Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sourdough Potato Rye

As promised, here's my post on making a sourdough rye bread with potato and caraway seed. As with any rye bread, it has many steps and takes the , but the result is worth the effort. Toasted for breakfast with homemade plum jam or served with split pea or tomato soup for a simple lunch, it's hard to beat. My husband loves rye bread with a generous dollop of peanut butter slathered on top--or with melted cheddar cheese. The recipe uses the rye sourdough starter I wrote about previously and includes mashed potato and some potato water. This improves the bread's texture and helps it keep longer--assuming it doesn't disappear in a couple of days!

The following recipe, along with the one for the rye sour, are from George Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World," which I highly recommend. I believe Laszlo is the name of the author's father, a master baker who immigrated from Hungary and passed his knowledge and skills on to his son, who shares them with us in this informative book.

Laszlo's Sourdough Potato Rye Bread with Caraway

1 cup warm water, preferably potato water*
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup mashed potato*
2 cups Rye Sour (see 8/15 post)
3 cups first clear flour**
1 tablespoon salt
Additional rye flour, if needed
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, or more to taste (optional)
Cornmeal or rye flour, for dusting baking sheet
Water or cornstarch solution, for brushing loaves***

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften. Blend in the mashed potato (see first note below) and Rye Sour. Add the first clear flour and stir in the salt with your fingertips to incorporate. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Kneading in a stand mixer
At this point, Greenstein says to turn out the dough onto the work surface and knead, adding rye flour as necessary, a little at a time, until dough becomes elastic (about 5 to 8 minutes). Rye dough is stickier than other kinds of doughs, so you may just have to do this by feel. (As you can tell, I don't own a bread machine

You can also do a lot of the kneading, as I did, in a stand mixer. I first stirred the dough to make sure most of the flour was incorporated, then used the dough hook on my mixer to do most of the kneading, adding small amounts of rye flour along the way. When the dough began to pull away from the sides of the bowl, I put it onto a lightly floured wooden board and completed the kneading by hand--about another two minutes. You can kind of feel the spring in the dough when it's ready for a rise.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled work surface (I just left it on my board, brushing on a bit of oil), and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Still resting...

Ready to shape.

Shaping: Punch down, and shape the dough into 1 or 2 round loaves (mine were more oval in shape). Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or rye flour. Sprinkle caraway seeds on top (it would be fine to incorporate some in the dough earlier if you like). Proof, covered, until doubled in size (mine took about 1 1/2 hours). Brush the tops with water or the cornstarch solution (see recipe below). Stipple the tops of the loaves with 10 to 12 hole using a skewer or ice pick.

Seedy Loaf

Baking: Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and put a baking pan in the bottom of the oven to heat. As you put the loaves into the hot oven, toss 6 to 8 ice cubes into the bottom pan and quickly close the oven door. (You can also fill a liquid cup measure with a mix of water and ice or use a cup of boiling water.) The rising steam helps the bread develop a good crust. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until tapping on the bottom of the loaves produces a hollow sound. A larger loaf may take 10 to 15 more minutes of baking time.

Cooling: Despite the temptation to cut into the loaves the moment you pull them from the oven, it's better to allow them to cool on a rack until they've reached room temperature. Sourdough breads in particular seem to be a bit gummy when devoured too soon, though that new-baked smell is all but impossible to resist (but aren't all good things?) For a lively discussion on the subject, check out The Fresh Loaf.

Yield: Greenstein claims the recipe makes 1 large or 2 small loaves, but my two loaves were both fairly substantial. A large loaf would have been very large indeed.

Two "small" loaves cooling


*Peel and quarter a medium-sized potato and boil in at least 1 1/2 cups of water to cover until soft. Drain, reserving 1 cup of potato water. Cool and mash the potato.

**First clear flour (also called common or clear flour), less refined than most bread flours, is often used in rye breads, as a source of gluten, which rye flour lacks (without gluten, the bread won't rise). The flour is a little hard to find. I order mine from King Arthur Flour, which can get expensive. In this recipe, Greenstein says that 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup cake or pastry flour can be substituted for the first clear, but he says the bread won't taste as good.

***To make the cornstarch solution, bring 1 cup water to a boil, and dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water. Whisk this mixture into the boiling water, stirring until it thickens and becomes clear. The mixture keeps for several days. For a high gloss, brush the loaves a second time after they emerge from the oven.

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