Red Fife & Rye – Authentic ‘Soldier’s Bread’

OK, another recipe. This is sometimes called ‘Soldier’s Bread’ because in Cape Breton we have one of the world’s most beloved historical re-creation sites at which they serve up many brick oven loaves. Unfortunately they are neither fresh-ground nor sourdough fermented so apart from the oven and the costumes there is little authentic about the experience. In any case, their ‘Soldier’s Bread’ (which is darker and coarser than the ‘Officer’s Bread’ whose formula I don’t have) is 60% whole wheat and 40% Rye, and they are using modern (over-hybridized) whole wheat, whereas the above recipe is using Red Fife wheat from Speerville Flour Mills in New Brunswick, the only distributor set up to work exclusively with Maritime farmers (P.E.I, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

So the recipe is 50% Rye 50% Red Fife Wheat. I think of it as ‘Red Fife Rye’. Sometimes I fresh-grind the flours, but right now I am using up the already stone ground Red Fife and when that has been finished I will do only fresh-ground.

Red Fife is a ‘heritage grain’ which has not been over hybridized and so has a softer, more water soluble gluten which is very close in feeling and behaviour to spelt. I like the flavour but find it doesn’t bind together so well as normal wheat and so am favoring high hydration loaves in loaf pans – to hold a shape – rather than hearth loaves. Now I could play more tricks to get good hearth loaves, I am sure, but when working with 50% rye, that is going to be a serious challenge anyway, so I am going to stick with the round loaf pans. In any case, the combination of Red Fife and Rye is very good and I think this is going to be a standard loaf on the Menu.

Of historical note, this recipe is probably much closer to the actual Soldier’s Bread in that the wheat they were eating back in the 1700’s was probably much closer to Red Fife than it is to the contemporary Hard Red.

Process:  this is very simple: along with the usual starter routines explained elsewhere, just mix up the rye, red fife, salt, water and caraway seeds and leave to soak until the evening when the starter is mixed in, and every hour a stretch and fold (twice). Then overnight fermentation, then scaling, shaping, proofing, baking and cooling.

Einfach so! Or: Simple!

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