I’m not particularly in the kitchen project starting/baking mood today but we have run out of bread. And as I revived my starter a few days ago and it’s all ready to go, and I can make an extra loaf for my mother and etc etc. I have spent the morning reasoning / “guilting” myself into bread making this weekend.
I don’t love baking bread as a regular obligation, but it is a baking project filled with a lot of personal satisfaction: “Woo! I made bread! Bread that I can eat!” It also makes those I share it with very happy. And if you are so inclined you can go on social media and brag. Or the next time you go to a restaurant and your friends exclaim, “Mmmm fresh bread!” You can reply smugly, “Yes it’s fine but the one I bake at home is sooo much better!” or “I’ve started making my own bread at home -from scratch- so I have this all the time.” and enjoy the resulting eye roll.
The bread I work with is very simple. It’s a traditional German Rye Bread – a whole grain sourdough with a thick chewy crust. It has only 3 main ingredients: Flour, salt, water. I love added caraway seeds so I add them. No sugar. No dairy. No eggs. Vegan friendly ( as long as they don’t count eating yeast as a problem ;). Most importantly: NO KNEADING. You stir and form it and then leave it alone over night or all day and then stick in the oven. It’s a low maintenance loaf. But looks brilliant when finished.
I am making 4 loaves this time 1 to eat and 2 to freeze and one to give away.
What I need for 4 loaves:
- a leftover glass jar with lid ( about 250ml in volume)
- 1 large glass bowl (no metal) or 4 bowls for convenience
- 4 dollar store plastic colanders ( or professional boules or untreated plain wicker baskets or seriously just the colander you use to drain pasta)
- 4 clean cotton tea towels ( no fabric softener etc) (Ikea ones work beautifully)
- a wooden spoon
- clean counter space or large cutting board
- an oven
- 2 or more baking sheets/cookie sheets or two dutch ovens
- 2 minutes every night for a week ( for the first loaf less later) then a 24 hour period that has a few hours free every 10 hours to do a few minutes of work
- 2.5 kg of Dark Rye flour (I use Rogers)
- Water (I use Vancouver tap water)
- 20-40 grams of sea salt
- 2-3 tablespoons of Caraway seed (optional)
Optional: a few cups of all-purpose flour (Canadian) or specifically labeled bread flour if not Canadian
Rye Bread Step One:
For this bread, a sourdough, the process of baking begins with a starter- the one I referenced earlier. For new and seasoned bakers alike this may be a first adventure into the breeding of yeast! Do not be afraid! Yeast is a friendly funghi! (I will spare you the writing of the pun). Generations tracing back to the ancient Egyptians did this. And yeast you breed yourself has a distinct flavour that you just don’t get with commercial yeast. Plus it is fun to watch grow. oooooo bubbles!
A simple rye starter begins with an empty glass jar – I use a leftover jam jar – and a tablespoon of rye flour and a tablespoon of water. So go get those things. Dark rye flour is available at Safeway, or your local health/natural food/ bulk grain store. Get it as fresh as possible ( check expiry dates) and only buy what you need for a month or so – you don’t want old bad rye – it can lead to mania and bouts of witch burning (google ergot and Salem) And then watch this beautiful video:
This video is genius – I followed it exactly and got a wonderful result. I know many internet sites will tell you to be careful of the water and be fancy about it but really it’s not necessary. I live in Vancouver- the water is fine. I find I get the best results if the water is room temperature or lukewarm – because yeast loves warm. Which will give you an idea of the best place to store your starter – it likes warm and shady places – I keep mine on top of the fridge ( my kitchen is windowless).
This is what mine looks like right after I feed it (take out half and add new four and water):
a few hours later bubbles! and smells sour/alcohol/fruity. this is a healthy starter
You can use the starter after 7 days. It should grow to almost double in size within 8 hours of feeding. If you are impatient then ask someone you know if they have a starter around. Seriously it surprised me when I posted on FB that I just made a starter how many people congratulated me and said they had one too.
Now to the days before baking: I increase the amount of starter so that I have one tablespoon per loaf and one left over in the jar. So for me that is 5 tablespoons. I added 2 tablespoons to my starter a few days ago, then three etc. Also make a note of how much flour I have as well as other ingredients. This bread takes a surprising amount of flour- 625 g per loaf. I have started making my bread 100% rye. But if you run out of rye or you want a lighter flavour you can use a portion of of all-purpose/bread flour or so for each loaf.
So now you have 5 tablespoons of starter and everything else you will need so here is the night before / day before process-
Take one tablespoon of starter and put it into a glass bowl – I use the large bowl will stir the full loaf in – add ½ cup of water and a little less than 1 cup of rye flour ( or if you have a scale 125g of each water and rye flour) Stir, and cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave overnight (8-10 hours is fine). This gives time for the yeast to eat and multiply. This is where the 24 hour time period comes into play – started my 4 bowls of starter this morning ( you can use one big bowl and mix the whole amount if you prefer)- I will stir and form in 10 hours and then I will bake in the morning. You can also make the larger starter the night before, form loaves in the morning and bake in the evening.
These are mine:
Tomorrow Part 2: Forming and Baking