with just a towel -- no extra flour -- because that was how I achieved the lightest crust so far.  Unfortunately,  the dough I made was just too sticky, or the towel too absorbant, and the tops of the loaves were ruined.  But isn't this design on the towel pretty?

The finished loaves were a bit deflated from the towel ripping off, but they still did have a fairly nice colour to them (though still much darker than Burdan's):

My 30:70 rye:ww loaves plumped up much nicer, but then, I didn't back off on the temperature for them:

My baking day: 2 of these loaves were to be given away

My 3rd attempt at a 50:50 rye:ww loaf.
Still MUCH darker crust and crumb than Burdan's.

My loaf flattened out much more than Burdan's
 And my 30:70 rye:ww loaf's crumb.

Is Burdan like other bakers who claim their loaves are whole wheat, when they only use some whole wheat?  (He never claimed it.  See UPDATE above) This problem in nomenclature made news recently (e.g. see this article from the Vancouver Sun) when Health Canada reneged on a promise that they would institute regulations that clarified things for consumers.  Currently the regulations are ambiguous, and I think deliberately so.  Bakers can claim their loaves are "whole wheat" -- even "100% whole wheat" -- when they only contain some 100% whole wheat.

You would expect a 50:50 rye:ww loaf to have 50% rye and 50% whole wheat flour.  But to comply with the law, it need only contain 50% rye, and somewhere around 60-70% of that 50% whole wheat (in other words, 30-35% whole wheat): the rest can be highly processed baker's flour, or high-gluten flour (15-20%).  The rye doesn't have to be whole rye; it doesn't have to be dark rye.  It can be light rye, again with most of the rye bran and germ removed.  I don't know if this is what Burdan's recipe is, I'm just looking at the colour of the crust and crumb and saying "if this is really 50:50 whole wheat and rye, how does he do this?"

I am waiting for some baker to voluntarily label things accurately, despite the minimum requirements that Health Canada imposes (The label was accurate, I just didn't read it accurately. See UPDATE above).

Fourth Attempt
I made some more pizza dough, using the 50:50 formula of ww:ap flours (no rye), and instead of making pizza with it, I baked some smaller pup loaves, in a cooler oven for a longer length of time, to experiment.  I was still trying to get that tawny, doe-skin coloured crust that Burdan achieves with ease.

Obviously, I have been baking my bread far too hot.  On crust formation, I refer to Onishi et. al.  (2011) "Characteristic coloring curve for white bread during baking"Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 75:2 pp 255-260.  The baking process can be described as:  

    • pre-heating (surface temperature <110 degrees C / 230 degrees F)
    • Maillard reaction (110-150 degrees C / 230 - 302 degrees F)
    • caramelization and carbonization (150-200 degrees C / 302 - 392 degrees F)
    • Over-baking (>200 degrees C / 392 degrees F)

The crumb should be set at 100 degrees, so when the interior of the loaf reaches this point, you can stop baking.  The trick is to get the crust to expand, set, but not burn or make dangerous compounds like acrylamides while the interior of the loaf heats enough to firm the structure.  I began to theorize that the exterior of the bread should not become caramelized (150 degrees C), but should undergo the Maillard reaction (110-150 degrees C).  But there is going to be a temperature difference between the loaf and the ambient temperature of the oven.  What temperature would bring the loaf to a rapid crust to lock in the flavour, but not caramelize the surface, before the interior of the loaf was baked?  That is the Maester baker's art.

These are smaller loaves than I normally bake (about 333g rather tha 500g), and so I won't go into details of time and temperature (my larger loaves will need more time to bake).  I'll only say that I took them out when they looked done.   I really wasn't sure whether the interior would be baked, and the one I gave away, I sliced into, just to be sure (and to get a crumb shot, of course!).  My mother-in-law said this was good bread.  But again, I won't be baking this very often, because it isn't whole grain.

The crumb of these pup loaves: this is 50% ww, 50% ap flour.
No rye and it is still darker than Burdan's loaves.
This last loaf spent a couple of days in the fridge, and did develop a more sour taste.  I also baked it a bit too long, I think:

Last try
I was beginning to like the results of my lighter-coloured crust, due to the longer, cooler baking, although I really wasn't yet close to the colour and appearance of Burdan's loaves.  In my final attempt to get to the colour of Burdan's loaves, I decided to use rye sourdough (up to now I had been using my whole wheat sourdough starter), as well as the least amount of whole wheat flour allowed by law (more on this in my next blog).  This was a 50% dark rye, 20% whole wheat, and 30% ap flour loaf.  Because I normally only bake whole grain breads, I would be unlikely to make this particular recipe for myself again.

I also tried to back off the hydration to 65%.  This made the dough extremely sticky and difficult to work with.  I eventually kneaded it a bit on the countertop with wet hands, so perhaps the hydration went up a bit from there.  The gluten did develop with this kneading, but prior to this, the stretch-and-fold technique of developing the gluten wasn't working at all.  After the kneading, I could tease it a bit easier.

I baked the loaf at just under 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then backed off the temperature to just under 350 degrees for 40 minutes, opening the oven midway through this lower temperature, to turn the loaves.


By now my tiny leftover heel of Burdan's loaf is hard as a rock.  But it still serves to compare his crust and crumb to what I can achieve in my home oven:

That's about as close as I can get.  I'm guessing that to get a lighter crust and crumb, I'd need a light rye and white whole wheat flours.  I think that its true that baking temperature has a lot to do with it, but ingredients count for more.  If you are going to use whole grains, as I do, you will get darker bread.

Notes to Myself
  • Everyone should try Burdan's Passion Bread, and I'd encourage you to get there early to experience the freshest bread.  Efforts like his need to be supported.  I'm definitely going back (got to try those pretzels, and the rest of his loaves -- and I still want to see if he makes a Vollkorn).  
  • Lots of questions about crust and retrogradation (staling of crumb) welled up within me after my visit to Burdan's bakery.  I wanted to know: is it true? Does the creation of a crust within 15 minutes lock in the flavour? Or does it contribute to staling? Is the lighter, thinner crust that Burdan achieves healthier for us than the one I can manage from my home oven?  I would have to go back to Burdans Bakery to get another of his loaves, something fresher, to see if the flavour was better than what I had experienced in this loaf.
  • The problem with the towel ripping the top of the proofing loaf is troubling.  How are you to get a proofed loaf out of a basket or colander without a towel, or without extra flour?  The terrycloth was a bad idea.  What else should I use?  Canvas would be better.

    Thinking of this problem, I had a curious idea: what would happen if you were to try to proof a loaf in a colander if that colander was mostly submerged in water?  Would this keep the top of the loaf moist enough to expand in the oven?  Or would it just destroy the gluten structure of the entire dough?  Probably it would destroy the dough.  So what if, instead of water, it was submerged in a gel, such as a water-wheat-mucilage colloid mixture? Perhaps such a gel mix would delay the Maillard reaction indefinitely and form a much more delicate crust.
  • Here is an example of one study of the Maillard reaction that suggests that all bread crust may not be all that bad for you:  Ruhs, S (2010, Oct) "Preconditioning with Maillard reaction products imporoves antioxidant defence leading to increased stress tolerance in cardiac cells" Exp. Gerontol 45:10, pp 752-62  Here is another:  Morales, F. et. al. (2012, Apr) "Physiological relevance of dietary melanoidins" Amino acids 42:4 pp 1097-109
  • I wish there was more of a web presence for Burdan's Bread.  I feel that it is sad that someone is going to Google for more info on his bread and will get steered to my web page now.  I hope that I haven't put anyone off from trying his loaves, with my opinion and one-time experience.

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