Thursday, September 13, 2012


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts.

German breads are often made with a combination of three or more flours, and loaves with grains and seeds are, also, very popular.  Flaxseed breads are, therefore, one of the regulars in German bakery shelves.

My Leinsamenbrot, made with bread flour, rye and whole wheat, is a hearty bread with a pleasantly nutty taste and little crunch from the seeds.

Though whole flax seeds, even when thoroughly soaked, do not release much of their nutrients into our digestive system, the little brown specks give the bread an attractive look - and the fiber supports (to put it elegantly) bowel movement.

Like most German everyday breads, Leinsamenbrot makes good sandwiches with ham, salami or cheese, but tastes also good with jam or honey.

Different from Americans, Germans eat their sandwiches mostly open faced - only if they take it to work or school the cold cuts will be covered by a second slice of bread.

I adapted this recipe from one of my old German bread baking books,"Brot backen" by Cornelia Zingerling.

It contains a lot of good recipes, though I "remastered" the techniques to more modern methods, utilizing pre-doughs and autolyse, as well as cold fermentation.

Leinsamenbrot is made with a soaker and biga. I like mixing the dough the day before and let it rise slowly overnight in the fridge.

This kills two birds with one stone, I don't have to wait for the rise, and I don't need to get up too early on baking day.

The heavy lifting being all done, I only take the dough out of the fridge 2 hours earlier to de-chill, and shape, proof and bake the breads.

But you can also prepare the biga in the evening, and the final dough on baking day, but the soaker should be mixed 24 hours earlier, so that the flax seeds have time enough to soften and absorb all the water they need.

To achieve the pretty star pattern, you need a large, star shaped cookie cutter.

Scored with a smaller cookie cutter

200 g whole rye flour
111 g whole wheat flour
5 g/1/2 tsp. salt
150 g whole flaxseeds
273 g buttermilk
33 g water

311 g bread flour
1 g/1/4 tsp. instant yeast
203 g water

all soaker and biga
78 g bread flour
  7 g salt
  7 g instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
19 g/1 tbsp. honey
15 g/1 tbsp. pumpkin seed oil (or other vegetable oil)
    milk, for brushing

In the morning, stir together all soaker ingredients until well hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature. (Soaker will become pretty stiff).

Mix together all biga ingredients at low speed (or with wooden spoon) for 1 - 2 minutes, until all flour is hydrated. Knead for 2 minutes at medium-low speed (or by hand).

Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 more minute. Place biga in lightly oiled bowl, turn around to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (up to 3 days). Remove 2 hours before using, to warm up.

In the evening, mix together ingredients for final dough for 1 - 2 minutes on low speed, or by hand, until dough comes together. Knead for 4 minutes on medium-low speed. Dough should be slightly sticky, adjust with a bit more water as needed.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for another minute. Place dough in lightly oiled container, turn around to coat with oil. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. (I divide the dough at this point already into 2 portions and refrigerate them in 2 containers.)

The dough has risen overnight in the fridge
Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using, to let it come to room temperature.

Shape dough into 2 boules, and place them, seam side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with milk. Score them with a big star shaped cookie cutter. Spray breads with baking spray, and cover them with plastic wrap. (To learn how to shape your bread into a boule, click here.)

Shaped (and cookie cutter scored) boules on baking sheet

Preheat oven to 425º F, including baking stone and steam pan. (To learn how to prepare your home oven for hearth baking, click here.)

Let breads rise at room temperature for 45 - 60 minutes, or until they have grown to 1 1/2 times their original size. (Poke test: gently poke dough to make an indentation, it may slowly come back a bit, but should stay visible.)

Bake breads at 350ºF, steaming with 1 cup of boiling water. After 20 minutes, rotate breads 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and continue baking for another 20 - 25 minutes.

They should be a deep golden brown, sound hollow, when knocked on bottom, and register at least 195ºF (instant thermometer).

Let breads cool on wire rack.

Breads at Hamfelder Hofladen, a farm bakery near Hamburg

Submitted to YeastSpotting and BYOB

Monday, September 3, 2012


 August did not start on a good foot - my husband broke his foot in July, and hobbled miserably on one leg and crutches for over six weeks.

Not allowed to put the slightest weight on his foot (it was a tricky fracture that doesn't heal well) he spent a lot of time in bed, until we bought a comfortable chair. And he felt more and more bored, until we brought his guitars and recording equipment down from the third floor.

This was one of the moments where we realized that we are not invulnerable - and our old house with its many stairs and narrow bathrooms is everything but accommodating disabilities.

Not much time for baking, other then my usual breads for A&B Naturals. I felt like in the olden days when I was a single working mom with kids, responsible for everything and all....

But broken bones heal, and last week my husband was allowed to walk ("released from prison!"). Cast and crutches vanished into the basement, and I was finally discharged as nurse.

Just in time for the ABC September challenge - Abby Dodge's Mile-High Vanilla Sponge Cake. You can find this recipe in "The Weekend Baker", or here.

This is one of the pastries that, without the Avid Baker Challenge, I would never have made on my own. Simple vanilla cakes don't have much allure for me, and I consider sponge cakes only as base for elaborate fruit or cream fillings, as in tortes.

But challenge is challenge, so I first cooked a nice, tart plum compote, with red wine and cinnamon, to add some pizzazz to this mild-mannered cake, and cracked my seven eggs for the batter.

I opted for the citrus-y version, with orange juice and zest, and cut the sugar amount by a third: 1 1/2 cups seem way too much!

Instead of adding all the flour to the egg mixture at once, I did it in increments, folding in each addition very gently, before adding the next. This is much easier, and, also, reduces the risk of overmixing.

The cake rose nicely (perhaps a little less than a mile...) It was done after 50 minutes.

It had to cool upside down, standing on the pan's little legs, for three hours, before it could be freed from the mold (like my husband from his cast.)

With the help of a long, thin knife (the one my husband calls his "monkey deboning knife" - to shock young visitors,) it came out of the pan without mishap, shedding only a few crumbs.

At tea time, when the vanilla cake was cut, it showed a luxurious golden crumb (eggs galore!), was not too dry and springy, as a sponge cake should be. 

Together with a generous amount of Gifford's Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream and my aromatic prune plum compote it blended into a very pleasant flavor combination of tart and sweet, vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus.

Next time I would add even more than 2 teaspoons of orange zest, the cake can take a bit stronger citrus flavor. 

And if you are an avid baker and want to become an Avid Baker - it's never too late to join the fun! Contact Hanaâ (Hanaâ's Kitchen)