Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dutch Oven Sourdough Rye Bread

Most of the time, I like to cook for my family, and for others. By that, I mean, I like to cook things that they like. Then, when I pull it off, they tell me how great it tastes, and I feel good, you know, it's a win-win...

I'm sure it has some connection to my deep-seated need for validation and praise, and probably stems from something my parents did wrong when I was very young. Trust me. It's their fault I need therapy.

But once in a while, I like to cook something just for me! Like Kofta bi Tahini. I don't care if the rest of the family doesn't like it. I do, and I'm gonna cook it and eat it all myself!

See, one thing my dad did (right) for me is show me how incredibly good a sandwich you can make with three basic ingredients: Rye bread, braunschweiger, and baby swiss cheese. I love those sandwiches. But my wife hates them. She even hates me after I eat them. Well, specifically, she hates my breath after I eat them, but then, when it comes to emotional traumas, let's not split hairs, here, shall we?

But today I baked dark rye bread, so that all this week, I can have various sandwiches at work, one of which will be, of course, the dreaded 'schwiegermeister. Oh, yes. It will be yummy. It will make my lunch time worth living for.

Dutch Oven Sourdough Rye Bread.

12" Dutch Oven

10-12 coals below
18-20 coals above

The "Sponge"

  • 1 Cup Sourdough Start
  • 2 Cups Dark Rye Flour
  • 2 Cups White Bread Flour
  • 1 Cup plain Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp Vital Gluten
  • 1 Tbsp Dough Enhancer

The Dough

  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Tbsp Molasses
  • 3 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp Postum (a coffee substitute - c'mon, I'm a good little mormon boy)
  • Liberal shakes of caraway seeds
  • Up to 2 additional cups white bread flour during kneading

So, I started out last night by activating the start. I poured out what I had left into a bowl and added about a cup of water (just sorta hot to the touch), and a cup of flour. That was pretty early in the evening. By later that night, it was starting to foam up.

I'd just like to say that, as a point of pride (another big psychological issue of mine) that this sourdough start is wild-caught sourdough yeast, not using commercial yeast. See, if you just use yeast from a jar, then what you're really doing is cultivating a culture of commercial yeast. The fact that you leave it out overnight doesn't really change the fact that it's still a commercial yeast.

On the other hand, if you get a start from just leaving out flour and water, and you catch yeast from the air, then it's a truer sourdough, and I think it tastes better.

I also need to comment on the "Dough Enhancer". This is an interesting ingredient that my friend over at Mormon Foodie turned me on to. It's got a bunch of interesting things in it that make dough rise up better and have better structure. I'm not entirely convinced it's absolutely necessary, but I've been experimenting with it lately, and I'm not unimpressed.

The added Vital Wheat Gluten flour was added because I've read that rye flour doesn't have the gluten content that wheat flour does. I found it made a big difference today, compared to the last time I made rye bread.

Anyway, once the sourdough start was bubbling a bit, I put a cup of it in a bowl, and added in all of the first set of ingredients, to make what is called "The Sponge". I don't really know why it's called that, other than that once it rises up and ferments, it does, in fact have a certain "sponginess"... I guess...

I set that aside, and let it ferment overnight. Not just overnight, but much of today as well, since we were out and about as a family.

When I came back, it had fermented up nicely. I added all of the ingredients in the second set, except the flour. That, I added while I was kneading it. In retrospect, I'd probably mix about 3/4 of a cup in the bowl, and then add more on the table as needed, because it was really sticky on the table for quite some time.

I kneaded for around 15 minutes or so, until it passed the "windowpane" test, then sprayed a bowl with oil and set it in to rise (also coated with spray oil and covered with plastic).

It probably rose for an hour to an hour and a half. I find my raising times are much shorter now that I'm kneading the bread more thoroughly. In fact, if you'll allow me to digress for a moment, all of the breads (except the frybread) at the cookoff were underrisen, and as I was watching the competitors in the field judging, I wondered if they were kneading their bread enough.

Then, I rolled it down and put it in the oiled dutch oven to proof. I scored it with three slashes across the top (even with that, it still tore apart in the cooking...). While it was proofing, I got the coals going. Once the coals were hot enough, I put the requisite amount on the lid to preheat it. That sat for probably about 10 minutes or so, and then I put the dutch oven with the sourdough bread dough on the coals, and closed on the lid.

I've learned that I have a very difficult time telling when bread is done, and regulating the temperature. I just basically try to keep enough coals on it to be hot enough, a bit higher than a typical 350 degree bake. It's proabably around 375 or so. But a little past half way through, I stick a meat thermometer in it and close the lid. I bake it until it reads about 190, because I like it a little softer, with not such a hard crust.

Then it was done. I let it cool, cut it and made a sandwich. Hmmmmmm!

Now, if you would, please, help a poor little boy feel better about himself and listen to his pathetic little plea for validation... Just one little comment is all it takes...


  1. There's a lot of food that Melissa doesn't like that I do... like a good egg and onion sandwich, sushi, s&*% on a shingle (chip beef on toast with white sauce), pepperoncini peppers, pho? soup with anise, all curries, in fact any asian dish besides the american-chinese stuff, and yet I make her try them all. Mean aren't I? Good to hear from you Mark! We'll have to get together and do some cooking... I've got a barbecue secret that is so simple but makes the food SO GOOD!

  2. I used your recipe over the weekend. It did not look as good as yours, but practice makes perfect. Yum!

  3. Thanks to each for commenting!

    Andy: We DEF have to get together. just dunno when. Soon.

    Dan: It DOES take practice! I can't believe how long I've been trying to get good bread, and only now am I just barely starting to think I have an idea of what I'm learning. Thanks for trying my recipe!

  4. Great reci[e I can't wait to try it out.

  5. I tried part of your sour dough recipe - granddaughter can't tolerate rye so couldn't use the rye I had bought. Didn't add molasses - used a honey blend I have instead. But I did add the dough inhancer and am wondering if I messed up because no yeast tolerance either. Don't know what the dough enhancer has in it - I get in in bulk basically - form a bakery and there is is called Dynamite. Anyway, I let my sponge set out all night - from about 11:30 until 6 and it was ready. An hour and a half later, my dough was ready to shape and about two hours later - the loaves were ready to bake. That's 3.5 hours from sponge to finished product!!! Usually takes a full day and then some depending on Mother Nature. Guess the enhancer was the "enhancer". I just hope I haven't messed up and going to cause problems for the person I made it for. No - didn't use the dutchoven - no time presently but can't be much difference once ready to bake. I have my 12" deep sitting out on the back porch ready but - to much going on today.
    Thanks for the tips you've given me. I might not use all that you do but it all works. I bought rye with the intentions of going your route but - got cut off at the pass. Two weeks ago, I kneeded Habanara Texas Jelly into a loaf of sour dough - didn't add enough jelly to get any taste but the bread was great as to sour dough. Didn't cut the raising or anything.

  6. consider yourself validated. I want to try it, as soon as I can get my mom to buy some rye flour, dough enhancer, etc.



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