This European style brown bread is hearty, complex of flavor, and most importantly, delicious. If you need a mid day "pick me up," this bread will give you a surprising boost of energy and sustain you between meals. If you decide to make it a meal in itself, this brown bread is great plain, served with gravlax (cured salmon), toasted and spread with honey butter, and was used to make the most delicious egg salad sandwich I have ever eaten. This recipe calls for a poolish sourdough starter for added flavor and to stand up to the acidity of the other ingredients that give this bread recipe a unique flavor. Please see the "Related" section at the end of this recipe for further information and alternatives to using a sourdough starter.
- The night before baking, combine 100g poolish sourdough starter with 100g whole wheat flour, 250g rye flour and 350g cold water. Stir together in a plastic or glass container with enough extra room to allow mixture to expand slightly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow this "sponge" to ferment overnight, or for about 10-18 hours.
- The following day, the sponge should be bubbling and active. Because whole wheat and rye flour are used for the majority of the sponge, the active mixture won't look quite as airy or active as a starter using 100% bread flour. This is normal.
- If the sponge is active as described above, add bread flour, balsamic vinegar, coffee, warm water, molasses, and cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly to combine, cover with plastic wrap and allow to autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
- After autolyse period, add salt, fennel seed, celery seed and caraway seed. Mix with hands to combine.
- Turn dough out onto clean work surface, using the "slap and fold" kneading method to work the dough until it forms a strong gluten structure and can pass the widow-pane test.
- Lightly dust dough with bread flour, perform a single stretch and fold, round and allow to bulk ferment in a covered container for about 4 hours or until its volume has doubled in size. You can also retard bulk fermentation overnight at this point to develop more flavor and make the process more convenient.
- After bulk fermentation, divide dough into 3 equal loaves weighing 600-640g each.
- Form portioned dough into loaves and place in 9" loaf pans that have been sprayed with pan release (non-stick) spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 2 hours or until the volume has grown to at least 1.5 times its original size.
- Brush the top of the bread with melted butter and dock using a sharp razor, making a 1/2" deep incision vertically, down the middle of the loaf.
- Bake at 350-375ºF/175-190ºC for about 40-45 minutes or until the crust is a dark brown and loaf achieves a minimum internal temperature of about 200ºF/93ºC.
- Immediately after baking, remove finished loaves from pans and set on a wire rack, allowing to cool for at least 1-2 hours before slicing.
- Once bread has fully cooled to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight.
Alternatives To Using A Poolish Starter
This recipe benefits from the use of a sourdough starter because the natural yeast is much more resilient to acidic bread doughs (created in this recipe by the addition of vinegar, molasses and coffee). If you really don't want to use a poolish starter, mix the sponge ingredients together the night before as instructed in step one, but add an extra 50g of bread flour and 50g of water along with 2g of instant or active dry yeast. Allow to ferment overnight and continue recipe as instructed.