Loaf 17: linseed and chopped rye bread from Germany

I have made a lot of French loaves recently, and there is much kneading and poking and careful observation involved. So it was time for something completely different. This loaf comes from a wonderful dormant blog called Ye Olde Bread Blogge, which was written by Nils Schöner, a German baker. His archives are a treasure trove of German breads, described with clarity, dry wit and photos of bread slices on white backgrounds.

In homage to Nils’ unfussy photographic style, here is a cross-section of my own loaf:

photo (4)

Taste test: Nutty and textured. You can taste the linseeds. Nice crunchy crust and moist interior.

Recipe notes: This loaf is 60% chopped rye, which is difficult to get hold of in the UK. Shipton Mill are the only people who stock it, as far as I know. It is also known as pumpernickel flour or very coarse rye meal. However, the recipe is very easy to make once you have the ingredients: mix, wait, mix, wait, mix, wait, mix, wait, bake. Well… there is a lot of mixing and waiting, but it is not laborious or difficult at any step if you have a sourdough starter.

photo (5)


for the starter
140g chopped rye
180ml water
10g rye sourdough starter

for the soaker
50g linseeds
100g chopped rye
250ml boiling water

for the dough
160g wholemeal flour
warm water
1.5tsp salt
1.5tsp yeast

How to make it

1. Around 18-24 hours before baking, mix up the starter ingredients. At least 5 hours before baking, mix up the soaker ingredients.

2. When the starter and soaker are ready, mix them together and add the dough ingredients. Add enough water to make a moderately loose dough (see photo below). Nils says to mix it on a slow speed for 5 mins; I stirred it with a wooden spoon for about two minutes, and it worked fine.

3. Mix a little once a minute for 5 mins, then let the mixture rest for an hour.

4. Mix the dough again for 5 mins on a slow speed (or with your wooden spoon). Put it in a greased or lined bread tin and leave it to rest for a further 45 mins.

5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 230 C for 20 mins, then turn the heat down and bake for another 40 mins.

6. You’re meant to give this a day before tucking in, if it’s anything like other rye loaves.

I’m going to start taking process photos where I include a recipe, because I have occasionally found this so helpful on other blogs.

Step 1: the starter after 18 hours of fermenting.

photo (6)

Step 2: the “moderately loose” dough. I think I got the consistency correct, judging by final loaf.photo (7)


Loaf 16: pain aux pommes from France

I decided to bake this rather exciting pain aux pommes recipe from Ortiz’s The Village Baker, which you can find paraphrased here. You start by fermenting cut pieces of apple together for 8-10 days until it’s smelling strongly tangy and alcoholic.

It was all going swimmingly until the night before I was due to bake. My apple had fermented nicely in the heat without even producing any mould to scrape off. Then I came back from a night out rather tipsy and tired and followed what I thought ought to be the recipe rather than the actual recipe.

With pain aux pommes, the leavening agent is meant to be the apple itself. Ortiz adds a package of dried yeast later, but I suspect that’s one of his additions. He’s rather apt to present what was originally a 100% rye sourdough, for instance, and then say, “Hey, I added some wheat flour and 2 tsps yeast to make it easier.”

Anyway, I added a dollop of my existing starter to the newly-made apple one instead, creating a delicious soup of yeast fungi and taking the recipe totally off-piste. After that, the consistency was all different and I made lots of other changes: no yeast, less water added later, followed normal sourdough process rather than his apple starter build method, baked it as a single loaf rather four batards.

It turned out quite nicely:

pain aux pommesI would like to try bread risen purely with an apple starter in future, but I still enjoyed my sourdough hybrid approach and I suspect the variety of starter you use doesn’t make a whole load of difference in the end.

This bread is very moist, almost a little on the claggy side, and feels like a whole meal in itself with the large chunks of apple (a nightmare to knead with, let me tell you). The flavour was less apple-y than I was expecting, more like a hearty country wheat loaf with an element of rye.

I’d like to try this again with the following changes:

1. Cut apple into very small pieces, possibly reduce quantity a bit. 1/2 inch pieces are still quite big enough to feel slimy and that’s not good.
2. Less water. My version retained more liquid than Ortiz’s so not his fault, but this dough was too wet. By half a cup, perhaps?
3. Add dry cider instead of water, cut the malt extract to compensate. If I’m going to bother fermenting apple for days and kneading in those pesky apple pieces, the bread has to taste of apple in the end.
4. I’d like to play around with the % of the rye. And how would it work combined with a recipe like Pierre Nury’s rustic light rye?

pain aux pommes 2 v2

New book: Joe Ortiz’s The Village Baker, plus Loaf 15

My copy of Joe Ortiz’s The Village Baker arrived a few days ago. Ortiz’s narrative here is broadly similar to Daniel Leader’s in Local Breads: American baker travels to Old Europe, visits artisan bakeries in France, Italy and Germany, writes about recipes reverentially. In retrospect I should have gone for something a bit more different for my second proper bread book. Still, there are interesting things about Ortiz and I’m enjoying absorbing a new perspective.

