Bread

What began as a makeshift 5 years ago has now developed into a solid hobby: baking bread. Since I am nowadays being asked again and again by people around me, I have put together the most important basics to get started on this page.

For now, there are instructions for making and maintaining a rye sourdough, a recipe for my everyday bread, the “Clausener Kuuscht”, and some other recipes that I use regularly. More will be added in the future, e.g., for the “Mansfelder Donkel”, a juicy Pumpernickel.

Sourdough (make a starter) | Recipes | Books to read on

Recipes

Rye-wheat breadSunflower seed breadFlatbreadButtermilk breadNo knead bread
 

Basic recipe rye-wheat bread “Clausener Kuuscht”

70 % rye / 30 % wheat | single stage rye sourdough

The Clausener Kuuscht is my current everyday recipe: a strong, pot-baked rye-wheat bread with a spectacular crust.

Schedule

  • Pre-ferment: 5 minutes preparation, 18-20h ripening
  • Main dough: 10 minutes preparation, 45 minutes bulk ferment, 90 minutes final proofing
  • Baking time: 65 minutes (45 with lid + 20 without)

Ingredients sourdough

  • 265g wholemeal rye flour
  • 265g water (45 °C)
  • 15g starter (rye sour)

Prepare the sourdough

  • Mix ingredients in a large bowl; close the bowl
  • Allow to ripe at approx. 21 °C for 14-16 hours (e.g., on the floor of the room away from the heating)
  • The dough is ready when it has significantly increased its volume, is streaked with bubbles, and has a slightly sour smell

Ingredients main dough

  • Entire sourdough
  • 265g wholemeal rye flour
  • 230g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 280g water (45 °C)
  • 12g fresh yeast (alternative: 4g dry yeast)
  • 15g salt
  • (6g spice mixture at will: anise, fennel, coriander, caraway in equal parts)

Prepare the main dough

  • Pour water into a mixing bowl
  • Add rye and wheat flour
  • Add sourdough
  • Add yeast
  • (Add spice mixture at will)
  • Knead with the food processor: 5 minutes on level 1 (slowest), 1 minute on level 2 (next faster)
  • Add salt after about 2 minutes
  • If the dough sticks to the walls of the bowl, slide it down with a dough card if necessary

Fermentation

  • Put the finished dough in a large bowl, the bottom of which has been lightly floured; form a ball and flatten it a little; close the bowl
  • Bulk fermentation: let the dough rest for 45 minutes at approx. 24 °C (e.g. on top of the kitchen cupboard)
  • Open the bowl and fold the dough upwards all around with a dough card
  • Final proofing: close the bowl again and let the dough rest at 24 °C for about 75 minutes
  • After 15 minutes put a large pot with a lid (ideal: Dutch oven; diameter approx. 24cm) without plastic parts in the oven; preheat the oven to 250 °C (recirculation mode) for 1 hour

Baking

  • After 75 minutes, flour the dough: spread a little flour on the surface, use a little more flour along the edge of the bowl; then fold in the flour all around with the lower edge of your palm so that the dough comes off the base
  • As carefully as possible, tip the dough out of the bowl into the preheated pot, first in your hand and out of the hand in the pot (alternative: carefully tip it into the pot so that the dough rotates completely – that can easily go wrong …); close the lid quickly
  • Set the temperature in the oven to 205 °C and bake for 45 minutes at a falling temperature
  • After 45 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes
  • Turn the finished bread onto a wire rack and let it cool for about 2 hours

Tips & tricks

  • Unlike wheat-heavy dough, rye dough does not bind properly because rye contains little gluten; rye doughs are therefore always slightly sticky and difficult to process; higher firmness can be achieved by reducing the amount of water (e.g. 25g less in the main dough) or increasing the proportion of wheat in relation to the rye
  • The order of the ingredients for the main dough is important; pre-ferment and yeast should not come into direct contact with the hot water and salt
  • The dough can also be kneaded by hand (when kneading by hand, the dough cannot be “kneaded over”)
  • Temperature plays an important role in the timing of proofing; 5 °C more/less room temperature roughly halve/double the proofing time; the water temperature affects the proofing in a similar way
  • Proofing test: lightly press in the dough with a finger; if the hole remains visible or only slowly closes again, the dough is ready (if the dough proofs too long, the dough quality is reduced)
  • The amount of water should be adjusted depending on the type of flour; wholemeal flour needs approx. 10% more water on the total amount of flour than finer flours (e.g., type 1050); when using finer flours for the main dough, simply use 250g water instead of 280g
  • The amount of yeast in the dough can be varied depending on the strength of the sourdough starter; in total, no more than 1–2% yeast relative to the total amount of dough should be used
  • Baking times can vary somewhat depending on the type and size of the oven
  • Leftover flour can be left in the pot after baking: this burns the next time it is heated and gives the bread a light smoke aroma
 

