Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Another Book and Another Bread

gifted stack of bread books
For anyone reading my blogs in the past months, you will probably already know I have been on a bread baking mission. After being given 7 books on artisanal bread making/baking, I singled out one book from the stack, Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", and have gone wild. I knew how to make bread. Once, long ago I even attempted sourdough. There was so much I didn't know about sourdough, how to use it, how to keep it tasting good instead of too sour, and best of all, making a starter from wild yeasts in the air. I have made around 9 or 10 different breads from that book, and have lots more to go before I am finished experimenting. 

A few weeks back, for whatever reason, I got out another of that original stack of bread books, Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking Across America". I had looked through it, noting that most if not all the recipes used a starter of some kind. As I am learning, while not all breads need a starter dough, when the ingredients are the bare, simplest ones, sometimes more flavor is desired. Flour, water, yeast and salt can only do so much. Fermenting of some kind gives flavor and nuance. Since I already have a starter "barm" in the fridge, I hoped it would be usable in the recipes from Maggie Glezer's book also. 

Yesterday, I got the book out again and took a look. She has recipes arranged for very simple baking, and more advanced, and then even more advanced. I wanted something in the heartier, heavier, whole grains category and found this recipe for "Dutch Regale's Finnish Rye Bread" under "advanced."  I had no idea what or who was Dutch Regale (it was a bakery in Houston, I believe, and it seems now is closed). I had made a version of Swedish Limpa Rye Bread in past, from a recipe given me by a neighbor back in 1982 or so. Her Swedish grandma would make it when she came to visit. This Finnish Rye bread had some similarities; mainly that it contained rye flour and molasses, and no caraway seeds. It also has the option for soaked flax seed to be added. This recipe calls for no white flour at all, outside of that used in making the firm starter. When they say "firm," they really mean firm! 
Dutch Regale's Finnish Rye Bread, just baked

I am sometimes impatient with bread. I realize this. In this book, it is stated that the starter needs to respond more quickly than mine was doing. If not, it needed to be refreshed a few more times before proceeding with the recipe. My starter in the fridge is nicely risen still, so I felt it would be enough. I made the firm starter yesterday, with the hope it would rise as stated, then make a second batch to set overnight, giving two turns of growth before proceeding. Well, it wasn't - quite - enough. I should have refreshed the starter once more at least, but I will not have time tomorrow to work with the bread. So - today it was to be.
Finnish Rye Bread, sliced

The starter was close to the risen size called for, I will give it that. The kneaded bread dough was more batter-like than any I have made outside of non-yeast breads. It truly needed the paddle attachment on my heavy-duty mixer, and not the dough hook. I had spent the morning yesterday grinding rye berries and wheat berries in the amounts stated for the recipe, making cracked rye, medium rye flour and whole wheat berries, ground medium. Last night I set the cracked rye and the flax to soak. This morning, come hell or high water, I was going to make this bread, by golly! I did, out of fear, add 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast to boost the leavening. Today dawned chilly and rainy, making the likelihood of proper rising even less likely.

Because of the extremely soft consistency of the dough, I was very reluctant to set the dough to rise in a cloth lined bowl as stated in the recipe. I debated whether to just bake it in an enameled cast iron pot like with the No-Knead Breads Jim Lahey made so famous. I am sure it would have come out great. But I floured a flour-sack towel very heavily before setting it into a bread form and setting the dough in to rise. It did rise, almost more than I expected, considering the density of the dough and the chill of the weather. I turned it out onto parchment and the cloth stuck only in one tiny spot. The bread baked for almost 40 minutes and had reached an internal temp of 204 when I took it out of the oven. The loaf was flatter than I hoped, but still lovely and better than I expected from the slow starter and the chill in the air. 

The bread is wonderfully tasty, very dense and moist. The crust is thick and chewy. In effect, everything I hoped for in the taste department. Next time I will make sure the starter is working 100% before going on with the recipe, but for now, once again I am well pleased.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.