There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whole Grain Rye (27 of 42)

First, a plug.  The great Backyard Bird Count starts this Friday, February 18th, and runs through the 21st.  It is fun and easy.  You can do as much or as little as you want.  All you need to do is count birds at one location, your backyard feeder for example, for a minimum of 15 minutes on one of the days of the count and submit your information.  Check out the GBBC website for details.

With this assignment we are  back to rye.  In 2010, researchers in Lund, Sweden published research that shows that even light rye flour (without the bran) is good for your blood sugar levels. The bran also contains important minerals and vitamins.

As I discovered in my earlier post on rye, rye grows in conditions where wheat does not do well.  (According to "It grows in poor, sandy soil and under mixed weather conditions, while wheat grows best in a warm dry climate, so despite poorer yields than wheat, it was grain of choice in colder areas.")  In such areas 100% rye bread was common, but now most rye is "lightened" with wheat flour, in part because rye has a distinctive taste that can be too strong.    Well, since we were baking rye I decided to bake a 100% rye loaf to check it out.  I used the 100% Whole Wheat Plain and Simple recipe from HB in 5, but substituted rye flour that I ground myself.  That was it.  I did not even add caraway, so we could see what the rye tasted like unadulterated.   I only made a quarter batch, enough for 1 loaf. 

The loaf was a bit dense, and certainly had a distinctive taste, but we enjoyed it.  We tried to come up with a description of the taste, (impudent, with a musty, earthy insouciance) but failed.  Practically Edible describes it as a "heady, slightly sour taste."  World's Healthiest Foods notes "Rye has a very hardy, deep, nourishing taste."  (The site also notes that "Rye Can Ease Your Ride Through Menopause While Helping Prevent Breast Cancer.") 

In doing some follow-up research I found at  that "Rye flour can be tricky to work with because sugars (carbohydrates) called pentoses (xylose, arabinose) reduce the ability of the gluten proteins to form stretchy, hollow areas which help trap the gas in bread, but are themselves responsible for trapping water and building the crumb "scaffold". Starches in the flour help this scaffolding hold together and create a bread that does not crumble.   However, since these starches can be cut into many smaller pieces by alpha amylases (a type of enzyme) which would reduce their ability to interact with the pentoses, a low pH is used (sourdough) to inhibit the amylase.  All these interactions make the crumb of rye bread denser than that of wheat bread. Often, rye is used together with wheat flour to make what the Germans call 'Mischbrot'."  The article summarized "As the amount of rye flour in a bread increases, the longer the bread stays fresh and the stronger it tastes of rye. The more wheat flour, the higher the bread rises and the 'milder' it tastes."  Well, there you go.

The Whole Grain Rye used for this assignment includes roughly equal parts of rye flour, whole wheat flour, and AP flour.  As a result, it makes a lighter loaf, though with the whole grain rye and the whole wheat flour it is still plenty sturdy.  

The first part of this assignment was to bake a regular loaf of rye.  My loaf baked up nicely, with a good crumb.  We liked this bread a lot.  And it also makes great toast. 

The recipe called for adding caraway seeds to the dough, as well as sprinkling some on top before baking.  On an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives one of the eateries baked their own rye bread and used ground caraway seed.  I got some at Penzeys, and used it here.  I think it gives a fuller, more uniform caraway flavor, but that could just be me.  

The other iteration of this assignment was to use the same dough to make a Stuffed “Sandwich” Loaf.  I followed the first of the several variations, using roasted red pepper, sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese.  Since the peppers and the artichoke hearts were both kind of wet, I chopped them up and spun them in my salad spinner.  Then I rolled the dough to 1/4 inch, topped it with the vegetables and the goat cheese,
rolled it up jelly-roll style, and put it in a loaf pan to rise.
Perhaps as an homage to Super Bowl XXXVIII, during baking my loaf suffered a "wardrobe malfunction" (they do call it a gluten cloak). 
 Although this made slicing a bit of a challenge, it was otherwise not a problem. 
 This bread got mixed reviews.  My saintly wife and I liked it a lot.  The best one of our testers could manage, however, was "interesting."  I think that is a Chinese curse: may you eat interesting bread.  (Or maybe it is "may you live in interesting times.")  

One of the main reasons I made this version was that I had all the stuffing stuff on hand, but since this was a rye bread, the version with ham, cheese and cabbage sounded like it would be awesome.  I may give it a try and report next time.  But for this time, that is all.  Next time we are on to pumpernickel. 



  1. Wow, really a beautiful stuffed loaf! I'll have to try it. Thanks for the explanation.

    I am so impressed that you grind your own flour!

  2. I was in Penzey's yesterday buying mace. I never knew caraway was used or even available ground. We educate ourselves, baking! Your stuffed loaf came out as more of a jelly roll than mine, even though we used the same ingredients. I think mine was more overloaded! Thanks for telling us about your experiment with the all-rye flour.

  3. Always enjoy reading your history research. Your rye bread still turned out looking good. And your stuffed bread...yummy!!! Thanks for sharing. M

  4. Is being "interesting bread" like being "a nice guy"? :) Thanks for the chemistry lesson, always love your posts and the breads look great.

  5. As in "you're not good, you're not bad, you're just nice?" (Into the Woods)

  6. Wonderful post! Thanks for the info on rye. I'm not a big rye fan, maybe I need to give it more of a chance.

  7. I've participated in the Annual Bird Count, I think I've done it twice in the early "90s. I did it in 2 areas, 1 ground level and 1 hanging. We had to buy a kit of seeds at the time, are they still selling the kits?

    I think your Goat Cheese loaf looks gorgeous! Intersting on the Rye Information, wish I could get dark Rye Flour again. I like it much better then the Light Rye.

  8. LOL@ "may you eat interesting bread"...funny stuff. Your bread looks great! and rye is an interesting bread in either love it or not. it's hard to be non-committal with rye. I haven't posted what I did with mine yet....but yes, my loaf also experience a wardrobe malfunction.

  9. I know this is really late to comment, but I was just googling what to do if my HBin5 bread seems too dry and isn't rising, and came across your blog. Your "wardrobe malfunction"? Every stuffed and rolled loaf I make does that! What causes it? What does it mean? Even cinnamon bread does this to me. It doesn't matter if I use ABin5 or HBin5 recipes.