29 July 2012

Swabian Farm Loaf – “Eingnetztes”

‘Eingnetzes’ is a crusty wheat bread typical for the region of Swabia. The dough is relatively soft and it is left to rise in the mixing bowl. The loaf is baked without a tin so its shape varies from time to time. As its surface is not cut before it is put into the oven it rips open at one side, forming a characteristic 'knobbly bit' (called Knauzen in Swabian). The Knauzen is particularly crusty and is seen by many as the best bit of the bread! The word ‘Eingnetztes’ derives from the German verb ‘benetzen’, which translates as ‘to wet’ or ‘to dampen’. This makes sense, because the bread is lifted onto the baking stone or hot baking sheet with wet hands. It is also brushed with some more water for the last few minutes, which gives the loaf its typical shiny crust. Traditionally, the dough was turned out directly onto the stone oven from a wet bowl or large ladle.

The bread is fairly easy to make but the main issue is getting hold of the right flour. Before I started getting into baking ‘serious’ bread I tended to use only plain wheat flour and in some instances wholemeal wheat flour. In Germany the types of flour sold differ considerable from those available in the UK. The main difference – and most relevant for baking bread – is the availability of many different ‘flour types’ (Typen) in Germany. The lower the type number, the whiter the flour or, in other words, the higher the flour type number the more percentage of the whole grain is left in the flour. Regular UK plain flour corresponds roughly to the German flour Typ 405. For baking bread a higher and more rustic type of flour is usually used. Wheat flour used for baking non-wholemeal bread is usually Typ 1050 and rye flour Typ 1150. These are darker than plain white flour, but not as dark as wholemeal. Occasionally I ask visitors to bring me a few bags of Typen flour from Germany or I bring some back when I have been on a visit to Germany myself. However, I have found that a mix of plain and wholemeal flour available in the UK has given me more than acceptable results. All the breads posted in this blog, for example, were baked with regular plain and wholemeal flours.

If you can get your hands on Typen flour I suggest using a mix of Typ 1050 and wheat wholemeal flour. If not, just follow the recipe below. This makes one large loaf. The pre-dough and sourdough keep the bread fresher for longer and they also improve its flavour a lot. It takes a while to make, but it is certainly worth it!

For the pre-dough:

100 g plain flour
100 g wholemeal wheat flour
10 g fresh yeast
200 ml lukewarm water

For the sourdough:

100 g wholemeal rye flour
100 g lukewarm water
1 tablespoon rye sourdough starter

Other ingredients:

300 g plain flour
300 g wholemeal wheat flour
15 g salt
1 tablespoon honey
300 ml lukewarm water

For the pre-dough: dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and mix in the flour. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a lid and leave to rest at room temperature for an hour and then in the fridge overnight or for about 12 hours. For the sourdough: mix all three ingredients, cover and leave to rest in a warm place (28 degrees are ideal – placing the sourdough in a coolbox with a warm hot water bottle works a treat!) overnight or for about 12 hours.

When you are ready to bake mix the pre-dough and sourdough with all the remaining ingredients and knead well for about 10 minutes. The dough is relatively soft (but nothing like as sticky as pure rye sourdough). Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest for about 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up fold the dough in the bowl. It is easiest to do this by moving your hand under the dough, grabbing a bit, pulling it up and folding it over. Do this about 4-5 times moving clockwise (or counter clockwise) around the bowl. Leave to rest again for 30 minutes, then fold again and leave to rest while you preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to about 240 degrees. If you have a bread baking stone you should heat this up in the oven. If not, place a strong baking sheet in the oven to heat up. When the oven is hot take the ball of dough out of the bowl with very wet hands and place it on a chopping board covered in baking paper. Pull the loaf onto the hot baking stone or baking sheet with the paper and spray some water into the oven. Bake at 240 degrees for about 15 minutes then decrease the temperature gradually to 200 degrees. The bread needs to bake for about one hour. You can pull out the baking paper after 20 minutes so it doesn’t burn.

When the bread is done briefly take it out of the oven and wet it with water (you can use a brush or just your wet hands, if you are hard like me). Put it back into the hot oven for about 2 minutes. This makes the crust nice and shiny. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. This freezes very well.

For fun and a bit of blog networking I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting.

26 July 2012

Redcurrant cake - "Träubleskuchen"

The Träubleskuchen is a great Swabian summer tradition. It’s called Johannisbeerkuchen in non-dialect German and translates as redcurrant cake. This cake – like the rhubarb cake I posted a few weeks ago -  is what I would call an ‘adult cake’. I didn’t like it as a child, probably because its moist texture with the currants and almond meringue and its tartness are too complex for the childish palate. I quite like it now, many years later (although I continue to have a fondness for sponge cakes decorated with chocolate and smarties). Unfortunately, our two currant bushes in the garden did not yield enough fruit for an entire cake this year. I therefore waited until English-grown redcurrants were available in the supermarket. They have now arrived and the season is short, so I had to act quickly. I baked this recipe in a 24 cm round tin. It would also be enough, I think, for 25 or 30 cm square. 

For the pastry:

250 g plain flour
125 g butter
70 g caster sugar
1 egg yolk

For the filling:

About 400 g redcurrants
3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
150 g caster sugar plus one tablespoon of sugar
Some vanilla extract or seeds, if you like
100 g ground almonds
A handful of sliced almonds and breadcrumbs each

Quickly combine the pastry ingredients and knead until you have a firm ball of dough. Line a greased cake tin of your choice and prick the base with a fork in a few places. Put in the fridge and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

When making the filling start by whisking the egg whites until stiff. Add the sugar spoon by spoon and continue whisking until the mixture is firm and silky. Add the ground almonds and vanilla and mix in well.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with a tablespoon of sugar until creamy. Then fold in two thirds of the almond meringue mix and the redcurrants. Combine well. Remove the pastry shell from the oven and sprinkle the base with the breadcrumbs and sliced almonds. This prevents the base from getting soggy. Add the redcurrant mix and top with the rest of the almond meringue. Smooth the surface and bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 50 minutes. Check periodically so the top does not get too brown. If it does, cover with some aluminium foil. 

Leave to cool in the tin, but remove the cake when it is cold to avoid it from ‘sweating’ and getting soggy. This cake should be eaten fairly fresh. It is very moist and no amount of breadcrumbs can stop it from getting soggy after a couple of days. It tastes particularly good with whipped cream.

PS: A nice reader of the blog just pointed out that my blog so far did not offer a 'follow' option. I hadn't realised that this was the case. The 'follow this blog' function is now enabled and it is located on the left of the screen under the blog archive!