Monday, January 23, 2012

Sourdough Rye with Onions

This week I need to start my blog with some venting.  Daniel Leader drastically oversimplifies his production of sourdough starters.  It is to the point that someone who already has a viable starter has to either start from scratch, or resort to another bread book to create the build for the bread the night before. I found this to be a royal pain and it really ticked me off!

After reading Leader's chapter on how to build a rye chef, I became rather frustrated and disheartened.  Once created, he advises us to take all of that starter and feed it again each day. Leader may be a brilliant and sophisticated bread baker, but his employment of the rye chef and his instructions on using it leave a lot to be desired.

I already have a rye sourdough that I have been using and working with for over a year. I understand that the home baker may have some difficulty with bakers percents.  I think that it would have made more sense to first explain how to  build a starter. Then show how to make a sourdough build from that starter by taking 5% starter, 100% flour and 60% water, (or whatever the bread at hand called for.) 

After a few minutes of frustration and a few minutes of cursing and pacing back and forth, I went back to the book.  I flipped through this chapter again with as much scorn as I could muster up.  
It took me almost 10 minutes to settle down.  Finally, I took out a pencil, a calculator, and a pad of graph paper and grabbed my well-used copy of Jeffrey Hamelmans's book Bread and got to work. I found a formula for a rye bread using a starter which only contains whole rye flour, water and starter and I went to work. Try to follow my logic if you can:

So if a sourdough recipe contains the following proportion: 
  • 100% flour
  • 60% water
  • 5% starter
Then the whole build contains 165% ingredients. So each build could be broken down into 165 portions each containing 1 part flour to ever 0.6 parts water to every 0.005 parts starter. So that means that if in Leader's formula he is looking for 9 ounces of rye chef I can simple just take the total amount (9 oz) divide it by 165 which equals 0.054 for the sake of sanity let us call that 0.05! So now we go back to the proportions from Hamelman and we multiply each percent by 0.05 and then we have the amount of each component that we will need in order to prepare the 9 ounces of sourdough necessary to accomplish our bread. Why Leader (or his publisher/editor) could not do this for his reader's is an interesting question!

I am still ranting, aren't I??   Sorry, I am still a bit  frustrated.

So I ended up with the following:
  • 5 oz rye flour
  • 3 oz water
  • 0.25 oz starter 
    • (yes I know this does not total up to nine ounces, but we are close and air will be incorporated and it will work just fine)
Now that this is done, I am finished with my rant.  I can finally talk to you about what I sat down to talk about: the bread. 

This is a bread which incorporates all of the rye flour in the formula into the sourdough build.  It is actually a fairly small amount. The formula also called for a small amount of whole wheat flour and a large amount of the 20% bran wheat flour mix that I have mentioned in my previous posts. I will admit, that when the dough was coming together, it was still a bit loose. I simply added a little bit of whole wheat flour, but we can chalk that up as poetic justice. 

Before putting this dough together, Leader instructs the reader to super-dice one large onion,  mix it with a teaspoon of oil and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees.  He advises the reader to stir often until the edges of the onion pieces are dark brown and the smell permeates the kitchen.  He then instructs the baker to cool the onions completely in the fridge. The onions eventually will be added to the dough in the mixing bowl. 
This bread actually came together very well in the mixing bowl. This was a surprise to me after all of the frustrations I had in preparing the sourdough build. Also, the sourdough seemed a little sluggish, so I used a very small pinch of yeast.  I think it greatly helped. Recently I revitalized my starter, so my my next sourdough rye bread should not need this extra push.

To be honest, I was expecting more of an onion taste from this bread. This is an observation and not a complaint. The loaf actually came out rather nice. It proofed well and it baked very well. The crumb has a darkish color, and the onions really do come through. I am rather pleased with this loaf, and I will come back to it. The next time that I bake this bread, I will increase the amount of onions to try to give it a stronger and sweeter flavor. I strongly suggest eating breads that have a sweeter tone (such as this one) with sharp cheese. A sweet butter would also be great. I am also a fan of eating good bread like this by itself. This one is definitely capable of going to the road to digestion by itself. 

Bake on
I hope my math made some sense.  I did in my brain, but that doesn't mean thaty it's perfect or that it will for you. Please ask questions and as always, provide feedback.

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