Why Rye? Depth of Flavor!

Rye Bread. Is there anything more Jewish? OK, maybe Matzo Ball Soup, but rye bread is right up there with it. At the turn of the 20th century Jews were immigrating to America in large numbers. They were looking for a fresh start and many found that in the boom of the delicatessen. With them they brought things like corned beef, pastrami, and rye bread. Things like caraway in their light rye breads, pumpernickel, and marble rye showcasing new flavors.

As I have written before I have a longing to connect with my Ashkenazi roots. For me to best connect, with that in which I am not familiar, food is my go to. Foods, their flavors, and their terroir can bring you a deeper sense of place and transport you without ever leaving your kitchen. So when I dug into The Gefilte Manifesto it was a sense of being home. Like somehow these recipes connected with me on a deeper level than that of other cookbooks.

Naturally when I got to the recipe for pastrami and corned-beef rye bread popped into my mind immediately. Thankfully because of a tweet from Molly Yeh, the same tweet that introduced me to The Gefilte Manifesto, I was introduced to The Rye Baker. This is a cook book that is all about Rye Bread. Let me just stop you right here and tell you there is a whole world and history to rye bread and more types than I never knew existed but that’s a story for another post. I dug into The Rye Baker and found a recipe for Old-fashioned Deli Rye. This sounded like a winner but I wanted to take it a step further… I wanted Marble Rye!

In a quick search I didn’t find a recipe for Marble Rye in The Rye Baker. I was shocked and a little disappointed but not giving up I tweeted Stanley Ginsberg asking if I missed it in his cookbook. So, this is the great thing about twitter. He responded! Sure enough he had a recipe in his book and I missed it. Now I was gung-ho!

There are a ton of recipes out there for Rye Bread. I wanted something that was both authentic and interesting. Stanley’s book does not disappoint. What his book does require is A LOT of patience and faith. Good rye bread is not something you throw together in one day. Nor is it done in two days. All in all I think from the very first step to when I had bread I could eat it was something more like 10 days! Hold up don’t freak most of this and I mean like 99% of this time is doing NOTHING.

Why does it take so long? OK, well let’s start at the beginning:

Making the Rye Culture. This is the most time intensive part and will take about 7 days. Before you say forget it here’s the thing you need to know. This will yield you a sour culture you can use for I would guess over a dozen loaves of bread and you can keep it going  to have ready for whenever you want to make more without waiting for a whole new batch.

One thing you should know about rye flour is that for the end result of Marble Rye I had to use all three types: Light Rye (this is near impossible to find in stores and I needed up ordering it online from Bob’s Red Mill.) Dark Rye (this is that most common and you can find it at most grocery stores as well as in bulk bins.) Pumpernickel Dark Rye Meal (as the name suggests this is the key component to the darker and more intense rye breads.)

OK, so you’re ready to make your starter. You’ll need a scale, some bowl or container that you can make air tight (plastic wrap can work) and a instant read thermometer.

  • 70 grams Whole Grain Dark Rye Flour
  • 70 grams Warm Water about 105ºF

Mix the two together thoroughly. Cover well. Let sit for 24 hours in a room that stays between 68-72ºF (basically room temperature).

For the next 6 days once a day (ideally at the same time every day) you’re going to mix together:

  • 70 grams Whole Grain Dark Rye Flour
  • 70 grams Warm Water about 105ºF
  • 70 grams Sour Starter, from the day before (Discard the rest.)

As I went through this process some days it grew a lot and other days it just got a little bubbly but there was at least signs of activity every day. The starter is VERY sticky and might have a bit of a funny smell.

Once I had my starter completed it was time to make bread. Well, sort of. It was time to start the sponge.

For the Light Rye Bread with Caraway:

Day 1:

  • 70 grams Light Rye Flour
  • 56 grams Warm Water (105ºF)
  • 14 grams of the Sour Culture

Mix together well cover tightly and I ended up letting it sit for an entire day. In the recipe it said it only needed 10-12 hours. Again this all needs to be done in a room 68º-72ºF.

Day 2:

  • Everything from “Day 1”
  • 255 grams Light Rye Flour
  • 200 grams Warm Water (105ºF)

Mix well, cover tightly, and again I ended up letting it sit for another day. In the recipe however he does call out that it only needs to sit for about 4-5 hours.

Day 3:

Making the bread is filly upon us! In the bowl of an electric mixer add:

  • Everything from “Day 2”
  • 285 grams Warm Water (105ºF)

Mix well with a whisk or spatula by hand. This will become VERY thin but still have some thickness to it. Then add:

  • 480 grams Bread Flour
  • 15 grams Salt
  • 4 grams Active Dry Yeast
  • 15 grams Ground Caraway, (I had to do this using whole seed in my spice grinder)
  • 15 grams Whole Caraway Seed

Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on a low speed until all the ingredients have come together. Increase the speed to 3 or 4 and mix for 8 minutes or until the dough freely pulls away from the side of the bowl. If this is not happening add a little bread flour at a time until it does.

Remove the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Kneed back down to its original mass and divide equally into 2 portions. Take one portion and shape it into a smooth oval and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or silpats. With the second portion divide it in half again. Take one piece and roll it out into a rectangle that its with is the length of your loaf pan. Take your Pumpernickel and roll it out to the same size. Lay on top of the light rye and roll, keeping the light rye on the outside of the roll. Place in your loaf pan. Repeat with the second portion. Let your loaves rise until doubles in bulk.

For the Pumpernickel:

Day 1:

  • 127 grams Corse Rye Meal
  • 105 Warm Water (105ºF)
  • 14 grams Rye Sour Culture

Mix together well cover tightly and I ended up letting it sit for an entire day. In the recipe it said it only needed 6-8 hours hours. Again this all needs to be done in a room 68º-72ºF.

Day 2:

  • Everything from “Day 1”
  • 245 grams Corse Rye Meal
  • 327 grams Warm Water (105ºF)

Mix well, cover tightly, and again I ended up letting it sit for another day. In the recipe however he does call out that it only needs to sit for about 4-5 hours, then refrigerate overnight.

Day3:

Start with making your caramel color. This is what gives the color to the final product.

In a small pan add:

  • 175 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 55 grams Water

Dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Once the sugar is dissolved raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cover and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in:

  • ¼ teaspoon Cream of Tartar, this keeps the sugar from recrystallizing

Continue to boil for 8-10 minutes until the mixture is black and begins to smoke.

  • 56 grams Boiling Water, I boiled the water in a kettle and when needed I poured it into a measuring cup with a pour spout to get the right amount then I added it to the mixture.

Remove the mixture from the heat  and add the water. When the water is added it will get VERY active but don’t worry it will settle down. Keep stirring until it stops bubbling. Pour into a glass jar with a screw top lid, leaving uncovered until room temperature. There will be enough here for MANY batch of bread and can keep indefinitely.

Making the bread is filly upon us! In the bowl of an electric mixer add:

  • 30 grams Caramel Color

Dissolve with:

  • 100 grams Warm Water (105ºF)

Then add:

  • Everything from “Day 2”
  • 510 grams Bread Flour
  • 16 grams Salt
  • 7 grams Active Dry Yeast

Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on a low speed until all the ingredients have come together. Increase the speed to 3 or 4 and mix for 8 minutes or until the dough freely pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Remove the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Kneed back down to its original mass and divide equally into 2 portions. Take one portion and shape it into a smooth oval and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or silpats. With the second portion divide it in half again. Take your Pumpernickel and roll it out to the same as the light rye. Lay on top of the light rye and roll, keeping the light rye on the outside of the roll. Place in your loaf pan. Repeat with the second portion. Let your loaves rise until doubles in bulk. About 1 hour.

As you can see almost all of the steps are the same and can easily be done at the same time. I have a confession. When I placed my bread to rise once shaped I had to run an errand. It turned out the I left my bread rising for something closer to 4 hours! This isn’t a problem and I loved the outcome of a VERY airy bread but incase you’re wondering why you’re not getting the same lift or air pockets as I did that would be why.

To bake the Marble Rye:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Fill a kettle and bring to a boil.
  2. Put the top rack in the center of your oven. Place the lower wrack on the lowest position. Place a casserole dish or some other large oven safe pan in the bottom of the oven 5 minutes prior to baking your bread. Pour the boiling water into the pan to create a steamy environment.
  3. After the water has been steaming in the oven for 5 minutes place your loaf pans on the top rack. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan with the water. Lower the temperature to 350ºF and back for 30 minutes more.
  4. Let the loaves cool to room temperature before slicing.

To bake your Pumpernickel loaf follow the directions as above.

To bake your Light Rye Loaf Follow the same instructions but raise the starting temperature to 430ºF and after the 10 minutes lower to 375ºF.

This recipe yielded me 2 loaves of Marble Rye bread and a loaf of Light Rye as well as Pumpernickel. I sliced everything into thick generous slices and bagged them in freezer ziplock bags in twos. To use I let a bag thaw overnight and toast when read. A little butter or better yet some homemade pastrami and you have yourself some amazing toast or sandwiches!

What was my take away? Rye is a delicious bread. The faint notes of caraway bring the unexpected. The sour culture added a depth and complexity. The over rising and over proofing made for a light airy bread that is going to be a staple in my house going forward. I hope if you can find the time and patience you too can discover why this is a technique and flavor that has stood the test of time.

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