The arrival of a basket of fresh, homemade bread at the beginning of the meal in a restaurant is a great temptation to throw caution and pacing to the wind and enjoy a slice all by itself with an aperitif and…perhaps another with the entrée (aka first course to American diners). At home, when a slice of this rye bread appears on the bread plate to accompany the first course, diners may find themselves tempted to exercise the same lack of discipline and happily assent to the offer of a second…and even a third slice from this loaf.
The recipe is adapted from one in Jean Hewitt’s The New York Times Large Type Cookbook (1985). (Unfortunately, there is no online version of this out-of-print volume.) Back in the ’70’s, Mrs. Hewitt was a food writer for the Times. Her recipes are notable for their simplicity, clarity and good results.
A Culinary Trivia Postscript: Mrs. Hewitt kitchen-tested the White House chef’s recipe for Tricia Nixon’s White House wedding cake in 1971 and pronounced it “mush on the outside and soup on the inside”. Her critique led to a flurry of testing by other food writers and cooks across the country. Mary Laster of the Washington Post seconded Mrs. Hewitt’s evaluation of the cake, prompting the White House chef to issue a volley of denials, revisions and retractions–a style of response to criticism still, regrettably, very much à la mode in our nation’s capital.
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A Timing Note: This bread requires so little effort on the part of the baker that it may easily be made on the day it will be served.
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of Active Dry Yeast
- 1/4 cup of lukewarm Water: What does lukewarm mean in terms of feel? The water should feel just becoming hot to the touch.
- 2 cups of Milk, heated to lukewarm: As with the water in this recipe, the milk should be heated until you feel it just beginning to become hot.
- 2 Tablespoons of Butter, cut in pieces, and a little more to grease the mixing bowl and the baking sheet
- 2 teaspoons of Salt
- 2 Tablespoons of Sugar
- 2 cups of Rye Flour
- about 4 cups of Unbleached White Flour: Not more than this and perhaps a bit less.
- 1 Tablespoon of Caraway Seeds
- a little Vegetable Oil to brush on the surface of the dough before it rises
- 1 Egg White
- 1 Tablespoon of Water
- Cornmeal (or coarse Polenta) to sprinkle on the baking sheet
- a Large Mixing Bowl
- a Pastry Board
- a Large Baking Sheet
- a Cotton Dishtowel
- a Cooling Rack
1. Dissolve the yeast in the water. It will become foamy.
2. Pour the warm milk into the mixing bowl. Add the butter, salt and sugar and stir to melt the butter and dissolve the salt and sugar.
3. Add the yeast to the milk and stir in the rye flour. Add white flour gradually until the dough is soft but not sticky. Add the caraway seeds.
4. Turn the dough out onto the pastry board and knead it until it is smooth. Form it into a ball.
5. Wash out the mixing bowl, butter it, and place the dough in it. Brush a little vegetable oil over the surface of the dough, cover it and let it rise until it doubles in bulk. (About 1 hour should be sufficient time for the dough to rise.)
6. While the dough rises, butter the baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with cornmeal.
7. Punch down the dough. Knead it for a minute or two and divide it into two equal parts. Form each half into a round and place them on the baking sheet, leaving 4 or 5 inches of space between them to allow for their rising and expanding.
8. Cover the loaves loosely with a cotton dishtowel and let them rise until they are doubled in size…for, perhaps 40 – 45 minutes. Towards the end of the loaves’ second rise, preheat the oven to 375 F.
9. Beat the egg white with the Tablespoon of water. Brush the egg white and water mixture over the tops of the risen loaves. Bake the loaves for 40 – 45 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped. The crust of the loaves will be a deep, rich brown.
10. Cool the loaves on a rack. Any extra bread may be wrapped in foil and refrigerated. It may be turned into very good toast.
A Note: Homemade Rye Bread is served with Green Split Pea Soup ~ Erbsensuppe as the First Course in the Dinner Menu: Frolicking Wednesday ~ a Bistro cum Vendéglő Evening at Home. Thicker slices of the bread and larger bowls of this soup make an excellent supper or simple lunch.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2013