I killed my sourdough culture. It greeted me with a layer of mold after the holiday season was over. I got this culture from Bazu over two years ago. It had travelled a long way from the USA. It was a very reliable and tough culture . But when it had to spent Christmas and New Years alone in the dark fridge, it probably had enough.
I was sad and tried to console myself with yeast breads. I made many nice baguette loaves and a couple of rye-wheat breads. But it didn’t work out and I started to miss the starter culture even more. And my 100 % rye loaves which have to be made with a sourdough starter to turn out right.
So one day I grabbed a bag of rye flour and some water to make a new culture. The first time I had made such a culture it was summer. Over the course of five days I could watch my flour mixture turn into a sourdough starter. It bubbled and grew every day. This time it was different. In January our house isn’t that warm. So I put the starter onto the heating. During the five days of developing the starter not much was happening. At least not much I could see. This time the bubbles were tiny and the starter didn’t rise at all. But usually doesn’t mean the starter went bad. The smell changed as expected and on the fifth day I could tell it had worked out because my new starter suddenly smelled exactly like the old one. It smelled like freshly cut green apples. And it looked like this:
I took away 150 g of this mature culture and mixed it with 100 g of dark rye flour and 50 g of warm water. (I transferred the rest of the starter to the fridge.) I covered the mixture and let it sit for 16 hours. (It’s called refreshing). This is how the refreshed starter looked like:
Now that I knew my starter actually worked, I prepared the ingredients for the first bread. I had decided to make another 100% rye loaf, similar to German pumpernickel. Pumpernickel bread is usually made with a very large amount of rye berries or cracked rye berries. It’s a very dense bread, dark brown in colour and sweet in taste. It’s usually baked for about 20 hours at a low temperature (about 100°C /210°F). This slow baking is essential both for the colour and taste of the bread.
My bread is definitely a cheater Pumpernickel as I added molasses for colour, used a relatively high amount of flour and not as many berries as called for in a traditional Pumpernickel and baked the bread at 200°C (400°F) for only an hour. The rye berries I used were cracked and looked like this:
These berries are cooked to make them soft. (This mixture is called a Brühstück [brühen means to scald or to boil, Stück means piece]. The boiling doesn’t only soften the berries, a Brühstück usually adds lots of moisture to a bread and helps it keep fresh longer.)
Pumpernickel style bread
200 ml water
150 g cracked rye berries
300 g refreshed starter (see above)
200 g whole rye flour
50 g additional water
10 g salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon molasses or sugar beet syrup
Combine 200 ml water and cracked rye berries. Cook for one minute, cover with a lid and let sit until completely cool.
In a bowl, mix with remaining ingredients. (I added some yeast because my starter probably isn’t very strong yet.) Knead until everything is well combined.
transfer the dough to a loaf pan, cover it with a wet kitchen towel, and let it rest for 2 hours. Don’t expect much of a rise. This “before and after” doesn’t show much of a difference, which is pretty normal for this kind of bread. Remember, it’s going to be dense:
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F). Transfer the bread to the oven and reduce temperature to 200°C (400°F). Bake for 60 minutes. Let cool completely and store for at least 24 hours before slicing.