An entertaining passage in the book, Six Thousand Years of Bread by H. E. Jacobs, cites the polarizing dogma between wheat bread lovers and rye bread lovers. The Germanic and Russian people bragged that the consumption of rye breads made them large and strong. The wheat eaters' rebuttal was that that the rye eaters were stupid and dull.
Dismissing caricature and shunning stereotypes, bakers around the globe have come to appreciate the spicy earthiness of rye breads. The flavor and aroma of rye flour has become accepted and prized. Perhaps as a vestige of these elitist “grain wars” dating back to the Middle Ages, bakers in regions outside of eastern Europe incorporate a preferment made with wheat flour. As a matter of procedure or convenience, many modern bakers prefer to maintain one naturally leavened starter rather than adding a second one, such as rye, to the refreshment schedule.
Using a stiff natural levain provides the level of acidity required to strengthen the protein-deficient rye, reduce the likelihood of starch attack, enhance the flavor and extend shelf life. Pentosans, the main gas trapping substance in rye, are not as efficient at trapping carbon dioxide as the gluten formed from wheat proteins. Combining rye and wheat is an accepted practice to produce the lighter loaves favored by many.
Rheinish brot is an excellent accompaniment to smoked and cured meats and fish as well as cheeses. Whether toasted or not, it is perfect for sandwiches and canapés, or it can be enjoyed simply by spreading unsalted butter on slices and sprinkling with crunchy sea salt or fleur de sel. Eaten unadorned, its flavors are sweet, spicy, mustardy, acidic and smoky. It has a tender bite with a pleasing, non-elastic mouthfeel and the cracked wheat provides textural contrast. Novice and reluctant rye bread eaters will be surprised that such a dark bread is not overly sour or strongly flavored. The absence of caraway, which many North Americans associate with rye, is more often welcomed than not.
To efficiently expand the product line, two varieties can be made from one formula. Make a soaker with cracked wheat or other grains, and make a separate soaker with lightly toasted sunflower seeds. Divide the dough after mixing and incorporate a soaker in each half.
The acidity of the loaf and the molasses prolong shelf life, a desirable trait for both the retailer and the consumer, making it an effective choice for a weekly or twice weekly bake. In fact, the bread requires an overnight resting or maturation period before consumption. The loaves are attractive when marketed in cellophane closed with tape, stickers or raffia. Rheinish brot will allow bakers to exapand their everyday repertoire while keeping the shelves stocked and interesting.
Mitch Stamm is an associate instructor at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., where he teaches Principles and Techniques of Bread Making. He is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef with 40 years experience in foodservice. For more information on Johnson & Wales University, visit www.jwu.edu.
|Cracked wheat*||2||3.25||1 kg|
|Total appr. wt.||4||6.5||2 kg|
Method: Soak the cracked wheat in cool water for at least four hours or as long as overnight.
*Toasted sunflower seeds may be substituted for cracked wheat.
|Whole grain rye flour||8||13||4 kg|
|Total appr. wt.||24||5.25||11.042 kg|
Method: Divide the levain into several smaller amounts. Place the levain and water in the bowl of a spiral mixer. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated, about three to four minutes. Mix on high speed for two to three minutes until the dough is developed. The dough temperature should be 78°F to 80°F. Add the soaker and incorporate on low speed. Place in an oiled container, cover and let rest for one hour. For 8-in. by 4-in. loaf pans, divide the dough in 1-lb. 8.6-oz. (700-g) pieces. Lightly round and allow the loaves to relax for 10 minutes. Shape the loaves to fit the pans, and place them in sprayed and floured loaf pans. Final proof for one hour at 78°F to 80°F with moderate humidity. Bake in a receding oven beginning at 480°F with steam until the loaves are set, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans, and place them on parchment-lined sheet pans. Return the loaves to the oven to finish baking for another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Wrap in paper and store for 24 hours before serving.
*50 percent hydration
Yields about 13 loaves