It seems a long time since I last posted, although it's not that long since I last baked. The cake tin has been kept filled with goodies using recipes I've already posted (mainly brownies), and I've also had one or two failures which weren't worth mentioning. The failures were mostly part of my quest to produce a gluten and dairy free menu for a meal for 10 at the beginning of next month. I'm tempted to give up on the idea of gluten free baking, but it's a matter of personal honour now that I will produce something edible! What I have given up on is the idea of depriving everyone of good bread just because two guests don't eat wheat, so although most of the meal will be dairy and gluten free, some elements of the meal will be 'normal'.
This recipe from Dan Lepard for Black Pepper Rye Bread caught my eye at the weekend, as a possibility to serve with smoked mackerel paté. I love rye bread, and this loaf promised to be light and moist, with a good kick from the pepper - sounded just right.
My first attempt was a disaster in terms of texture - it was dry, heavy and hardly rose at all - but I wasn't sure whether it was my technique or whether my dried yeast had died in storage. The flavour, however, was wonderful, just what I needed to fire up the tastebuds at the start of the meal, so I didn't want to give up on the recipe. As ever, Dan was very helpful on his website, suggesting where I might be going wrong, and he even baked the recipe again, and published a set of photographs for future guidance.
The second attempt, pictured above, was much better; the loaf was lighter, moister and rose well. I didn't have any poppy or sesame seeds to top the loaf with, so just gave it an egg wash and a light sprinkle of caraway seeds, which was what I'd used in the loaf with the black pepper. I took Dan's advice to cook the rye and spice mix less, and also took the precaution of buying new yeast, but now it's frustrating not to know if it was the yeast or the change in technique which made the difference. I know that you shouldn't really change two things at the same time if you're trying to get to the root of a problem, but I didn't want another failure.