Friday, March 19, 2010

The Darker Side of Bread

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” That’s what my dad always says. That adage had come down to him through the generations, and now seems to have found itself a place (although with gentler language) in nutrition science and dietary recommendations. Whole grains are good for you. Whole grains are darker than ultra-refined ones. Eat darker bread. Like this Dark Rye bread made with a hefty dose of whole grain flour and a few other dark (but not too scary) surprises.

For me, eating darker bread usually means making it myself. I can’t remember the last time I bought a loaf of bread, and I enjoy the challenge of making new recipes work. And this recipe was a challenge. There’s nothing unusual or tricky or complicated about it. I just used my usual method of making a mini-starter that stands for a short time to allow the yeast to grow and develop more flavor in the dough. The salt and the rest of the flour are then added and then the kneading begins. And therein lay the challenge. This was a stiff dough, even when still sticky, and I got myself quite a workout kneading it by hand. Next time you see me, if I have forearms like Popeye’s (without the anchor tattoo), you’ll know I’ve been making this bread.

I adapted this recipe from a bread machine baking book. That recipe was probably adapted from a conventional-method recipe, but I thought I’d take it back, since I haven’t had a functioning bread machine in years. I used a 100% whole grain stone-ground rye flour (Hodgson Mill brand) with enough bread flour and vital gluten flour to ensure that I made a bread rather than a brick.

As if rye flour wasn’t enough, this recipe gets even darker with doses of molasses, coffee and cocoa powder. The individual flavors of coffee and chocolate don’t necessarily stand out, but they give the bread a distinctive rustic, slightly bitter flavor, not to mention a rich brown color. This bread also has the usual (in my mind essential) caraway seed often found in rye breads, with the addition of fennel seed. I crushed the seeds gently in a mortar and pestle to release their essential oils, aromas, and flavors. The fennel pairs well with the molasses, contributing a subtle anise-like note.

This bread might not technically keep you from dying, but it sure makes living a lot more interesting. I served it with soup, but also sliced it for ham or pastrami and Swiss sandwiches (which Harry liked very much). It’s also great eaten all by itself slathered with butter. The kneading of this dough may be a challenge, but the results are so dark and delicious you’ll think you’re eating a vampire romance.

Dark Rye Bread
Adapted from The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking from Better Homes and Gardens

1 cup warm water (about 100-120 F)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope-style package)
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brewed coffee
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups bread flour, divided (plus more if needed)
2 cups stone-ground rye flour
1 tablespoon vital gluten flour
1 teaspoon caraway seed, coarsely crushed
½ teaspoon fennel seed, coarsely crushed
1 ½ teaspoons salt
oil or cooking spray

1. Combine the water, yeast, molasses and butter in a large bowl, or the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.

2. Add the coffee, cocoa, 1 cup bread flour, rye flour, gluten flour and caraway and fennel seeds. Mix well until a soft batter forms. Cover with a towel and let the starter stand about 20 minutes.

3. Add the salt and about half of the remaining bread flour to the starter, stirring as much in as possible. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (or place the dough hook in your mixer if you wish to knead by machine). Knead the dough, adding as much of the remaining bread flour as it will take (or add more if the dough is still very sticky). The dough will be very stiff and require some muscle to knead by hand. The dough should remain slightly tacky, but add enough flour to keep it from sticking to the kneading surface. Knead 10-12 minutes or until a moderately smooth dough is formed.

4. Form the kneaded dough into a smooth ball. Oil a large bowl or spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the bowl and oil or spray the top. Place a sheet of plastic wrap loosely on top of the dough. Cover it all with a towel and let stand to rise about 1 hour or until double in size.

5. Deflate the risen dough without squashing it completely flat. Let stand a few minutes. Shape the dough into a loaf about 10 inches long. (You could also use a 9-inch bread pan.) Place the loaf on a baking sheet coated with oil, cooking spray, or a silicone baking mat. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1 hour, or until it is about doubled in size and puffy-looking.

6. Preheat oven to 375 F. With a sharp knife, cut several slashes into the top of the unbaked loaf. Place in the oven and bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes. You can check the bread for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer probe into the bread. It should be 200 F.

7. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 1 2-pound loaf.

No comments:

Post a Comment