I have discovered an amazing N.B. organic stone-ground rye flour that is the basis for my breadmaking. It may be hard for North American or European readers to imagine how much I appreciate this product, but suffice it to say that rye flour was totally lacking from supermarkets in Argentina and Uruguay. ( I couldn't find caraway seeds there, either.) The only rye bread we ate in South America was a commercial pumpernickel imported from Germany.
|Speerville stone ground rye flour|
The recipe I use is Dan's New York Sour Jewish Rye Bread, a contribution from Dan Leeson of Los Altos, California. It requires four days of preparation the first time you make it, to allow the yeast in the starter to grow. Once you've made your first batch of bread, the starter can be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep well, as long as you to continue to feed and tend it.
Dan reveals a secret about rye bread that makes a huge difference in the success of this recipe. In the past, Jewish bakers in New Jersey did not throw out day-old rye bread, but instead incorporated the leftovers into each new batch of dough. This practical recycling of unsold product was illegal, but the method improved the flavour of the bread by adding a distinctive sour note and consequently continued as a hushed-up, insider practice.
When my last loaf is almost finished, I now hold back the remaining heel of bread and save it in the freezer for the next baking session. I enjoy crumbling that stale end piece into the fresh dough, as the creation of a new loaf from old bits and pieces seems like a small miracle. It's a very wabi-sabi gesture.
I've been reading Leonard Koren's book entitled "Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" which outlines a key concept in Japanese aesthetics, spirituality and lifestyle. Wabi-sabi is defined as the "beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete." In terms of physical objects, it favours things that are irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy, simple and showing evidence of natural processes. Philosophically, wabi-sabi thinkers express the life cycle as a continual process of evolution or decomposition. "All things, including the universe itself, are in a constant, never-ending state of becoming or dissolving," writes Koren.
|by Leonard Koren|
As the old breadcrumbs are kneaded into the dough, they disintegrate, enriching flavour and adding substance to today's rising loaf. My humble sourdough rye is no ordinary bread, but a unique blend of one part Canadian whole grain, one part Jewish frugality and one part Japanese sensibility.