A couple of years ago when I was visiting my sister in Switzerland, her friend offered me a chance to see a farming family tradition of bread baking in a wood fired oven.
My sister woke me up around 4:30 in the morning and walked a country path, through dark woods, all this to see up close my first bauernbrot, a common farmer loaf of mixed flours and starter. The story of the family itself was intriguing, but being able to watch a traditional bread being crafted was really a special treat.What I found most remarkable was the wood burning oven and the antique Artofex mixer they used to make dough in, it's arms looking less like arms, and more like birds feet.
The method in which they made this particular loaf was somewhat unorthodox, using only one bulk fermentation. The dough was dispatched with speed, cut unceremoniously with a large kitchen knife, then plopped into a rough shaped loaf straight to the oven and baked. It was quite a surprise, as the loaf didn't seem to take any beautiful shape. Rather it was, and looked, a bit heavy. Maybe that was the intent. Or as someone explained, perhaps it was to save using a lot of wood, though I think the oven would have stayed fairly hot while the bread could of been afforded a nice second rise?
For my part, being a city dweller, my only hope of visiting a farm within the city limits would have to be at any of the Green Farmers' markets during the weekend. So to welcome spring here in the city I decided to take a crack at making a similar loaf, the inspiration coming from Zorra's version, by way of Deichrunner's Küche post and finally from Herr Süpke, this particular loaf originating from among his repertoire.
I followed Zorra's adaption except for some different flour from the original formula. My version was totally sourdough, with a long proof to get the starter and sponge rising overnight. I lowered the hydration in the final dough as Zorra suggested, and used spelt my sister had sent me from Switzerland, Dinkel Ruchmehl which is a high extraction flour. Also, I gave my dough a long five hour bulk ferment, with one single fold. Shaped round, I allowed about two and a half hours of proof and retarded the dough to the refrigerator for about 5 or 6 hours and straight into the oven.
The combination of wheat, white whole wheat, spelt and rye makes for a multi-flavored tasting bread, with a nuttiness that makes for a good combination with cheese, butter and most likely, some good ham. As they say in Germany, "schmeckt gut!"
Whether it was luck, serendipity, or the Bauernbrot's Gods paying me a visit, this morning I awoke to the chirping of birds outside my window, bringing back memories of the quiet path to the farm to see the bread taking shape.