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This page is an old version of my bread page, as of 31 May 2013. It's mainly for historical interest; I've changed a number of things since then, significantly using much more rye, and sourdough instead of yeast.

After moving to Dereel in July 2007, we discovered that a number of foodstuffs we had taken for granted were no longer available. Even the bread wasn't as good as we could get in Mount Barker. So I started investigating the possibility of baking it myself.

Fairly early on I bought a bread machine, but was quite disappointed. It wasn't the most expensive, but the issues with bread machines seem to be typical. In particular, it annoyed me greatly that the kneading paddles remain in the bread during baking and leave holes in the bottom. In addition, the “baking” (really steaming) method means that you don't get any crust. So we returned the machine, and I now bake by hand, which isn't really much more difficult, though I suspect that there's more margin for difference from one loaf to the next.

The bread I'm aiming for is the typical German Graubrot, a mix of wheat and rye. More specifically, it's a kind called Roggenmischbrot (“rye mix bread”), implying a mixture containing more rye than wheat. The composition is important: one of the things I had to learn was that rye needs much less water than wheat, and my initial attempts, based on instructions supplied with the flour, were far too soggy. In addition, for reasons I might explain some time, rye bread really needs sourdough to taste right; on the other hand, I can't see any advantage in using sourdough for a pure wheat bread. So much of this page describes the sourdough.

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
400 g (total)       Wheat flour
900 g (total)       Rye flour      
1000 g (total)       Water      
about 200 g       Wheat flour       1
about 250 g       Water       1
144 g       Sourdough starter       1
about 200 g       Wheat flour (total 400 g)       2
200 g       Rye flour       2
abuot 500 g       Water (total 750 g)       2
-144 g       Sourdough starter       3
250 g       Water       4
20 g       caraway seeds       4
20 g       salt       4
700 g       Rye flour       5

Notes

I measure the water in grams rather than ml simply because it's easier to weigh it. 1 g corresponds almost exactly to 1 ml, so the difference isn't important.

In steps 1 and 2 I write “about” with the quantities. In step 1, that's correct. In step 2 it's important to add the rest so that the total gives the indicated quantities. The sourdough starter contains 4 parts of flour to 5 parts of water.

Many recipes add further ingredients, such as “bread improver”. They may help with yeast bread. I've tried it with sourdough and found that the bread tastes considerably worse for the “improver”.

Most recipes give exact temperatures and times for each step; I'm still trying to work out the effect of temperature, and the times are clearly dependent on your starter. I used to use room temperature, but now I let the starter develop at a somewhat elevated temperature, round 30° (in my server cupboard, if you're interested).

Many recipes also say that it's not important to mix the ingredients well in the first few steps. While it's not very important, I'm sure it has an effect on the speed with which the sourdough develops, so I try to mix reasonably well.

Every English-language recipe I have read expects you to “feed” (grow) the starter at regular intervals, and to throw away much of the resultant starter. This is nonsense. It's wasteful and completely unneccessary. A sourdough starter will keep for years in a fridge, though it may take a little longer to reactivate after such an extreme time. See my reductio ad absurdum.

Preparation

  1. This step isn't really part of the procedure, just notes on what you're in for, and the quantities are the total quantity for the loaf; they appear split up in the following steps. The bread is mixed in three steps to allow the sourdough to develop. Sourdough is much slower to act than yeast, and it needs to build up like this. The exact quantities and even relationships between flour and water for each step are not so important, but it's very important to ensure that the relationships between the flours and water are correct at the end.

  2. In the mixer bowl, mix well the flour and of water with the starter. Note the quantities. This will give a relatively thin dough which will make it easier to mix the starter evenly. Keep warm at between (25° and 30°) for several hours. My starter needs about 5 to 6 hours, so I start this step in the morning.

  3. When the starter is clearly creating bubbles (stir under the surface to see them), add about 200 g of wheat flour, 200 g rye flour and about 500 ml of water. Including the flour and water from step 1, the total weight of flour and water should be 600 g and 750 g respectively. Mix well. Leave to rise for another period of time; I do this in the evening and leave it overnight. Here's “before” and “after” for this step. The third photo shows some of the bubbles under the surface.


    https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20091222/big/Sourdough-4.jpeg
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  4. Take about 144 g of the mixture and put it aside in the refrigerator for the next starter. I keep three separate starters, in case one fails, and use them alternately. They keep well in the fridge for as long as I've tried them. Another reason for the two starters was my interest in whether they would develop differently, but so far they haven't.

  5. Calculate how much water is needed to make the total quantity, add it to the dough and mix well. My mixer (Kenwood KM300) needs manual help to scrape the dough off the bottom of the bowl. Add the salt and whole caraway seeds and mix well. The resultant dough will be very runny.


    https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20091223/big/Sourdough-3.jpeg
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  6. Calculate how much flour is needed to make the total quantity, add it to the dough and mix well. In the Kenwood, this is pretty much the maximum load, and it needs a lot of help to mix well. The resultant dough will be sticky but consistent.

  7. Rye dough is very sticky. It even sticks to non-stick bread pans, so you really need to line the pan with paper.

    1. One piece 32.5 cm × 30 cm for the bottom and long sides.

    2. Two pieces 12 cm × 15 cm, one for each end.

    Place the paper in position:


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  8. Fill a bowl with water and use it to wet your hands and keep them wet: the dough is very sticky, much more so than a pure wheat dough. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl (it won't come all at once, and it doesn't need to) and carefully place the first part in the middle of the pan to hold the paper in place. Put more at each end to hold the end pieces in place. At this point it's not important to keep the pieces together, but it is important to keep the surface moist so that it doesn't stick.


    https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20091223/big/Sourdough-5.jpeg
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    When all the dough is in the pan, press it together and smooth it over (don't forget the water!). At the end you should have a uniform height about half the depth of the pan, and with a film of water over the surface.

    Place in an oven at 50° for about 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and ensure that the bread doesn't drop much below 30° until it has risen (approximately doubling in size), which takes about 3 to 5 hours. Keep the surface moist (with a water spray, for example) during this time. Here “before” and “after”:


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    It's important not to wait too long; the resultant bread will suffer.

  9. Heat the oven to 250° on grill. When the oven is hot and the bread has risen sufficiently, ensure that the surface of the bread is still moist and put in the oven. Leave on grill for 5 minutes, turn onto normal recirculation without grill and bake for 15 minutes.

  10. Spray the surface with water, turn the temperature down to 210° and bake for another 20 minutes.

  11. Turn the temperature down to 190° and bake for another 40 minutes, a total of 80 minutes, turning and spraying after 20 minutes.

  12. Remove from oven and pan, peel off the paper, cover with a teatowel and allow to cool on the side on a wire rack. Don't put into plastic bags or bread tidy for at least 12 hours: it would sweat. Don't cut it either: it will still bee too soft.


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    The bread keeps very well, much better than yeast bread. We take about 10 days to eat a loaf, and at the end of that time it has hardly changed in consistency.

Discussion

I've spent over 3 years working on my bread style, and I've come to a recipe that I'm happy with, though it's still possible that I'll change again. I started using yeast, but as I mentioned, the recipe really needs sourdough. To give you an idea of the path I've gone down, here's what I had to say on 8 October 2009. From April 2009 until May 2010 I kept the quantities the same: 1300 g flour, 860 g water. Over the course of time I've increased the amount of water. I suspect the current proportions are pretty much the limit, though.

The current recipes owe a lot to Martin Pöt Stoldt's „Der Sauerteig - das unbekannte Wesen“, also available on the web. The baking details are here.


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