Back to baking bread

With the warm weather over the summer, spending time in a hot kitchen and baking bread for hours was low on my list of things to do. However, with the cooler temps of Fall approaching I decided to put my kneading hands and yeast knowledge to the test. I was spurred on by my friend Michael’s Oktoberfest celebration, and my desire to bring something homemade to share.

I decided to make Bauernbrot, which is a German farmer’s bread made in a simple round shape without a loaf pan. This was the first time I had experimented with a different type of flour. The original recipe called for rye flour, however my local store didn’t have that. Some of the reviewers of the recipe said they had tried it with whole wheat flour as well, so I picked up some of that.

IMG_1607The recipe I linked above is pretty simple, though some others that I found included milk in the dough. I opted for the simpler one though and set to work making it Friday night. As luck would have it, we’re having a heat wave here in the Midwest, and I ended up baking in a VERY air conditioned house because the outside temps were in the 80s. I did my traditional yeast warming, heating water to around 115 degrees (F) and then dissolving the yeast into it. I’ve found 110-120 degrees a nice spot to get really healthy yeast. Some of my initial loaves have overflowed their rising bowls, which tells me that the yeast are doing their job.

I mixed up the dough, and the first thing that I noticed is how different whole wheat flour is, texture wise. It was a much rougher and stiff dough than I’m used to, and it took a lot to knead. Eventually I had a nice, smooth dough which I left to rise for almost an hour. During that time it more than doubled in size, which made me happy. I pulled it out of the bowl and divided it in half before doing another short kneading session.

Once the loafs were formed I put them on the cookie sheet to rise one more time before baking. This also gave me the opportunity to do some other different techniques. One of the keys to this bread is to make sure the dough does not dry out. I used two techniques to help this, first I covered it with a slightly damp cloth. Second, I brushed it with buttermilk every 15 minutes or so.

Once the second rise was done it was time to go into the oven. This recipe called for steam and so I put some boiling water into a pan on a shelf lower than where I was putting the bread. Since steam was involved I knew I had to limit the amount of “peaking” that I did. After around 30 minutes I declared them done and put them onto a cooling rack.

I waited a few minutes for them to do some initial cooling and then sliced off a bit to try it. It is a very hearty and tasty bread with a bit of density to it. It’s not over-dense, like some loaves I’ve made poorly, but it’s certainly up for getting things spread on it. The recipe suggested meat and cheese or just butter so I tried both, and it was very delicious.

Hopefully, this will be the first of many more loaves that I bake in the coming months!

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