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German Bread

During my Everyday Bread baking, I began to cast my gaze on recipes for German breads and buns, and I have been having fun making some that I've found from that corner of the world.  Since flour here in Canada is graded differently, these recipes are difficult to translate, which makes the quest interesting and fun but ultimately probably impossible.

My wife's Omi, when she visited Canada long ago, was frustrated with our flour as she tried to make a recipe that was familiar to her.  "It even feels different," she said in German, with her hands in the middle of it, working it.

I had this thought in the back of my mind that I can rebuild the flour, using varying amounts of bran, germ, and vital wheat gluten, until our Canadian flours feel the same and perform the same as German flours.  Unfortunately, I can't get the proper information from our Canadian mills.  I have even thought that I will have to burn some flour and measure the residual ash content myself to get the answers I need.  But my kitchen scale may not be accurate enough, or I'd have to burn such an awful lot of it to get the right number, it probably won't work.  Then I thought that maybe the easier route would be to import some German flour, and then try to approximate the consistency and function with experimentation of ingredients.

As I began to look for more recipes for authentic German loaves, I stumbled upon a very nice e-book written in English that is freely downloadable, written by Nils Schöner, who calls himself "a bakery customer and a home-baker" in Germany.  I asked Nils if he might include an appendix in his book for those of us on this side of the pond who could not get German flour.  He kindly did include some suggestions.  But he also wrote,

In the long run, I think it is best to use what you have.  When you adapt to what you have, you will instantly create something that is much more valuable than a replication of genuine „Pain au levain“ or „true“ pizza.  You have created something original and genuine that was made from the soil that you walk on, in the air that you breathe.  Even if that sounds esoteric, I believe it is true.

I still long for the texture and taste of a loaf like one might find in Germany.  But point taken, I should probably give up trying to rebuild our flour.

Nils books contains all of the recipes I need to get started.  But I also list here some of the various other breads I want to try (I'm sure I'll add more all the time) and link to them as I try them out. 

In addition to many of the breads listed by ingredients (Weizen (Wheat), Roggen (Rye), Spelz (Spelt), Leinsamen (Flax),  Hirsekorn (Millet), Hafer (Oat), Mehrkornbrot (Multigrain bread) etc.) or baking methods (Hefe (Yeast), Sauerteig (Sourdough), etc.), or colour (Dunkle Brot (dark bread), Helle Brot (light bread)), or packaging (Katenbrots (boxbreads) or  Krustenbrots (Crusty Breads)), or part of the grain used (Vollkorn, whole grain, Weisenkeim, Wheat germ, etc. ) Germans are inventive when it comes to the appearance of the loaves, whether it be zopf (braids), streizel (plaits), brötchen (buns), weck (rolls), laib, (loaves), stangen (rods), plätzchen (cookies), brezel (pretzels), kranz (garlands), busserl (macaroons), kuchen (cakes) or even Gebildbrot (picture bread) and several other shapes.  For the same reason the Inuit have many names for snow, Germans have many names for breads: they make more different kinds of bread than any other nation.  I will be exploring some of them in this blog.
Bauernbrot There are many different recipes, I'll likely try new ones
Brötchen I've made a couple so far, there are going to be dozens of recipes
Berlinerbrot I'm not happy with what I've tried so far
Feinbrot  Karin's Recipe, from 'Brot & Bread'
Haferbatzen This is the second loaf I tried after learning of Nils Schöner's recipe book
Landbrot I tried to make Nils Schöner's version
Roggenmischbrot Nils Schöner's 60/40; and his 70 percent; and his All Day Bread; and his 60% with Applejuice, etc.

Regarding the German Sourdough

In my quest for a good 100% rye bread, I have been learning that rye flour requires a lactic acid environment in order to form its gluten strands.  Rye's gluten is quite different from Wheat's, and is formed from different prolamins: the wheat flour proteins Gliadin and Glutenin form Gluten when hydrolyzed, or mixed with water; but rye's Gliadin and Secalin require a more acidic environment to fully develop (and even then, it won't be as versatile as wheat's gluten).

The lactic acid environment is generally provided by the Sourdough Starter, which uses natural yeast from the air and the environment, and certain beneficial bacteria, to impart the leaven for True German Rye Loaves.

Germans have developed their own terminology for their sourdough methods, which is somewhat different than other terminology I have encountered (the French, the Italian, the American).  The best source for the technique, with real amounts given for the various builds, can be found in Hamelman's Bread; he doesn't give the actual German terminology, but he calls the stages 'Fresher', 'Basic Sour' and 'Full Sour'.  This is what he calls it the Detmolder technique of sourdough, and I have experimented with it here.  Another blogger did a better job of it at 'Beginning with Bread'.

I haven't found a lot of information about this on the web, but this is what I've pieced together so far:

(German for sourdough leaven) 

To make a Sauterteig, there are three defined steps:

Anstellgut ("The Starter Set Aside") is an innoculant, a portion of the ripe sourdough leaven that was saved from the previous day's baking.  It originates as a natural leaven starter, but in day-to-day use, it comes from the part of the fully developed dough, from the last baking.

1. Anfrishsauer ("Refreshed Leaven" or Hamelman's 'Fresher') This is the first stage of the traditional German sourdough baking process.  The yeast from the anstellgut is considered sleepy and must be awakened with more food (rye flour) and liquid (water).  This will make a fairly liquid stage.

2. Grundsauer ("Foundation or basic sourdough starter" or Hamelman's 'Basic Sour').  This second stage of the sourdough process is firmer, and it generally takes a longer fermentation period to mature and promote the growth of helpful bacteria.  It is generally left overnight to work its magic.

3. Vollsauer ("The Full or Complete Leaven" or Hamelman's 'Full Sour') requires a shorter fermentation period  to promote the yeast ahead of the bacteria; it builds a softer dough.  Some of this is saved to become the Anstellgut, and the rest is used to prepare the final dough.

Sauerteigbrot ("Sourdough Bread") is the finished loaf, once baked.

Obviously, I have to find a method to fit this cycle into my daily routine, if I am to use it.  This goes beyond mere recipe, because you have to fit it into your own sleep-work-play cycle, as well as your own food needs: therefore it seems impossible to say precisely how much vollsauer one must save from the latest batch to make the next anstellgut, it will vary depending on your needs and lifestyle.  This will require experimentation.

Nils Schöner has simplified the sourdough methodology, and I have used his sourdough recipe with success.