All through my childhood the only mustard I had encountered was the whole mustard seeds which you could find in almost every dish that came out of my mother’s South Indian kitchen. You would find these insignificant little black specks with vegetables, gravies,and almost every savoury dish. In fact, I did not even know that the colour, if the seeds were broken, was actually a shade of yellow. I often wondered why a particular tube of colour in my water-colour palette was called ‘mustard’ when it was nowhere near the brown that I saw everyday.
Much later I saw these little squirts of almost vile yellow goop accompanying burgers. The colour almost made me want to stay away but curiosity (often the bane of my life, but luckily not this time) got the better of me. I dipped my little finger in to the neon stuff and tentatively licked it and at that moment I was hooked. I simply fell in love with the pungent stuff. This sudden love affair of mine, with mustard, was strange to a lot of people because I was usually not a big fan of spicy food. I could just not have enough of it. While others had ketchup with their fries, I had mustard. A sandwich meant, I was willing to skip the butter and mayonnaise but had to have at least two kinds of mustard.
The whole world of prepared mustard was now open. You had the mild ones and the spicy ones, whole mustard and the stone ground ones; English mustard and French and then of course you had the Dijon and honey mustard. I am not even going into mustard with garlic or Chillies. While I enjoyed the subtle delicacy of the milder ones, it was the mustard with the spicy kick that really got my juices flowing. I would experiment with mustard which could unclog your sinuses and even try to prepare my own stone-ground version with mustard seeds and vinegar. I would add a dollop of it into the sour cream for my dips and little squeeze on my chappatis when I had nothing to eat it with. I even picked Colonel Mustard when I was playing a game of Cluedo. Finally, it was no surprise to anyone, that when I saw this bread– Senfbrot, it was only a matter of time before I was baking it.
I am told it is a bread of German origin. Whoever came up with this idea of adding mustard to the bread dough, was genius. Now you no longer needed to worry if the condiment has been spread evenly in the sandwich. To add to my delight, the bread had chunks of cheese mixed in as well. Think about it–it already has mustard and cheese premixed into the dough! That is what brilliant chefy minds come up with. What more would you want to add to it? Some fresh tomatoes maybe. I am told by my meat-eating friends ( I am vegetarian) that it would be perfect for a ham sandwich. They ought to know.
The bread itself demanded a preferment, a soaker and of course the final dough which needed to be cold fermented. The ingredients sounded exciting. Besides the cheese and mustard, it called for cracked wheat and rye flour. I knew I had some rye secreted away somewhere to be used only for special recipes. It was time to get the rye out. When I did, what a disappointment it turned out to be. Waiting for the perfect recipe, I had let the flour hibernate at the back of my cupboard for too long. It now smelt dank and stale. (note to myself–stop hording!) There was no way I could use it. This, however, was not going to stop me now. No rye or any eye in the sky had that power. I would just use whole wheat flour instead. I knew it could never be the same, but yet, the bread Gods pressed me on, promising me delicious bread nonetheless. I had lovely Swiss mustard, not too spicy, but with a gentle kick from the chilli combined with the little brown seeds. I had some delicious Gouda in my refrigerator as well. So it was time to get the soaker going.
The timeline for the bread perfect. Start the preferment and soaker in the morning, the dough in the night and the bread the next morning. Perfect! The recipe itself might look daunting but I have tried to break it up so it is simple enough to follow. The mustard is an important part of the bread so don’t skimp on it (Basically don’t use the cheap kind with no flavour) If you can get hold of rye flour you MUST use that–again think ham and cheese on rye. I used Gouda because I had that, and the original recipe demanded that but you can use any cheese, preferably something sharp or smoked.
The recipe will ask you to coat the bread with the mustard. Make sure that you do not dilute it with water. Don’t be afraid to use a strong mustard. The flavour does tone down with the baking. You could either grate or chop the cheese into little chunks. I prefer to chop them into chunks. If like me, you like little bits of toasted cheese peeking slyly out, tempting you with its salty goodness, chunks it is. If you belong to the other half who does not like these surprises, go ahead and grate it. Finally, the dough is sticky. Have no fear. This is going to give you that lovely crunchy crust.
The measurements are going to be in grams nd some of them may sound odd but please do try to follow it (Owning a digital weighing scale helps)
IN THE MORNING
For the preferment
70 gms Bread flour (I used all-purpose flour with 1/2 a spoon of vital gluten)
42 gms Water
1/8 tsp Instant yeast
1 gm Salt
Mix all the ingredients together. It will form hard ball. You do not have to knead it but make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated. Cover and set side until use
For the Soaker
52 gms Cracked wheat
35 gms Rye flour (I used whole wheat)
65 gms Water
1 gm Salt
Mix these ingredients together in a separate bowl. Cover and set aside until use.
Both the preferment and the soaker can remain at room temperature till the evening. Remember, I asked you to start the process in the morning. If the kitchen is too hot (summer is almost upon us) do place it in a cooler part of the house.
All of the preferment and the soaker
228 gms Bread flour (I used generous spoon of vital gluten with my all-purpose flour)
7 gms Instant yeast
8 gms Salt
204 gms Water
33 gms good Mustard
60 gms Cheese grated or cut into small chunks
More mustard for brushing the bread
Sunflower or Pumpkin seeds for topping (I used sunflower seeds)
1. IN THE EVENING mix all the ingredients required for the final dough until the flour is well hydrated.
2. Set aside for 5 minutes
3. Knead gently for about 6 minute. Adjust the flour or water only if required. The dough will be sticky.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and pat into a rectangle
5. Stretch the portion of the dough closest to you and fold it into the center of the rectangle.
6. Stretch the 1/3 of the dough which is way from you and fold it over the part already folded. (this is called book fold)
7. Now do the same thing to the other sides. Turn the dough over seam side down, cover and set side for 10 minutes.
8. Do this 3 more time with rest of 10 minutes between each stretch and fold. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and put it in your refrigerator. Forget about it and let the yeast do it’s thing overnight.
9. IN THE MORNING take out the dough, deflate it and form into a tight boule.
10. Spread the surface of the boule with some of your delicious mustard (Go ahead, you can lick your fingers when you are done) and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Stop a bit to admire the colour. It does looks like sunflower to me– the bright yellow with a sprinkling of the seed.
11. Cover and set side to rise to about 1 1/2 times the original size.
12. Preheat your oven to 240C (Don’t forget to place a small metal tray in the oven while preheating. You will need this to create steam)
13. Place your boule in the oven and pour some ice cold water into the metal tray and quickly close the oven door.
14. Bake with steam for bout 15 minutes. Then remove the metal tray with water and reduce the temperature to 210C and bake for about 20 minutes until the bread is golden brown and done. A thermometer inserted should register 200F
15. Remove from the pan and cool before slicing. (If you have used chunks of cheese you might notice some parts browning very quickly. If this happens, go ahead and cover the top with a foil to prevent burning)
As much as I tried to learn a little bit more about this bread, I realised this was impossible without knowing German. I would rather be baking this deliciousness at this point than engaging a translator. Now that the bread has been taken care of, I would welcome more information. Please feel free to read up on Senfbrot and share it with me. (I would not mind if you shared the bread as well) In the meantime let me just enjoy my in-built grilled cheese sandwich.