A lot of people tried out Seigle d’Auvergne from Dan Leader’s Local Breads after it came out in 2007. It was almost like a benchmark of authenticity. Americans seem to have too much reverence for European authenticity – I know that’s a shocking generalisation but that’s the way it can feel.
Anyway, he presented this very, very authentic recipe, the crux of which is mixing water at 46C with the starter – something that scares the bejasus out of your average baker (e.g. me). It did contain the odd rather important error, like giving the water at 50% when it should have been 85%, but other bakers came along and corrected it.
When you have to knock out a lot of loaves in limited circumstances you are forever looking to simplify methods and techniques to make life easier. Most of my breads have to fit into the mix, overnight refrigerated fermentation, morning scale, shape, 3½ hour prove routine. But having a few doughs that can be knocked up in the morning and be ready for the oven by the end of the last bake – like wet ryes – can be really useful. Plus I’m always suspicious of special techniques and tricks.
So I thought I would put Seigle d’Auvergne to the test. I mixed two doughs, one following the “authentic” method and one the method I use for most wet ryes. With the second dough all the ingredients were mixed, 1½ hours fermentation, then wet-shaped and into the tin. I used water straight from the cold tap. With the “authentic” dough the water at 46C is poured over the starter, the rye flour is stirred in and it stands for 1½ hours. Then the wheat flour and the salt are mixed in and, after a bit of kneading, it has 1½ hours fermentation. Then it was wet-shaped and into the tin for 2 hours prove. I used tins because it’s easier to compare how the doughs are doing. Both doughs had 5 hours from start to finish.
Both doughs looked identical when they went into the tins so I won’t bore you with both. Like I say, using tins is useful for comparison but makes for boring photos. Bear up – this is for your education.
After 5 hours, just before baking. The “authentic” dough is on the right.
Not pretty but that wasn’t the object of the exercise.
The “authentic” one has nipped round to the left.
There was hardly any difference between the two. The “authentic” dough was a little ahead of the second dough after five hours but if I’d taken the chill off the water or given it another half hour I don’t think there would have been anything in it.
Personally I think I’m going to be inauthentic in the future (and put the tins back on the shelf).
3 thoughts on “Debunking Seigle d’Auvergne”
If it was me working with a dough that’s at all wet I’d have to use a tin or end up with a ‘flying saucer’. How does one get a wet dough to hold it’s shape without a tin?
Practice and confidence. It’s really worth getting used to handling wet doughs. Obviously ryes are different to wheat doughs. Ryes aren’t worth kneading much because there’s no real gluten to develop. With wet wheat doughs you can knead them without flouring the work surface or your hands so it sticks to both but you can still work it without lifting it of the bench. After a couple of bursts of short kneads and rests, clean and dry your hands, flour the bench adjacent to the dough and turn it over into the flour with a scraper. Flour the top of the dough and your hands and it will start to become kneadable. Use the minimum of flour but the instant it starts to stick use a little more. People always forget to flour their hands. Stretch wheat doughs during fermentation. You give structure even to wet doughs by kneading and stretching.
When it comes to shaping, same drill for both ryes and wheat. Minimum of flour to stop it sticking. Shape by folding the edges into the centre, turning over and rotating while applying pressure with the palms of your hands. And of course flour your baskets well with rye.
These type of loaves are prone to spreading anyway – you’re just trying to limit the spread.