It’s been a summer of seeds, boxes of flour everywhere and dough mixtures bubbling away overnight in the kitchen. My husband, Murray, is not known for his cooking or baking skills, unless your idea of a meal is a mixture of raw and steamed ingredients thrown together to satisfy hunger. But he has been baking fine bread almost daily and gaining huge satisfaction from the process.
Murray seriously missed the dark grainy bread he used to buy, so he contacted Dean Brettschneider, the global baker with a small eponymous bakery in Newmarket. Why, he wanted to know, couldn’t Dean bake a wholesome grainy rye loaf? Dean said if the bakery did that, Murray would buy one loaf and the other five from the batch would be thrown out, as they rarely sold.
Dean sent me the recipe so I could make the loaf for Murray, and added, tongue-in-cheek, that it was so easy Murray might possibly bake it himself. Well, you don’t send a message like that to an engineer without getting a result. So, these chewy loaves are being produced in abundance, and Murray is now the happy baker.
Baking is an exact science. A recipe has to be followed exactly, measured accurately and timed perfectly. Nevertheless, when yeast is involved and the humidity escalates, the results can differ from loaf to loaf. Sometimes one loaf rises more than others, sometimes it cracks on the top and occasionally it seems to be more dense.
With his scientific mind, Murray soon worked out that by multiplying the quantity of all ingredients by 2.2, he could produce two loaves that fitted perfectly into the sturdy loaf pans he had bought. This made him even happier, as he can give one loaf to the appreciative women at his gym classes.
He has also become adept at sourcing ingredients and is now an expert on health-food shops and milling companies (and the local supermarket) where he sources the ingredients. He is happy to pay considerably higher prices for stoneground strong flours and organic ingredients, which he vows contribute to a better result. Occasionally, he will add a few raisins or currants, or the fashionable and healthy chia seeds – a new discovery. As Dean says, this loaf is simple to make (once you have mastered the four steps) and with its many grains and seeds is complex and delicious. It’s popular in Denmark where it is often toasted and served with a mild gouda cheese and jam.
To begin, you must make the sourdough starter, which can last for years if fed and stored properly. Keep the sourdough in the fridge in a covered container and feed it every 10 days or so, then bring it out a day before baking and feed it twice to make it healthy and strong again.
RYE SOURDOUGH STARTER
To get started
- 25g strong bread flour
- 25g rye flour (coarsely ground or stoneground if possible)
- 30g natural unsweetened yoghurt
- 20g warm water
- ⅛ tsp active dried yeast
Put the ingredients in a small bowl and use a wooden spoon to mix evenly. Cover. Leave it to ferment at moderate room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours.
To feed the dough
- 25g strong bread flour
- 25g rye flour (as above)
- 50g cold water
Using a wooden spoon, evenly mix the flours and water into the fermented starter. Cover. Ferment for a minimum of 12 hours, by which time it will be ready to use. You will now have 200g of rye sourdough; use 100g for the recipe and keep 100g in the covered container. Feed the starter with the above amounts again when you want to make more bread. Once the starter is on its way, you will be ready to make the bread. The first step is to soak the grains, which must be prepared 16-24 hours ahead. At this point, feed the sourdough starter ready for use. Then mix the soaked grains thoroughly with the dough ingredients using an electric mixer.
DANISH RUGBROD (RYE BREAD)
For the soaked grains
- 215g whole rye grains (or whole wheat grains or a mixture of both)
- 75g sunflower seeds, lightly toasted if desired
- 75g linseed
- 15g salt
- 340g cold water
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to coat with the water. Cover and stand at room temperature for a minimum of 16 hours or up to 24 hours.
- 200g strong bread flour
- 80g rye flour (coarsely ground or stoneground)
- 10g liquid malt extract or molasses
- 100g rye sourdough (as above)
- 150g water at about 30°C
- ¼ tsp active dried yeast
- 75g grated carrot (optional)
- soaked grains from above
- 50g sesame seeds (for the topping)
Place all the ingredients except the sesame seeds in a mixer fitted with a dough hook and run at a slow speed for 10 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl to ensure you get an even mixture. Alternatively, do this by hand using a large metal spoon. This will take some effort, as the dough is almost like a stiff cake batter. Once the batter is mixed, spoon it into a loaf tin greased with butter, then dip your knuckles in water and use them to squash the batter into the corners of the tin. Smooth out with a spatula or scraper until level. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Alternatively, scrape the dough out onto a wet bench surface and roll into a fat log shape, 2cm shorter than the length of your tin. Cover the tin loosely with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to rise for up to 2½ hours. Any longer and the dough will collapse as a result of over-rising. In the last 30-45 minutes of the rising, preheat the oven to 250°C. Remove the plastic wrap and place the loaf in the preheated oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 180°C, the quickly throw 3-4 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for an hour or until the internal temperature is 95°C when using a temperature probe. Remove the loaf from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out. Wrap the loaf in a clean tea towel and leave on a wire rack to cool for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. If the loaf is not cooled correctly before cutting, the internal texture will not have set correctly and the knife will “gum up” with what seems like unbaked dough, making it hard to slice. Makes 1 loaf (about 19cm long x 11cm high x 11cm wide).