Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Power of the Pumpernickel

Baking this bread was an absolutely spiritual expereince! I love making this bread as I feel its the link of science, art and history!!

If you want to learn about the mystery of the universe, and then be able to eat it, then this is the right bread for you! Years and years of German bread tradition are wrapped up into this pullman pan and baked in a receding oven for 12-16 hours. I have only done this bread two times before, and I have had very pleasing results. But this is the first time that I have had confidence in my dough. The last two times I baked this bread, I did not have an appropriate heavy bread for the bread soaker. But this time I had a 68% whole rye with fennel which I baked last week. I toasted it up in the oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees to suck all of the water out of it and to caramelize all of the natural sugars in the dough and used that in the bread soaker. 

The bread soaker is only one component in the preparation of this bread, I will describe them in order here.

Two nights before you plan on baking this bread, a Rye berry soaker is made. About a cup of rye berries are soaked in warm water overnight. This softens the berries and allows them to swell to about 125% of their original size. This makes the boiling process go faster and also allows the berries to absorb more water during their cooking period. You can place the berries in a hotel pan and bake them in the oven. Since I was not using the oven at the time, I opted to cook them on the stove. I brought the water and berries to a boil, then reduced the stove to a simmer: then covered them and let them cook away for 60-80 minutes. 

The next step is the Rye sourdough build. I have to admit that Liza Mae, my starter was sluggish. She has not been fed in over a month and I should have either used my whole wheat levain, Jack Straw, or should have waited until tomorrow to make this bread. However, I was excited and eager to go, so I used Liza Mae. I was a bit disappointed because the sourdough build did not rise considerably over night. 

At 3:30 in the morning I woke up to start the soaker. I boiled water in my electric kettle and poured it over the severely toasted bread. I also checked on the sourdough build in the boiler room and saw that it was not moving. I turned the oven on 170 degrees for five minutes, shut the oven off and placed the build in the oven and went back to bed. 

At 7:30 AM the preparation and scaling process began. The first thing that had to be done was to completely drain the bread soaker. Important: Do NOT discard the water. I squeezed the bread and removed as much water as I could and placed the bread little by the little into the bottom of the mixing bowl. When you do this, you will notice that the water takes on a light brown color. This is normal. This is from simple diffusion that takes place as the water passes through a permeable membrane (the bread). The water is rich in flavor and if necessary (as it was for me), it is added little by little during the mixing phase. Next the rye chops, bread flour, salt, yeast and black strap mollasses are added to the mixing bowl.

At 7:45 I began the long, slow mix!  The bread is first mixed on first speed for ten minutes. It is necessary to scrape the bowl down as you go. I did this about 5 or six times. Turn the mixer off and really reform the dough into a ball. If the dough is dry add a little of the reserved soaker water. Be sure to add it slowly. I think I added about 1/3 of a cup of water total. The amount of water that you add will largely depend on your cooked berries, the kind of bread that you soaked, and the temperature of the water that you used in your soaker. As aforementioned, I used very hot water in mine. 

This dough then bulk ferments for 20-30 minutes. A pullman pan is oiled well and then floured. Be sure to also oil and flour the lid of your pan. This is done in the same way that one would oil a bundt pan for making a cake. The oil is sprayed on the pan and then a large amount of flour in poured into the pan and the pan is shaken and turned every which way to ensure that there is a coating of flour on the entire pan. This will keep the bread from sticking and will also insulate the bread during the long bake. The bread is then shaped in to a log, about the length of the pan. I literally put the bread next to the pan and shape until it is about 2 cm shorter than the pan. I then quickly and carefully placed the log into the pan; covered it; and then let it rise on top of the oven for about an hour.

Then the baking process begins. I started the baking process in my apartment at 10:06 am. I want to note that increasing your oven's thermal mass will help you to maintain strong heat retention, so I placed a full pizza stone, a 3 quart combo cooker, a 14" cast iron skillet, and half of a bread stone in my oven. I used half of the bread stone because once the bread has been on the stone for an hour I remove the stone and place it on top of the pizza stone, this way the bottom of the bread does not get too thick and carbonized. 

Here is the Breads time line:

350 degrees for 1 hour
275 degrees for 4 hours
250 degrees for 1 hour
225 degrees for 45 minutes
200 degrees for 1 hour
170 degrees for 45 minutes
Oven off for two hours
170 degrees for 10 minutes
Finally, oven off until 12-13 hours from when the bread first went into the oven.

This will closely mimic a receding bread oven and will give you great results! 
Finally, remember to increase the thermal mass in your oven for best results. 

And the moment of truth!!

Bake on!

-DW, The Rye King and proud of it!!!

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