I baked Hanne Risgaard’s Real Rye Bread the other day and it seems to have come out fine although it didn’t rise as high as it normally does. But it might have been because I had digressed from my baking routine. As usual I had soaked the cracked rye overnight and done all the mise en place (gotten everything scaled and prepped and at room temperature) the night before. I had mixed the dough in the morning around 10 and transfered it to the oiled pan but – and that isn’t something we normally do when I start on a bread – we decided on the spur of the moment to go to Ikea on an errand we had been postponing for a while. Ikea isn’t exactly next door. What to do? I weighed the pros and cons and projecting that the dough would have risen nicely by the time we came back, I determined that everything should and would be fine.
But just as we were leaving, I got spooked. With my mind’s eyes, I saw the neglected dough climb over the edge of the pan, slither under the clear plastic film, crawl down the door of the cabinet to pool on the floor in a puddle that would morph from gooey-sticky to rock-hard by the time we got back. So I put the pan in the garage (where the temperature must have been around 50°F/10°C). That probably scared the dough out of its wits because when we came back five or six hours later (we got stuck in traffic), it hadn’t moved at all. Not even a shiver…
It must have been about 5 PM when I brought it inside where the temperature was 65°F/18°C. Five hours or six later it still hadn’t moved. At all. It looked petrified. I went to bed with a heavy heart. For a first foray back into baking in more than two months, it didn’t look encouraging and I wasn’t sure overnight proofing would help since we keep the thermostate on low during the night.
But, lo and behold, in the morning the dough had changed color: no longer grayish, it seemed to glow with the bloom of life and it had started to dome a bit in the middle. This time I watched it like a hawk. And watched. And watched. It took its own sweet time. At about 4 PM, when it looked like it wouldn’t rise much further than up to 3/4 inch from the top, I pre-heated the oven and waited some more. Talk about a balancing act between hoping for a higher rise and making sure it didn’t overproof.
At the time of this writing, I haven’t sliced it open yet (it is best to wait at least 24 hours and preferably 48 to 72 before slicing into a fresh loaf of whole grain bread). Whole grain breads need to settle: they taste better when they dry out a bit. It makes sense, right? Moisture evaporates and flavor concentrates. With a bit of luck, the crumb will be okay… I wish I had taken pictures all along but I wasn’t planning to blog this bread and also what’s so exciting about a dough that plays dead for hours on end?
Four days after the bake
Not the prettiest crumb ever (see the lower part of the loaf which looks a bit dense and gummy) but not the worst either.
Moral of the story #1: rye dough can and will trick you. This one looked as lifeless as the mummified heron our two-year old golden retriever dragged in from the marshes and dropped proudly at my feet one winter, the very same day she fell through the ice and we thought she was a goner. It was her first visit to our little camp by the St-Lawrence River. We had adopted her a week earlier. She fought her way back onto the ice, shook herself and was as good as new, white teeth flashing in a wide smile and dripping tail wagging. The heron got flung back into the marshes when she wasn’t looking.
The dough was so inert that I almost chucked it out too. The only thing that stopped me is the thought that waiting till morning would save me having to wash the pan before going to bed. Also that I really, really craved some naturally leavened whole rye bread. And finally that I knew we would soon be seeing our Danish cousins who live in Vancouver, BC, and that I wanted to bring them a little taste of home, however elusive the similarity of this bread with their native rugbrød.
Moral of the story # 2: any resemblance of unproofed rye dough to a wizened heron is entirely fortuitous and best taken with a grain of salt.