Saturday

Can You Make Danish Rye Bread in The Maritimes?



Among the many “exotic” foods that you can’t find in my present coin de pays is the kind of dense, dark and strong German or Danish rye or pumpernickel bread that I really like as a vehicle for smoked salmon and many other delicacies.

So I went online, hunting for recipes. Most of them required a sourdough starter, so I mixed one up and crossed my fingers that the gods of wild yeast would feel magnanimous.

So far I have tried two recipes; one of them requires a sourdough starter, and the other uses yeast, beer and buttermilk instead.

Regarding the latter, even if the blog owner's attitude had been less arrogant when I asked her a question, I found it so much more expensive to use beer and buttermilk instead of sourdough, that even though the bread was acceptable (though too bitter for my taste), I have decided I won't make it again.

The recipe that I describe in this post uses sourdough; it's from Nordicfoodliving.com. Their article includes a short video.

I started out by following their own starter recipe (there's a link in their Ingredients List). While this was brewing, I went looking for a local supplier for all the different grains and I found a local stone mill that works strictly with organic grains. Yay!

I put the soaker ingredients together on Thursday, and baked the bread yesterday. Then I let it mature overnight.

In other words, this is a three-day recipe, so plan ahead.

Recipe Notes


1. The first problem I had with this recipe is that the ingredients are in cup and deciliter measures, that is to say, by volume instead of by weight. I noticed other readers complained about this, so I hope that someday the blog author will add the weights.

For now, I did the conversion myself, but as everyone knows, when it comes to flours especially, the method of filling the cup can make a huge difference in the final weight. I used the one where you spoon the flour into the cup, which results in a smaller amount, but next time maybe I will use the other technique - the one where you use your measuring cup to dip into the flour directly. 

For the purposes of this article, I did an experiment with whole wheat flour. First I scooped the flour into my measuring cup with a spoon, then I evened out the top and weighed the flour.

Then I took the same measuring cup and dipped it into the bag of flour, evening out the top as before. This latter method is called "dip and sweep".

The difference was a whopping 19.6%! 127 grams (4.4 ounces) vs 152 grams (5.3 ounces). 

For a complete description of this phenomenon, see this Serious Eats article. Because flours also vary in fluffiness, the difference can attain 50%, according to the article.

They recommend "dip and sweep", by the way. I'm not sure I would agree when it comes to cakes and pastries, but it sounds reasonable for bread, and I'm thinking that this may account for my dough being runnier than in the video, and also for the finished loaf having more holes than the example. I do believe this bread should be really dense.

I will certainly try "dip and sweep" next time.

Loaves cooling upside-down

2. The second problem I had was that I am used to figuring out if my bread is cooked through by taking the internal temperature with my small instant thermometer. I asked the recipe's author but he said he just knows when his bread is ready. Which is fine when it's your recipe and you've done it countless times, but for a beginner? No, so I went searching for other recipes and yes, most of them do mention the temperature they look for. 205 F (96 C) seemed to be the average so that's what I used for this batch.

At that temperature, my loaves were cooked but still sticky. See what happens to the knife after just one cut, a whole day after baking.

Bread knife after only one cut...


And you absolutely have to wash it off, or the next slice will be a mess!

So, definitely, the next time I make this bread I will either cut down on the liquid or increase the amount of flour by measuring it differently.

There is another method that I've seen recommended for allowing the steam to escape: just before baking, you poke holes all over the dough with a tool like a large bamboo skewer. I'll try that too, next time.

Another way I've found to get those dense loaves to dry out better in the centre, is to make smaller loaves. So next time, I will make three loaves with the same amount of dough. 

And I will pull each one out of the oven at different temperatures: 205 F, 210 F, and 215 F 96, 99 and 101 C).

3. The third problem I had is a very minor one: my bread is too dark -- I find it unnaturally dark. It's darker than the sample in the video. The recipe does say that the gravy browning (caramel colouring) is optional, and I don't think the author used it in the one he photographed. I won't use it next time. Cocoa is often used for the same purpose, and I may just try that in a future batch. Or not. Those breads are very dark by tradition more than necessity, I think. To me, the darkness covers the individual grains, and I like to see them in my grain breads.

