I love baking breads, and wanted to venture away from the boring white breads, whole wheat breads, challahs, and sticky buns. I wanted bread with flavor, something that wasn’t simple, and something that would definitely impress visitors (because really, anyone can make white bread).
When I decided on rye bread, I thought I was set. I wrote up a shopping list and was ready to try it the next day. But no rye flour at Shop Rite, no rye flour at Whole Foods, and no rye flour on Fresh Direct. I couldn’t even find a normal amount on Amazon! I thought I would never make rye bread…I finally went to Westside Market on my way to class one night and found some Bob’s Red Mill dark rye flour. Perfect! I thought about baking this bread during class and on my train ride home. I woke up early the next day and got to work. I continued working, and then worked even more, up until I had to leave for class the next night!
My kitchen smelled like a bakery.
I looked through many many recipes until I finally decided to follow Deb’s version. She gave me the step-by-step instructions that I really needed (I’m good at skipping steps and forgetting ingredients). It was also inherently pareve. No need to use soy garden or oil and maybe change the nature of the bread.
I pretty much stuck to her instructions, with a few minor changes: I didn’t have any instant yeast, so I proofed the yeast. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to her recipe. Oh, and I used honey – I don’t have molasses in the pantry. And my caraway seeds stayed whole because my mortar and pestle is trapped in New Jersey until further notice. At first it creeped me out (bugs in my bread!) but I kinda like the little specks of flavor in there. And I decided to do the fancy bakery way of baking it, by putting ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. I’ve never done anything like that before, but it turned out well. Spraying definitely would have been easier, so if you find your sleep-away camp spray fan, think about using it. Or be daring like me.
Next time I’m going to make the slits in the bread a bit longer. And maybe split it into two loaves or make it oval – there was something a bit awkward looking about this one (though it didn’t stop everyone from eating it).
For the sponge:
- 3/4 cup bread flour
- 3/4 cup rye flour
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1 1/2 cups water, warm
For the flour mixture:
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon yeast
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (grind them in a mortar and pestle if you don’t want the seeds in your dough)
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
For the dough:
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons corn meal, for sprinkling
1. Combine sponge ingredients in stand mixer and whisk well to incorporate air. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour mixture ingredients and whisk well. Put the flour mixture on top of the sponge, making sure to cover it completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment for 1-4 hours. I did it for 4.
3. Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low speed for one minute, until the mixture forms a rough dough.
4. Raise the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and not sticky, and should bounce back when poked with a finger.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in it to rise. Oil top of the dough, too. Cover and let rise till doubled, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and press it down gently, forming it into a ball. Oil the bowl again. Put the dough back in the bowl and let it rise again, this time for 45 minutes.
7. Sprinkle baking sheet with corn meal.
8. Turn the dough onto a floured counter again and shape it into a ball. Place it on a the baking sheet. Cover with oily plastic wrap and let rise (for the last time!) for about an hour, until doubled.
9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees – do this as early as you can because the oven has to be REALLY hot to get that crispy crust. Place a cast iron skillet or cookie sheet on the oven floor to preheat (or place it on the lowest possible shelf of the oven)
10. Make three slashes, about 1/4-1/2 inch deep on top of the dough. See the picture of mine? Make them longer than that!
11.Put 1/2 cup ice in a pan and put on the bottom rack of the oven
12. Move the cast iron skillet to a rack in the oven above the ice and place the baking sheet on it.
13. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat t0 400 and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack before slicing and eating. Of course now you have to go off and get really good deli meat the enjoy the rye bread with.
If you have absolutely nothing to do ALL day, and I mean nothing, then you should give this bread a try. Oh, and if you can find the rye flour.