So let’s eat then, shall we?

I don’t know about you, but all this talk of insanity, amputation and plague really makes me hungry. This week I hope to make two different rye breads: one a conventional “sandwich rye”, light and fluffy and flavored with caraway, the other an old-world peasant rye…dark and dense to the point of being almost crumbly. The recipes are based on two rye formulas by Peter Reinhardt, changed somewhat to suit my own purposes. They go like this:

Sandwich Rye

For the sponge

7 ounces starter
5 ounces rye flour
4 ounces water
2 onions diced, sautéed and cooled

For the dough

2 pounds high gluten or bread flour
5 ounces rye flour
1 ounce brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 ounce vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
up to 1/2 cup water

Procedure: One day ahead, make the sponge. Combine all ingredients, cover and ferment 3-4 hours, until bubbly. The next day remove the sponge from the refrigerator and let warm up for one hour. To make the dough, pull to the sponge into pieces, then combine them with the rest of the ingredients except for the water in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle (you can also do this by hand with a large bowl and metal spoon). When the dough starts to clump up, begin adding the water slowly, adding just enough to get it to come together in a ball. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook (or to a floured counter) and knead for 4 minutes in the mix, six if kneading by hand, but no more lest the dough get gummy (more about that later). Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Divide the dough into two or three equal pieces and shape into sandwich loaves or torpedo-shaped bâtards. Proof 90 minutes and bake in a 350 (for sandwich loaves) or 400 (for bâtards) oven for 40 minutes, rotating once. Transfer to rack and cool.

Old World Rye

This type of rye bread is usually made with coarser ground rye which more closely resembles the flours that peasants of old would have had to contend with. It is possible to find pumpernickel flour, rye meal, even whole cracked rye out there, but unless you’re in a town that’s home to a lot of Jewish bakers, you’ll probably have to order it off the internet. As things are I can barely find rye flour here in Louisville, so, like the peasants of old, I’ll just have to make do

For the starter

3.5 ounces starter
4.5 ounces rye flour
2 ounces water

For the dough

2 ounces whole wheat flour
13.5 cups rye flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
about 1 cup water

Procedure: Make the starter the day before. Combine the ingredients in a bowl adding just enough water to bring the starter together into a shaggy mass. Cover and ferment for 4 hours, or until doubled, then refrigerate overnight.

The next day take the starter out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for an hour or so. Cut it into pieces and add it to the flours and salt in a stand mixer (like the other recipe, you can also do this by hand). Again, stir in just enough water to form a ball. Knead for 4 minutes in the mixer, 6 minutes by hand until the dough becomes smooth and tacky — but not sticky. Ferment for four hours, divide into two pieces and shape into torpedo-shaped bâtards. Proof for two hours and bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees. Transfer to rack and cool.

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