Saturday, January 23, 2010

Home-Style Caraway Rye Bread...

When Jeff was off from work over the holidays, I asked if he wanted me to make anything specific before I started pulling out recipe ideas. He jumped quickly with a response of "rye bread and homemade pretzels please!". Of course he also asked for the obligatory sweets, but those were all repeat recipes (he had his fill of Gingerbread Popcorn and Cinnamon Fudge!). I obliged with the breads and we're here today to talk about the Home-Style Caraway Rye Bread first.

You'll need stone-ground rye flour for this bread, which I was able to pick up at the bulk bins of a local natural foods co-op - I have also seen it boxed in the regular market. Do note the timing for the complete recipe - the day before you want to make the bread, you'll need to start with a quick 24 hour starter, made by stirring together rye flour with warm water and a tiny amount of yeast. If you prepare the starter in a clear bowl, you can watch it rise and become fairly bubbly as it sits for a day - it'll also create a strong, yeast-y aroma, so don't take too big of a whiff when you take the covering off (which Jeff did and promptly walked away from the bowl, coughing... hee hee!).

Into that gooey mixture, we added a bit more yeast and a cup of warm water. I use instant yeast, which allows me to add it right into the dry ingredients and skip the blooming step. However, if you only have active-dry, go ahead and for this part, add the yeast into the water and let set for about 10 minutes first. When we began to add flour to the starter mixture, we cut the rye flour with strong bread flour to strengthen the dough as rye flour alone doesn't have a lot of gluten to it. This way you won't end up with a brick for a loaf.

Instead of dumping in all of the flour at once, the rye flour goes in, but we added just enough bread flour to make a dough that is sticky, but still manageable. We worked almost all of the remaining in while we were kneading, but not all of it. Since humidity plays a role in exactly how much you need, holding back keeps you in control - you want to end up with a dough that is firm, smooth and not sticky, but a little tackiness is good.

When the dough had risen about doubled in size, we shaped the squishy mass into a torpedo-shaped loaf (don't forget to pinch the seam and ends firmly to close!) and scooted it over onto our pizza peel, which we dusted with cornmeal so it wouldn't become one with the peel. If you don't have a peel, a baking sheet works too - whatever you can use to slide the dough onto the stone. Parchment paper would work as well if you'd rather not deal with cornmeal.

Left to rise once more, before we set the loaf into the oven, we dusted the top with rye flour and used a sharp knife to slice a few gashes on top. This, along with spraying the oven walls with water as you put the loaf in, is supposed to give you the best oven spring and allow the loaf to expand without tearing. Once in the oven, the bread is done when it looks golden and if you were to tap the bottom, the loaf would sound hollow - if you want to be completely sure, the bread should have an internal temperature of about 200 degrees.

Jeff was anxious to try it, but I made him wait (suffer, he would say) until it had pretty much cooled completely. Mean, I know, but the texture always seems better and it makes slicing easier when it has cooled down. With specs of caraway seeds strewn throughout the entire loaf, Jeff was quite pleased with the crumb and just how flavorful and intense this rye bread was. Even with the bread flour though, I do think the loaf leaned to the denser side - but I think that's to be expected with this rustic homemade rye.


  1. Joe, I am having trouble understanding how Jeff is tired of gingerbread popcorn! Just like freaking EVERYTHING we make from you guys, it is delicious, we made it as Christmas gifts for the folks at church, and everybody asked for the recipe. I know there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, but I don't think its possible to eat too much of that stuff (stomachache notwithstanding!).

    Also, I love rye, so I think I'm going to have to make this soon. You are making me hungry--so I'd better go fix dinner. Peace.

  2. Joe, your bread is one great bread!! We love our breads dark, healthy & reazlly filling!!

    I will make this next weekend! Thanks!

  3. Dalton - Well, "sick of" might have been a poor choice of words. I'm sure he would eat it any time!

    Sophie - Thanks!

  4. That is one beautiful loaf! Almost too goodlooking to eat. But I'm sure you demolished it.