Wholemeal rye bread with sunflower seeds

Wholemeal bread with a “Kochstück” (‘cooked piece’; a boiled flour mix); a little more effort and difficulty, but the taste makes up for everything

A Kochstück, like other pre-ferments and preliminary stages, serves to increase the “dough yield” (proportion of water relative to the total amount of dough). Rye meal and sunflower seeds are used for the Kochstück in this recipe.

Note: This recipe is based on the “Sonnenblumenkernbrot” from the book “Brot” (Teubner, p. 151; see below: Books), but has been significantly modified compared to the original, especially with regard to the amount of water used.

Schedule

  • Sourdough: 12h ripening
  • Kochstück: 10 minutes preparation, at least 4h cooling
  • Main dough: 30 minutes preparation, 90 minutes fermentation
  • Baking time: ca. 70 minutes (10 at max. temperature + 60 with falling temperature)

Ingredients sourdough

  • 110g wholemeal rye flour
  • 110g water (ca. 30 °C)
  • 15g starter (rye sour)

Prepare the sourdough

  • Mix the water, flour and starter well in a bowl
  • Let the dough mature in a closed bowl for about 12 hours at room temperature

Ingredients Kochstück

  • 300g water
  • 75g rye meal (medium or fine)
  • 75g sunflower seeds
  • 2g salt

Prepare the Kochstück

  • Boil the water in a small saucepan
  • As soon as the water boils, add the flour, seeds and salt
  • Stir constantly and simmer until the mass thickens (consistency of a solid mash)
  • Put in a sealable bowl and let cool for at least 4 hours

Ingredients main dough

  • 500g water (ca. 30 °C)
  • 900g wholemeal rye flour
  • 20g fresh yeast
  • Entire sourdough
  • Entire Kochstück
  • 125g sunflower seeds
  • Oil (for brushing the bowl)
  • Margarine (for greasing the baking tins)
  • Rye meal or flour (for flouring the baking tins)
  • Water (for wetting the loafs)

Prepare the main dough

  • Put the water, flour, yeast, sourdough and the Kochstück in a large bowl; knead for 4 minutes on the lowest level
  • Add salt and knead for another 4 minutes on the next higher level
  • In the meantime, brush a large, sealable bowl with oil
  • Put the dough in the bowl and roughly shape it into a round shape; ATTENTION: the dough is quite sticky because of the high amount of water

Fermentation

  • Bulk fermentation: cover and let the dough mature for about 35-40 minutes; after 15-20 minutes, fold once all around from the sides to the middle
  • In the meantime, grease and flour two baking tins (dimensions: approx. 22 x 12 x 7 cm)
  • Divide the dough into 2 portions and shape into an elongated shape to match the baking tins
  • Brush the loafs with water, roll them all around in the sunflower seeds and place them in the molds
  • Final proofing: cover the loafs with a damp kitchen towel and let ferment for 1 hour

Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 240 degrees upper/lower heat approx. 1 hour before baking
  • Put the molds in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes at 240 degrees
  • Then lower the temperature to 210 degrees and bake the bread for another 60 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, turn the molds 180 degrees in the oven and cover with aluminum foil
  • Turn the finished bread out onto a wire rack and let it cool down for at least 2 hours

Tips & tricks

  • If the dough is too sticky during processing, it can be difficult to remove from the kneading bowl. To avoid that, the amount of water in the main dough can be reduced by 100g.
  • This bread is ideal for freezing.
 

Flatbreads, baked in the pan

For about 12 flatbreads

A quick recipe for pan-fried flatbreads. Simple, tasty and with a gluten-free variant!

