December 18, 2018

Candied Fruit Vollkornbrot

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.

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This dough won’t develop significant gluten, so it is best to think of the dough as a firm paste. When mixing with a machine, the hook attachment will not form this dough into a firm homogeneous paste; use the paddle attachment to mix. When mixing by hand, we recommend mixing for 12 min to ensure that the dough is smooth and homogeneous.

When the dough is proofed, its surface will be cracked, looking much like parched earth. Flour dusted on the surface of the dough enhances this effect.

 

For vollkornbrot and other dense breads, we recommend using a Danish bread slicer to get the cleanest, most even cuts.

Tips and Substitutions

  • The amount of salt in this recipe may seem very high, but keep in mind that its baker’s percentage is based on the minuscule amount of flour in the dough. Also, note that the salt gives flavor to every ingredient in the dough, as well as the inclusions.
  • The hook attachment will not form this dough into a firm homogeneous paste; use the paddle attachment to mix.
  • We do not recommend using a food processor because it will break down the inclusions and make for a very goopy paste.
  • When it comes to mixing the dough without a machine, we have always thought that the hand is a superior mixing tool to a wooden spoon. Your hand can tell you how the dough is doing by how it feels, and your hand has five mobile appendages (fingers) that are more efficient at dispersing and combining ingredients than a single stiff wooden spoon. Your free clean hand can scrape the excess dough off your mixing hand with a bowl scraper. When mixing by hand, we recommend mixing for 12 min to ensure that the dough is smooth and homogeneous.
  • While the dough bulk ferments, prepare the loaf pan you will be using (we recommend a 22 cm by 11.5 cm by 6 cm / 81 in by 41 in by 21 in pan). If you are using an aluminum or steel pan, you will need to lightly and evenly coat the entire pan with cooking spray and then either coat it with a 1:1 mixture of dark rye flour and bread flour (tap out the excess), or simply line it with parchment paper or a paper cup made to fit your specific pan. If your pan is nonstick, we recommend using a light layer of cooking spray but no flour coating or parchment paper.
  • If using an alternative loaf pan for baking, allow for 0.6–1.2 cm / 1/4–1/2 in of space from the top of the dough to the rim of the pan.
  • If you do not want to cold-proof your dough, you can proof it at 27 °C / 80 °F (65% relative humidity) for 3–4 h or at 21 °C / 70 °F for 5–6 h.
  • Vollkornbrot doesn’t need to be scored; it can be baked as is after the proof. Alternatively, you can dimple it with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape.
  • This is a wet, dense bread that you need to bake to a higher-than-usual core temperature to ensure it is baked through. We suggest a core temperature of 100 °C / 212 °F. Once it reaches that temperature, continue to bake the loaf for 10 min more. After the bread is baked, remove it from the pan, and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once cool, allow the bread to cure for 24 h wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This curing is essential to making sure that the bread will hold its shape and can be sliced cleanly rather than crumbling. We recommend using a Danish bread slicer to get the cleanest, most even cuts.
  • You can make a faster-fermenting vollkornbrot by combining 7.23% instant dry yeast (6 g) with the other ingredients while mixing. Proof at 27 °C / 80 °F (65% relative humidity) for 1½ h or at 21 °C / 70 °F for 2–2½ h.

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