Monday, May 31, 2010

'Levy's' Real Jewish Rye Bread

Monday, May 31, 2010
I have made bread in the last two months--really, I have.  I just haven't had time to string two sentences together.  But I've finally gotten so tired of seeing those hot cross buns that I must blog about something else.  I got some rye flour from King Arthur a few months ago, and I was worried that, at this rate, it would go bad before I'd used an ounce of it, so I finally decided that on this long weekend, when I didn't even have to bake a cake, I'd open the bag and bake some rye bread.  I looked for exotic recipes, but I couldn't find anything that sounded better to me than good old "'Levy's' Real Jewish Rye Bread" from The Bread Bible.
This bread is made using the flour mixture on top of sponge method, which is excellent because you can start it the night before you want to eat the bread.
It's also a great method because as the sponge starts to rise, it oozes up over the flour mixture, giving it an alien space-blob appearance.
See, it looks like it's taking over the poor flour mixture, which is being swallowed up by The Blob.
All is normal again, however, when it's kneaded.
Rose gives alternate directions for mixing by hand and by machine. This dough has to be kneaded by ten minutes in the KitchenAid, and I didn't even check to see how long it's kneaded by hand. Probably if I kneaded bread by hand, I wouldn't have to lift weights to try to stave off the batwing arms that you start to get at a certain age.
The bread rises for about an hour and a half. You take it out of its bowl, stretch it out, give it a business-letter fold, and let it rise again.
The wonderful thing about bread is that you can just stick it in the refrigerator at any point if, for example, you decide that you must go out and buy more flowers, even though you have no room in your garden for more flowers, unless you dig some up, or at least do some serious pruning. When you return, with $148 of flowers, (I think I need help!), the dough is just right to shape and bake.
I'm putting it on parchment paper on the bottom of La Cloche. The top is in the oven, preheating.
Rose learned from her grandmother that the best way to eat this bread is with unsalted butter, sliced radishes, and kosher salt, crushed with your fingertips and sprinkled on top. I had radishes, salt, and butter, and of course I had the bread. But I ended up using the bread as a substitute for hamburger buns for our Memorial Day cookout, and after I'd eaten a big fat hamburger, I had no room for the more genteel sliced radish option. Maybe tomorrow.

"Levy's" Jewish Rye Bread
--from The Bread Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (10.5 grams) barley malt syrup
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)

Mix the dough Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet, or on a cornmeal-covered piece of parchment paper on the bottom of La Cloche. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F an hour ahead of time. On a shelf at the lowest level, place a baking sheet or bread stone. Unless you're using La Cloche, place a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven (or the bottom shelf) to preheat.

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Put it in oven; if you're using La Cloche, cover it with preheated top dome. Otherwise, toss1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the bread on a wire rack.