In Defense of First Clear

FirstclearSide by side: Unbleached first clear (left) and unbleached high-gluten.

When I first started baking with rye, the breads I made – mainly the Jewish deli ryes and pumpernickels of my youth – called for first clear flour. And back in those early days, I had no idea what clear flour was, other than a very high-protein, high-fiber kind of wheat flour that had the “strength” to support up to 40% white rye flour and 30% medium rye – in other words, that the rye was an addition to what basically was a wheat bread that still depended on gluten to give it structure.
How little I knew!!! Keep Reading

Berlin Rye/Berliner Landbrot

BerlinerSlice

Rye %: 90%
Stages: Sponge, Final dough
Leaven: Rye sour, yeast
Start to Finish: 12-14 hours
Hands-on Time: 25-30 minutes
Yield: One 38 oz. (1.10 kg.) loaf

After a week’s vacation with my mother, children and grandkids in Florida, my wife, daughter and I returned to San Diego refreshed and relaxed — except for my advanced case of rye baker cold turkey. Understandable, then, that the bread I chose for this week’s bake was (relatively speaking) quick and uncomplicated: I needed my rye fix and Berlin Rye was a great way to get it.

Berliner Landbrot is one of those classic loaves with many variations whose high standing in German bread culture is well-deserved. Keep Reading

On Retarding Rye Doughs

For the first time since I began baking rye breads eight or nine years ago, I recently — like yesterday — learned of bakers whose rye bread recipes call for retardation — Andrew Whitley (Bread Matters) and Charel Scheele (Old World Breads).  That surprised me, because no traditional recipe I’ve ever come across — and I’ve seen upwards of 200 — calls for refrigerating the dough, especially in high-percentage ryes. Keep Reading

Heavy Country Loaf/Schweres Bauernbrot

Schweres_cut

Rye %: 65%
Stages: Sponge, final dough
Leaven: Sour culture, yeast
Start to Finish: 14-16 hours
Hands-on Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: One 4 lb. (1.8 kg.) loaf

I find myself drawn to heavy, rustic rye breads, and this one, which I adapted from the formula of a north German baker named Albert Schäfer, really lives up to its name. This is a coarse, chewy, quintessenial rye bread with a moist and tender crumb, great mouth feel – thanks to the seeds and coarse rye meal – and an intensely tangy finish that provides a lovely counterpoint to the sweetness of the spelt or wheat. Keep Reading

Why Rye Bread?

 

Jewish-Rye

I grew up eating rye bread — or at least what I thought of as rye bread — as the grandchild of eastern European Jewish immigrants. However, I didn’t start baking with rye until I began exploring my culinary roots, an exploration that ultimately came to fruition in Inside the Jewish Bakery.

During my research, I encountered the dense, dark rye breads that my grandparents’ generation subsisted on, but which had already disappeared from the Jewish bakeries of my childhood. I was hooked: My quest led me to the rye breads of northern, central and eastern Europe — largely unknown in the U.S. — where I found flavors, textures and baking challenges I never imagined existed. Keep Reading