I don’t know if the expression ‘ Sending Coals to Newcastle’ means anything to non British readers? It’s an expression for sending something to someone which by definition they already have in abundance, so sending bread to a miller would seem to be a slightly crazy thing to do, like sending moon dust to the moon, but that’s what I did a little while ago.
Rye is not as popular in England as it is in the Northern European countries. We get less choice in the sort of flours we can get. It is nigh on impossible to find a shop that supplies cut rye grain, the only suppliers being the mills. The Rye flour generally available is quite coarse and while of course one can bake with it, I like to use a finer flour when I am trying to make European style rye.
I grew up eating rye breads, mostly the white bread with a little rye flour and lots of caraway seeds, often referred to as deli rye, or Polish rye or the flat vollkornbrot or pumpernickel style breads that are popular as the base of open sandwiches in Denmark and Sweden.
The wonderful breads that are baked in Germany and Scandinavia, Poland and Russia are rarely seen here in England; everyday rye breads which are made with lots of rye flour, usually acidified or soured with a natural yeast starter prior to mixing the dough.
Without getting too technical, rye flour really benefits from being prepared this way. Bad rye bread, and I have tasted far too much of it, is pasty and leaden and would put you off rye for life and unfortunately it is very common in England. There is a lots of information about baking with rye in Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread and I wrote a little about it on the post where I baked my favourite 60/40 rye which is one of the most popular of German rye breads.
A good high percentage rye loaf, though close crumbed, has a springy yet firm, sponge like quality to the crumb, a rich flavour and a crust that softens with a day’s standing. It should not taste pasty or claggy in the mouth.
So this is where the mill comes in :
The Parrys have restored Felin Ganol watermill to full working order and they mill English grown grain using proper stones. They have been exploring what they can do with rye grain and sent me a parcel of their experimental flour as I had moaned about not being able to get German style rye flour in England. I had sent them some of my German rye flour to compare with what they could mill. Fun!
I know that you can tell a lot about a loaf from the pictures, but I thought as they had been so very kind as to send me a parcel of rye flour to try and offer an opinion on, that I should return the favour. Last week before I went away I revved up the starter and baked two loaves, one to take with me and one to send to Wales. They said they liked it and that made me ridiculously happy ! I have purchased other flour from them at Christmas but this is the first time anyone has ever given me flour and I felt very honoured.
You can read more about Felin Ganol’s story here. If you visit Azelias Kitchen and Carl’s Llyn Lines, both wonderful baking enthusiasts, you can see many splendid breads being made with Felin Ganol’s flours and meal.
The medium milled flour that they produce from this English grown organic rye grain from Hammonds End Farm is light and fragrant and has a much more golden colour than the rye flour I usually get hold of. I think it is quite splendid. It made a smooth and creamy rye dough batter and baked up very nicely with a full bake.
If you are unfamiliar with working with rye flour here are a few notes:-
- Most importantly it is nothing like wheat flour to work with and you really need to put wheat doughs out of your mind once you are mixing more than about 20- 40% rye into the dough.
- Rye is incredibly sticky and slippery and coats your hands in a way that some people find really unpleasant and I know of one person who has an allergy to it. So if you are prone to allergies, or to dermatitis it might be worth doing a test patch before flinging your hands into a bowl of the stuff.
- Because rye is different from wheat it really is unnecessary to attempt to knead this dough, once it is mixed, it is best left to hydrate fully for a while and then shape or tin and leave to prove.
- It is possible to shape even the softest of batters if you are careful and gentle in your handling and use plenty of flour and a couche cloth or a basket to support the dough while it proves. But it is not easy and if this is your first attempt with rye I would recommend pouring the batter into a greased and floured tin and baking it that way.
- I tip the batter out on to a floured board and divide it into two portions and work gently with it until I have it shaped and coated in flour. Then I move it with a flat board with a tapered edge ( a rolling board) onto a well floured linen cloth, folded up around the dough to support it. When it is time to get it into the oven, I reverse the procedure to get them there, sliding the rolling board gently under the loaf and then onto the trays. The loaves are too soft to lift by hand.
The formula for this Long Rye Loaf I owe to Nils, and one can find the original together with many fantastic recipes and bread posts on his blog Ye Olde Breade Blogge and in his E-book Brot: Notes from a Floury German Kitchen; here I have doubled the quantities to make two loaves. If you look at his loaf you can see that it is much darker, rye grain seems to vary quite a lot from country to country.
It worked out for me as a 67% rye bread with a hydration of 71%
Starter preparation (the day before you want to bake)
- 20g mature rye sourdough (you could try using wheat if you don’t have a rye starter)
- 240g luke warm water
- 350g medium FG rye flour
mix the above to a smooth batter
Leave covered at room temp for 18 hours
The following day mix the starter from Stage 1 above
- 240g medium Felin Ganol rye flour
- 300 g Amaretto 2011 flour (this is a sieved wheat flour from Felin Ganol but you can use a strong bread flour of your choice)
- 19 g salt
- 2 tsps of active instant yeast (optional, those of you who never use yeast can leave it out of course but you will need to allow longer for the proves)
- 400 g tepid or room temperature water
- Once the dough is well mixed with no visible flour and the colour and texture look even leave for 40 minutes to ensure the dough is fully hydrated and actively fermenting once more.
- Shape the dough into 2 x 800 g loaves using a generous amount of flour and supported them on a couche cloth to prove for another hour.
- Look for little bubbles breaking in the surface of the loaves and possibly a few photogenic cracks developing at this point. Dusting the tops of proving loaves with flour gives you a clue as to how they are developing from the pattern formed as it rises. The loaves increase in volume by maybe a third to a half, not the easiest thing to judge, they should have a soft puffy quality to them when you touch them gently with a fingertip.
- Slide the loaves gently onto parchment lined trays using a rolling board and into the oven on trays.
- Bake in a preheated oven with steam at 230º C for 15 minutes, then open the door to let steam and heat out and lower the temperature to 200º C for another 40 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a rack before wrapping loosely in paper and leave for 24 hours before slicing.
The loaf I took with me was ready to eat after a night plus a trip on the train and we ate our way happily through it over about five days. It showed no signs of going mouldy. We ate it with paté and with cheese, with prawn cocktail and with butter and jam and it was a very well behaved guest at the lunch table.