Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Light Silesian Rye (Chleba)

In his book Local Bread, Daniel Leader mentions that everyone in Wroclaw Poland has either a passion for dark or light rye and wouldn't even think of switching for the sake of change.

This is the first time I have made Polish bread. This is the first of the two Chleba varieties in this book, and I thought that it would make sense to start with the light rye first. There are two major reasons for this decision. First, I thought I would like it less than the dark rye and second, it comes first in the book. 

I actually spent 10 days in Poland while I lived in a kibbutz in Israel. It is common practice for juniors in Israeli High Schools to travel to Poland to see the concentration camps first hand. It is a powerful hands-on history lesson. I traveled as a madrich (guide and mentor) for several Israeli Students whom I was working with at the time. We traveled there in Late February and early March. I admit that I was not exactly eager to leave the temperate climate of the Middle East for the winter of Eastern Europe, but I am glad that I went. I think it is a trip that every human being should take. It was quite sombering and it can really put life into perspective. I am not trying to depress my followers or to moralize. I am simply trying to put the few Polish breads that I will be baking into the perspective of my personal experience.  

I would also like to share some of Leader's thoughts about these stereotypical Polish Jewish breads. Daniel Leader grew up in Buffalo New York, and as a child he often ate traditional Jewish Polish breads. He had already toured Europe and was working on Local Bread, when he overheard two Polish immigrants conversing in Polish in his bakery.  He was reminded of his youth and enlisted some of his patrons to help him locate some of the bakeries in Poland that still produced the traditional loaves that he remembered from his childhood in upstate New York. One of the young Poles connected Leader with his brother who still lived in Wroclaw, Poland. As a result, Leader added Light and Dark Chleba to his book. 

I am going to attack this blog entry a bit differently. I will first write about the finished product and then I will discuss the preparation of the bread. This is a great sourdough to start of with, especially if you do not have a lot of experience with rye. I baked this bread yesterday afternoon, and I strongly believe that any sourdough needs at least one night's rest to really develop its flavor. I stand before you with my first piece and I will remark on it as I eat it. 

Finished Product:
As you can see, this bread has wonderful little holes from the sourdough and the small amount of yeast in the dough. The crumb is very light because the only rye in this bread is found in the sourdough build (only 75g). Also notice that this bread achieved a thin crust. I will admit that I did not steam the oven. My first bite is very chewy, and the caraway seeds, which are sprinkled on top of the loaf prior to scoring and baking, really come through in the flavor.

I am a huge fan of caraway, but I need to be sure that you do not associate caraway seeds with rye bread. In America, people have come to assume that they do not, and will not like rye breads simply because they do not like caraway.  This is mis-information and an unfair rap on rye breads. The fact is that most rye sourdough breads do not include caraway seeds. Let me repeat that: Most rye sourdough breads do not include caraway seeds. We can thank the pathetic American store-brought bread for this misunderstanding. If you like caraway, you should try it on other foods. It is wonderful in root vegetable soups and purees and pairs wonderfully with roasted onions.

The rye flavor is very delicate in this loaf, yet it is quite distinct. Both the aroma and the taste make it clear that there is rye flour present in this bread. The caraway in this bread is very subtle, and I think that even a non-caraway fan would find it tolerable and delicious. This bread is also not too sour. There is a small amount of acidity, but it is very well balanced. I am personally a fan of dark beer and dark bread, so I think I will enjoy the Dark Chleba more.  I will report back as soon as I bake it.  (It is next on my list). I have finished my piece, and I am going back for more. I am very pleased with this bread, I did not have high expectations, but I am pleasantly surprised with the results. As I eat further into the loaf, the acidity increases slightly. This is most likely due to a higher crust to crumb ratio as compared to the heel of the bread which I ate first.

This sourdough build called for the use of Leader's German Sourdough Starter (Saurteig). It also called for white rye flour, which I do not have and have no intention of buying. I am a huge fan of the flavor of rye, and I will continue to replace the white rye flour which Leader's formulas call for with medium rye flour, (See my recent post on grinding rye flour for an explanation on the difference between light, medium and whole rye flour). To be honest, I almost used whole rye flour. The sourdough called for 50g of Saurteig, and 75 grams of (white) rye flour and water. This is a standard ratio, 100 percent hydrated. I smelled the sour dough and it smelled acidic, but not overpowering. I would have liked it to smell a little more acidic, but I went ahead and used it with excellent results. 

This bread was really quite easy to mix. All of the flour in the final mix was bread flour, so the gluten development was strong. Leader suggests mixing most of his breads on 3rd speed. However, I am a speed one and speed two guy. So these are the speeds that I used. There is no caraway seed in the mix. Only the crust has a caraway taste, so those people who do not like caraway will not have a problem with this bread. I mixed 4 minutes on first speed and then 5 minutes on second speed. It was still a little lumpy, but when I placed it in the bowl to ferment, it looked great.

The dough was smooth, but not perfectly smooth and there was good gluten development due to the high level of bread flour in this bread (92 percent bread flour included sourdough). I proofed the dough for 90 minutes and then formed two small ovals. This dough was light and loose, but I would not call it wet. It rose considerably during the 75 minutes of proofing.

This bread does have an additional step which is not often found in hearth breads. Before scoring, it is brushed with water using a pastry brush and then sprinkled with caraway seeds. This helps the caraway seeds to adhere to the loaf. It is then given 3-4 parallel scores about 1/2 inch deep. Finally, it is baked with steam for 30-40 minutes.  (I did not use steam),  After baking, the loaves are again bushed with water using a pastry brush (I did not do this step because I forgot.)

As I said this is a very easy loaf to make, and I highly recommend it to all rye bread beginners. You will have to make a sourdough starter, but this is easy. If you need guidance on this matter please let me know. 

Bake On

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