Friday, December 2, 2011

Sourdough Rye Bread

My first all-rye sourdough bread
It has been about a month since I made my first whole rye sourdough bread.  It’s a recipe from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book,  Wild Fermentation.  The recipe is called Onion-Caraway Rye Bread.   This is made with a homegrown wild yeast sourdough starter.  It is a bread that I would call very dense and textural.  (I almost forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it all up!!)
The all rye starter is one that I began at the end of August, 2011.  It has been fed every day and  it’s still going strong over three months later.  I keep it in the oven with the door ajar which means the light is on constantly to keep the temperature at a steady 84 degrees F (29 C).  Only once since then did I have to refrigerate it. While I was away for four days, I had to store it in the refrigerator since no one was around to feed it.  It developed an alcohol layer on top which doesn’t hurt it.  This byproduct just means the active yeasts are off-gassing and there was nowhere for the gasses to go since it was covered with plastic wrap.  When I got home, I replaced the plastic wrap with the usual paper towel and set it out on the counter to come up to room temperature.  The "hooch"  was then stirred back in and I promptly fed the starter equal amounts of water and rye flour. It's much happier now, bubbling away as expected.  

Sourdough starter from organic rye flour
In my limited experience with wild yeast sourdough starters, I have concluded that starters are much happier in a moderately warm environment as opposed to refrigerated or out on the counter in my drafty kitchen. Every time I've tried to keep mine in the 'fridge or at room temperature, which can vary greatly in my house, I experience failure.  Maybe it's just me. 
Funny, I’ve read that a lot of people name their starters.  Feed them on a regular basis and they will continue producing all of those lovely yeasties for years to come, so why not name them?  I still need to come up with a name for mine...  Roger Rye? I also have a white flour starter, maybe I’ll call her Jessica.  OK, maybe not.
For my first attempt at this type of bread, I decided to cut the recipe in half and only make one loaf to test it out. OMGosh! I wish I had made a full batch.  This was the most sour-sourdough I have ever had in my life!  After taking a bite, it rolled across my tongue and I got the sensation of all that wonderful texture from the ground rye berries, the sweetness from the caramelized onions, the sharp flavor of the rye, then the slightly bitter taste of the caraway.  When the sourdough hit the back of my tongue, it was as close to lemon juice as one can get without the lemons!  Hoo hoo hoo!   Can a sourdough be too sour?  
I ate the very last slice about a week ago.  Amazingly, after four weeks of sitting on the counter in a plastic zipper bag it showed no signs of mold. Even that very last slice was still moist.  My absolute favorite way to eat this bread is to slice it thin and toast it until it gets all of those lovely crunchy brown edges and then slather it in butter.  What a treat… as good as any slice of cake, only sour! 

I told my brother about the bread over the phone.  He was very interested and recalled dense rye bread from our childhood.  It's a type of bread our mom used to buy from the local German bakery.  It was a childhood favorite of hers, probably because our great grandmother was German (off the boat) and served it on Sundays for family dinners at her house.  My brother and I both love a good hearty bread like this so, I made more -- one for him and one for me! 
Sponge Ingredients: Caramelized onions, ground rye berries,
partially ground caraway seeds, rye starter, and a
touch of molasses to round out the sourness (or so I thought!)

The Fermented Sponge (see the bubbles?)

I delivered it to him on Thanksgiving day.  After the holidays, he reported back that, although the bread is a bit sour for his liking, he is really enjoying the bread. 

Onion-Caraway Sourdough Rye Bread - fresh from the oven
I guess I'll have to divide my starter more often to remedy the sourness issue (although I love it).  I never throw my excess starter away... sounds like some sourdough pancakes or crackers are in order!  I feel the pounds coming on already!