A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a blog post about the “Whole Grain German Bread Tradition”, written by Organic Authority’s Molly Hannon. Well-meaning as it was, it struck me as at the same time superficial AND not wholly accurate. And the photograph used (from some flickr source) was clearly bread made with a bread maker, even though the author complained in the article that “you can’t find this kind of bread in the U.S.”
I completely concur with the statement that bread culture still reigns supreme in Germany. It is what defines us. And in my experience it does not in the U.S., mainly for reasons related to eating habits and perception of bread in general. Americans are just not a bread-eating nation, and when they eat bread, it is typically white and smooth. One of my daughter’s friends from school virtually shocked me when she proceeded to cut off the “crust” on a slice of toast bread at breakfast after a sleepover a couple of years ago because it was “just too hard to chew”.
For Germans, bread is only bread if it has a good crust and hearty flavor, and lots of people I have encountered who have either lived in Germany for a while or are native-born German expats like me find themselves on a life-long quest for “real” bread at their places of domicile. Most folks I know here who have to have “real” bread either drive for miles to the nearest German-style bakery they can find (if they are lucky enough to live near an urban center of sorts), order on the Internet or, like me, bake it themselves. It is the reason we ever got a bread maker, even though these days I prefer to bake by hand.
Websites like my beloved German foodie heaven, www.chefkoch.de, or The Fresh Loaf have proven a godsend, with recipes ranging from French baguettes to Schwarzbrot or “black bread” (not to be confused with pumpernickel). There are also tons of really good recipe books available on artisan bread baking, among others one by Peter Reinhart on whole grain bread (Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor).
I am not sure where Organic Authority got the 90% rye or spelt number from, as none of the recipes at my disposal use that much, not even the dark sourdough rye I just baked (recipe to follow in a future post). In the absence of most wheat gluten, the bread would fall apart. Also, one does not need this much non-wheat flour to make a good, hearty, whole grain bread.
A few days ago I made multi-grain bread using a tweaked version of the Cheese Board Collective’s original recipe (I substituted the millet with amaranth and am using half honey, half molasses; a review of the book the following recipe came out of can be found here). The Cheese Board Collective is an employee-owned bakery in Berkeley/CA, which has been in existence for over 40 years (they got their start in 1967 as a cheese store). If you use whole wheat flour substituting for part of the bread flour, the bread will tend to crumble more, but “as is” it is rich in fiber enough, as far as I am concerned. It makes the best toast bread and, due to its grain bill, has a nice, nutty flavor and crunch to it.
For two loaves of multi-grain bread:
765 g bread flour
479 g water
13 g yeast
24 g wheat bran
47 g cracked wheat
83 g roasted sesame
55 g amaranth
50 g steel-cut oats
38 g rolled oats
28 g salt
52 g molasses
52 g honey
After mixing, form a boule and spray with cooking spray, place in covered container. Let sit on counter in covered container until doubled. Punch down and retard in fridge over night. Take out of fridge at least two hours before baking. Divide dough into two equal parts, shape loaves and place in loaf pans. Proof/bake in loaf pans at 400 F for 30 – 40 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 190 F.
(Don’t own a scale? Try this one: Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale. Don’t own a thermometer? Check this one out: Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer.)