Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Problem with Rye Bread: This little loaf represents more than 24 hours of labor. I really didn’t have a concept of how rye bread evolved until yesterday’s “Rye Enlightenment.” The foundation of a dense, chewy, sour rye bread is a “levain” which is basically a thick paste of wheat flour, rye flour and water that ferments overnight, developing quite an odor. We started our levain at about 2:00 p.m. on Monday and this little loaf popped out of the oven at about 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

Does the phrase “time management” come to mind?”

During that period, the levain was reduced by a small amount and then fed at several intervals with additional flour and water to increase activity of the fermentation. There are all sorts of analogies to yogurt cultures and various types of bacteria. In fact, very little yeast is used in the final product, with the levain generating most of the leavening.

It’s an incredibly time intensive process and not for the faint of heart. You have to, not just like, but love the aroma of rye, and you have to remember to feed the beast with additional water and flour throughout the day. When you finally mix the levain with the other ingredients, the dough is the strange consistency of modeling clay. You’ve really got to worship rye bread to go through all this effort. With all the time issues we face, one has to wonder if the artisan approach to rye bread can survive.

Right now, I am trying to decide the fate of this loaf of rye. Something of this caliber deserves a top-of-the line corned beef with a little sauerkraut and a great microbrew on the side.

© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Veron said...

hmmn, I wonder if this is the same process of the rustic french bread. I remembered we offered the french baker who closed his store a fee for giving us the recipe of his bread. He said that it was very easy but you have to feed it for 12 hours or so... in short it could be a whole day affair. Sad to say he closed his store before we got his recipe.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking you should make this beautiful loaf of bread into a gourmet sandwich. Heck, go to the local speciality farm for speciality mustards if you must! A time investment like that calls for some splurging. :)

As always, your finished product is amazing.

Ari (Baking and Books)