Last Saturday, some friends invited us to a Pinot Noir tasting party. The idea was that we would see if we could tell Oregon Pinot Noir from northern California Pinot Noir (we couldn't) and to see if there was a clear favorite among four different wines (there wasn't). I was supposed to bring bread. Since I know that Fred, who would be the wine pourer, is a big fan of caraway rye bread, I figured if I brought him a loaf of caraway rye, he might pour extra-big glasses of wine for me. I think my ploy worked, but I don't remember.
I really wanted to bake Rose's rye bread recipe, which is the best I've made, but I was going to be gone all day Saturday and I didn't think I could work it into the schedule, so I settled on the Five-Minute recipe, which does have the advantage of giving you a lot of flexibility.
The recipe is supposed to make four loaves of bread, but they would be very small one-pound loaves. I scooped up nearly two pounds of dough for my first loaf.
The bread is supposed to be brushed with a cornstarch wash to make it nice and shiny, so I was envisioning a fat, brown, gleaming loaf of caraway-speckled bread.
I learned that if you mix up cornstarch and water but forget to heat it to a boil, it doesn't make the bread shiny. In fact, it seems to have the reverse effect. At least, something made this bread refuse to brown. I finally took it out of the oven because it had been baking for over twice as long as it was supposed to; even allowing for the fact that it was bigger than the recipe's one-pound loaf, it still was behaving oddly.
Not only did it have a dull matte finish, but the little slashes I made on top of the bread expanded so that the bread looked like it had exploded. My poor bread was kind of an ugly duckling. But I covered it in plain brown wrapping and sneaked it inside the Beiers' house; then I sliced it before anyone could see its oddity. It tasted pretty good though. Curiously, the more wine we drank, the better the bread tasted.
A few days later, I made another loaf. This time I took out 1.2 pounds and made a torpedo-shape loaf. I used my LaCloche bread baker, and I remembered to boil the cornstarch wash.
I think this is more what it's supposed to look like. And the slashes looked more normal too.
By now the dough had been in the refrigerator for about a week, so it had a little more tang, but it was by no means funky.
I'm always a little apprehensive about looking at the dough that's been hanging out in the refrigerator for a while--afraid of what I might see. So far, I've seen nothing but bread dough. Which is what I saw on Sunday, a week and four days after I made the original dough: a small amount of normal looking caraway rye dough. In fact, it was small enough that I thought a loaf of bread would look pathetic, so instead, I made four rye dinner rolls.
I thought the rolls were the most successful of the three variations I made, even though there were only a few of them. They were the prettiest--the cornstarch wash actually worked and the slashes didn't deform the bread.
The sad news is that Loaf #1 is gone; Loaf #2 is gone; and Rolls #3-6 are gone. I've been so busy at work that I haven't had time to make more bread, so I'm reduced to having my morning toast with store-bought bread, which makes me glum. I hear my mother's voice reminding me that the starving children in China (I know that some mothers talked about the starving children in India or Africa, but my mother's were always in China) would be grateful for that bread, and I get that whining about not having homemade bread is unattractive, but still. I hope I have time to make some of the real stuff this weekend.
--adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
3 c. (709 grams) water
1 1/2 T. (14.4 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 T. (25 grams) salt
1 1/2 T. (15 grams) caraway seeds
1 cup (130 grams) rye flour
5 1/2 cups (771 grams) all-purpose flour.
1. Mix the yeast, salt, and caraway seeds with the water in a large mixing bowl.
2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients with a spoon or a stand mixer, using the dough hook.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest about two hours, or until the dough rises and starts to fall.
4. Refrigerate in a container (not airtight) and use within 14 days.
5. When ready to bake, cut off the amount you want to use (one pound will make a smallish loaf. Shape into whatever shape you want, and allow to rest and rise, 40 minutes to an hour, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
6. Preheat oven to 450, with baking stone placed on middle rack.
7. Paint the top crust with cornstarch (mix 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of water to make a paste; add 1/2 cup water, stir, and bring to boil). Make cuts into top of loaf with slashing knife, razor blade, or serrated bread knife.
8. Place baking pan on hot stone. For a better crust, either pour 1 cup boiling water into another baking sheet on another rack, or put about 1/2 cup ice cubes on preheated baking sheet or skillet on rack below the bread.
9. Bake about 35 minutes for one-pound loaf, longer for a larger loaf, and less for rolls.
10. Let cool on cooling rack before cutting.