Friday, October 23, 2009

BBA Challenge #19: Marbled Rye Bread

So, I've actually been baking bread for about 12 years now. My first loaf was in high school. Imagine that! I was not even 18 and already baking bread. Unfortunately, that loaf didn't come out at all. In fact, it didn't even rise, as I had no idea what I was doing, and the yeast I used was more than two years expired.

Still, I soldered on, and by the time sophomore year of college rolled around, I baked again. I don't remember how where I learned to make bread. There was no bread book that I discovered all dusty and tucked away in a remote corner of the library. I think I just sort of remembered that high school loaf and just dug my hands in to water and flour again, determined not to fail.

My bread baking had actually dropped off in the last few years. Since coming to Germany, I think I had perhaps baked two or three times, and despite having eating a lot of rye bread, I didn't really think that much about bread. In part, it was because the bakery across the street is so amazing, so I could just pick up a Landbrot whenever I wanted. Plus, on almost every street in this city there is a bakery. On the street where I work, there are three, the last one having just opened about six months ago. Not all bakeries are good, but most halfway decent ones will have a great selection of mostly dark bread.

The thing is, though, that when you have a baking culture that is fairly reliant on rye, you sort of start to get sick of it. In every good bakery, I ask what percent of the flour used is rye. Most of the time they answer without thinking, but at Soluna Brot und Öl on Gneisenaustrasse they got all uppity, particularly when I corrected their comment that sourdough can only be made with rye flour. Maybe in the Deutsches Brotfachbuch or something. They do, however, make the absolute best bread in Berlin (aside from yours truly, of course), so I will forgive them. Maybe it's that charming German service I've been hearing about.

So, it is with heavy feet that I dragged myself to the nineteenth loaf in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

The bread consists of two loaves. Rather, it consists of making two loaves that are exactly the same except for coloring. Hold on. It consists of making two batches that are the same except for coloring, then rolling them together into two separate loaves with a swirl. Got that?

I don't drink coffee. At university I tried getting into it, honest I did. But it didn't work out. Coffee and me- we don't mix. I have often said that I have an iron stomach, but this iron stomach just does not like the acidity of coffee. It makes me double over. In addition to that, I don't drink any caffeine. Yup, you heard me. I don't need caffeine. When I wake up in the morning, I have trouble getting out of the warmth of the bed, but once I'm awake, I can't go back to sleep.

While the recipe suggested coffee as a colorant, I didn't have any on hand. I did, however have the can of joy pictured above.

At various points in Germany's history, coffee was scarce. Not all the time, just at certain points. During wartime and during the time of the DDR, people had to improvise. What resulted, is a small market for Malzkaffee- coffee made out of roasted barley. In recent history, however, they added malted barley and chicory for flavor.

So that's what I drink every now and again. Though Malzkaffee is popular amongst the elderly, younger people tend to snub their noses at this coffee ersatz. For me, however, it is a warm yummy drink as well as the colorant to my bread.

The mise en place was the same things, but doubled. I doubled my use of bowls because I didn't want to re weigh everything and half it when it came time to do the bread. The only difference is the bowl on the upper left with the Malzkaffee.

Two batches were made in the exact same manner. Peter Reinhart warns here about overkneading the rye and making it gummy. Because I've never actually baked with rye, I freaked out and didn't really knead it for more than four minutes. I theoretically could have thrown it all out and started again. After all, rye flour is super easy to get here. I got a bag at the grocery store near work. Next to the spelt flour.

I have to apologize for the relative lack of beautiful photos, as we were also preparing a Mexican feast for a guest at the same time I was making the bread. Mexican Feast post will have to wait until we do it again, as it was too hectic to take photos. Which means the rye bread got short shrift.

The loaves came out squished. There wasn't that much rise, and virtually no oven spring.

Also, the dark part of the rye wasn't very dark, even though I added about a half cup of the "coffee".

And! I also got a hole in the top of my crust. Usually this is a sign of overproofing, but in my case, probably not. These are the two loaves cut, by the way, as we made our way from one to the other. Just in case you were wondering why the swirls didn't match up.

I have to say that I was very underwhelmed with the flavor and texture. It was just. Well, dense and oddly flavored.

And. But.

Something changed in the course of the week.

I ate slices every day for a week, thinking it was unfair that I had to eat it, and trying to think of someone, anyone, who would take the bread. On maybe Wednesday I bit into it. Toasted. And was amazed. I don't know it it is a flavor thing or even a decomposition thing, but the bread tasted way better. Maybe I just had to adjust my taste buds. Or maybe it was the Poiret fruit spread.

Other Rye Bakers who haven't lost their Marbled are:

Deb at Italian Food Forever

Paul at Yumarama

Sally at Bewitching Kitchen

Janice at Round The Table

Cindy at Salt and Serenity

This post is part of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. Thanks again to Nicole from Pinch My Salt for the challenge.


  1. I thought the marbled rye was better toasted too. We had a lot of reuben sandwiches that week! Good job.

  2. I had a few small holes in mine. Probably due to the layering of the doughs and not getting all the bubbles out.
    I'm impressed that you have been making bread since high school and that there is an abundance of rye where you live...I had to search high and low for rye here.
    I agree with did taste much better toasted~

  3. I'm envious that you don't need caffeine/coffee to wake up in the mornings. You're so good at keeping on track with all the BBA breads. I've taken a bit of a break, the next bread on my list is the Italian.

  4. I glad that the bread aged well. I love reading about the different flours and breads that you can find.

  5. I am laughing at the mise picture. I do not remember it being that bad but Heather did most of the work. The pane breads that are coming up are my favorite so far :-)