Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vollkornbrot: An Authentic German Experience

 To all of the rye lovers out there, this one is for you! This bread is coming from Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread. This is hands down my favorite bread and for several reasons. For one thing, this loaf is filled with an immense amount of whole grain. Another reason I love this bread, is its flavor. This bread really has quite the acidic kick and because of the high acidity it keeps a long time without spoiling.
I recently commented to my good friend Dima about this bread and jokingly said "I think that if I put mold on this bread it would simply die." This is a bread that will last in the refrigerator for almost three weeks in a sealed plastic bag. I have had it stay fresh at room temperature for close to two weeks. The third thing that I love about this bread is its shape.  It is baked in a pullman pan, and because of this its slices are perfectly square. This is actually the first time that I have baked this volkornbrot in a pullman pan and I am excited to see how it compares to the variety I have made in the past using a loaf pan. The final reason that I love this bread is because all of the flour comes from rye berries.  It is commonly believed that you cannot make a bread with only rye flour because rye has considerably less gluten that wheat. This bread dismisses that misconception. Although this dough does not achieve a large amount of gluten in the mixing bowl, it does produce a marvelous bread. I recently had a conversation with Michael Jubinksy about the amazing flavor of Volkornbrot, and he agrees that if you are a rye lover and you make this bread, you will not be disappointed.  

As mentioned above, ALL of the flour in this bread comes from whole rye berries. ~69 percent of the berries are ground into rye meal, which is a course grind of whole rye flour (This is often times referred to as pumpernickel flour). The remaining rye berries are milled into rye chops. Rye chops are literally rye berries that have been chopped into pieces. These chops are soaked overnight in water. Jeffrey Hamelman recommends the use of smaller chops which can be soaked in cold water.  I chose to use larger chops which are often referred to as cracked rye.  Because of the coarser grind of rye chops that I used, I soaked them in boiling water to increase the absorption rate of the water. 

As you can see there is a very large amount of soaked grains in this bread. Nearly 40%!

A great close up of the soaker
This bread also has a very large amount of sourdough. 41 percent of the rye flour is pre-fermented in the sourdough build. One of the things that I love about Jeffrey Hamelman's baking style is that he uses a very small amount of starter when he prepares his sourdough build. For instance, the percentage of sourdough culture used in this starter is 5% which is less than one ounce. Leader typically uses around 2 ounces of starter. I find that the sour taste is smoother and more profound using Hamelman's approach. It is also possible that I am simply biased because I have met Hamelman and have spoken with him. This sourdough has a heavy look to it because rye meal is used (rye meal is even heavier than fine ground whole rye flour). There was considerable expansion during its 14 hours of overnight fermentation. 

The sourdough build just before the mix
Due to the high amount of water that is used in both the sourdough build and the soaker, only 3 ounces of water is used in the final mix. The mix of this dough is fairly unique in that it is only mixed on first speed (for ten minutes). I found it necessary to scrape the mixing bowl every minute or so. This dough is very heavy, and it has a tendency to be pushed against the sides of the mixing bowl. 

The picture along wit the next one present a fairly strong visual of the mass of both the sourdough and the soaker in proportion to the size of my 6 qt mixing bowl

The dough only receives 20-30 minutes of bulk fermentation. It is important to note that the desired dough temperature is rather high (85 degrees F). During the bulk fermentation, the pullman pan is oiled and then dusted with whole rye flour. I do this by oiling the sides and bottom of the pan and then placing about 1/2 cup of rye flour in the pullman pan and moving the pan around to ensure that it is well coated with flour. (The technique is similar to that used to flour a bundt pan prior to baking a cake).

The oil and floured Pullman Pan
After bulk fermentation, the dough is shaped into a cylinder and is then gently maneuvered into the pullman pan. Once inside the pan, it may be necessary to manipulate the dough to ensure that it sits evenly throughout the pan. Dust the top of the loaf with whole rye flour. The pan is then either covered with a lid or with plastic wrap, and placed in a warm draft free area and allowed to rise for about an hour. It will rise fairly significantly 

The shaped loaf prior to proofing
Here is a picture of the proofed loaf, just before it was baked.
And a close up of the appearance of the risen dough.

Another close up. Take a look at the appearance that is achieved by dusting the loaf with rye meal
Hamelman notes that it is not necessary to score this bread, but I saw a picture in his book of a very dark rye bread with a really unique scoring pattern, so I thought I would try some scoring and I think it worked well. I have not yet tasted the bread because it really needs to rest in baker's linen for 48 hours before it can be sliced. I used a very clean IKEA dish towel to let my Volkornbrot rest. It works well for me because I do not own any baker's linen. 

Here is my mountain score
This bread is baked in a unique way. It is baked uncovered at 470 degrees for 15 minutes and then the oven is lowered to 370 for an additional 75 minutes of baking. IMPORTANT: After the bread has baked for an hour and fifteen minutes, the loaf should be removed from the pullman pan. This allows for the sides of the loaf to firm up. The bread is then placed on a cooling rack. After cooling, it is then wrapped in linen as mentioned above.

As you can see, the scoring pattern held up well during the bake, and the loaf has a very dark and rustic look. It seems dense, and it is possible that I may have baked it a bit too long. 

And here is a nice close up of the crumb. The sunflower seeds add some nice texture and enhance the appearance.

This crumb is very moist, and you can see the wonderful addition that the sunflower seeds provide. The rye flavor is so intense and wonderful, and the chops provide excellent texture and chew. I could have ground the rye chops just a bit smaller, but this is still a wonderful bread. I love how the crust and the crumb have such a wonderful contrast. 

It is very important that you slice this bread very thin. I recommend slices of about a quarter of an inch. This is the perfect time to mentioned how important it is to have a really well-made and strong knife for cutting artisan breads, particularly breads such as this. A flimsy knife will only increase the likelihood of cutting yourself. Make an investment. If you have questions about knives or would like suggestions, I will be more than happy to help you. Getting a few good knives, will make cutting a safer and more enjoyable experience. The crust on the bottom of this loaf is a bit thick, perhaps baking this loaf on the stone might be a good idea. The same thick bottom happened to me when I baked my Pumpernickel

You will certainly enjoy this one, fiber has never tasted so good!
Bake on 

1 comment :

  1. You need plenty of smoked cheese, smoked trout, pickled herring and dill pickles to go with this beautiful bread.