Hey there! Y’all have been asking about my rye bread. Yes, I am thinking of making it commercially, and yes I am selling loaves for $10 locally with 3 days notice. But some of you want the secrets. So I’m gonna spill them.
Oh, and yeah, I hate those recipe sites that tell you the whole fucking story of their love for bread, etc., and about 15 scrolls of the magic mouse later, you finally get to the fucking recipe. Fuck that! Here it is, and I’ll tell you the story after. The measurements are in cups, not grams, as this is how I bake. I tried the whole weighing thing, and it it is just far easier to measure cups.
- 2 cups warm filtered water – L.A. water is just fine by the way. Use a Brita
- 2/3 cup sourdough starter
- 2/3 cup rye flour
- 4 cups bread flour – All Purpose is fine too
- 1 scant tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 scant tablespoon caraway seeds
Add the water and sourdough starter to a mixing bowl or big deep tupperware-type bowl. Gently mix together. Add rye flour and mix again. Cover with a wet kitchen towel or plastic lid and let it rest a bit. 15 – 30 minutes is good. Then add your bread flour, salt and caraway seeds. Mix together with a rubber spatula for a bit until it’s mostly wet. Then get your fingers and palms wet with water and mix the dough directly with your hands. Try to incorporate the dough pretty well. Add more water to your hands if the dough is really sticky. When it looks well mixed, put a lid back on it and let it rest for an hour. I do this in my oven (while off!) as it can be unbearably hot in my kitchen, and leaving it in the oven gives some consistency in temperature.
After an hour, go to your dough, get your hands wet again and do what the professionals call “slap and fold”. This is nothing fancy. The idea is to fold the bread on top of itself to build gluten strength. With wet hands, run your fingers around the dough in the bowl and then pick it up, and just fold it in half, letting it fall on itself. Turn your bowl 1/4 turn and do it a couple or four or more times until it looks rounder. Cover it back up and then go to bed, or do whatever it is you do at night.
In the morning, take your dough out of the oven, turn the oven on to 500°, and put your baking vessel in the oven to pre-heat. It will take an hour for your baking vessel to heat up properly. I was gifted a enameled cast iron dutch oven with a lid, which is what I suggest, but a good cast iron skillet worked just fine for me for 2 years, so don’t go blow all your money on unnecessary things if you don’t have to.
Lightly flour a flat surface, flour your fingers and palms, and GENTLY coax you risen bread out of the bowl. A bench scraper is good for the next part, but not necessary. You can just use your floured hands to shape your bread. The idea is to make a boule (a ball) from your dough. Then there is the fancy tartine method, which is also not anything fancy at all; it is just French, which makes it sound fancier.
Once you’ve shaped your loaf into a boule, GENTLY turn it over to the ugly side of the dough. We’re gonna do the tartine thingy! The idea is to “stitch”, like shoelaces, your dough. Pull the top of your boule over the dough, about an inch. Then tuck the sides of the dough into the center; like tying shoelaces. There only needs to be about 3 “stitches” in the dough. When you get to the bottom, roll it up back on itself. Look at that pretty loaf you just made!
Now, get yourself some parchment paper and put that pretty loaf on top of it. Put the loaf and parchment into a clean bowl, and shove it in the fridge. This will retard the fermentation, and make it easier to score your bread when the oven gets hot enough.
After about an hour, your baking vessel should be hot. Take your dough out of the fridge. Take your baking vessel out of the oven. Cut a nice slice in the top of your dough. You could use a razor blade, a very sharp knife, scissors, or a lamé, another fancy French term. The cut should not be too deep nor too shallow. I kept trying to do a perfect crescent score, and my bread looked like shite, so I now do 4 cuts; into a square on top of my round bread. I am much happier with the results, and you just might be too.
Gently place that pretty, just-scored loaf into your baking vessel. I splash a little water on the top of the bread to help with steam in the oven. Some folks use a spray bottle. Some people use a baking dish filled with water in the bottom of the oven. I have found that to be unnecessary. If you have a lidded pot, put the lid on. Put your pretty loaf in the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes. When that is up, open the oven, remove the lid of your baking vessel, turn the baking vessel 180° (to cook evenly), and then lower the temperature of your oven to 450°. Bake 15 more minutes for a soft rye, and up to 25 minutes for a really brown loaf of rye.
Carefully remove bread from baking vessel and let stand on a rack for at least 2 hours. Yeah, I know you wanna eat that bread warm, but just don’t. Be patient and let the magical bread do it’s thing.
Now for the story
It all starts with the sourdough starter. Mine is about 2 years old now. Its name is Seymour, like Little Shop of Horrors yelling, “Feed ME!” I got on the bandwagon of making sourdough at home during the pandemic. I was, meh at it at first. I kept at it though, even though sometimes baked loves that looked like giant hockey pucks. Then I looked into making sourdough rye bread.
I absolutely love rye bread, and to get good rye in L.A. is like finding a needle in a haystack. So I started adding rye flour to my starter, and soon I was experimenting.
I was getting pretty good, but then I upped my game by receiving a gorgeous red enameled cast iron dutch oven with a fancy French name by a good friend. I made her the first loaf out of that dutch oven, and the rest is now history. People all over L.A. call me to make them loaves of bread. Which is great! I just wish I had a bigger fridge and oven!