Ingredients

  • 300g wheat flour 1050
  • 200g wheat flour 550
  • 21g fresh yeast (alternatively 7g dry yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 280g lukewarm water
  • some rapeseed oil (optional, for baking)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • Black cumin to taste

Schedule

  • Dough: 10 minutes
  • Fermentation: ca. 1 hour
  • Baking: ca. 20 minutes

Prepare the dough

  • Mix the flour, salt and fenugreek
  • Dissolve the yeast in a little water and add the sugar
  • Knead the flour mixture with the yeast and the rest of the water to form a soft dough (max. level 2 with the food processor)
  • The dough is ready when it has completely separated from the bowl and has a stiff, slightly rubbery structure
  • Let the dough rise in the bowl until the volume has doubled (cover the bowl with a damp towel)
  • Then knead again briefly by hand and form 12 hand-sized flatbreads
  • Flatten the breads on the floured worktop and let them rest for a few more minutes

Baking

  • Heat up a pan and keep it hot on medium heat (a cast iron pan is ideal, but a coated pan also works)
  • Oil the hot pan with a kitchen towel and a little rapeseed oil (the flatbreads can also be baked without oil)
  • Put 3 to four flat breads at a time in the pan and press some black cumin/sesame seeds into the top
  • Bake for 3-4 minutes on both sides until they are well browned and have significantly increased in volume

Tips & tricks

  • Cast iron pans should generally be heated slowly, i.e. at a medium heat level
  • Depending on the type of flour selected, the amount of water can be adjusted (in small steps); rule of thumb: the higher the flour type, the more water is required; for example, wholemeal flour requires approx. 10% more water than type 500

Glutenfree variant

  • The wheat flour can be replaced with buckwheat flour in a ratio of 1 to 1
  • Additionally, 1 large egg should be added to 500g flour in the dough to increase the binding when baking
  • The dough hardly develops any firmness, remains very sticky and rises significantly less than wheat dough, because buckwheat flour does not contain any gluten, which would otherwise create the bond
  • When baking, it is therefore best to portion the dough directly into the pan with a wet spoon and flatten the flatbreads there
 

Wheat buttermilk bread

Beginner recipe with a poolish pre-ferment

A simple white bread with pre-ferment and buttermilk for a longer shelf life

Note: This recipe is based on the “Weizen-Buttermilch-Kruste” from the book “Der Brotbackkurs” (Valesa Schell, p. 41; see below: Books), but was modified from the original in terms of ingredients, times, work steps and the baking process.

Schedule

  • Poolish: 5 minutes preparation, 6-10h ripening
  • Main dough: 10 minutes preparation, 3h bulk fermentation, 60-90 minutes final proofing
  • Baking time: ca. 50 minutes (35 with lid + 15 without)

Ingredients poolish

  • 100g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 100g lukewarm water
  • 1g fresh yeast

Prepare the poolish

  • Dissolve the yeast in the water, then mix in the flour
  • Let rise in a closed bowl for at least 6 hours
  • The dough is ready when it is streaked with bubbles

Ingredients main dough

  • Entire poolish
  • 200g wheat flour 550
  • 200g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 250g buttermilk (lukewarm)
  • 4g fresh yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Prepare the main dough

  • Put the poolish and all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl, except for the salt and 30g buttermilk
  • Mix with the food processor on the lowest level for 1 minute
  • Add the salt
  • Then knead on the highest level for kneading (usually level 2) for 12 minutes
  • After about 5 minutes, gradually add the remaining buttermilk as soon as the dough comes off the edge of the bowl
  • After each addition of buttermilk, wait again until the batter comes off the bowl again
  • It is possible that after 12 minutes there will be some buttermilk left over; drink it 😉

Bulk fermentation

  • Put the dough in a sealable, lightly floured bowl and let rise for a total of 3 hours
  • To start, fold the dough all around from the edges up to the middle, either with a dough card or the flat of your hand
  • After 1h and 2h, fold the dough in again
  • If necessary, the dough can be turned over after it has been folded in order to additionally improve the structure of the dough

Final proofing

  • After 3 hours, fold the dough one last time (but do not turn it over again)
  • Bring the dough into a round shape
  • Then let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes at room temperature
  • After 60 minutes, press a finger approx. 1 cm into the dough to check that it is matured; if the hole remains or if it only closes slowly, the dough is ready and can be baked

Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 250 °C (recirculation mode) for about an hour before the dough is ready; put a pot with a lid (at least 20cm in diameter and without plastic parts; ideal: Dutch oven) in the oven
  • Flour the dough lightly; use a little more flour along the edge of the bowl; then fold in the flour all around with the lower edge of your palm so that the dough comes off the base
  • Carefully tip it out of the bowl into your hand and into the pot (do not throw it!)
  • Set the temperature to 200 °C and bake the bread for a total of 50 minutes at a falling temperature
  • After 35 minutes, remove the lid from the pot and bake for another 15 minutes
  • Turn the finished bread onto a wire rack and let it cool down for about 2 hours

Tips & tricks

  • As an alternative to wholemeal flour, finer wheat flour can be used, such as 550 or 1050; then reduce the amount of buttermilk in the main dough by 30g
  • The poolish is quite flexible to use; it can also be used after 4 hours; in addition, the fermentation time can be shortened by increasing the room temperature (rule of thumb: + 5 °C corresponds to halving the time required)
  • As an alternative to a floured bowl, the dough can also be put in a bowl lightly oiled with rapeseed oil to ferment; then the dough comes off the bowl more easily and no additional flour is needed to turn it out
  • Be sure to preheat the oven in good time during the baking process; if the dough matures for too long, the quality of the dough deteriorates
  • Alternatively, the bread can also be baked on a baking sheet; then, if possible, a small bowl of water should be placed in the bottom of the oven during preheating and removed after the initial 10 baking minutes
 

Mixed wheat bread, “no knead” variant

Simple recipe without complex dough processing, inspired by my Elegant Speech Compadre Dirk Hovy 

The special thing about “no knead” breads is that most of the dough processing steps (kneading, multi-stage proofing, molding) are eliminated and the dough is simply left to its own

Schedule

  • Dough: 5 minutes preparation, 8-12h fermentation
  • Baking time: ca. 45-55 minutes (30-35 with lid + 15-20 without)

Basic ingredients

  • 500g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 250g wholemeal rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  • 4g dry yeast (alternatively: 12g fresh yeast)
  • 600ml lukewarm water

Optional ingredients to complement the recipe

Note: The additives should only be added individually after successful first baking attempts in order to get a feel for the consistency and processing of the dough

  • 6g spices: coriander, anise, caraway, fennel in equal proportions (classic bread spice mix); best fresh from the mortar
  • 1 pack (15g) sourdough extract (flavor + additional raising agent)
  • 2-3 splashes of olive oil (longer shelf life)
  • 2 teaspoons of malt syrup (improves color and taste)
  • 100g natural yoghurt (longer shelf life)
  • 150-200g fried onions (extremely tasty; the bread is baked and fried at the same time)

Prepare the dough

  • Mix all ingredients except the water in a large, sealable bowl
  • Add water and stir by hand until there is no flour left on the bottom of the bowl
  • Let the dough rise in the closed bowl for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature (instead of a lid, you can use a damp kitchen towel to cover it)

Baking

  • Place a large pot (at least 24 cm in diameter; ideal: Dutch oven) in the oven and preheat it to 250 °C (recirculation mode) for about 1 hour
  • Caution: the following two steps have to be carried out relatively quickly because the dough is very active
  • Flour the dough: spread a little flour on the surface, use a little more flour along the edge of the bowl; then fold in the flour all around with the bottom edge of your palm so that the dough comes off the base
  • Carefully spin the dough around in the bowl so that it loosens completely from the bottom of the bowl, and turn it into the hot pot
  • Lower the temperature to 210 ° C and bake the bread for 30-35 minutes with the lid closed
  • Remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes
  • Turn the finished bread onto a wire rack and let it cool down for at least 2 hours

Tips & tricks

  • If finer flours are used instead of wholemeal flour, the amount of water should be reduced by 10%
  • For the first few attempts, it is advisable to use the longest specified baking time to prevent the bread from being completely baked

Make sourdough (starter)

Cultivate a rye starterMaintain sourdough
 

Cultivate a rye starter

Sourdough forms the basis for doughs with long fermentation times, especially for those in which a lot of rye flour is processed. The sourdough improves the baking properties of rye-heavy bread, ensures a typical nutty-sour taste and increases the shelf life of the bread.

