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Greg's Eigenbrot
sourdough rye bread
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This is intended to be a typical German-style Graubrot, a mix of wheat and rye.

Tools

You'll require:

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
720 g       Rye flour       1
900 g       Water       1
144 g       Sourdough starter       1
-144 g       Sourdough starter       2
20 g       caraway seeds       3
20 g       salt       3
90 g       Rye flour       3
360 g       Wheat flour       3

Preparation

  1. In the mixer bowl, mix well the flour and water with the starter. 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 at least. My starter needs about 5 to 6 hours, so I start this step the previous evening, and by morning it is ready for the next step. Here's “before” and “after” for this step. The third photo shows some of the bubbles under the surface.

    These photos show a smaller quantity than in the recipe. After rising, the current quantities will almost overflow the mixer bowl.


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  2. Take 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.

  3. Add the salt, caraway if desired and the remaining flour and mix well. My mixer (Kenwood KM300) needs manual help to scrape the dough off the bottom of the bowl. The resultant dough will be sticky but consistent.

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

    1. One piece 30 cm × 25 cm for the bottom and long sides.

    2. Two pieces 13 cm × 15 cm, one for each end.

    Place the paper in position:


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  5. 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.


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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 thin 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 2 to 5 hours, depending on the exact temperatures and the starter. Keep the surface moist (with a water spray, for example) during this time. I spray every 20 minutes. Here “before” and “after”:


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

  6. Heat the oven to 210° on recirculation. 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. Bake for 20 minutes.

  7. Spray the surface with water, turn the temperature down to 170° and bake for another 20 minutes.

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

  9. 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. It's best to leave it for 36 hours before eating it. We take about 10 days to eat a loaf, and at the end of that time it has hardly changed in consistency.

Discussion

After moving to Dereel in 2007, I discovered that there was no way to get Central European style sourdough rye bread in the vicinity, so in 2009 I started baking my own. Things have evolved, and I have three earlier versions of this page dated 15 July 2010, 31 May 2013 and 12 February 2015, which illustrate how I got this far.

As mentioned above, this is intended to be a 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, 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.

The baking temperatures have changed over time. Since moving to our current house, we have a new oven which seems to be hotter than the previous one for a given temperature setting, so I have reduced the temperatures accordingly. Previously I had 220° and 180°.

I've spent many 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.

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.

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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