Rye Bread, from A to Z: A Wry Story

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WARNING: After absorbing this article, please verify that there are no counter-indications to digesting the products mentioned. Furthermore, note that trace impurities in the raw materials employed may lead to unexpected results, beyond those which are described below. According to the Peter Principle, anything can go awry.

In addition, before concluding that I do not know what I am writing about, please note that this is more of the relation of an experience –  digestible, or indigestible literature – than a procedural explanation.   Forewarned is forearmed.

Raw Materials Needed to Go All Right

Rye Flour, Water (preferably pure H-2-O, [subscript of “2” not possible here]), salt, sugar, yeast (powdered preferred), and one egg, if desired (the results of extended time in the rising of the dough with the latter may have undesirable consequences, of which I am unaware.)

Preparation: In my case, this was most difficult. I am not an expert bread-maker, though I have made bread on-and-off for about 32 years. Mostly, it was off! I have used electric ovens, gas ovens, gas furnaces, and solar energy. A gas oven without gas, when the gas was shut off – very dangerous, so the procedure will not be explained! It worked, after trial-and-error, that’s all that mattered. In order to keep this more of a story than a recipe, other web sites should be consulted for the massy details.

A to Z (1)

The flour looked like coarse saw-dust. It felt like sand upon kneading, absorbing water in the same quantities. In fact, in sufficient quantities  it would have been easier to mould a sand-castle of this material, than to prepare a loaf. An attempted solution was increasing the amount of sugar in the mix.

Baking time was one hour, in comparison to my usual 40 minutes for whole-wheat bread. To tell the truth, the dough had absorbed so much water, that this was insufficient.

Α to Ω: alpha to omega): The Digestive Tract

Remember how I said that it looked like coarse saw-dust? Well, it felt just the same inside my mouth. At least, that was better than the sand that it felt like under my knuckles. I chewed, and chewed, and got little satisfaction. A large cup-cake-sized portion of bread took about half an hour of mastication, and it still retained its rough quality as I let it decided to pass it into my stomach.

I used to wonder if there was any food value in saw-meal, as the literal translation from German would be. Perhaps I had forgotten what I had read in Nobel Literature Prize-winner Heinrich Böll’s Group Portrait with Lady. This, or something similar, was part of the mix given to concentration-camp inmates [Check the sixth paragraph at this link!]. I suppose it’s preferable to water-boarding.

I had expected some weight-loss after 3 days of this regime, but then, I probably got my calories elsewhere.

The “Z”, or more like the omega [Ω] of the digestive system story, the end, if you catch my euphemistic drift, is something akin to a week in a sand-storm, but with the exposure affecting an area where there is a different set of cheeks. Rabelais, in Gargantua and Pantagruel, mentions a swan in the context, let’s say, to smooth off the roughness. Clearly a case of animal cruelty. (I much prefer Cervantes, and understand Shakespeare better still. That said, for anyone interested in my literary tastes.)

With all that said, a gentleman who brings the coffee to the top executives at the office where I have my clients, said that I had made the product correctly, and that there were rougher versions still. Ouch!

ٱ to ي: alif to yaa’): Redigested

Figuring that digestion could be simplified by leaving the bread in boiling water for some time, to make bread soup, or gruel (a word, which in Britain, can also mean “punishment”), or even a species of porridge, to about 333 grams (number: half the sign of the beast!) were added an onion and about 4 or 5 chili peppers, an egg, and perhaps some grated cheese. A mild inferno in the mouth – at least for the unaccustomed, but no worse than chili con carne. There still seemed to be saw-dust in the mouth, but it was more easily processed than before.

Chili Peppers

A Bit of Chili

Now, repeating the “Z” of the digestive system: things began to get really bad. I believe that the Bedouin survive sand-storms all the time. This was worse than that desert event, this was sand-blasting with a watery jet. With repeat sessions over at least a twenty-four hour period. And still I kept eating the bread, hoping that the thick layer of cheese, or whatever else, lying between the two halves, would mitigate any rasping effect.

א to ת : Aleph  to  to Tav: I Need a Drink!

I do not like to waste, it had already been recommended that I throw away this food fit for forage. It occurred to me to investigate a beverage which I had read about in the early Sixties in some American magazine, with which Nikita Khrushchev  the man then at the top in the Soviet Union, was hoping to compete with Western cola drinks. It did not sound particularly appetizing to me at the time, and I cannot guarantee that it will be for the reader,  but Eastern Europeans like it. KVASS! Sounds like a spy agency, a competitor for Maxwell Smart’s KAOS.  (Only comedy show I ever enjoyed.) Now, I don’t want filters to unnecessarily block this page, (bad enough that my hosting platform is inaccessible, I understand, in various places throughout the free, and less-free world), so I must continue to use terms that a child can read without learning anything bad, without eliminating anything that can be profitably used by an adult. There are so many ways of preparation, that it should be difficult to go wrong, but then, that might still be possible. Please, as in the case of baking rye bread, consult other web pages, and take your cues between them, and the comments made here.

