Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kvelde mølle

Bread baking is full of surprises. When you think you have almost perfected some certain type of bread, you suddenly change something. By mistake. Or curiosity. Most likely both. More often than not, the result is less than satisfactory, but somtimes you get lucky. And I got double lucky today.

Yesterday when shopping for eplebrennevin I went to the ICA shop in the same building as DKNV. I don't usually shop there, because mostly they sell rotten vegetables and generally expired stuff. And that's precisely what they did. Again. When I got home it turned out that the sweet potato I bought was actually a Kinder Egg (tm); It had a surprise in the middle, and not a nice one. But that's not of any importance. What is of importance however, is that they sell wheat flour from a small mill called Kvelde Mølle. It's expensive, twice the price of normal wheat flour, it's more finely milled and it has a higher protein content. It had to be tried.

Yesterday evening I started two doughs; a preferment and a "no-knead" ciabatta dough. I immediately realized that the flour had higher water absorbing capacity and formed gluten faster than normal wheat. Based on this I decided to go a little wetter than ususal. A bit too wet for the ciabatta it turned out, but it didn't matter much, it came out nice anyway. Apart from the flour, and the (overly) wetness of the dough, one final factor played in: work. At the same time as I was baking, I was working on a scientific project (deadlines are killers), and I was so concentrated that I forgot the bread. That is, unitl I could smell it. Then it had been in the blazing hot oven, at 275 C, for much longer than normal. It had aquired a quite deep, golden brown crust in just 13-14 minutes, and I thought: Crap! I quickly turned down the heat, opened the oven and vented out the steam and a bit of excess heat, left the breads in and went back to work. When another 20 min had passed (at 225 C) I took out the breads. To my surprise they were not overbaked at all, and had a beautifully caramelized crunchy crust. And when cut open! My God! What a nice collection of large, irregular holes! This is some of the best bread I have baked so far, hands up. The moral of the story? Keep pushing it! Recipes will follow in the next post, although bread recipes are darn boring. They are all the same. Give and take a bit of this and that.

After a long Sunday of work, while the sun was shining outside and the weather was crisp and beautiful, I had the delightful pleasure to cook a quick 15 min Sunday dinner for the always beautiful Elis. I had already given up any plans for Sunday dinner, when the opportunity presented itself. But it had to be quick. Almost instant. I decided to serve some bread with a selection of butter, cold smoked salmon and rustic mustard. Additionally I made a little omelet I learned from Kebire, the Black Sea ninja chef.

Black Sea ninja omelet

1 small squash, coarsely grated
5-10 small fillets of anchovies in oil
1 tbs corn flour
1 pinch black pepper
1 pich salt
finely chopped fresh dill
finely chopped spring onion
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients well and fry on a low heat under a lid just until done, but not yet cooked to f*ck.


  1. Very nice blogg! But the dough does not caramelise while baking. The reaction that gives the colour and smell of bread is the Maillard reaction, a reaction between reductive sugars and proteins. And the gluten is not formed while mixing the flour with water, it is already present in the unground wheat kernels. :)

  2. Thank you! :)

    The browning of bread is, as you say correctly, due to the Maillard reaction. However, the Maillard reaction is not a well defined chemical reaction, rather a common name for all those thousands of reactions that happen when food browns. Depending on the foodstuff, the reactions can be very different in nature, e.g. a steak browns differently from a muffin. Many Maillard-type reactions are either caramelization reactions of sugars, and reactions between protein and sugars. In bread most of the browning is due to caramelization of sugars released by enzymatic action on the starch, and to a very little extent due protein-sugar reactions. The surface temperatures are simply too low. This is in fact easy to test: Make two doughs, one with some added sugar and one without, but otherwise identical. Bake both doughs in a hot oven, and the bread with the added sugar will brown and burn long before the other has become golden.

    Concerning gluten, which is not a chemically well defined molecule, but a complex polymer of classes of proteins called gliadins and glutenins. There is probably a bit of gluten present in the wheat kernels, but most of it is formed by reactions between wet, mechanically denaturated gliadins and glutenins through the formation of disuplhide bonds. Bread chemistry is a very exciting science, and very little is actually understood about the formation and deterioration of gluten by mechanical action. If you are interested I can send some further information on the subject :)


  3. A small update ;) I had to check what the current definition of the Maillard reaction is, since depending on which source you refer to you get somewhat differing answers. It seems that the proper definition of a Maillard reaction refers exclusively to the reaction where sugars get oxidized in presence of amino acids. But since both Maillard-type reactions and caramellization reactions happen side by side it can be tricky to tell them apart without a GC/MS and/or NMR machine in the kitchen :D

  4. I completely agree that food chemistry is a very exciting branch of chemistry. Also the enormous amount of different chemical compounds present in most foodstuffs make precise statements on occurring chemical reactions somewhat difficult.

    At least it is clear, that both reducing sugars and proteins are present in the dough so both caramelisation and the Maillard reaction can and will occur. The colour and smell of bread is still often attributed to the latter. A bread with excessively high sugar contend will brown, but taste and smell will be rather different from "normal bread". I will concede though, that the use of maillardisation instead of caramelisation is cumbersome, to say the least.

    Gluten is of course a mixture of mainly proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. The different gluten proteins are present in the kernel and to certain (very small) degree will have formed network structures due to the water present in the kernel. There seems to be some disagreement though as to whether the constituents of the network should be called gluten or only the "product".

    I have always thought that one should organise a combined chemistry/cooking/food-tasting course. This might increase the popularity of chemistry ...

    As I said, nice blog. Keep up the good work!