Bread is an old baking good. It is simple and tasty. Each country has its own typical style of bread. France has the Baguette, Italy the Ciabatta, Turkey the flatbread, …
In no other country, however, bread is as much a topic as in Germany. There are more than 300 varieties. There are so many ways to bake bread and it’s probably hard to count them all. The variety is overwhelming. Bakeries are omnipresent and good bread is just around the corner.
This was likely the reason why we were often asked if we would miss German bread, before our move to America. Actually, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem for me. I like bread, but as a huge fan of oatmeal it isn’t a part of my daily breakfast routine. Meanwhile, I would kiss anyone who visits us for a good loaf of whole-grain bread.
You can find good bread around here, but you have to look for it and that takes time. Bread as I like it is relatively expensive and there are only a few stores that are a good drive away.
So I had the choice. Either I drive long distances and buy bread for a lot of money or I bake it myself. Quickly I decided to go with the second option.
Today I would like to show you the recipe for my German-American bread. Put on your apron, grab your baking bowl and off you go.
Ingredients for one loaf of bread:
150 g rye flour
50 g wheat bran
400 g bread flour
2 g active dry yeast
1 pinch of sugar
390 g lukewarm water
10 g salt
*My dearest American friends, I will stay in the metric system for the ingredients. I hope you don’t mind.
One more thing: Bread takes time, a lot of time. I start the evening before and bake the next afternoon. These are about 20 – 22 hours, which are divided into resting, kneading, stretching and folding, rising and baking. I did not count the time to cool down. But don’t let the this stop you. The result is worth every minute.
Start, as mentioned, the evening before the baking day. Blend both flour varieties and the wheat bran with the salt in a bowl. Dig a hole in the middle of the mixture and put the water inside. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar on the water. Mix the yeast, sugar and water carefully with a fork. Some flour may get into the liquid, which is even desired. Place a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let it rest for half an hour, preferably in a warm place. The yeast starts to work.
After the first resting period, blend the mixture until all the liquid has disappeared. Put the contents of the bowl onto a clean work surface. Now it’s time to knead. If the dough has absorbed all the flour, continue kneading for at least 5 minutes. The gluten strangs, which “sticks” the dough, develops during the kneading process. As a small side effect you get beautiful upper arms. Put flour around the dough and place it in the bowl. Cover it with a lid or plastic foil and leave the bread to rest overnight.
The next morning the volume of the dough has doubled and you can start with the next step: stretching and folding. Or as I call it: the fondling and patting. Work on a working area as generously as possible. Take the dough into your hands first and pull it carefully apart. Lay the dough down and stretch it in all directions. With a dough from wheat flour I have already brought it to 50 cm x 100 cm / 20” x 40”. Due to the rye flour and the wheat bran I can only produce this recipe on approx. 40 cm x 40 cm / 16” x 16”. Fold a third of the dough inwards and the opposite third above it. Stretch the package again in length. Now fold the upper third to the middle and place the lower one above it. Before putting the dough into a floured bowl, turn it so the fold is down. In the next three hours, repeat the procedure every 45 minutes.
After you have thoroughly caressed your dough, you and your bread can rest for four hours. Subsequently, shape it to the form in which you want to bake your bread and let it rest again for one to two hours. I personally like round loafs. They remind me of the bread we always had at home when I was little.
There is a test to check if your dough is ready for the oven. It is called “finger test”. You press the dough with a finger. If it jumps back, it needs more time before it’ll be baked. Once your dough is ready, you can pre-heat the oven to 430 ° F / 220 ° C. I pour flour onto the loaf and cut a cruciform into the surface for an authentic look. Bake the bread for 55 minutes.
Take the loaf out of the oven and knock on the bottom. If it is hollow and dull, it is finished. The bread can cool down. The best thing about the cooling down is the wonderful smell that fills the whole house and the soft crackling that you hear when you hold the bread to your ear.
The recipe is certainly not perfect but I think my bread is great. It isn’t dry at all, the crumb is porous and with fresh cream cheese and homemade jam it is to melt away!