Friday, June 1, 2012

Black Pumpernickel and Songs of the Week

Wow! It's been a long time, but I have been baking. For the most part, I have been baking things that I have previously posted on. There isn't much sense in duplicating these.  However, I am going to make an exception for my pumpernickel bread.  Although, I have made this bread before and blogged about it in the past, I have made a few changes that are worth sharing with you. I have been in communication with Chef Richard Miscovich (Misky), and together we made some changes to the baking technique which resulted in a perfect crust and an elegant and moist crumb. This is a bread that is absolutely wholesome with an aroma is to die for. 

Although I have previously posted on the process of this bread, I will walk you through it once again. I just can not get enough of the process of making this bread. There are so many components and each one adds just a bit more spirituality to this bread. 

This bread starts off with a rye berry soaker. The rye berries are soaked in a lot of water overnight to soften the berries. They will grow noticeably in size from absorbing the water. The amount of water that you soak them in is not critical, but do not be shy. You really want them to soak in a considerable amount of liquid.  I just had a thought: What would this bread be like if the berries soaked in a dark ale?…......I will have to play with this idea in the future. 

I don't think that I would need to worry about the alcohol content if I used beer because the rye berries are boiled. Oh well, back to the business at hand.  The rye berries are boiled for about an hour in water. A ratio of 3:1 can be used for water to berry. I am going to be honest here. I had to do this when I got home from a birthday party, so I ended up boiling my rye berreis between two and three A.M. This just goes goes to show you that bread is truly a labor of love. If you are afraid of commitment, this bread is not for you! The berries will grow in size during the cooking process, and they will smell earthy in a subtle way. I leave mine at room temperature overnight, otherwise they will need time to come to temperature prior to mixing the following morning. 

Rye berries after being cooked
Since the sourdough take 14-16 hours to build, I made this around 6 P.M. on Friday evening. This is a good sized build, but then again this makes about a 3.5 lb loaf, so it only makes sense. 

Milling the rye meal out of uncooked rye berries 

Just before going to bed I combined 4 huge slices of sourdough raisin bread that had been well-toasted. It should be toasted to the point just before burning. I combined this with a healthy amount of water and allowed it to soak overnight. This is known as the "old bread soaker".  In Germany there are purity laws which state exactly how much old bread you are allowed to use in bread baking. There are similar laws for beer making as well. Once again, this just proves that beer is liquid bread and bread is solid beer! The soaked bread gets so huge in the water and is really quite gross to the touch. The formula calls for the bread to be well-squeezed out. Actually, it is possible that no additional water will be needed. I did have to add close to 2 oz of water, which in the scheme of things is not very much, considering the dough weighs four pounds.

All of the ingredients are combined in the mixing bowl and the dough is mixed for ten minutes on first speed. Second speed is not used for this bread. You really have to scrape the dough down quite a bit. I scrape it own about every thirty seconds, so the dough really mixes for close to 15 minutes. You will see some gluten development, but really what you are looking for is a cohesive unit. Keep in mind that there are a lot of things in this bread including almost a quart of cooked berries and 20% by weight rye chops. Remember that this bread has a lot of chew to it, so do not expect a nice and smooth dough after the mix. 

Just after the mix

Just before shaping into a massive log

The dough is given 30 minutes to proof and then it is shaped into a HUGE log and then placed carefully inside a floured pullman pan. The lid is placed on the pan and it is given 45 minutes to an hour to rise. This is where the baking process begins. 

The shaped loaf prior to proofing

After proofing, as you can see it is less than an inch from the top of the pan, this is ideal

This is a bread that is baked in a receding oven, therefore it take upwards of 12 hours for the total bake. VERY IMPORTANT: All ovens are different and times can vary greatly. This bread is a bit of an experiment. The last time that I baked this bread, the bottom got way too done and was nearly impossible to cut, so I made some changes. 

This bread calls for baking for one hour at 350, then three to four hours at 275. After that, the oven is turned off for the remainder of the bake. The last time that I baked this bread I did not use the stone. For this bake, I used a stone for about thirty minutes to help give the bread "oven-spring". Also, the last time that I baked this bread, I gave it four hours at 275 degrees. This time I only baked at 275 for three hours. Those were the only changes that I made, and the results were much better. This bread was a bit less over-done, and the crumb was nice and moist, yet crunchy. I am really pleased. Yesterday, four days after the bake I walked around my department and was handing out bread. I bake more to give than to eat. Eating is secondary to the giving. The thing that I love most about this bread is the explanation the process to my eaters. They find it so fascinating, and I find it very exciting to explain all about the baking process.  The bottom line is that is a lot of fun!
I do not know if this bread is worth the amount of time it takes.  All of the time constraints and all of the elements that need to be done at certain times are really a pain.
It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time. It's good but to be honest and I think that I prefer baking a Volkornbrot more, especailly the Volkornbrot with flax seeds. That formula is just wonderful.

Just out of the oven! 

Close up of the crust

Oh, if you do make this bread, eat it with some smoked cheese or smoked fish. It is also awesome plain or with sweet cream butter. 
Remember, it is not the destination, it is the ride. This bread will teach you a lot about fermentation; a little about life; and a whole lot about love!

Bake on 

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