It’s almost summer, and no one is looking for more opportunities to bake! I know, I know. But I’ve been baking my own bread every week for about 5 years. I think I’ve bought a loaf of bread maybe 3 times since I started seriously baking bread. It takes no time, it’s much cheaper than buying bread, you get the kind of bread you want, and you know what goes into it! And you do it by hand, no bread machine, no mixer.
I make lots of different types and shapes of bread, but a loaf of rye bread is my favorite. I love the taste of rye bread. For me, the loaf is the most versatile.
I use a method called Almost No-Knead Bread that uses instant yeast that you don’t have to “bloom” (adding warm water to the other kind of yeast called active yeast) because it’s simpler. And with Almost No-Knead Bread, you let the bread sit overnight and do its chemical-thing so you don’t have to knead it for very long.
Here’s what you need to make rye bread:
- instant yeast (I like SAF Instant Yeast, but any brand is fine.)
- rye flour
- bread flour
- olive oil
- caraway seeds (optional)
- PAM or other spray or cooking oil to grease the pan
- loaf pan (my pan is from King Arthur Flour and is 9 x 4 x 4 inches). Here’s another Pullman loaf pan from Sur La Table that’s 9 x 4 x 4 that you can use without the top on: http://amzn.to/1EVumEV
- Dutch dough whisk (optional but fun to use and a great price for this tool!)
I also add in a couple of extras that are just that, extras, because I like them:
- King Arthur Flour Deli Rye Flavor
- flax seeds for added nutrition.
Instead of adding Deli Rye Flavor, I sometimes add dill pickle juice (to replace some of the water) if I have some after finishing a jar of dill pickles. Both intensify the rye flavor. But the rye bread is still delicious without either of them.
Here’s the recipe that I have modified over time to suit my taste and my 9 x 4 inch loaf pan from an Almost No Knead recipe I found on the internet.
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour (I like King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
- 1 1/2 cups rye flour
- 4 tsp. or 1 T. + 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3/8 tsp. instant yeast
- 3 T. caraway seeds (optional but gives rye bread it’s characteristic look and flavor)
- 1-2 T. Deli Rye Flavor (optional)
- 2 T. flax seeds (optional)
- about 13 oz. water (add enough water so that all the dry ingredients are mixed but not overly wet)
- 1 1/3 T. olive oil
Here are the steps:
- In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the two bread flours, the instant yeast, salt, sugar, caraway seeds, flax seeds, Deli Rye flavor. You can use a wooden spoon, but I’ve got a dough whisk with a cool loop on it that makes mixing much easier.
- Add the wet ingredients: water (add just enough water for the dry ingredients to combine so the dough looks shaggy but not soaked) and olive oil.
- Cover the mixing bowl. I use plastic wrap. Let the dough sit overnight or for about 12-18 hours in a warm place. In the winter, I put my dough in my oven with the heat turned off. This is the “first rise” where the dough expands and forms gluten. When you look at your dough after the first rise, it will be much higher in the bowl.
- Next is the kneading. Sprinkle flour on the surface that you’ll be kneading on. I do it on my countertop. Turn the dough out onto the countertop. Sprinkle some flour onto your hands so the dough won’t stick too much to your hands (it will stick a little bit especially in the beginning.) Form sort of a ball. Knead it by pressing down with the heel of your hands and moving forward away from you. Then fold the dough over and continue kneading and folding for a couple of minutes till the dough is smooth.
- Once the dough is kneaded, I flatten the dough out with my hands to a rectangle about the length of the loaf pan.
- Then I roll it up and place it, seam down, into the loaf pan. This step isn’t necessary, but it makes the top look nicer. If you prefer, after kneading, you can just plop it into the loaf pan. Make sure to spray the loaf pan with PAM or other cooking spray or coat it with olive oil or other neutral oil first so it won’t stick to the pan.
- Now that the dough is kneaded and in the loaf pan, you are ready for the “second rise”. Spray the piece of plastic wrap with PAM or cooking spray so the dough won’t stick to the plastic wrap after it rises, and cover the loaf pan.
- Place the loaf pan in a warm place to rise. About 70-80 degrees F is ideal. Unless it’s summer and warm/hot in the house, I put the loaf pan in my oven turned on to the lowest temperature. On my oven, that’s 100 degrees. Once the oven reaches 100 degrees, I shut it off and put the loaf pan in. I let it stay in the oven or on the counter if it’s warm enough in the house, till it rises to about a half inch above the loaf pan. That can take anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on your environment and the dough itself. If you let it rise too much so that it comes up over the top of the loaf pan by more than an inch, the dough can’t support itself and it flops over the top of the pan.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 55 minutes, till a thermometer reaches 200 degrees (internal temperature of the bread).
- Take the pan out of the oven, let it cool a bit in the loaf pan, and then let it finish completely cooling on a wire rack.
- Eat and enjoy some beauty of a different kind!
I hope this doesn’t seem overwhelming! It’s a fun project to do with kids, or you can do the first part at night after the kids go to bed. Mixing the ingredients up takes about 5-10 minutes tops. Then it sits overnight, so you’re not doing anything. The kneading can be tricky at first but it quickly becomes second nature. You only have to knead it till it becomes smooth, about 2 minutes. Mostly, the dough itself does all the work!
Have you ever made bread? Do you think you’ll try this some day?