Monday, April 19, 2010

Not so mellow after all: Light Rye (Mellow Bakers)

I happily joined the Mellow Bakers, liking the idea that we only need to bake three breads a month, can bake in any order we want, and can choose to skip ones we find unappealing or uninteresting or don't have time for.

Apparently, I am not so mellow after all. (Actually, this will not surprise anyone who knows me in real life.) I was pretty firmly convinced that I would not bake the light rye this month, since I've been feeling a little ryed-out with all of the recent rye breads in the BBA Challenge, plus it's not my favorite style of bread. But . . . I really can't stand to leave something undone . . . and anyway, hubby just recently informed me that he's really starting to love rye breads for his sandwiches . . . and I really wanted to vote legitimately in the Mellow Bakers' April poll . . . so I caved.

Two days ago, I made the sourdough starter: rye flour, water, and a teeny tiny bit of my mother starter. I was really surprised by how little of the starter he called for, and I'm not sure if this was supposed to rise or not. Hamelman says to leave it out for twelve to sixteen hours; I actually left mine for a day and a half because it just took me that long to baking the bread. It did not move.

Once it was time, though, this bread was really easy to make! In my bowl, I mixed bread flour, yeast, salt, caraway seeds, the sourdough starter, and water. Unfortunately, my scale quit on me right in the middle of measuring the water. Gr! This is where I really missed Peter Reinhart's detailed instructions on how the dough is supposed to look and feel at every single stage of the process. But I persevered, added as much water as I thought I should, and mixed it together with my dough whisk. Then I kneaded it in my mixer for three minutes, and judged it to look and feel just about perfect. An hour to proof (it doubled easily), and then I formed it into two oval loaves. I was going to go with Reinhart's shaping, since I had a difficult time understanding Hamelman's instructions last time, but I decided to try Hamelman again, and it went much better this time! (Maybe because I skipped his pre-shaping stage?)

The loaves rose easily again, and I slashed them (slashing also went much better this time), sprinkled caraway seeds on one, and slid them onto my baking stone. I baked them for fifteen minutes at 460 df in my steam oven (= disposable aluminum baking pan) and then for another eighteen at 440 df. Hamelman says they should take 35 to 40 minutes to bake; I checked at 33 and they were already well over 205 df, so I guess I need to check even earlier.

Results: they turned out beautifully. Hubby said they were the most professional-looking loaves I've ever baked. The crumb was very tight and uniform, the texture was light and fluffy, and the taste was very complex. The caraway flavor was really strong; I kind of wish I'd made one of the loaves without caraway, just for comparison. Rustic bread is still my favorite April bread, but this one was pretty great, too!


  1. Beauuutiful! Glad you gave it a shot and found it a nice bread even after all the Reinhart ryes. There are 17 more of them coming up sometime in the next 23 months, hopefully not all in a row - that will be up to the Magical Random Bread Selector Gizmo.

    I'll be redoing this one soon. I'm bolstered by your nice, well shaped loaf to trust I will also get a lovely bread this time around.

    Again, congrats on jumping on this one, in spite of the Mellow creed that would have let you bypass it with impunity. May you enjoy lovely corned beef sandwiches (or other deli delicacies) with it.

  2. The loaves do look very professional! Congratulations! With my 3rd mellow bread, I also had much less difficulties with Hamelman's shaping instructions.

  3. They look pretty perfect to me too, Abby! Ours was eaten so fast I am about due to make another one soon. Joanna

  4. I like your blog title "Stir it! Scrap it! mix it! Bake it!". It motivates me to want to bake now. ; )

    I am going to bake the light rye bread this week. Not sure if I will like it because of the caraway too.. I'll see it'll change my mind!

  5. The loaves look beautiful. When I get this my cookbook out, I think I will follow your suggestion and leave the caraway out of one.

    I am amazed at how different the instructions are, I'm glad that I started with the BBA book, I think I learned the basics and can apply them to other books,

  6. I agree, they look amazing!

    I surprised myself by rating this my favorite of the 3 breads.

  7. You're just like me, thinking that you can be mellow then making it anyway, by some secret force within. Great loaves!!