One thing you should know is that when I put up a post, I have experimented with the bread that you see, some of them many times over. Some of them work straight away because I try to build upon what I have already accomplished in calculations for my next idea. While I love Chad's book, I'm also no different than Chad, or any other serious baker for that matter, in that I want to find my own expression with bread. And the only way to do that is to step off of the path and seek it on my own. One of my strongest interests is to work with completely whole grain breads, and I am experimenting with ways to do that so we don't end up with brick-like loaves at the end of a bake. I think that this post along with my last post proves that it can be done, and I am on a mission to keep working with 100% whole grain breads that achieve excellent oven spring and great taste/texture.
Speaking of accidents, let's get on to this happy accident rye.
So, you know what they say. If it looks like a chicken and talks(?) like a chicken, it must be a chicken, right. Well, here's what happened to me a bit ago: I was generously gifted two bags of grains from one of my favorite millers, 'To Your Health', right, a bag of sprouted rye and a bag of sprouted spelt. I decided to work with the bag of spelt about two weeks ago, and when I really inspected it, it looked suspiciously like rye. Now, I have been working with grains long enough to know the difference between them, alas, I took the label for its word. Perhaps it was some sort of special blue-grey spelt that looked like rye and smelled like rye and talked like rye. After all, To Your Health makes some damn-near holy flours, I would not be surprised if they were peddling some almost extinct strain of spelt that no one else in the world was in possession of.
Thank goodness I decided to make a rye levain for the spelt bread that I had in mind before I went to bed. The next day I milled the damn-near holy, blue-grey, extinct spelt. Of course, it looked uncannily like rye flour, concrete gray flecked with gunmetal.
When I added it to my levain/water mixture all doubt was removed: This was rye. Of course it was rye! I knew it all along. Ah, but here's me making lemonade:
So, instead of pitching what was sure to be a thirsty, unruly beast (250g freshly milled, and 250g freshly milled and hand-bolted RYE), I decided to forge on without a safety net. At this point my hands were plunged wrist deep in it, so I could not reach for Reinhart or Hamelman, and I didn't have a free hand to text my friend Joe to bail me out (again), so I decided to do what I do best. Experiment. Why not. It was 5 a.m. and I had nothing better to do. Well, OK, sleep. Sleep would be something better. But enough grousing. The call of bread and all that.
I decided to see what would happen if I did a bulk ferment as I usually do (obviously no turns were going to be happening here), skip the bench, and shorten my final. I did all that. And man. Oh man! The results were fantastic!
The final bread was not overly acidic. It was just acidic enough (I really have good luck with low-acid, or rather, 'adequately acidic' loaves). The flavor of the grain was pulled out at max level, that is to say that it was all earth and mineral and sweet hay. The texture was moist but not dense. I will say that you are supposed to wait for 24 hours before slicing breads with a high percentage of rye. I didn't experience any of the 'gumminess' that can come from breads that are not given ample time to cool and redistribute moisture throughout. I waited about 8 hours and I suggest you wait at least this long before slicing to avoid the unpleasant textural issues one faces with ryes whose crumb is not fully set during an adequate cooling period.
The crust was crisp but tender, not even an echo of toughness. And I finished a quarter of the loaf both plain and with some cured salmon, cucumber, red onion, fennel and a drizzle of homemade creme fraiche. I also achieved more oven spring than anyone could hope for with a 100% whole rye loaf.
As you can imagine, I had visions of rye possibilities dancing in my head after this so I schemed up another loaf. This time I had a little more time to think through some sensible design rather than wing it with my hands swallowed up by the quicksand that made for such a lovely loaf. This time I milled up my rye, 250g freshly milled, 180g freshly milled and bolted with the #50 screen, 120g freshly milled and bolted with the #30 screen for a complexity of textures. I toasted up some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plumped up some sultana raisins and added them to the dough. I long-fermented the levain, 9 hours, because it was uber stiff, shortened the autolyse to 30 minutes and the bulk to 3 hours, and my final fermentation was 7.5 hours.
The thing is, I have always been told that 100% rye loaves are tricky. They don't work. They make crusts like tree bark. The formula to arrive at any worthy one is long and tedious and even then it may turn out to be something to build a house with rather than eat. And none of that was true for my loaves this week.
About the grains. So, I have waxed poetic over and again about To Your Health flours, well, the rye that I used for these loaves of bread have proven that their grains are as fantastic as their flours. They sell online, though you can find it at Whole Foods, which I never do, because they mill their flour to order and I would rather have it fresh. When I opened the bag of rye the heady aroma of sweet hay and freshly-cut grass and lovely quince came rushing forth. What a fabulous nose! The flavor translation in bread, while obviously delicious, is definitively earthy, clean and sweet, herbaceous and spicy all at once. I have baked with rye flour that has tasted really strong, almost dirty, and bitter, but not To Your Health. Neither their rye berries nor their flour have these unpleasant flavor profiles. So, I forgive them for mislabeling my little bag. It allowed these two new breads to be born.
After having the intentional rye, here is what Christina, one of my dearest friends, said about it: 'This is the best bread I have ever eaten. Seriously'.
Seriously. Here are the formulae for your two new ryes, one accidental, one intentional, both the start of a rye journey that I have been dying to travel down. The wheels are turning bread friends. And we have only just begun.
Have a look.
The night before dough night, make your levain:
10g 100% rye starter
75g hand-milled To Your Health sprouted dark rye flour
Mix together the above until you arrive at a very stiff paste. This is a stiff levain, so it will need to ferment longer than your more liquid levains. Mine fermented for 9 hours.
250g hand-milled To Your Health sprouted dark rye flour
250g hand-milled To Your Health sprouted dark rye flour, bolted with a #50 screen
12g kosher salt, I use Diamond
After the levain has fermented adequately, dissolve it in the water, add the flours and vigorously mix by hand, raking and squeezing the dough with your hand shaped like a claw for about 3 or 4 minutes.
Autolyse for 30 minutes. After the autolyse, squish the salt into the dough and repeat the vigorous 3 to 4 minute claw-handed mixing. Now it's time for the 4-hour bulk fermentation. Leave it be for 4 hours. The dough will expand just a bit. It will get a little 'puffy' looking rather than getting that intense and obvious expansion that you see with higher gluten flours.
When bulk fermentation is accomplished, turn the dough out onto a workspace dusted with some of the 'chaff' that you saved from bolting your flour. With wet hands, lightly pat and shape into a round, then pop into a banneton or a bowl lined with linen that you have dusted with your leftover chaff.
The night before dough night, make your levain: