Rye bread - too easy or too hard?

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

When it comes to bread, most of us buy it. But if you bake it yourself - even if sometimes it doesn't quite work out and even the dog doesn't eat it - there is a certain satisfaction that comes from starting with flour and yeast and water and ending up with something edible and arty.

These days, of course, there is the option of using a bread maker. Breadmakers must rate up there with foot spas and Polaroid cameras and juice makers as those things you have - or are given - but are seldom used.

Sure, breadmakers have taken the need to be there for all the stages in the lifecycle of bread, and nothing beats the smell of fresh bread when you wake up, but one of the integral parts of bread for me is getting your hands dirty kneading the dough.

There is something of a science to breadmaking, but you can also make bread quite easily without attending to every detail. Or getting each measure down to a high degree of accuracy.

Here are some recipes for rye bread, which as you will see, is quite easy to make with only a few ingredients. The last recipe, however is a bit more detailed and refined.

1. No knead rye bread

Using solid shortening generously grease two 8x4 inch loaf pans or one 9 inch round cake pan. Combine in large mixing bowl: Heat together until very warm, 120 - 130 f: Add liquids to flour mixture, with 1 egg ******************** Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand [unless you have a KitchenAid ] stir in 2 cups rye flour and 1/2 to 1 cup additional white flour, to form a stiff batter. Batter will follow spoon. Cover batter; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 F) for 30 minutes (batter should not double in size); stir down. Spoon batter into greased pans. Cover; let rise again for 15 minutes (batter should not double in size.) Preheat oven to 375 F (350 F for glass or dark surfaced non-stick.) Bake at 375 F: 8x4 inch pans for 30 to 40 minutes and 9 inch round pan for 45 to 50 minutes until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan immediately. Cool on rack. Brush top of loaf with melted butter, if desired. High altitude (5200 feet): Increase temperature 25 degrees F; reduce time by 5 minutes. Variations: Caraway rye: add 2 tbs caraway seed to dry flour mixture. Light pumpernickel: eliminate sugar and decrease water to 3/4 cup; add 1/4 cup molasses and 2 tbs caraway seed to dry flour mixture.


It is well and good to have breads with lots of ingredients, but it is often good to "go simple".


* 3-4 cups rye meal or kibbled rye
* 1 cup wholemeal rye flour
* starter -some dough from last time
* water

Mix the above ingredients - adding water to make a mix of "porridgy" consistency. Leave to sour. This can take from 12 to 24 hours. I live in Australia and find that in summer no more than 12 hours is needed,and in winter it may be safe to let it be for up to 24. Of course the activeness of the starter will affect this as well. However....

When the souring process is done, add 1 tablespoon sugar,1 teaspoon salt,a handful of caraways,1 teaspoon dried yeast, 1 cup plain wheat flour some water (about half a cup),and wholemeal rye flour to make a fairly stiff dough.

Knead by hand till the dough starts to "talk" (so the latvians call that sound),and it starts to come away from the hand.

Form loaves - I find that this quantity yealds 2 goodsized loaves, put in bread pans (previously oiled), smooth over and leave in a warmish place till you notice a definite increase in size.

Remember to scrape out the dough container and store the "scrapings" in water in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. This is your starter for next time.

As for the bread in the pans, when the loaves have "grown", bake in a hot oven 400 F or 200 C for about 50-60 mins. Unless you have a fanforced oven, you will need to keep an eye on the baking and turn the loaves (after about 20-30 mins} to prevent burning.

When done, remove from pans,put on a wire rack, cover with thick tea towels and leave to cool.

Very Latvian : Very yummy with or without any kind of topping.!!!



Quick Rye Bread
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour


* 1 cup organic milk or soymilk
* 1-1.5 Tbsp. cider vinegar
* 1 Tbsp. organic brown sugar (optional; I think I'd omit.)
* 3 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses
* 1 1/2 cups rye flour
* 1/2 cup spelt flour
* 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 2 Tbsp. caraway seeds (I used 1/2 tsp fennel seeds and 1.5 tsp cumin seeds, since I didn't have caraway, yielding an Indian-spiced bread delicious with cheddar cheese)
* 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
* 1/2 tsp. baking soda
* additional whole wheat flour for kneading


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, sour the milk by adding in the vinegar, waiting a couple minutes, stirring, and adding a splash more of vinegar if necessary.The milk will be thick and a little chunky, sort of like yogurt or buttermilk.
3. Stir in the molasses and sugar, if desired. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the rye flour, all-purpose flour, oats, caraway seeds, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the milk mixture and stir well. Your dough will be rather sticky.
5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured bread board or countertop. A rubber spatula will help for scraping out stubbornly sticky dough.
6. Knead until the dough holds together (2 to 3 minutes).
7. If the dough remains very sticky, knead in a little more flour. Shape the dough into a round.
8. Place it on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and finish shaping as necessary, flattening and rounding until you have a satisfactory-looking rustic loaf. Bake until crusty and well browned (about 1 hour).

