Friday, March 12, 2010

BBA Challenge #32: Sourdough-100% Sourdough Rye Bread

Rye. Again.

I thought this was the sourdough section.

I think I'd taken my bias against rye a bit too far. I mean, I see a fair number of okay rye loaves here in Germany, since everyone seems to eat it it like it was- well, like it was wheat. The thing is that rye has this tanginess that I tend not to like. The reason?

When I first moved here I had a limited vocabulary. I had the grammar pretty much down, though the verb at the end of the sentence still sometimes confuses me. I hadn't yet mastered interactions with people in bakeries though that would change really fast as soon as I discovered the Streuselschnecken and Kirschplunder. Thus, I would just buy everything I needed at the grocery store, including the bread for the week, and be done with it.

I bought the biggest loaf of bread I could find, which coincidentally, also happened to be the cheapest. For 0,59€ I could get a kilo and a half of rye bread that was a huge oval, but now, thinking back to it, it very much looked like it was baked by a machine. Every morning I would make myself two slices of bread with quark and Pflaumenmus and sit down with my German language textbook. Perhaps it was the novelty of the bread, so cheap and so big.

Eventually, however, life changed. I learned new words, and eventually started working with my limited German language abilities. I started buying Kürbiskernbrot, which is pumpkin seed bread, and left the rye behind. I learned to dislike it, with its agressively dry and tangy taste. Though I had seen all-rye loaves in almost every bakery, I shunned them. They were not for me, those dense creatures that looked like they could take a tooth off in all their chewiness. A colleague once bought one for the office, but I dared not take a slice.

So you can see how unenthusiastic I was about this particular bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. For this bread, my approach was to just get it over with. I would make it, photograph is, then unceremoniously toss it because I knew, even before I had started, that it would not work out.

The first step was finding coarse-ground whole rye flour. Since my local flour store has coarse-ground whole wheat flour, I thought their rye flour would be the same. But no. Because it was so-called normal whole rye, I decided to leave it at that. I didn't want to keep buying whole rye flour and end up with ten kilos of unusable flour. In addition to the whole-rye flour, I also had some left over from the Marbled Rye as well, so I decided to keep it at that.

Just like with wheat flour, rye flour also has numbers that correlate directly to the amount of ash in the flour. Well, the amount of ash, in milligrams, left over when burning 100g of flour. In this case, Type 997 flour is the white variety of rye flours. The odd thing is that you can find this type of white flour in any normal supermarket in Germany. Well, not the discounters, but you can find it anywhere you can find Type 550 wheat flour.

So this bread required not only a firm starter (top left), but also a soaker of the whole rye flour (top right). I think this step was a bit unnecessary because the flour wasn't coarse, but as I said, I was just sort of half-present for this bread, so I just went ahead and did it.

Because rye contains a lower amount of gluten, and that gluten is quite delicate, it is quite easy to overmix it, or generally mess it up. I have to constantly remind myself that rye is not wheat.

The dough came into a ball quite quickly.

And then I decided it was done. I didn't even bother with a windowpane.

The dough barely rose, which is a bit odd, since rye is supposed to be super nutritious for the yeasty beasts and bacterias that live in sourdough. I ended up deciding it was too late to bake the bread, and just put the whole thing in a single loaf pan and stuck it in the fridge. It was about 2/3 full, and I thought it wouldn't rise further.

Holy moley! It rose. The next morning, I went to check on it, and it had crested the loaf pan. Not by much, but it had actually risen! Because I had to go to work, I just put it back in the fridge until that night, worried that it would overrise and collapse by the time I got back.

You might not believe it, but I still didn't have that much faith in the bread. I just put it into the heated oven without bothering to slash it. Remember, I was thinking- bake, photograph and trash.

The oven spring was moderate, but there was actually some. The bread did some splitting apart, as you can see on the top.

I didn't expect to like this bread. Up until the moment I sliced into it, I thought I'd be justified in disliking it. Yeah, it's just Rye bread. I thought I would take a bite and say HA! I told you so, and toss the bread into the garbage.

But. No.

It was not meant to be. I was pleasantly surprised.

I keep thinking to myself- Imagine if you actually put some effort into this bread.

Maybe it would have been even better, but I can just go down the street to the bakery and get a reliable loaf of whole rye bread, whereas I can't get a loaf of Poilâne Bread. Well, I have to take the subway for that, but you'll have to wait until the next post for that story!

Other 100% Bakers include:

Janice from Round the Table

Sally from Bewitching Kitchen

Cindy from Salt and Serenity

Anne Marie from Rosemary and Garlic

The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is hosted by Nicole from Pinch My Salt. Check out her BBA Breads!


  1. Congrats on a highly successful rye!
    Maybe I should have let mine rise in the fridge..
    You are one of the few who had good luck with this one.

  2. I love your stories about living in Germany. I am glad that you liked your loaf.

  3. Glad you liked this bread. I LOVED it, even though it looked really ugly. I'm going to make it again soon to and maybe give it some time in the fridge, because mine barely rose...

  4. I'm in the middle of this right now. It is not rising and I don't have time to put it in the fridge before dinner tonight (the corned beef is waiting), but my fingers are crossed that it tastes as good as yours!

  5. I'm convinced to try(e) baking it again. I baked a 70/30 with walnuts and I loved it. I'll get there.:)

  6. I'm glad I'm back to baking again. I need to start my starter so I can make these delicious breads.

    (by the way...I found a restaurant here in California that has something like 18 Belgian ales on tap. I was in heaven!)

  7. Thanks Natashya- I was indeed lucky, even if I barely try(e)d.

    Thanks Anne Marie. I like writing about life here because sometimes I can't believe I am lucky enough to live here!

    AP- I think the bread rarely rises, though the fridge did help. I've seen 100% Roggenbrot here, and it's usually pretty dense.

    Abby- Saw your post, the bread looked weird, but I remember you liked the taste, no?

    Oggi- I think a high rye percentage mixed with some wheat flour would probably be ideal. Even in Germany, the majority of rye bread is mixed with wheat.

    pinkstripes- glad to see you baking again. I can't wait to read your posts. As for the Belgian ales, I wish I could drink them every day. I guess this means I should plan my next trip to Belgium!

    Thanks everyone for all the wonderful comments!

  8. Yay! You have crossed over to the dark (rye) side!! I love how you baked this even though you were sure you'd hate it. What a true BBA challenger you are. Your lost in the translation stories make me laugh.

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