Randy was an integral part of the bakery its first year. I had met Randy in Champaign-Urbana, where I heard him sing and play his guitar on an open microphone at the Red Herring Coffeehouse. Randy used to wail out his original compositions, and I do mean wail, but what he lacked in musicality he made up for in heart. He was a person of great sincerity and had insightful perspectives on life. When he heard that I had opened up a whole wheat bakery in Chicago, he came up to talk to me and offer his help. He said, “I want to learn how to bake good bread,” and I said I would teach him what I know.
2 cps. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water
1-1/4 tsp. dry yeast
1/4 cp. honey
3-3/4 cps. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cps. whole rye flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. fennel seed
3 Tbs. oil
Optional: 2 Tbs. grated orange peel
- Proofing the Yeast: Pour the water into a bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast on the water, add the honey, and stir until dissolved. Wait 8-10 minutes until the yeast begins to grow and create a tan-colored foam.
- Mixing the Dough: Add 2 cups whole wheat flour to the water and stir for 3-4 minutes to form a homogenous batter and begin working the gluten out of the flour. Add more flour on top of the batter and place the salt, fennel seeds, and oil on the dry flour, mixing this into the batter. Continue adding the rest of the rye and wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup of the wheat flour for kneading and mix to form a dough.
- Kneading the Dough: Dump the dough in the bowl onto a floured work surface. By pushing on the dough with both hands, form the dough into a ball and incorporate the fragments and loose flour into the ball. Knead this dough for 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible to the work surface and the ball if the dough sticks to the surface or your hands.
- The First Rise: Clean and dry the bowl. Sprinkle about ½ tsp. oil on the bottom of the bowl and place the dough into the bottom of the bowl and flip it over once so that the entire surface of the dough is lightly covered with oil. Place the bowl in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for 1-1/2 hours.
- The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate it. Flip the dough over so the moist bottom is now on top. Place the damp towel back over the bowl and let rise 1 hour.
- Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel over the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the work surface. Cut the dough in two equal pieces, shape each half into a rough ball, and let them rest 10 minutes to relax the gluten in the dough. Shape the loaves into round balls according to the Direct Bread Making Instructions.
—(Direct Bread Making Instructions for shaping loaves):
For round or free-form loaves, place both hands around the bread dough in a cupped fashion and tighten the “skin” or exterior surface of the dough by moving your cupped hands downward. This will create tension in the surface of the dough and smooth any wrinkles, folds, and crevices. Do not pull so hard on the dough that it will tear. While moving your cupped hands in a downward motion to tighten the surface, rotate the dough clockwise slightly so that you can gently pull down on all sides of the dough. After doing this for a minute, the dough will be a round ball with a smooth, somewhat taut surface, and any cracks or loose ends of the dough will be moved to the bottom of the dough.
Sprinkle corn meal or oil on a flat baking sheet and place the round loaves on the sheet, seams down. When both rye loaves are on the baking sheet, place in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel for about 20 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350oF.
- Baking the Loaves: When the bread loaves are becoming soft and puffy, but have not flattened, remove the damp cloth, spray the loaves with water from a spray bottle, if available, and place the pan on the middle rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 50 minutes until the bottoms of the loaves are evenly firm and brown, and thumping on the loaves produces a hollow sound. Remove the loaves firm the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.