You can see this with photos and video at http://kitchenempress.blogspot.com/2008/06/quick-rye-bread-recipe-easy-step-by.html

4. And here's the long one . . .

A Rye Bread That's Robust Yet Subtle
The addition of a wheat starter gives this rye bread a lighter texture and a satisfying, crisp crust
by David Norman

My inspiration and incentive to start baking bread came from living and studying abroad, where great bread is a part of almost all daily meals. In Sweden and Germany, where I spent most of my time (I was studying German literature), my typical meals consisted of cured meats, cheeses, preserves, and other accompaniments to the true centerpiece-bread. In fact, supper in German-Abentbrot-is literally translated as "evening bread."

Most of the breads I enjoyed there were made with a large proportion of rye flour, including dark pumpernickel and dense rye bread. Rye grows more readily than wheat in the harsher climates of northern Europe, and from this robust, hearty grain came the robust, hearty breads we associate with the region. Because of baking characteristics that are different from wheat flour, breads made with a large proportion of rye flour are heavier and more compact. This is also true of your typical New York style rye-the bread we think of when we think "pastrami on rye"-quite chewy and often studded with caraway seeds.

That's not the kind of rye bread I'm making here.

While I love the deep, earthy flavor of traditional rye bread, I wanted to create a rye bread that was lighter and airier with a crisper crust. I also nixed the caraway seeds, which many people wrongly believe to be the flavor of rye (and which is why many people think they don't like rye bread).

I think that you'll find my rye bread more akin to the artisan breads we're starting to see more of at bakeries around the country, and one that better lends itself to the American palate and American food.
Start with the right rye

I like to use a whole-rye flour, which contains all the bran and germ of the kernel. In Germany, rye flour is graded quite specifically, but here the grind can vary widely from brand to brand. These differences in grind mean that volume measurements of rye flour can vary greatly. For this reason, I've listed the amount of flour needed by weight. Since it's also much easier to portion the starters by weight, you'll need a kitchen scale to make this bread.

I've developed this recipe using a finely ground organic rye flour. If you use a different rye flour, use the same amount by weight and adjust the liquid in your starter. In most cases, you will have a coarser flour and will need to add less water. Start with about 1 cup of water and then go by feel: you want a mixture that holds its shape yet squishes easily between your fingers when you make a fist. Spackle, papier-mâché, and the soft, silty sand at the edge of a lake are some things that come to mind when I mix the starter.
Add wheat flour to increase gluten

The main difference between rye flour and wheat flour is their ability to form gluten. Gluten is what develops when wheat flour is mixed with water; it gives a loaf of bread its structure and traps the gases given off during fermentation. These gases expand and lighten the loaf.

Rye flour doesn't contain the two proteins that work together in wheat flour to develop superior gluten. It does, however, contain a larger amount of a gummy substance called pentosans, which can hold a dough made with mostly rye flour together, and which does trap some gas. Well-made loaves of rye bread will have significant and visible aeration, but they'll always be much denser than wheat breads. What I've come up with here is essentially a wheat-based bread flavored with a rye starter, which for me unites the best of both grains.
Temper rye's quick ferment with a starter
fca38no54-01.jpg Add the starters to the flour and salt and mix by hand until the mixture comes together in a sticky, shaggy mass.

Rye flour has a higher sugar content than wheat; that, along with other variables, causes rye to ferment quickly. This can affect both the flavor and the texture of the bread. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide makes the bread rise while the alcohol adds flavor. A long, slow fermentation provides the most flavor because, in addition to the alcohol, acids and other compounds develop, deepen, and mature. But the yeast consumes rye's sugars so quickly that a long rising time is out of the question.

A starter offers a head start on fermentation. To achieve a full flavor before the final dough is made, I make a yeast starter with rye flour and allow it to ferment overnight. And because I want a lighter, airier texture for my bread, I also use a second starter made with wheat flour, specifically bread flour. As it ferments overnight, it will develop a structure that will enhance the texture of the loaf, and as a bonus will also help deepen the flavor of the bread. For optimum flavor and performance, the starters should sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 20. You won't use all of either starter, but it's difficult to make any less. You can keep the leftover starters in the refrigerator and use them up to a week later, but the longer you hold them, the stronger the flavor will be, and the texture of the bread may be denser.
Give the dough a good knead on an unfloured surface

Because this recipe is really a wheat-based bread flavored with a rye starter, you must knead the dough in order to develop the gluten network. Water helps bind the proteins together, but working the dough is necessary to develop them into the stretchy web that will trap the gas.

