“Little Breads” of Pustertal/Pusterer Breatl (Italy)

pust_slice

Rye %: 70%
Stages: Sponge, final dough
Leaven: Rye sour culture, yeast
Start to Finish: 17-20 hours
Hands-on Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: One dozen 3½ ox/100 g rolls

Not too long ago, one of my friends, a transplanted Berliner, announced that he and his wife were going on vacation in the mountains of eastern Austria. The news came as music to my ears, because for a long time I’d been trying to get my hands on blue fenugreek leaves, a spice that’s virtually impossible to find in the US. Known as Trigonella caerulea (blue trefoil) to botanists, it’s a key ingredient in the breads of South Tyrol, where it’s variously called Blauklee (“blue clover”), Schabzigerklee (“shoddy clover”), Zigeunerkraut (“gypsy herb”) and Brotklee (“bread clover”). I asked if he’d be kind enough to pick some up for me.

pust_kleeSure enough, when he and his wife returned home, he presented me with 100 grams of a bright green powder that resembles Japanese green tea (matcha) and which has an intense, hard-to-define aroma that reminds me of nothing so much as a cross between new-mown hay and garam masala. Up until that point, I’d been using the leaves of Brotklee’s more robust cousin, Indian fenugreek (methi) in my South Tyrolean breads, notably the Vinschgau Twins (Vinschger Paarlen) that I included in The Rye Baker. Now, I could use the real thing.

pust_spiceFor my experiment, I chose these “Little Breads” of Pustertal, classic South Tyrolean breads that come from a valley in the high Italian Alps just south of the Austrian border. Like many Alpine breads, they’re made from a combination of rye and wheat (in this case, 70/30), are leavened with both yeast and a long-fermented acidifying sponge, and feature a blend of aromatic spices that includes fennel, caraway and coriander as well as the Brotklee that signals their origin. Unlike most of the rye breads I’ve played around with, however, this dough was so loose and sticky, thanks to its 110% hydration, that I didn’t dare let it proof on a floured peel as I normally would have done, but played it safe and used parchment-lined sheet pans instead.

The results were wonderful. The little breads spread on the parchment and developed a beautiful pattern of cracks in the firm, chewy crust. Inside, the high hydration had produced a very open, tender crumb. The flavor profile is subtle and complex, dominated by sour, salt and the slight bitterness of the rye. And yet, the more I chewed, the more clearly the aromatic notes of the spices emerged, finishing with the lingering grassy-curry fragrance of the Brotklee.

I invited my friend over to taste the breads and he and I agreed that only a mild cheese or sweet butter would do them justice; anything stronger would overwhelm their delicacy.

Sponge (Day 1, Evening):

Ingredient

Grams

Ounces

Baker’s
Percentage

Medium rye flour

160

5.65

100%

Warm (105°F/41°C) water

160

5.65

100%

Rye sour culture (100% hydration)

16

0.55

10%

PinzSponge

 

Mix the sponge ingredients by hand, cover and ferment at room temperature (70°F/21°C) 15-18 hours. The sponge will be very bubbly, have a strongly acidic smell and will have begun to fall back on itself.

 

Final Dough:

Ingredient

Grams

Ounces

Sponge

336

11.85

Medium rye flour

400

14.10

Bread flour, unsifted

240

8.45

Warm (105°F/41°C) water

720

25.40

Instant yeast

6

0.25

Salt

16

0.55

Blue fenugreek or Indian methi leaves, ground

8

0.30

Fennel seed, ground

4

0.15

Caraway seed, ground

4

0.15

Coriander seed, ground

4

0.15

 

pust_mixIn the mixer bowl, combine the final dough ingredients and use the dough hook at low (KA2) speed to mix until the dough is fully blended into a very loose mass that starts to climb the dough hook, 8-10 minutes.

 

pust_benchUse a plastic dough scraper to transfer 5 oz/140 g of dough at a time to a generously floured work surface. (I find it easiest to put the mixer bowl on my scale, zero it using the TARE function and then read the amount of dough I remove as a negative number. Remember to re-zero the scale after each piece of dough is taken out.)

pust_proof1

 

Use a dough scraper and well-floured hands to shape each piece of dough, which will be very soft and sticky, into a rough round and place it seam side down onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.

 

pust_proof2

 

Cover the breads and proof at room temperature until they’ve visibly expanded and show wide cracks, 35-45 minutes.

 

 

Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C with the baking surfaces in the middle. Bake until the loaves thump when tapped with a finger and the internal temperature is at least 198°F/92°C, 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool thoroughly.

pust_bread

Baker’s Percentages:

Ingredient

Grams

Percent

TOTAL FLOUR

800

100.00%

   Medium rye flour

560

70.00%

   Bread flour

240

30.00%

Water

880

110.00%

Salt

16

2.00%

Instant yeast

6

0.80%

Rye sour culture

16

2.00%

Blue fenugreek

8

1.00%

Fennel

4

0.50%

Caraway

4

0.50%

Coriander

4

0.50%

TOTAL FORMULA

1,738

217.30%

Flour prefermented

160

20.00%

 


5 Comments

  • Tom Stevens

    November 18, 2016

    Hi Stanley, they look great I am interested in your thoughts as to how different this blue fenugreek tastes in the final product compared to the Indian fenugreek you used in your recent book? love your blog by the way. Tom

    Reply
    • Stanley Ginsberg

      November 18, 2016

      The Indian methi and Brotklee are very similar, with a couple of exceptions: (a) the methi has a somewhat more pronounced flavor and aroma — especially aroma (which I really like, BTW), so a very small reduction (10-15%) of the amount of methi I call for in, say, the Vinschgau Twins recipe wouldn’t be out of line; and (b) the Brotklee is lighter in color than the methi, which is kind of a dark green-brown (think dark olive drab). Other than that, they’re very similar. Based on my experience, both will give South Tyrolean breads their characteristic olfactory and flavor profile.

      Reply
      • Tom Stevens

        November 20, 2016

        Hi Stanley, thanks fo the information, it is very much appreciated. When I get to making some ill let you know the the turn out.

        Tom

        Reply
  • Karin Anderson

    December 1, 2016

    I love those breads!
    Stanley, I could have easily got you Schabzigerklee – you find it Germany in every natural food store.
    The aroma is really different from regular (brown) fenugreek, didn’t you love the wonderful smell that fills the house when you bake the breads?
    Karin

    Reply
    • Stanley Ginsberg

      December 1, 2016

      The aroma (which I find wonderfully appealing) fills my spice cabinet, even when the S’klee is well wrapped. It has this amazing mouth-filling fragrance and the breads I make with it — these, Vinschger Paarlen and Schuttelbrot — are really amazing. I have plenty at the moment, and will certainly let you know when I’m close to running out!

      Reply

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