One of the blogs I like to read is by this guy named Michael Ruhlman. I never really heard of him before my crazy descent into this world of food, but he’s come out with a bunch of books, and his recipes are pretty good. A lot of his recipes are for bread, and I know this might sound crazy, but I trust his recipes, you know what I mean? Not to sound pretentious, but sometimes, I’ll read a recipe, and I’ll be like, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, as I’m sure many of you do on my site. I know that’s not right, but I can’t help it. Either way, he knows his stuff.
So on to the rye bread. I love a good rye bread, and to me rye bread is the stuff they serve in delis. An amazingly crusty crust, and a nice chewy crumb (ie the interior of the bread), which looks pretty much like regular bread. However, rye flour is darker than regular flour, and much more dense, so much like whole wheat flour, you can’t make a bread totally of rye flour, but rather a combination of both regular white flour and rye flour. The ratio of white to rye flour makes a difference in the final product, the more rye, the darker it will be, and more dense it will be. This was only the second time making rye bread, and I was hoping it would be a lighter rye bread, but in the end it was a darker rye bread, oh well, it was still pretty darn good.
One thing – I absolutely hate caraway seeds, and I know that caraway seeds are put in a traditional rye bread, but guess what…my rye bread, my rules, sooo no caraway seeds. Another thing I recently read, was that you know how whenever we make bread, we put the yeast in some warm water before we add it to the dough? Well the whole point of that is to test whether your yeast is active, however if you’re sure it is, then you can go ahead and add it straight to the flour and water, and it will do it’s job just the same. There’s nothing wrong with letting it “bloom” in the warm water, but if you know your yeast works, there’s no need for it. There I just saved you 10 minutes of your life, your welcome.
All rite, so on to the bread. Combine the flours, water, yeast, and salt in a mixer
Start kneading, and it will start to come together
Keep going until it’s totally come together, and nice and elastic.
Add it to an oiled bowl, and let it rise until doubled in size. I like putting a cup of water in the microwave, and zapping it for a few minutes, and then let the dough rise in the microwave, as we’ve done in the past.
When it’s nice and ready, kneed it down to force out all the gas, and redistribute the yeast. These were the instructions on the website, and I was kinda surprised at this step, because usually you try to be careful to keep all the bubbles you just created during the rising period, but I guess, some breads are different than others. For example, if we were making a ciabatta, then we probably wouldn’t want to squeeze out the bubbles, but for a rye bread, you want even bubbles throughout the bread, and not one giant bubble, and one tiny bubble…just a theory.
Then spread the dough into a rectangle on a board, and let it rest for 10 minutes covered with a damp towel.
(I suck at the shaping part)
Shape the loaf. Start by folding it over on itself, and pounding it down, and keep folding it over on itself, and pounding it down, until you have a nice loaf shape.
Place in a pre-sprayed loaf pan, and let it rise for another hour
Pre heat the oven to 450.
When the rise is done, slash the bread lengthwise, thusly
Now for some cool stuff. Before you’re ready to put the bread in, toss some ice cubes on the floor of the oven (or if you want, put a baking sheet on the floor, and throw some on ice on that), and if you can, have a spray bottle with water on hand. The reason behind this craziness is, we want to generate steam, for a few reasons. One reason is, as we know water/steam is a better conductor of heat than air is, so when you put the dough in a 450 degree oven, the heat penetrates the dough much quicker with steam, than with plain ole` air.
Another good reason is it aids in oven spring. When you put a dough in the oven, what happens is, all the air bubbles that develop when the bread rises, start to expand, and that’s called oven spring, however once the crust develops, it will prevent the dough from expanding. So the way the water helps, is that it keeps the exterior moist, and prevents it from forming a tough crust, and will allow for more oven spring. That’s why it’s also good to keep a spray bottle on hand, to spray it every minute or so, but you don’t want to drown the loaf, just a nice moist layer will do the trick.
Bake at 450 for 30 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for another 15-30 minutes or so, until it’s done. It’s hard to say exactly when it’s done, many cookbooks say to turn the dough over, and tap it and when you hear a thud it’s done, or to see if the bread is lighter. The problem is many loaves are denser than others, so the thump and light test don’t necessarily work. The best bet is to use to take its temperature, and when it’s 200 degrees its done.
Of course, as with any bread, you have to let it rest, and there’s good reason for it. Mainly because the dough isn’t finished cooking when you take it out. The exterior is very dry, and interior is more moist, and when it cools down, the differences even out, and will make it easier to cut rather than tear.
Dark Rye Bread
- 12 ounces/340 grams bread flour
- 8 ounces/230 grams rye flour
- 12 ounces/340 grams water
- 1 teaspoon/3 grams active dry yeast (if you need a fast rise, you can double this)
- 2 teaspoons/10 grams kosher salt
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer (or any bowl if you’re mixing by hand). Mix and knead the dough until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- Let the dough rise in the bowl, covered, till it’s doubled in size, at least two hours and as many as four.
- Knead the dough to force out gas and redistribute the yeast and shape it into a rectangle about an inch thick. Let it rest for ten minutes covered with a towel.
- Prepare a loaf pan with vegetable oil spray.
- Shape the dough: Starting at the top of the rectangle, fold the dough over on itself and pound it down to seal it. Keep folding and pounding until you have a squat, tubular shape. Roll it back and for the tighten the interior.
- Put the dough top side up into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let it rise for an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and right before baking, throw some ice cubes on the floor of the oven to generate steam.
- When the second rise is done, slash it lengthwise down it the center, and bake for a half hour. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F. and continue baking till done, another 15 to 30 minutes.