The 10th recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge, Pain de Seigle – or French Rye Bread – is the only bread in the book that calls for a preferment. The sponge, which consists of AP flour, yeast, and water, is mixed up at least a day before you plan to bake the bread. In my case, I made the sponge two days prior to baking. After fermenting it in a bowl on the counter for two hours, I covered the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.
Since I wasn’t going to use it for a few days, I stirred down the sponge a few times to keep it from overproofing. On baking day, I mixed the sponge with the yeast and warm water in the mixing bowl. The recipe says to mix it with a rubber spatula until smooth. I mixed it for a while, but the sponge never fully incorporated.
I switched to a dough whisk, which did a better job but still didn’t get the sponge mixed in all the way.
I continued to use the dough whisk to mix in the flours and salt, until I had a shaggy dough.
As with the other recipes in this section, Nick Malgieri utilizes brief periods of mixing and an autolyse. The dough is mixed for three minutes, rested for 10, and mixed again for another three minutes. Then I put the dough into an oiled bowl to ferment.
The recipe says to let the dough ferment until it doubles in volume, which can take anywhere from one to two hours. In my case, I fermented the dough for one hour and 20 minutes.
Most of the doughs in Nick’s book have been quite slack. I have gotten used to this and deal with it during shaping by generously flouring the work surface and top of the dough. This dough was no exception.
After dividing the dough, I pressed each half out into a square, then rolled it into a batard.
I then stretched each batard into a baguette. The recipe calls for each baguette to be about 12 inches in length; I stretched mine to the length of my baguette pan — about 18 inches.
I proofed the loaves for 45 minutes, until they were puffed but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
I baked the loaves on the baguette pan in a 375° oven for 30 minutes, until the crust was nicely browned and the internal temperature of the loaves reached 190°.
The bread looked and smelled great coming out of the oven. I reluctantly let the loaves cool before slicing into them.
The prefermented sponge and rye flour combined to give this bread a complex flavor that was still mild enough to be a hit with the whole family. I enjoyed this bread plain, and with cultured butter, regular butter, and honey. The kids kept coming back for more, and the first loaf was gone in no time.
I wasn’t sure if I would like this recipe, as rye breads tend to be hit-or-miss for me. But I really enjoyed this bread and will definitely put it on my repeat list.