Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1914 GERMAN ARMY KRIEGSBROT - RETRIEVED FROM THE TRENCHES BY DON SADOWSKY


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Don Sadowsky, author of the wildly popular guest post "Really(?) Authentic Bread"
unearthed this historic WWI-recipe from the very trenches of Verdun. Even though Don's innate modesty doesn't allow him to admit it - his 1914 German Army Kriegsbrot comes pretty close to a really authentic bread!

Karin, you issued a challenge to create a bread honor of Gottfried von Berlichingen, Götz of the Iron Hand. Your friends rose to the challenge, coming up with a variety of imaginative, pretty, and well-crafted breads.

Powered by BannerFans.comNeedless to say, my bread is not any of these things.

Götz was a military man. He spent his time out in the field (when he was not being imprisoned and scratching together money to pay his own ransom).

He didn't eat light and tasty bread prepared by artisan bakers, he consumed rough and ready military bread, baked by someone who two days ago was pulling an arrow out of his leg.

Soldiers in the field needed bread that could be made quickly, could stand the rigors of the field and would last out in the open while the men were out battling.

Taste? Hah! The mercenaries ate whatever bread they could get their hands on, and you can bet that they were given bread made with the cheapest ingredients available (but don’t worry, this is not quite going to be my “authentic bread”).

What to make, then, that would satisfy such draconian requirements? Well, armies have been traveling on their stomachs for millennia, so they must have perfected the art (if art be the proper term).

German soldiers, fortified with kriegsbrot, handle the "Dicke Bertha" canon

And military history buffs can be found in every back alley of the Web, so it was easy for me to reach back just a single century and find a recipe for German Army ration bread (Kriegsbrot) from 1914 at The Trenchline (slightly adapted here - I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but we all know that everything on the Internet is true).

The bread is coarse, rises quickly, has a fair amount of rye (as a good German military bread should) a stiff dough (59% hydration), and would never win any 21st century bread competition, though some concession was made to taste (the soldiers of the Deutsches Heer must have loved their cocoa).

But it wouldn't do to simply copy an existing recipe, no matter how apt, so I made one modification to try to turn the kriegsbrot into something truly honorary of the man of the Iron Hand. Unfortunately it looks more like a tribute to Götz of the Iron Foot, no one ever accused me of being an artiste.

The bread came out about as bricky of a brick as I have ever made. It was dense enough to make a useful trenching tool or to safely intercept shrapnel if held in a fortuitous location.

Eating it made me grumpy enough to go to war (perhaps that was the intent).


In the trenches of Flanders - soldiers made good use of their kriegsbrot
  

1914 GERMAN ARMY KRIEGSBROT (KOMMISSBROT)

420 g rye flour
369 g white whole wheat flour*)
  43 g cocoa
  13 g/1.5 tbsp. active dry yeast**)
    7 g/1 tbsp. caraway seeds
  34 g/2 tsp. salt
110 g brown sugar
          vegetable oil
  28 g/2 tbsp. butter
473 g/2 cups water

*) It’s what I had, white whole wheat would have been scorned by the                                                   Kaiser's men.

**) I used instant - no slow fermentation here.

Kriegsbrot Dough

Mix flours, cocoa, caraway seed and salt in large bowl.

Mix water, brown sugar, and butter in a sauce pan and heat until dissolved. Cool slightly and add yeast. (Yes, this will rise quickly!)

Mix all of these ingredients in the large bowl and add enough vegetable oil to cover dough ball. Knead until it forms a pliable dough.

Let the dough rest in a warm place and cover it.

Grease and flour a baking sheets (bowing to convenience I used parchment paper)

When the dough has risen 2 hours, punch it down.

Roll into a ball and flatten slightly to a height of about 2 ½ inches.  (This is where I made my modification.)

Lightly brush the top with oil.

Proof for 1-2 hours.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until it is done.

A Swiss army knife kind of a loaf 

12 comments:

  1. A Komissbrot. You have to explain Don where the word Komiss is coming from and why it is called Komissbrot. It looks like Goetz used to be a FOOTsoldier :)

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    1. I like the idea that Don came up with a real utility bread, similar to my first trials at bread baking that yielded weapon grade bricks :)

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  2. Thank you, Foodzeit Blogger. The website from which I procured the recipe used the term Kriegsbrot, which is pretty apt as the bread is suitable for use as an artillery shell. But Komissbrot, a bread for the troops, does sound like a better match. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kommissbrot Foot soldier, heh.

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    1. Komissbrot recently appears to have experienced a comeback, I saw a roll version at Plötzblog (http://www.ploetzblog.de/2011/01/25/kommissbroetchen/) and Nils Schöner ("Notes of a Floury German Kitchen") has one, too.
      My father sometimes threatened us with it, when we didn't want to eat our Vollkornbrot, he probably had his share of Komissbrot as soldier.

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    2. Don, lol, even i don't like the idea of using bread as an artillery shell (make bread, not war) I could not help to SOL (smile out loud) when I read zour comment.
      Karen, my father did not only threat us with that bread, we did eat it often and to be honest with you, I actually always enjoyed it. I was a strange kid indeed!!

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    3. My husband once bought a package of C-Rations at the commissary store, just to rekindle old memories of the "good ole days" in Vietnam (phew!). The bread in there was the grossest stuff you can imagine.

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    4. "Rekindle" means he wanted to show me what it was like to eat that, and see those Vietnamese drive by on their bikes with nice looking baguettes.

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  3. I'm not sure that brown sugar would be in any German Brick Bread from the 1914 Foot.....eeeerrrrr....Front. You can bet that they ate way worse bread than we did in Nam though. The hydration seems very cruel for woosie,behind the trenches artillery officers and the brass though. The baguettes in Saigon were pretty good in 1972 - way better than the ones in Kansas City for sure.

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    1. I signed on as dabrowman but got 7916571c-eccb-11e3-b35a-c7a92c8b1255 instead

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    2. DBM, you are most likely right, they would have used sugar beet syrup. Many German bakeries offer a version of Kommissbrot nowadays, nostalgia or what? I'm sure these modern breads are not the same as the stuff they got out of tins back in the trenches of Verdun.
      My husband would have given an arm and a leg for one of those crispy Vietnamese baguettes, but they had to eat their C-rations and were not allowed to buy food from the natives.

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  4. I have heard that close to the end of the war, they were stretching out the dough by adding wood shavings. I don't suppose you found any evidence of those in the piece you found?

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    1. Brad, that sounds exactly like something you would find (together with some plump weevils) in Don Sadowsky's "Really Authentic Bread" (http://hanseata.blogspot.com/2014/05/guest-post-authentic-bread-by-don.html)
      Wood shavings make you strong, those breads were not for the faint-hearted! :)

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