In monarchy days, while grand nations invested in armies and glory, Austrian aristocrats focused mostly on shiny buildings and imperial coffee houses. Known as a stiff aristocrat, and bureaucrat for that matter, Kaiser Franz Josef was also known for his love towards Austrian sweets and baked goods. And not without reason.
While pastries like apple strudel and vanilla crescents are well known and marketed, not to mention raved about in Li’l Vienna, there is more to discover: The bread. And not your toast-it-to-make-it-edible type of sloppy white bread, we are talking about real, dark, healthy and hearty stuff. With real grains. Austrians really don’t know how anyone can live a decent life without such bread, and are constantly stunned by the fact that, outside of Austria, most people do so :-).
Well, let’s walk you through the recipe, cook it together, and then you can decide if it’s really worth living without this kind of real bread. And yes, we are fully aware of the fact, that we are bread snobs … and the condescension in this lines is on purpose. How else would the world learn about the achievements of Austrias glorious days :-).
Recipe for the best rye whole wheat sourdough bread
This is a recipe for a rye and whole wheat sourdough bread. The whole wheat flour makes the bread rise really well, frankly makes it more fluffy and not as dense as rye breads usually are. I have developed and tested this recipe over the last months, at least 15 times (no joke). For the last 12 times it was perfect and worked out every time. This recipe does not require any machine or excessive kneading. You will just need a sturdy (wooden) cooking spoon and your hands.
First of all, you will need this little bastard:
Rye sourdough, I called mine Rudi, is the key ingredient to this bread. I use about 1-2 tablespoons starter (ripe sourdough) and feed it with 75 g rye flour (about 2/3 cups) and 125 g water (1 cup + 1 teaspoon). I let it ripen at cool room temperature for about 15 hours (usually over night). The sourdough will triple in volume during this time.
When the sourdough is ripe, you have to mix all the bread ingredients, including your ripe sourdough. Don’t forget: Set 1-2 tablespoons of your ripe sourdough aside as this will be your starter for the next sourdough bread (put it into the fridge). If you are using a very young sourdough, add some additional yeast, just to make sure the bread will be leavening.
After having mixed the dough ingredients, line a loaf pan with parchment paper. I usually use two individual sheets. With the help of parchment paper, it’s easier to pull out the baked bread from the pan later. Put the dough into the pan, distribute it with a spoon as well as in any way possible and pat it smooth with wet hands.
Sprinkle the surface with rolled oats (and raw pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds), carefully pat them into the dough, so the oats and seeds are not loose any more and don’t come off the second you touch the baked loaf. Let the bread ferment covered at room temperature until it has doubled in volume.
Update 6/13/2015: For letting the bread rise covered, it is easiest to place the loaf pan in a plastic bag and seal it tightly – see pictures here. If you are using cling wrap, watch out for the dough not to stick to it.
Usually it takes about 4 hours at cool room temperature for the bread to rise. If you added some yeast, the bread will rise faster and will have doubled in volume within 2 ½ to 3 hours. It should fill the entire loaf pan (9-by-5 inch).
Preheat the oven to 450 °F with a rack in the center (I use positon 3 of 4 from bottom). Put in the pan and bake the bread for 10 minutes at 450 °F, reduce temperature to 400 °F and bake for 30 additional minutes.
Then take it out of the oven and remove the bread including the parchment paper from the pan (best done if you pull it out at the edges of the parchment paper). Bend the edges of the paper down a little and put the bread back into the oven again. Bake for another 15 minutes at 400 °F without pan.
Take out the bread from the oven, remove the parchment paper and let it cool completely on a rack. If you leave the bread in the pan, the crust gets soaked with condensation. The same applys to the bread if you don’t let it cool on a rack and it can’t breathe. It tastes best when sliced the next day (be patient!). If you cut into the bread before it’s cool, it may still be a bit gummy inside.
Enjoy with unsalted butter and jam for breakfast or any time. Austrians often eat cold snacks for dinner – for example this type of bread, spread with butter and cheese, sliced ham or cold cuts on top.
As you can see in the picture above, you can alter the recipe by adding one medium grated carrot and/or 1/4 cup of sunflower seed. You can sprinkle the surface with sunflower seeds instead of rolled oats as well.
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