In German, vollkornbrot means “whole-grain bread,” and the name is apt. One of the hallmark breads of Germany, vollkornbrot is a no-nonsense rye loaf. The rye is integrated into the dough in many forms: a rye levain, cooked rye berries, rye flour, and cracked rye (as a soaker and in the preferment). Under German rules, vollkornbrot must contain at least 90% rye flour, and levain should account for at least two-thirds of the preferment.
Vollkornbrot stands out as being a bread with a small percentage of flour relative to the rye grains added, the latter of which provide most of the bread’s structure—the proportion of flour in the recipe is just enough to help the wet dough coalesce. The result is a decidedly dense loaf that can be described as brick-like, but in a way we really enjoy. This creates an interesting opportunity to explore different types of inclusions that can offer similar structure but bring different flavor to the bread—think of this as a “bread pâté” with numerous possible inclusions that are suspended in every slice. Variations on our master recipe from Modernist Bread are riffs on the idea of dough as a binder, but instead of sunflower seeds and rye berries, we use other inclusions: dried fruit, toasted nuts, and even chocolate chunks and cocoa powder. Loaded with candied fruit, this particular variation will quickly become a winter staple that can easily double as a surprising (and deeply satisfying) twist on a traditional fruitcake during the holidays.