Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rye Bread: Part One (Loaf and Rolls)

A couple weekends ago I assisted a wonderful class on baking bread at The Cook's Warehouse. Chef Doris Koplin, an amazing baker and a delightful person, instructed the class and over the course five hours produced an abundance of flavorful yeast breads. Everything she baked was melt-in-your-mouth good, but I was particularly taken with her rye. It had all the complexity that rye demands while still being light on the tongue.
Flash forward a week -- I decided to bake some rye at home so I could try out a few new techniques and the wonderful new recipe I have. I love this dough. It's so easy to work with, it smells great, and it makes really terrific bread. Also, it's quite versatile (as you will see). Here's the basic recipe.

Rye Bread
adapted from a recipe by Doris Koplin

6 cups bread flour
2 cups rye flour
3 Tablespoons caraway seed
1/4 cup sugar
2 packages (approximately 5 Tbsp) yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups milk, heated to room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil

Measure dry ingredients (flours, caraway seeds, and sugar) into a bowl. Place the yeast in the warm water and allow to sit for approximately five minutes or until mixture becomes foamy. This is called proofing the yeast. Combine the oil and milk and add to the dry ingredients. Add the proofed yeast (including the water) and mix well with a large wooden spoon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. This should take approximately five minutes.


Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.


Punch dough down and shape as desired (more to come on that). Place breads on baking pan which has been covered with parchment paper and cover again with the damp towel. Allow to rise again until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Brush breads with a beaten egg to glaze, sprinkle with caraway seeds and a little coarse salt. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, 25 to 30 minutes for loaves, 15 to 20 minutes for rolls.

You might have noticed that this is going to produce a tremendous amount of dough. Eight cups of flour! What could you possibly do with that much rye bread? Plenty. Here are some suggestions.

The most obvious thing to do is bake rye loaves. This is certainly a worthwhile thing to do with the dough, and you'll have plenty to freeze for later. The recipe above will yield three loaves of rye. To make a loaf, divide the dough into thirds (after the first rise). Using one piece of the newly-divided dough roll out an 11 by 9 inch rectangle. Fold the 9-inch ends toward the center, about one third of the way. Now move to one of the 11-inch sides and carefully roll it toward the center until you have a nice tight loaf. Gently place the dough into a greased bread pan, seam-side down. You may need to gently press the ends of the dough toward the center in order to ensure a comfortable fit. It should look like this:


I have no idea why I didn't photograph the other steps, as it would really help to have a few visual aids here. The next time I bake bread (probably this weekend) I'll try to remember to take photos and update this post.

Cover the loaf with a dish towel and allow to rise approximately one hour or until doubled in size. Brush with an egg wash (one beaten egg with a splash of water) and sprinkle with your choice of caraway seeds or coarse salt (or both!). Bake the loaf in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. That's it! Now you have a yummy loaf of rye bread.

If you're feeling a little more adventurous you can make rolls. I think rolls are so much fun to make. There are a zillion ways to shape rolls, my favorite being fancy tucked knots. The entire dough recipe given above will make approximately 3 dozen rolls small rolls or 18 large rolls.

To make one fancy tucked knot roll, pull off a handfull of dough. Using your palms, roll it into a long, thin rope. (This is kind of like making snakes with playdough when you're little.) Don't worry if it isn't perfect.


Now, take the rope and tie it into a knot. Don't make this too complicated! It's just a knot. :) Also, try not to break the dough or stretch it too much in the process. Just go with the flow.


Now take the ends of the rope (sticking out on either side) and tuck them. Go in the direction they're already tending toward. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect when you finish. They'll rise a little more and that will cover a number of flaws. You can see that mine isn't perfect in the photo below.


Now you have a roll. Place the formed rolls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, then cover them with a damp dish towel. Allow to rise for approximately one hour or until doubled in size. Glaze with an egg wash and sprinkle with caraway seeds and/or coarse salt. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. You can use a toothpick to test doneness just as you might do with a cake. If the toothpick comes out clean they're done. If has dough stuck to the sides they should bake a little longer. Pictures of the rolls before the go into the oven:



And after baking:



Yum, yum, yum!

There's one other thing I did with my rye dough, but it will have to wait until later. It's quite wonderful. And we call it...a pastoli! Stay tuned!

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