Bauernbrot (German Farmer’s Rye)

Week Forty-One: German Breads

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Oh, I had such high hopes for this bread.  A moderately wet dough, a 48 hour starter, a long and slow rise, a single giant loaf… all the building blocks were there for one fantastic bread.  And yet, it somehow turned out lacking in flavor, dense, and crudely textured.  Quite the disappointment, this one.

The name “bauernbrot” was the first thing to set up my soon-to-be-dashed hopes; it literally means “farmer’s bread”.  German farmer’s bread.  What came to my mind was an enormous boule, a sturdy vision in rye flour, gaping and irregular crumb, mahogany crust shedding its dusting of flour as you handily slice through it.  I could almost see the good Herr Bauer himself munching on a piece as he overlooked his arcadian fields.

But, alas, though the loaf was indeed massive and the crust a delightfully rich brown, the crumb was extremely tight (though tender, if I’m honest), with hardly a gaping hole in sight, the leathery crust difficult to cut through and harder to chew, and the rye flavor was nonexistent.

Well, that’s not really being fair to the rye flour; all the flavor was nonexistent, mysteriously vanished in the two days that the starter ought to have been sucking it up from every direction.  One possible problem was that the starter should have been refrigerated, as my instinct suggested; but I gamely followed the recipe and let it sit at room temperature.

I’m not convinced that was the problem, however; I’ve let starters sit out far longer than those 48 hours, with far better results.  Was it too much yeast?  Too little yeast?  The hurried mixing and kneading of the dough (we had friends waiting at dinner, you see)?  Not a long enough final rise?  Too long of a first rise?  Oh, so many things that might have gone awry, and impossible to pick just one.

The one thing that got my expectations the highest of all, the thing that in hindsight turned out to be the most baffling and saddest thing of all, was the seductive way the crust crackled and sang (loudly) when pulled from the oven.  Such a hallmark, usually, of great quality, in such a mediocre bread, was nothing short of confounding.  What I did wrong, I may never know, and that bread ain’t talking anymore.

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Bauernbrot (German Farmer’s Rye)
Adapted from Petra
Makes 1 huge round

For starter:
9 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups water, at room temperature

For final dough:
16 ounces (3 3/4 cups) white rye flour
9 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup water, at room temperature

1. To make the starter, whisk together the flour, sugar, and yeast.  Add the water, and whisk until smooth.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

2.  After 24 hours, whisk again, re-cover, and let stand another 24 hours at room temperature.  It will be a thin, light-colored starter, which is then ready to use.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, salt, sugar, and yeast.  Add all of the starter and the water.  Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until combined, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Switch to the dough hook, scrape the bowl carefully, and continue kneading at medium-low speed for 7 to 8 minutes, or until smooth and supple (see note 1 below).  Add extra flour or water as needed to correct the consistency.

4.  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly-oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

5.  Lightly oil a large baking sheet, or line with parchment.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and gently deflate by kneading for 2 to 4 minutes.  Shape into 1 or 2 round loaves.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425º F.

6.  When fully risen, slash the dough decoratively with a sharp serrated knife or razor blade, making a gentle but decisive slash.  Bake at 425º F for 45 to 55 minutes, or until deeply browned.  An instant read thermometer should register around 200º to 205º F when done.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Notes:
1.  This recipe makes a massive amount of dough, which may or may not fit in a stand mixer. You may find it easier to hand knead this dough, on a lightly-floured work surface.  In this case, the kneading may take 10 to 15 minutes.

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One Response to Bauernbrot (German Farmer’s Rye)

  1. Beate Dümmler says:

    Hallo,

    I’m german and I don’t wonder you are disappointed about this bread. It’s definitly not authentic. The starter is strange, you’ve better used a rye starter. Therefore you can use your wheat sourdough. Make two or three refreshings with dark rye flour ( 10 g starter, 20 g rye flour, 20 g water, let sit at room temperatur for 8 hours, add 50 g rye and 50 g water and let sit and so on, may be you have discard a part of it). And no yeast into the starter!! For the final dough from your recipe you will need aproximately 16 oz., may be you have to adjust the water amount.
    I highly recommend Jeffrey Hamelmans “Bread”. His rye breads in this book are authentic ( he lived and worked some time in Germany).

    Beate

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