Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Zitny Chleba: Czech Country Bread

There are 3 problems with tasting a delicious bread at night. First, it gets me excited to blog. Second, it wakes me up. Third, I eat way to much bread! 
(Thank god that I have a slender build)

This bread is a winner, It it is one of the best breads found in Daniel Leader's book Local Breads. I am cooking a good meal because I just plain feel like it. After that, I am going to blog about this bread because I am in the mood for it. I have made a few adaptions to this bread, but I will note them below.

This bread does not exactly call for a sourdough build, but rather it calls for the "refresh" of a sourdough. A portion of the refreshed sourdough is used in the final dough. This is a very wet starter and although it looks too wet for a rye starter, just go with it. I used this same method when I baked the Alpine Baguettes with the sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Although I was not pleased with the finished result of the baguettes, I think that it makes sense for this bread. So I thought I would give it a try. 

21:00 Sunday
The refreshening of the starter calls for 50 grams of rye sourdough starter 100 grams of water and 75 grams of whole rye flour. This "refreshed" mix then sits for 12-18 hours. I let mine sit until 9:30 in the morning, roughly 12 hours. I also took the time to build up my rye sourdough. I was starting to run out, so I made sure to make some more. I now have about a pint, and that will last me for close to 5 or 6 more rye breads. 

The first step of the Mix
9:30 Monday
The bread is 60 percent hydrated and only contains 20% white rye flour. I did not use white rye, I used sifted whole rye flour which is very similar to light rye flour. 
The formula calls for the water and flour to be added to the bowl and mixed into a shaggy mass. After this has occurred, the starter is added with the salt.... Myself, I just put the starter in with the water and yeast, and mixed it gently to allow it to disperse. Then I added the flour and salt and mixed on first speed for 3 minutes. Daniel Leader suggests fourth speed, but I went with first speed. The mixer is then increased to second speed for 3 minutes. It is then given a ten minute rest.

9:50 Monday 
After the ten minute rest, the dough is mixed for an additional three minutes on second speed. I am not sure of the exact reasoning for this, but my guess is that it allows the gluten to relax a bit prior to the final mixing stage. After the final mixing the dough begins the fermentation process.

The dough is given roughly 2 - 2 1/2 hours to ferment at room temperature. Since the dough does have a small amount of yeast, expect to see some significant growth during the first hour or so. Otherwise you would not expect to see much growth during the first hour and the total time for bulk fermentation would have been closer to 3-3 1/2 hours. 

12:00 Monday
The dough is placed on the bench and is then divided and then shaped into a round loaf. It is then placed on a peel which has been dusted with semolina flour and is given 60-90 minutes to proof. 

12:30 Monday
The oven and baking stone are preheated at 450 degrees for about an hour.

13:30 Monday
The bread is then docked, which means that holes are placed on the top of the bread. This helps to ensure that the bread bakes evenly. I have never docked a bread before, so I am not exactly sure that I did it correctly. It did give the bread an interesting appearance, and it provided some symmetry to its the final shape. I then placed the bread in the oven with a small amount of steam. This bread is baked for approximately 35 minutes.    

I check the loaf and although it was not quite done, it did have some nice oven spring. The bottom of the bread seemed to have rounded a bit, and was not exactly flat on the stone. I sort of liked the rounded look that the finished bread achieved. I also noticed that it was coloring very nicely. 

14:10 Monday
I removed the finished bread from the oven, and the smell of the loaf immediately reminded of of Hamelman's Roasted Potato Bread which I love so much! Daniel Leader described the color of the finished loaves as ruddy. I looked up a definition of the word ruddy. It is defined as something with a healthy red color. They give as an example "a cheerful pipe-smoking man of ruddy complexion". This bread does not make me think of a man's face. The bread does have a reddish brown color, but it is closer to looking like brown stone than it is to a mans cheeks. Take a look at the final appearance, with presence of the docking marks. What do you think about the look? I think I rather like it.

20:30 Monday
The taste of this bread is quite interesting, it does have a rye presence but it is subtle. It is not quite acidic and it is not quite not acidic either. It certainly has wonderful flavor. I am really liking the lighter rye breads. I am a die hard-fan of the dark ryes, but more often than not, dark ryes are heavy and dense. Maybe I just like all rye breads. According to Leader, this bread is to the Czechs as the baguette is to the French, and it is commonly eaten with the mid-day meal. This bread is often used to make Chlebicky or open faced sandwiches. In Czechoslovakia, a Chlebicky is often made with smoked fish, sausage or ham and garnished with hard boiled egg or tomato. These are typically eaten throughout the day and as light evening suppers...sounds good to me! 

A close up of the crumb
Bake this bread! I love its lightness and it has a beautiful crumb and a lovely semi crusty semi-tender crust. I had my second slice with a light spreading of sweet cream butter, and it was awesome! It will really go over well with those people who think that all rye breads taste like caraway seeds, because that is not the case. Don't even tell them that it is a rye bread, they will never now what hit them!

Bake On!

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