What you need

  • 1 large, lockable container (at least 2.5l capacity)
  • 500-600g wholemeal rye flour
  • 500-600g water (40–45 °C)
  • 5-7 days

Procedure

  • The ideal temperature for the fermentation process is achieved in the oven (switched off, light on) with the door slightly open (temperature 26-28 °C)
  • Day 1: mix 100g water and 100g flour and let ferment for 12 hours
  • After 12 hours stir the mixture with a spoon
  • Day 2: after 24 hours, add 100g water and 100g flour to the mixture, stir
  • After 12 hours stir the mixture with a spoon
  • Days 3 to 6: repeat steps from day 2
  • When the mass has already increased its volume significantly after 12 hours, is visibly streaked with bubbles and smells slightly sour, the starter is ready
  • Remove 100g from the finished mass and place in the refrigerator, sealed; freshen up after 7 days (see “Maintaining a starter”)
  • The rest of the mixture can be used as preferment to make a bread (see the basic recipe for the rye-wheat bread)

Tips & tricks

  • In the course of the cultivation process, the fermentation can cause the sourdough to smell quite unpleasant in some cases or it can exude fusel alcohol; however, after 5 days at the latest, a slightly sour smell should prevail
  • Make sure that no foreign bacteria impair the ripening process (rinse the bowl thoroughly with boiling water beforehand; close the lid tightly); if there is a putrid smell or a brownish-greenish discoloration of the mass becomes visible, the dough has been contaminated and must be disposed of
  • The cultivation can also be done with half of the ingredients, i.e. 50g water/flour per day; then an additional day should be planned for fermentation
 

Maintain a starter

A sourdough culture must be refreshed regularly (i.e. “fed”) in order to keep the microorganisms active in the starter. With a little time, you can grow a strong sourdough that can completely replace yeast in the dough.

Basics

  • Store the starter in a sealable container in the refrigerator
  • Remove the required amount from this for each baking process
  • Freshen up every 7-14 days with flour and water

Refresh

  • 50g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (40-45 °C)
  • 10g of the old starter
  • Mix well, leave to mature in the oven with the door slightly open for 6-9 hours (26-28 °C)
  • The starter is ready when it has significantly increased its volume, is streaked with bubbles and smells slightly sour
  • Alternatively, the items can also be “refilled” by only replacing the amount taken for baking (50% flour / 50% water), so that at the end the initial amount is again in the container (approx. 110g)

Good books to read on

So far, I have mostly been working with German books (see the list below), many of which offer great introductory sections and recipes. As far as English books are concerned, I would recommend the following for beginners:

  • Ken Forkish: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread und Pizza. (Berkley: Ten Speed Press. 2012. Great introduction to the essential bread-baking techniques; the recipe section contains mostly wheat-based breads, though; as a compensation, you get an extra part on how to bake a spectacular pizza

Definitely not for beginners, but close to the ultimate encyclopedia of bread baking:

  • Myhrvold, Nathan & Francisco Migoyaa: Modernist Bread. 5 volumes. Bellevue, WA: The Cooking Lab. 2017 | Monumental opus for nerds; if you have a year, you will find almost everything there is to know about bread and baking

German books

  • Valesa Schell: Der Brotbackkurs. Einfach starten – Profi werden. Stuttgart: Ulmer. 2019 | Very approachable, good explanations; from simple techniques to more complicated recipes; some instructions are somewhat incomplete, though, especially for beginners
  • Lutz Geißler & Björn Hollensteiner: Brotbackbuch Nr. 2. Alltagsrezepte & Tipps für naturbelassenes Brot. Stuttgart: Ulmer. 2018. | Great recipe section with basic recipes and variations to customize; somewhat brief introductory part on basics and techniques
  • Teubner: Brot. München: Teubner 2016. | Good introduction to material and craft basics; in cooperation with the German national baker team
  • Lutz Geißler: Brotbackbuch Nr. 1. Grundlagen und Rezepte für ursprüngliches Brot. Stuttgart: Ulmer. 2013. | Very detailed introductory section with technical and biochemical details; somewhat technical in style