4. The original recipe calls for baking for 1 hour, but to attain the temperature I wanted I had to bake them for an extra half hour (an hour and a half total). My oven is reliable, I have a thermometer inside of it, and it's a normal oven without convection. After an hour, the internal temperature was a mere 185 degrees F (85 C) and a toothpick inserted came out covered with raw dough.

5. Finally, the order in which the ingredients are put together needs to be changed. It's very hard to incorporate salt into a thick dough. It should be added to the flours. Similarly, why add liquids like malt syrup and gravy browning to the thick dough instead of the soaker, the day before?

The instructions would then read as follows:

DAY ONE

Take one cup (250 grams) of sourdough starter from jar in fridge, and add ½ cup of water, ¼ cup of rye flour and ¼ cup of white flour to it. This will add up to exactly the quantity required in the recipe. Mix well and leave out overnight.

DAY TWO

1. In a large bowl, make a soaker by combining:

  • whole rye kernels, if using (I plan to add some at my next trial)
  • cracked rye kernels
  • cracked wheat
  • flax seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • water
  • sourdough
  • gravy browning (if using); and
  • malt or dark syrup
2. Mix well, cover and leave to soak for a minimum of 8 hours. This can be done in the evening, so that you can continue the morning after.


DAY THREE

1. In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, the rye flour, (the cocoa, if using), and the salt together. Stir well with a wisk.

2. Stir the soaker well, and stir in the dry ingredients. Mix until totally combined.

3. Cover and let rise for 2 hours. (I place mine in the oven with the light on, which results in a temperature of 80 degrees F - 27 C)

4. Butter bread pans and divide the dough equally between them. Do not fill the pans too much; you don't want the loaves to have a dome once they are baked (as mine did).

5. Let the loaves rise in their pans for 1 to 2 hours. Don't allow them to rise too much.

6. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for half an hour, then turn the pans around and bake another half hour. Then measure the temperature in the center of the loaves. It should be at least 205 degrees F (96 C). Leave another 15 minutes and take temperature again. Turn the loaves around again if they're not browning evenly around the edges. Keep checking the temperature. My total baking time was an hour and a half.

7. When done, remove the breads from the pans and let them cool to lukewarm, on a rack. At that point it's a good idea to wrap them in plastic if you want to keep the crust soft.

Nutrition Information


I'll leave it up to you to find the complete nutrition information for all that good stuff. What I'm mostly interested in are the calories because I track all my food as a way of keeping my weight stable.

It's easy to calculate the calories in any recipe by looking up the number of calories in each ingredient, adding those up, and dividing by the total weight of the finished product.

The total weight of the finished loaves was 68 ounces (2,060 grams), and the total number of calories was 3,800, so 3,800 by 68 = 56 calories per ounce, or 3,800 by 2,060 = 1.8 calories per gram.

This is interesting, because plain white bread (like baguette) weighs in at 70 calories per ounce, and the whole grain bread that I make at home, 75 calories per ounce.

This morning, a thin slice of this bread -- that kind of bread is always sliced thin -- weighed 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams), i.e., 84 calories.

Conclusion


The taste is fine, and I expect it to improve over the next few days, as is usual with those complex breads.

The texture of this particular bread is lighter, less dense than I like, however, and this could affect its ability to keep without going bad -- even refrigerated. The loose texture could be due to the excess liquid described above, and this can only be determined with further testing. Before I do that, I will try other recipes. Stay tuned!

And, to answer the question: Yes, you can make real Danish Rye Bread here!

Postscript

It's been a week and I'm happy to report that the stickiness problem seems to have resolved itself -- i.e., the bread has dried to just the right degree of moistness, so now I'm not so sure if the planned adjustments are all going to be necessary... 

And as for the flavour, oh my, it's still the best bread of its type I have ever made!