This recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. This was the first bread baking book that was ever purchased for me, and it was and still is a great go to guide for me. I appreciate her dedication to getting her recipes so exact that they are almost foolproof if you take the time to read them thoroughly and weigh out your ingredients. Rose weighs her ingredients down to the tenth of a gram, which is wonderful, but most home bakers will find that their scales do not measure quantities that small. I happen to have a small Salter pocket scale that does go to tenths but my everyday Escali does not. I wouldn’t worry about being that precise, just round up or down to the nearest gram.
I have changed some techniques and modified some aspects of the ingredients in this recipe to suit my preferences. The main change was that I use ground caraway seeds instead of whole in my version. This gives me the distinctive aroma and flavor of a good New York Rye without having to bite into the seeds, which I do not care for. I know that my personal taste is not everyone’s so by all means throw some whole seeds in. I personally would still grind half of them and keep the rest whole. I think you get a strong flavor profile that way.
Ingredients for sponge:
- ¾ cup (4 oz, 117 grams) unbleached bread flour
- ¾ cup (3.3 oz, 95 grams) rye flour
- ½ tsp. (1.6 grams) instant yeast
- 1 ½ TB (0.6 oz, 18.7 grams) sugar
- ½ TB (10.5 grams) barley malt syrup or honey
- 1 ½ cups (12.5 oz, 354 grams) water at room temperature
Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir until very smooth, about 2 minutes. This will incorporate air into the mix which will help to feed the yeast. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and set aside while you prepare the next step.
Ingredients for flour mixture:
- 2 ¼ cups (12 oz, 351 grams) unbleached bread flour
- ½ plus 1/8 tsp. (2 grams) instant yeast
- 1 TB (0.25 oz, 7 grams) caraway seeds fine ground in a coffee mill
- 1 TB (0.25 oz, 7 grams) caraway seeds whole (optional)
- ½ TB (0.3 oz, 10.5 grams) salt
- ½ TB (0.25 oz, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
- Extra rye flour for dusting
- Combine all the ingredients except for the oil and sprinkle over the top of the sponge. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and all it to sit at room temperature for 1-4 hours at room temperature. I always let it sit for 2 hours. When you let it sit for a longer period of time you get a stronger acidic back note to your finished loaf. I also like to measure out the oil and place it right next to the bowl, so I don’t forget to add it later.
- After the sponge has been left to ferment for the desired amount of time I add the oil and mix the dough into a rough mass. Cover again with plastic wrap and let it rest or autolyze for 20 minutes so that it will be easier to knead later.
- Knead the dough by hand, stand mixer or food processor. Food processor is my method of choice for this dough because it is so quick and efficient, but you can choose which ever method you prefer. To knead by hand, turn your dough out onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead by hand for 8-10 minutes until your dough becomes very smooth and elastic. To knead by stand mixer, you will need to use the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for 6-9 minutes. I find that kneading by stand mixer does not save much time, just energy. Or you could knead your dough by food processor. I place my dough into the processor with the metal blade in and turn it on for 1 minute. Remove the dough and knead on a countertop by hand to redistribute the heat. It will be sticky when you remove it, but it will smooth out very quickly, so don’t add any flour. Then place it back in the processor for another 30 seconds. Remove and knead by hand for a minute or so. With all three methods it is important to see if you dough has passed the windowpane test. This will tell you that your dough is well kneaded.
- Place your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for 1 ½-2 hours. It will double in size. The warmer it is in your house the quicker this dough will rise. The ideal temperature is around 70-75 degrees.
- Shape your dough into a torpedo shaped loaf. Place your shaped loaf, seam side up, in a floured dough rising basket or a linen-lined colander that has been heavily floured. Allow to rise at room temperature for about an hour or until it has swelled considerably. If you were to gently poke it with your finger the indentation would remain. If it springs back quickly allow the loaf to continue to rise for another 15 minutes and then recheck.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees an hour before baking. I use a cloche or a covered baker, which I preheat with the oven to bake this bread. If you do not have one you can place a baking stone in the middle of the oven with a small cast iron skillet set on the lower rack.
- Carefully turn your loaf out into the center of the cloche and score the loaf with two diagonal slashes across the top. Place the top on and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the loaf is a beautiful chestnut brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It you are using a baking stone, first turn your loaf out onto a lightly floured bakers peel and quickly score the top. Slide the loaf directly onto the baking stone and place a ½ cup of water into the skillet. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes.
- Allow the bread to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.