Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Horst Bandel Pumpernickel (Mellow Bakers - November)

I love that participating in a baking challenge gives me lots of opportunity to talk and read about bread. And I love that it consistently puts good food on my family's table. And I love that when you combine a baking challenge with my obsessive nature (which makes it extremely difficult to skip any recipes), I make things that I never would have made otherwise.

This is one of those breads. Our Mellow Bakers selections for November were country bread (meh), brioche (oh my, sooooo good!), and Horst Bandel Pumpernickel (just got in under the wire: it's November 30th!).

I had several challenges with this bread: I do not own a pullman pan, can not seem to find rye chops, and didn't have any blackstrap molasses on hand. Still, knowing how forgiving bread can be, I went ahead. For the rye chops, I made my own as I have done in previous JH recipes, using hubby's coffee grinder on its coarsest setting. For the molasses, I left it out, as JH recommends you do instead of subbing in sweet molasses. For the pan, I hemmed and hawed . . . almost bought a pullman, almost used a regular loaf pan covered in foil . . . but in the end, I decided to use my big enamelend cast iron dutch oven. While the shape is non-traditional (it made a round loaf), I knew that it was heavy and solid and would keep moisture locked in, a key component of this 12+ hour bake.

This bread takes a considerable amount of preparation ~ much of it in the form of research. Before baking, you need to activate your starter, create the new rye levain, gather old bread (I used the last of Hamelman's 5 grain which I had frozen, thawed, sliced, and baked until dry and dark), and make a rye berry soaker. I realized after the bread was already baking, when I went back to re-read posts about this bread on the forum, that I should have also soaked my homemade rye chops, but I didn't.

On baking day, the rye berries are boiled and the old bread is soaked. (I followed the lead of previous Mellows and didn't soak it for the called-for four hours, but only as long as it took to get everything else together. That seemed to be perfect, as I was able to squeeze out excess moisture without the bread crumbling into nothingness.) Then everything is combined: high gluten flour (I used bread flour with a little vital wheat gluten), the old bread, the rye berries, a little salt, a little instant yeast, the levain, pumpernickel meal, and the rye chops. JH says to mix it for 10 minutes on speed 1. My stand mixer could not handle this job. It could mix for about a minute and then the stuff would just glom onto the sides of the bowl and wouldn't go any further. So I helped my mixer; every minute or so, I would stop it and use my hand to pull the dough off the sides and dough hook and then start it again. It was a little odd, but it actually seemed to do the job nicely.

Unlike other people, I had a pretty manageable (not too wet) dough . . . for a rye bread. I was able to ball it up for its first rise (30 minutes) and then form it into a boule for its final rise. For the final rise, it went right into the dutch oven which had been oiled and sprinkled with pumpernickel flour. In other recipes I've seen for baking in a dutch oven, it says you should preheat the pan, but since the bread did its final rise in the pan, I didn't.

Then into the oven. I was a little distressed by JH's lack of specifics about oven times and temperatures, so I followed Drfugawe's lead. I was worried because, while JH warns that home ovens are more challenging because they stay warm too long, I know that my oven cools off quickly from my attempts to use it as a warm space for my baby starter.

I preheated my oven (with the baking stone, which I hoped would help my oven retain heat for longer) for an hour during the final rise. When I put the pan in, I lowered the temperature to 350F for an hour, then 275F for three hours, then 175F for three hours, and then turned off the oven without opening the door. I was right to be concerned about my oven cooling off; in the morning (six hours after being shut off), the temperature was down to 65F and the bread was completely cool. I have no idea how long the oven (or bread) stayed warm.

I wrapped it in a towel and let it sit for 24 hours. This was challenging as I was so curious to see how it turned out! But I waited. This morning, I sliced into it. The crust was extremely hard; other people had talked about the crust softening, so I began to get a little nervous that it was just a dried-out heavy brick. But once I sawed through that tough crust . . . the inside was moist and looked just like bread! This is definitely the darkest bread I've ever made, and I can see why these types are usually sliced thinly. Our test slice was pretty thick, and I couldn't each much of it. The flavor was rich and complex, nutty, dark ~ like other primarily rye breads I've made, but more so. Not really my favorite. Hubby really liked the flavor but said, "It takes 10 minutes just to chew a bite!"

My dad, who loves dark breads, really enjoyed it with butter. We think it will make excellent sandwiches later this week.

So I'm glad I experienced this recipe, but I don't imagine I'll ever make it again. The clear winner for November: BRIOCHE!

Check out all of the other versions of the Horst Bandel experience here!

1 comment:

  1. Ooh you were brave and you got it done by the end of the month! The contrast with the brioche couldn't be greater could it? One light, buttery and melty, the other solid and chewy. Even though the recipe seems very detailed, there are certain gaps where you just have to guess, not easy at all! I remember the first time I made this mine was very chewy too. It got a little less hard as the days passed, but I turned some of it into little crispbread crackers by cutting it very thinly and toasting in the oven. Some I froze to add into another bread as well....