The cover looks like it comes from 1993, which it does:

ortiz cover

But some of the design inside is really nice. These are his symbols for different leavening methods:

ortiz inside

The Village Baker was ahead of its time, an early product of the snowballing of the artisan bread movement in 1990s in the US. (This New York Times article about how supermarkets are biting back with parbaked artisan-style loaves is well worth a read, by the way.) The Fresh Loaf’s review even credits The Village Baker with “having a lot to do” with the blossoming of the movement in the US.

Other observations so far: where Leader is technical, breaking each recipe down into volume, metric, imperial and baker’s %s, Ortiz’s recipes give volumes and leave it at that. He also breaks recipes down by leavening method much more explicitly, and articulates the advantages of methods other than sourdough, which I’d always just assumed was The Best Method.

I was interested, for example, than using a sponge (poolish) is a middle ground between the light and fluffy effect of yeast and the chewy irregularity of sourdough. I’d also really like to try the porridge method, apparently the most ancient, where you soak flour or grains overnight and they begin to ferment. He says you can use this method with or without yeast – surely flour just fermented overnight wouldn’t be enough to raise a loaf alone? We’ll see.

Also, I baked Loaf 15 a few days ago: Polish Country Rye from Dan Leader.

polish cottage rye

This is only about 30% rye, but it has quite a kick because you ferment quite a lot of the flour with a rye starter for 10 hours beforehand, by which time it’s properly sour. The crumb has just a hint of stickiness. On the whole it’s just a very hearty, robust, no-nonsense loaf.

The Polish Cottage Rye is actually unusual for Polish ryes: they’re normally delicately-flavoured, a different breed entirely from the assertive sourness of German ryes. More on typical Polish loaves later, I’m sure.

Loaves 13 & 14: Auvergne dark rye and wholewheat sourdough from France

Bread is very forgiving: it’s astonishing how many mistakes a loaf can take and still taste good. This time, I accidentally experimented with saltless baking with the Auvergne dark rye loaf. The dough consistency of the wholewheat was also so odd that I suspect I did something wrong there too. Both tasted delicious.

auvergne dark rye

The notorious mistake here, however, comes from Daniel Leader‘s Local Breads, the book on which these loaves are based (I will get over that book, I promise… when I’ve finished baking my way through it). The water quantity in his rye recipe is out by a whole 200 or so ml, so I have LeadDog to thank for a correction.

I still love Local Breads, but I no longer trust a recipe from it without checking if someone somewhere on the bread-making net is complaining about it. This post is right in summing it up as “simultaneously one of the most intriguing and most frustrating bread books.”

I’m going to focus on the Auvergne dark rye. I’ve talked about the Auvergne’s bread culture a bit before, but clearly it was missing a gratuitous countryside photo (source).

auvergne landscape

Ahhh… the water.

The loaf was a beast. Look at its fabulous Martian surface!

auvergne dark rye 2

Taste test: Well… saltless in this case, so there was a curious blandness lurking behind its rye tang. But the crumb was astonishing for a 70% rye loaf: so light and well-developed. I’ve never made a rye like it.

Recipe notes: The method is unusual, involving three quite short risings and a very hot oven. The wheat flour and salt is added after the first rise, to a soupy rye and starter mixture that is made with hot-ish water.

This is what the crumb looks like:

dark rye crumb

I definitely want to make this again, with salt obviously. This version of Leader’s original is edited with the wisdom of LeadDog and Karniecoops.


for the starter
45g stiff wheat starter
50g rye flour
50ml tepid water

for the dough
rye starter from above
500g rye flour
590ml hot water
200g strong white bread flour
1tbsp salt

Bake up the beast

1. 8-12 hours before you’d like to bake, mix up the starter ingredients and leave it to ferment at room temperature.

2. Add the rye flour and the hot water to the starter. The water should be hot enough that you can’t dip a hand in comfortably, but not boiling or it will kill off the starter. Mix it up into a thick batter, cover and leave it for 1-1.25 hrs, until it’s expanded and lightened a bit.

3. Add the bread flour and the salt. If you have a dough mixer, mix it on a low setting for about 8 mins, until the gluten develops body. I don’t have one, so I stirred it vigorously with a spatula for a few minutes and hoped that the high water content would do the work for me. Karniecoops describes the consistency here as ‘like peanut butter’.

