As much as I loathe to admit it, I am a creature of habit. Over the past 18 months, a big part of my weekend routine is working a dough throughout Saturday then waking up removing the loaf from the fridge where the loaf finished the second rise, then going for a run and finally returning to bake the bread. The inspiration for most of the loaves and all of the technique have been Chad Robertson’s Tartine books. His first bread book, and even more specifically the first chapter of that book, providing weeks of tinkering – trying to figure out what worked for me.
His second book outlined more variety from whole, ancient, and sprouted grains. I have been tinkering with many of the different loaves by alternating styles on a weekly basis, but the loaves I eat, the Danish Rugbrød-style loaves, have opened me up to different styles of baking. These loaves also have pushed me to develop a list of what I like and do not like in these loaves. Typically, I love the texture of the seeded, dense loaves, but with repetition, this week, I preferred something softer, but still complex.
After making a boule of a koji-wheat bread made with koji porridge, I knew the koji porridge was something special. The porridge was sweet, but unlike most things sweet, it was multidimensional. The combination of the multidimensional sweetness from the koji was particularly great with the softness likely originating with the high hydration from the porridge. The flavors of the bread was one of my favorites of any of the breads I have baked. With that great flavor I though back to Rugbrød, but I wanted to add a little of the softness more typical in porridge breads.
To keep the koji theme, I used, as Robertson features in some of his loaves prepared amazake, a sweet fermented koji pudding. Basically, this bread is double koji and to keep up the theme of doubles, I used rye bran as well as rye flour, along with spelt flour to bake the bread. I kept the typical additions to the loaf-style breads of flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, so I started with the koji porridge.
To make the porridge, I pulse koji a few times in a spice grinder or food processor to break up the kernels and then add four times the volume of koji in water. The koji simmers on the stovetop until it turns into sweet moldy rice sludge. Then let the porridge cool. Once it has cooled, the sourdough starter was mixed with water, beer, butter milk and amazake. Then, the spelt flour, rye flour and rye bran was stirred in (ratio of 4:1:1).
After nearly a half hour, koji porridge was added at an equal ratio to the flour/bran. That is the trick here. Whether it is sprouted rye berries or koji porridge, these breads are dense with whole or broken or sprouted grains. Finally the bread is seasoned and loaded with flax, sunflower, pumkin and sesame seeds (about 80% by weight of the koji porridge – yes, more roughage). The bread is worked over a day by making folds every half hour and then resting in a buttered loaf pan overnight.
The next morning, the bread bakes in an oven a little cooler than an oven would be for a typical loaf. Even with the limited flour, the loaf still has a little rise to it. After finishing the bake, the loaf rests on a rack for at least eight hours. By that point the smell of freshly baked serious bread has been in my face all day. The first slice reveals a crackly crust and a richly textured but soft interior. The koji has a complex sweetness after baking in much the same way as it did in porridge form, but has more of a roasted flavor than a toasted flavor. The seeds bring a richness that is magnified by the soft texture of the crumb.
This is a really interesting loaf which has qualities of both a Rugbrød, but also a softer loaf. Despite enjoying baking as a routine, it is fun to break off course a little to try something fresh and new. It is exciting to experiment a little with in the routine.