27 July 2009

questioning my sanity

Next weekend, we'll have our annunal summer party at our house. Both my in-laws and us have invited all our friends, families, colleagues and neigbours, and we'll be around sixty to seventy people.

And together with my lovely wife, we'll be cooking for all of them.

I know, quite some people have already mentioned in rather frank words that they think I am insane putting up with all that work. But I love every minute of it, it is like an extra holiday for me. Especially this year, as I have taken a day off work on both friday and monday and therefore all will be moving along rather leisurely.

Even the weather forcast look great *knocks on wood*, much better than the years before. Three years ago, we had 8°C on a early august afternoon, can you believe it?

But probably the main difference this year will be the fact that I will (try to) make all the breads myself. I already mentioned some people are questioning my sanity?

So I have been tinkering around with my favourite breads, trying to come up with something interesting to add a little colour to the bread basket. Yesterday, I finally made a version of a spiced rye bread, the way it is popular in south Germany, that I really liked. Mostly caraway, but also fennel, anis and cardamon blend so well with the sourdough rye that they add complexity but do not overwhelm the bread flavour itself.

It is not too different from my 'partial' rye bread - just a little tweaked with a darker crust. But it is a lovely bread to have with just a little butter and salt, together with a nice salad and a big, cool beer.

Just the right thing for a summer party...

Caraway Rye Bread
(makes one 1.2 kg loaf)

100g wholegrain rye flour (German type 1150)
50ml water
80g sourdough starter (100% hydration rye)

final dough
200g medium to fine rye meal
100g high-gluten wheat flour (German type 550)
350g wholegrain wheat flour (German type 1050)
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon anisseed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cardamon seed
420 ml water, lukewarm

The day before baking, mix all the ingredients for the levain and leave to ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.
Twelve hours are a rough guideline. It'll work just as good if you keep it fermenting longer.

The day of baking, roughly grind the spices in a mortar or a spice grinder. Mix with all the remaining ingredients and the levain and knead until medium gluten developement.
Of course you could leave the spices whole, but I find them too distracting, intense as they are, and prefer them a little broken down.

Leave to proof for 2 hours at room temperature.

Then, shape into a light ball, if possible without de-gassing the dough, and leave to rest for another half an hour.
Simplest way to pre-shape the dough would be pouring it onto a lightly floured surface and tucking the fringes underneath itself just once or twice so it is more or less round and the dough's surface taut as a bedsheet.

After that, shape the dough again as above, this time turning it around and sealing the seam with a few deft pinches. Put seam-up into a well-floured couche and leave to proof for another 1,5 hours.
Once again, I proofed the dough in a colander lined with a well-floured tea towel, and it worked flawlessly. I also made a longer loaf, almost like a batard, by using a rectangular cake tin instead of a colander.

Preheat the oven to 250°C.
More and more I come to the conclusion that it is not enough to have the oven thermometre show the desired temperature. If I let the oven heat up another twenty minutes then, the temperature loss from openeing the door and steaming is significantly less and makes for a much better crust.

Once the dough is ready, flip seam-side down onto a baking sheet and score.

Bake at a low rack with steam for about 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210°C. Bake for another 40 minutes until the crust is dark and fragrant.
For baking with steam see my descriptions here.

Switch off the oven but leave the bread inside to cool for another 10 to 15 minutes with the door ajar inprove the crust.

Set on a rack to cool completely before cutting.

P.S.: And once more, this post is submitted to the YeastSpotting section of Susan's formidable blog Wild Yeast. I can't really recomment her site enough, it is a constant inspiration for me.


Danielle said...

that is a beautiful loaf of bread. I'm slowly working through my fear of all things yeast LOL

Reuben Morningchilde said...

Thanks for the flowers, Danielle, this one really turned out lucky.

And there really is no reason to be afraid of anything with yeast. Once you get the hang out of offering them a nice place to stay, they'll be your best friends. A little like cats... and just as conservative and finicky. ^^

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Wow, that is a gorgeous loaf! And I am in awe of all that baking and cooking you'll be doing for so many people. I hope you have a wonderful time at your party.

Mimi said...

That bread is a beauty! The spices sound delicious!

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@ Mimi: Thanks! The spices are a traditional, southern German combination for rye bread. But there it would be used in a much higher concentration, which I find a little cloying.

@ Susan: Thanks for the compliment! And we already have a lot of fun - hauling in food from the market by the basket is definitely something special, as is making gravlax from a whole salmon. I had to make my chiabatta dough in a laundry tub, as it wouldn't fit anywhere else - the whole day was full of inventions and workarounds already. And tomorrow night will be great, I am sure, especially so with your good wishes now.

Shiao-Ping said...

Hi Reuben
That is a very handsome looking loaf!

Madam Chow said...

Absolutely gorgeous bread. And I understand your desire to bake all the breads from scratch, and to feed everybody. I think a lot of us bread baking nuts feel the same way! Have a great time at your party.

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Shiao-Ping: Thanks so much - but it'll take some years still until I will produce pretty loafs as consistently as you do.

@Madame Chow: Thanks so much to you as well! And we had a great time, I'm still working on gathering up all the loose ends and start a 'normal' life again.^^