4. Leave it in a lightly-oiled bowl, covered, until it’s lightened and soft. Leader says this will take up to 1.25hr, but I left mine for more like 2 hours.

5. Pre-heat your oven to its max temperature, or 260 C if you have a high-powered one.

6. Gently scrape the dough out onto a surface and attempt to shape it into a boule, and place it on a piece of parchment paper. You won’t be able to: it’ll look like a mound of dough. Don’t worry, the key thing is not to over-handle and deflate it. Sprinkle some rye flour over the top.

7. Leave your mound of dough or beautiful boule to rise on the parchment paper until it has spread and the floury surface is cracked.

8. Bake it with some steam for 35-45 mins, until it is a nice dark brown. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting into it.

Loaf 12: pane di mais from Italy

Both corn and rye flour are unusual in Italy (the home of delicious white breads) but this bread has both. Discovering loaves that originate from peculiar niches is one of the reasons I love this project and Leader’s book.

Pane di mais is a speciality of the Dolomites, a region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps, tucked just below Austria in the north-east. Also, wow, look at The Dolomites.


Photo by Navin Rajagopolan.

The corn flour here is finely-ground corn, not the sauce thickener, which  along with rye flourishes in the area. There’s a bit of wheat flour in here too, but not enough to give it much of a lift.

My first attempt smelled deliously of sweetcorn and had a great yellow crumb and nutty texture, almost squeaking between the teeth… but it was dry and hard.

pane di mais

I upped the water by 10% and tried again. Pane di mais 2 was much softer to handle and it spread into a nice flat round like it was supposed to, but funnily enough it essentially tasted the same: quite a dry, gluey texture.

(Awful photo, it was taken it bad light, but wanted to show the shape.)

pane di mais 2

It’s a shame, becuase the flavour and smell is delicious and like no bread I’ve ever had. The result is not surprising, though, given it’s only 40% wheat.

I suspect it might come into its own dipped in a thick tomato stew. Must try that.

If you like a bread that will give your teeth some work, here goes. The recipe is very simple other than getting hold of corn flour, which I got from the ‘world food’ section of a really big Tesco.


2oog corn flour (finely-ground corn NOT the sauce thickener)
200g strong white bread flour
100g rye flour
1.5tsp salt
1.5tsp instant yeast
350ml tepid water


1. Stir together all the ingredients and knead for about 15 minutes. It won’t get totally smooth.

2. Cover the dough, and let it sit for 1.5 – 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

3. Cut the dough in half, and shape each half into a round. Place on floured baking parchment and sprinkle with corn flour.

4. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, 1 – 1.5 hours.

5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 230C for about half an hour.

Loaves 9, 10 and 11: a bread basket from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads

My copy of Daniel Leader’s Local Breads has arrived at last, and I’ve spent all week buried in its pages.

Leader’s book is the stories and recipes he gathered from his travel around artisan bakeries, mostly in France and Italy, but also a few from Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.


It’s been strange to work with a book again. Until now, my project has been an exercise in ‘how far can I get with the internet alone?’ The answer: pretty far. But the change has shone a light on what internet research doesn’t do well: perspective, depth, analysis. No surprises there. Digging up reliable, authentic recipes online is also plain old hard work. It’s so nice to have 100 or so served up on a plate.

I had a picnic today, so I picked three of Leader’s recipes and got to work.


There’s a Quintessential French Sourdough (the rounded, slashed batards), Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye (the rough oblong) and a Volkornbrot.

Pierre Nury’s rye is my favourite. The loaf comes from the “rugged and insular” Auvergne region of France, whose relative isolation has allowed a distinct bread-making tradition to spring up. The loaves sometimes contain a far heartier percentage of rye flour than Parisian bread, which maxes out at 8%. This one doesn’t have much rye, but some loaves in the region are up to 100%.


Leader warns that this loaf is too wet to knead by hand and too wet to shape. You just grab both ends of the dough, stretch it out a bit and throw it in the oven. I did knead it by hand, actually, and it worked just fine after a messy early stage.

(I wonder, actually, if Leader’s flour is absorbing a bit less water than mine. This Auvergne dough wasn’t quite as wet as I was expecting and the French Sourdough loaves turned out drier than I would have liked.)

This loaf, in any case, was a thoroughly fun process: some messy kneading, 2-3 hours to ferment, then a retardation step overnight in the fridge. Then you pull it out, let it warm up, shape it and bake it straight away. The taste was fantastic: moist inside, crispy outside, with a tang of rye brought out by its night in the fridge.

Quintessential French Sourdough, on the other hand, had a decent flavour but I would like to try it again with more water. It rose beautifully, though.


I’d like to include a recipe here, but frankly it’s bedtime. Buy Leader’s book. But mind the errors. More on those later, I’m sure.