BMB: Raisin Rye Bread

Update: Champa’s Round-up for Bread Baking Day #37: Breads with Sponge or Pre-Ferment, is ready. You’ll find a wonderful collection including a twist bread, pancakes, several versions of ryes and raisin breads, ciabatta, and so much more to tempt you!

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Behold Son of George, the rye sourdough starter — smaller, milder and studded with golden and dark raisins, but no less chewy and perfect for snacking, slathered in butter or not: the Raisin Rye Loaf.

This recipe is an adapted version of master baker George Greenstein’s recipe for light rye bread, and assumes you have a sourdough starter on hand already. With only half as much rye flour in the final dough and only one stage of rye development (as opposed to three in Mr. Greenstein’s), the loaf is much less tangy and the rye flavor, while distinctive and clear, is more of a background note than the defining flavor.

Since we undertook this resolution last month to bake bread at home, the recipes we’ve tried have not been enriched (added oil, dairy or eggs) and mostly whole grain — whole wheat, rye or oatmeal. We soon remembered one of the most challenging things about home-baked whole grain bread: you have to eat it within a couple of days because it becomes stale very quickly. Since there are only 2 of us and we are not usually very big bread consumers, my strategy involved dividing the dough to make smaller loaves, and giving away one. Great way to try many different bread recipes, not gain 10 lbs. a month, and gain popularity with colleagues and neighbors! While we would never want to take anything away from sharing, there is another solution. It’s called vital wheat gluten (VWG), and when baking with whole grains I think it is the home breadbaker’s BFF.

I came across mentions of VWG while perusing the forums on The Fresh Loaf, a wonderful resource for tips and stories from real bakers, both passionate hobbyists and professionals. VWG was touted as increasing the rise and improving the chew of whole grain breads, as well as prolonging their shelf life. We tried it with our first rye loaf, and were impressed at how fresh the loaf remained even on the third day after baking. The same as been true for this raisin rye, and now I don’t think I would bake whole grain bread without it. When a bread dough is enriched with eggs, milk and oil, these additions also aid in prolonging bread’s freshness and softness so vital wheat gluten is not necessary.

This loaf takes its sweet note to dear Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen, this month’s host for Bread Baking Day. In the 37th edition of this monthly event — the brainchild of our Zorra @ 1x Umrühren Bitte —  the theme is Bread Made with Sponge/Pre-ferment. I am late to the game this month, as the last day to submit entries is tomorrow, but Champa promises to have a round-up by March 5th that will include not only yeast breads, but may include cakes, scones, waffles, pancakes and the like as long as they use a sponge (such as a sourdough), are vegetarian (can include eggs), and made in the month of February.

RAISIN RYE LOAF
Makes approximately two 1lb. loaves or one 1kg loaf

Start about 30 hours before you intend to bake.

For the Sponge:
1 cup (230g) sourdough or rye sourdough starter
1 cup (90g) rye flour
½ cup (120ml) water
½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)

Combine starter, rye flour and water and stir well to combine. Add caraway seeds, if using, and stir in. Leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 24 hours.

For the Dough:
¾ cup (98g) whole wheat flour
2¼ cup (293g) bread flour (aka “strong” or Typ 550)
4 tsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp sea salt
1 TBL raw sugar
2 cup  (158ml) warm water
2¼ tsp. active dry yeast (about 1 cake fresh yeast)
1 cup (150g) golden raisins
½ cup (75g) dark raisins
1 TBL flour, for raisins
1 TBL cornmeal, for baking sheet
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp water, for glazing

In a mixing bowl large enough to hold the finished dough, combine both flours, vital wheat gluten, salt and sugar. Mix well. Make a small well in the flours, add warm water and yeast and allow yeast to dissolve. Add fermented Sponge to yeast mixture in well. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into the well, until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured table and knead well until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, this took me about 13 minutes of hard kneading. Shape into a ball for first rise.

Oil a large bowl and turn dough ball to coat lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until doubled in size, mine took about 1½ hours.

Combine raisins and toss with 1 TBL flour to coat. Set aside until needed.

Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C. Sprinkle cornmeal over baking sheet.

Punch down dough, and gently knead. Allow to rest under cover for about 10 minutes. Gently roll out dough to the size of a sheet of paper. Sprinkle half of raisins over half the sheet, and fold dough close, as if closing a book. Press dough to lightly, and press dough back to the size of a sheet of paper again. Sprinkle remaining raisins and fold over dough to enclose the fruit again. Gently knead to distribute fruit through the dough.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a free-form loaf. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover each loaf with oiled plastic film and allow to proof until doubled in size, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. To test: gently press dough with a finger, if it springs back quickly, the dough needs more proofing time; if the indentation remains, it is ready to bake.

Brush loaves with egg yolk glaze, and slash tops with sharp razor or scalpel.

Place baking sheet in middle of oven, and spray sides of oven water. Immediately close oven door and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on its underside. A single 2lb/1kg loaf may take 35-40 minutes to bake. I turned the sheet around about half way through baking to ensure even browning.

Allow to cool completely on rack before slicing. Its mild sweetness and toothsome chew are wonderful on their own — it’s the only way T. has eaten it so far. I’ve indulged with a pats of unsalted butter to accompany my morning coffee.