The dough will be sticky, but resist the urge to add flour to it or to your surface. Adding flour at this stage will only make the bread dry. If the dough sticks to the surface initially, use a pastry scraper to peel it off. After a few minutes of kneading, the gluten will begin to develop, and the dough will become less sticky and easier to work with.

Knead in two stages. For the smoothest dough-and to give yourself a break-it's best to knead for about 8 minutes, let it rest for 10 minutes, and then finish kneading. Properly kneaded dough will feel smooth and elastic. I poke the dough to test it; if it springs back right away, my kneading is done.

Pay attention during the rising. As noted earlier, rye ferments quickly for several reasons, including the fact that it has more sugars available for yeast to consume. This means that breads made with rye rise quickly. Check on the dough before the hour rising time is up; you don't even want it to double. An overrisen dough loses its elasticity because the gluten has been stretched beyond its limits. Such a dough will be difficult to shape, and the resulting bread will be flat and dense. The higher the rye content, the more watchful the baker must be; a rye dough is more delicate, and the margin for error is smaller. If your dough is close to doubling before the hour is up, punch it down earlier than directed.
fca38no54-02.jpg Turn the dough out onto a clean surface that has not been floured. Knead by pushing the dough away from you, folding it back toward you, turning it a quarter turn, and pushing it away from you again.
fc038no056b-01.jpg The dough will be very sticky, but resist the urge to add flour; instead, use a pastry scraper to bring up any dough that sticks. Continue kneading for about 8 minutes.
As you shape the dough, stretch it to its limit

After the second rise, you'll need to divide the dough and let it rest briefly again. For this rest, I shape the dough into balls by forming the halves into disks, pulling the edges into the center, and stretching the smooth skin on top taut. This starts the structure of the gluten web in the right direction and lets the dough relax so that in its final shaping it can be stretched even more without tearing. This stretching helps the dough hold up to the expansion that occurs in the oven.

The dough gets further stretched as you shape it into loaves. As you fold and shape the bread, you're creating tension over the dough's surface so that it will just about pop open when slashed with the razor. For nicely shaped loaves, be sure to seal your folds well using the heel of your hand. These seams will face strong pressure as the dough proofs and then expands during baking.
Step-by-Step: Shaping the loaves

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Place a ball of dough seam side up on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a rectangle about 7 inches across and 8-1/2 inches long.
Fold the top toward you about two-thirds of the way down and press the dough with the heel of your palms to seal.
After turning the dough 180 degrees, fold the top toward you and press the seam again to seal. Now fold the dough again, this time in half, bringing the top edge all the way to the bottom edge. Seel the edge with the heel of your hand, flattening the tight cylinder somewhat.
Roll the dough into a cylinder about 11 inches long, tucking in the ends and pinching them lightly.
Mimic a baker's oven in your home

When the loaf hits the intense heat of the oven, all the gases trapped inside expand, and the loaf's volume increases significantly. Bread bakers call this "oven spring." Two things will help enhance this effect, giving you loaves closer to those from a baker's oven: intense heat and moisture.

A pizza stone will deliver a more intense bottom heat. Heat the oven-with the stone in it-for at least 45 minutes before baking, so it really heats up.

Create steam to keep the crust moist during the initial stage of baking. This is important: you don't want a hard crust to form before the expansion is complete. Be careful with the spray bottle and aim for the loaves. Don't hit the oven's light bulb with the water or it may shatter. And don't put out the pilot light in a gas stove: I did that once and by the time I realized what had happened, I'd wrecked my bread.
Experiment with flavors that complement this rye

Much of the rye bread familiar to Americans is flavored with caraway (even the non-seeded ryes often contain caraway powder). In fact, some people so associate this flavor with rye that they don't think a rye without it tastes like rye. For this recipe, however, I didn't want the assertive flavor of caraway to overpower the subtler earthiness of the rye itself. There are other spices, however, that marry well with the rye flavor and could provide variations to this recipe. Try kneading in 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander or a bit of ground anise or fennel seeds.
The earthy flavor of this rye bread enhances delicately smoked or cured meats and fish. Or try it with a rich soup, like split pea or beef barley. The French traditionally enjoy rye bread with oysters; the oysters' brininess is delightful against the robust rye. This is also a great bread for a ham and cheese sandwich-or even pastrami.
Photos: Mark Ferri
From Fine Cooking 38, pp. 54-59

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