This is my first experiment with rye flour. My friend Adams asked me to make bread "like they do in Russia", so I thought I'd give it a try. I had also seen Peter Reinhart's TED Talk about whole wheat bread, and I had his book at home, so I thought it would be fun to try.
Little did I know, you need lots of time and lots of "unusual" ingredients for this recipe (by unusual I mean that I hadn't seen them in any bread recipes before). I ended up not having half the things required, so I improvised.
Among the required ingredients that I didn't have were: altus (crusted bread soaked overnight), diastatic malt powder (better texture, more flavor and improved shelf life), whole wheat or rye mother starter (read about it here).
I replaced the whole wheat started with sourdough starter, and it tasted delicious. I'm sure it's completely different if you follow the recipe closely, but it was still delightful!
For the mash:
1 1/4 cups + 1 Tbsp of water
3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp whole rye flour (preferably coarse grind)
1/2 tsp brown sugar
For the starter:
1/3 cup sourdough starter
1 2/3 cups rye flour (preferably coarse grind)
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
For the final dough:
All the starter
All the mash
2 cups whole rye flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
For the mash:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 F.
2. Heat the water to 165 F in an ovenproof saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk or stir in the rye flour and malt until the flour is fully hydrated and makes a paste similar to thin pudding or gravy. Using a spatula or plastic pastry scraper dipped in water, scape the spoon or whisk and the walls of the pan to get all of the dough bak into the pan and off the inside walls. Immediately cover the pan with its lid or aluminum foil and place it in the oven.
3. Turn the oven down to warm (150 F) and leave the mash in the oven for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. You can also leave it out overnight at room temperature if you plan to use it within the next 24 hours.
For the starter:
1. Mix all of the starter ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for about 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.
2. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for approximately 4 to 6 hours, until the dough is nearly double in size. This could take up to 8 hours or even longer.
3. When the starter has fully developed, knead it for a few seconds to degas it. The starter is now ready for mixing into the final dough.
For the final dough:
1. Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the starter into 12 smaller pieces (sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-dough to keep the pieces from sticking back together.)
2. Combine the starter pieces and mash in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the extra flour and stir vigorously with a mixing spoon or knead with wet hands (or use a mixer) for about 2 minutes, until all of the ingredients are evenly integrated and distributed into the dough. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky; if not, add more flour or water as needed.
3. Dust a work surface with flour, then roll the dough in the flour to coat. Knead the dough by hand for 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating only as much extra flour as needed, until the dough feels like firm, damp clay. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.
4. Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and make any final flour or water adustments. The dough should feel soft and malleable, like modeling clay. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes, until it swells and just begins to show signs of growth.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into a ball or loaf pan shape. If you chose a loaf pan shape, oil the pan and sprinkle some flour on it. Place the loaf in the pan, sprinkle whole rye flour over the top, mist the top with pan spray, and place an inverted sheet pan over the dough. If you chose a ball, just put it on a baking sheet and sprinkle some flour on top of it. Do not proof the bread; bake it immediately.
6. Place the pan in the oven, lower the temperature to 375 F, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid if you have one, and bake for another 30 minutes. Rotate the bread so it bakes evenly. Bake until the loaf is crisp and caramelized on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
7. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool thoroughly before wrapping (about 3 hours). For the first 24 hours, keep in a paper bag or wrap it in a cloth towel to allow it to continue drying out and developing flavor. After that, it can be packaged in aluminum foil.
Recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor (book courtesy of Floyd Mann)