To start, you will need rye bread crust. This, and any stale rye bread, should be placed in the oven – for how long, depends on what source you select. One source says that the bread should not be burnt, but ruddy. I suspect that that was a translation from a dictionary of some Slavic word, because I have no idea how bread can become ruddy in the oven, without burning, because it would have to be incandescent. Ruddy useless advice! Elsewhere, it is suggested that an outdoor oven should be used, because it should be baked until blackened, and smoke is given off. My advice, take your pick! In the matter of proportions, there is also much difference of opinion, my personal method is to take our 333 grams, divided by a third (a bit under a quarter of a pound) of bread, to one litre of water (say, 1 quart), a quarter or half cup of sugar, half a teaspoon of powdered (dry) yeast. Ideally, the water should be pure, but I have used chlorinated water, and smoke-and-plaguicide-laced rain-water. (I didn’t want to waste it, and after checking with the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA, and contemplating the photographic images of the rescue personal at the scene of origin of this “contamination”, I decided the risk was negligible, as it was only either yuppies or well-heeled tourists who were wearing gas masks.)

Once the bread has reached whatever ruddy colour it was supposed to have, it is placed into an appropriate recipient, enamel, or fire-proof glass, and boiling water is poured upon it. This is supposed to stand at room temperature, for 2 to 3 hours, or even over-night – I’ve tried both, not being convinced of much difference in the results. This liquid is then supposed to be filtered through a cheese-cloth, something which doesn’t seem to exist where I live, so I used a #4 coffee filter – and if the filter is sufficiently fine, or if you have too many crumbs, it may take hours for the material to pass through. If you haven’t already, add the sugar and the yeast. The instructions say to wait for foaming, and if you used a cheese-cloth, filter again, but with the coffee filter, that doesn’t seem necessary. Let stand according to the advice you may glean elsewhere, or overnight again, and then bottle. I have read to store at a cool temperature, but I do not have that luxury. Supposedly the taste might get too strong if you wait too long before drinking. It is claimed to be refreshing on a hot day.

I have had two different kinds of results with the final solution – a chocolate-milky or yeasty colour, or some shade of coffee or tea, or even cola. I survived drinking what I made, which, when prepared with a one-litre amount at the beginning, ended up being a three-quarter litre bottle. I would prefer to make a larger quantity, but the time of the year, and my available containers, do not permit this. I was happy with the taste, and am attempting variations upon this theme.

It seemed to me, since the bread was so inedible – at least in my case, that the smart thing to do would be to prepare “crusts” in the oven from the beginning, exclusively for preparing this drink. This has been done at a thickness of about a quarter of an inch, or 5 mm., on a cookie sheet, and I placing cookie-sized masses of flattened dough, in accordance with your needs (in my case, an oven-sized cookie sheet, with a kilo of material divided into 9 segments). Perhaps I used too much water, because after 80 minutes, it could still have been kept baking.

Non-scalar graph of Kvass ingredient variations

Comparative Ingredients in Kvass: Not to Scale

In the above chart, the relative quantities of one item to another are not shown.  The numbers have been normalized, so for example, in the first grouping, 6 litres of water are shown, but the amount of sugar is 10 milligrams.  Group 3 doen’t seem right: where’s the bread?  Group 4 is my own version, after all, most options suggest “sweeten to taste”.

Interlude: In Praise of Kvass [квас]

A “Quasi” Limerick.

There was a Lady O’Reilly

Who described bran bread rather shyly

But drank down the kvass

In a fine crystal glass

And praised the product most highly.

11 декабрь: 11 December 2012 All Content This Page ©  Paul Karl Moeller

Α to Я: A[h] to Ya: A Brand-new Story

This is extremely embarrassing to reveal. While all the above, both the bread, and the kvass, or in the realm of the possible as described above, I had made a mistake in translating “rye” into Spanish, and confused it with “bran”. I have not found any recipes for 100 % bran bread, though it is certainly possible in the case of the grain I thought I was using. So, now I know where it all went awry.

I hope to keep readers posted on the next batch of bread and kvass. Rye, a forage plant is some parts of the world, is more expensive than even whole-wheat flour, at least where I live. Ah, but kvass, only water is cheaper (unless you want to start figuring out the cost of using the oven)!  For a very brief historical comment, check out the final part of the article linked <here>.

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