Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Deli-Style Rye Bread Recipe

We dined well on Thursday, St. Patrick's Day, but when the celebrating was over we were left with good memories and a lot of corned beef. Extra meat? not a problem, it was just an invitation to enjoy a corned beef sandwich... Oh yes! Reuben sandwiches, always a favorite.

The Reubens were my excuse to try a new recipe for rye bread from the Hertzberg cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I had been searching for a versatile rye bread recipe, something tangy but not too strongly flavored, tasty with or without caraway seeds, etc. This cookbook has sat on my bookshelf for a while and I've read through it with interest, but have not tried its recipes or technique yet. Friday would be bread experiment day.  

Hershberg's premise is that mixing a giant batch of dough and refrigerating it for days will produce great bread with a minimum of effort. The Deli-Style Rye recipe as written yields four 1-pound loaves, far too much for the first trial of any new recipe. Besides, my refrigerator was too full to store a 5-quart bowl of dough for a week or two. 

I settled on halving the recipe and baking on two days. On Friday, the first day of baking, I used half of the half-recipe for a small loaf and two smaller sandwich buns. Mmmmmmm, good! the bread had a nice texture, held together well during grilling and was a good match for the assertive flavors of a Reuben sandwich. An unusual cornstarch wash anchored extra caraway seeds on the crust and produced an attractive, glossy crust. Two thumbs up on the Reubens.

On Saturday I used the remaining half of the half-recipe to form one torpedo-shaped loaf. I may have undercooked the bread, it was a bit moist inside and had a less-pleasant flavor. I think the flavor change was due to underbaking, not related to refrigerating an extra day.I had really looked forward to eating a warm slice, slathered with salted butter or maybe a piece of soft cheese. It was edible, but nothing special. However, when toasted it was delicious.

This Deli-Style Rye recipe was a success, and we enjoyed the taste test. However the search still goes on for the best-ever rye recipe.

Deli-Style Rye
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1.5 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, plus more for sprinkling on the top
1 cup rye flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for baking stone
Cornstarch wash for top (see below)

  1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and caraway seeds with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook. If  mixing by hand, you may need to wet your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.
  5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough lightly with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece lightly with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval-shaped loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.
  6. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place a clean, empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
  7. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with cornstarch wash and then sprinkle with additional caraway seeds. Slash with deep parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife.
  8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.
  9. Move bread to a baking rack to cool before slicing or eating.

    Cornstarch Wash: Using a fork, blend 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of water to form a paste. Add 1/2 cup water and whisk with the fork. Microwave or boil until the mixture appears glassy, about 30 to 60 seconds on high. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks; discard if it has on off smell.

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