Rusks; pressure cooking the bread

I had a flash of insight and remembered that shortly after I had gotten my pressure cooker I had been investigating baking bread in it but had forgotten about it. I was thinking that I’d use a regular loaf pan but they’re too big; my other option would be to buy an 8 inch round springform pan. Then I shelved the idea; this was before I started making rusks. But now that I’m using these mini loaf pans I realized that I can do it with them, so that’s what this one is.

Note: Dark rye flour is not pumpernickel flour. If you have pumpernickel flour you can use it but you must first sift it with a fine sifter and sift out the coarse bits of grain that are typically part of pumpernickel flour. If you leave them in they turn hard as rocks when the slices are dried.

1/2 cup sorghum
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1 cup wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons instant potato
2 teaspoons crushed cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed ajwain
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup (approximately) water

The water quantity is an approximation. I add the water slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough starts sticking together in clumps I let it mix longer before I add each additional tablespoon. Towards the end the dough will clump together and stick to the mixer’s paddle. In the beginning the mixer is on low; once the dough starts clumping together I put the spatter shield on the bowl and turn up the mixer’s speed. At this point, after each tablespoon of water it needs to mix for a minute or more before I add another tablespoon. Suddenly it will start sticking to the inside of the bowl instead of clumping together, becoming a very stiff batter. At this point I don’t add any more water since I’ll be cooking it in the pressure cooker in a steamy environment. I’ll let it mix for a few minutes more in order to develop whatever gluten there might be, which is not much with rye flour. Then I put it in a greased plastic bowl with a snap on lid, but before putting its lid on it I press some plastic food wrap down onto the dough. Even with plastic on it the top darkens. I let it rest for at least an hour before I transfer it to the loaf pan and cook it.

I cooked it at high pressure for 35 minutes, then let the pressure go down naturally. I came up with 35 minutes from looking around on the web. There was one recipe for 45 minutes but I’m guessing that that would be too long for these mini loaf pans.

I set up my pressure cooker by putting 4 Mason jar rings on the bottom, then the pressure cooker’s trivet on them, then I put the folding steaming basket on top of that (with its center handle removed). I wanted the loaf pan up away from the water and I wanted to put in several cups of water.

I forgot to put aluminum foil over the loaf pan when I put it in the pressure cooker. It keeps condensation from dripping onto the loaf. The aluminum foil should be greased on the underside, in case the dough rises up and touches it; that keeps it from sticking to the foil.

When I opened the pressure cooker the loaf had some small puddles of water on top but I was able to dab them off. The whole loaf is shiny, as if I’d glazed it. It didn’t rise at all and is an utter brick.

It’s in the fridge cooling.

Later, sliced and drying: The texture of the loaf was very dense; it was like cheese or very firm tofu. In retrospect, given its density, I think I should have sliced it thinner.

Since the loaf, and slices, are so dense, I’ve set the dehydrator’s timer for 6 hours instead of the usual 5.

Later, after drying: I think pressure cooking the loaf is definitely the way to go. Even though I sliced them slightly too thick they’re certainly reasonable. The next batch I’ll slice slightly thinner. The density of the cooked loaf makes for a rusk that’s more manageable when breaking into smaller pieces. The rusks from the loaves that were baked in the oven never broke where I wanted, breaking wherever there was a weakness in the slice. The pressure cooked ones break where you want them to.

The ajwain flavor is too pronounced; moreso than with the ones that were baked in the oven. The flavor may improve after a day. I need to try something else with the ajwain besides cumin; perhaps rosemary.

Other than the flavor issues with the ajwain I’m very happy with this batch; pressure cooking the bread gets a big thumbs up.

Update: I take back the positive remarks about their texture; this batch gets a big thumbs down. A day later and the rusks are hard and very difficult to chew. Like trying to chew a piece of wood. I suspect that it’s the rye; possibly any flour with gluten. On the other hand, a subsequent batch of pressure cooked crackers with rice bran came out nicely. I’m going to try a batch with sorghum, masa harina, and wheat bran and see how that turns out.


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