How to make Jewish Rye Bread, Part 2: crafting a classic loaf

Yesterday we prepared the rye sour, old bread soaker, and ground caraway seeds for our Jewish Rye Bread recipe; see How to Make Jewish Rye Bread, Part 1 for details. Today we’re ready to mix and bake our bread!

But before we jump into this sticky rye dough, let’s talk a little more about rye flour, and what to expect when you work with it.

In Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, Jeffrey Hamelman offers a thorough examination of the particular characteristics and needs of rye, which differ considerably from wheat flour. While these characteristics become critical knowledge when preparing a recipe composed of more than 50% rye flour, it’s useful even in recipes using less rye than that threshold to understand the natural properties of rye flour.

I’m not going to go into much detail about the chemistry and plant science associated with these rye characteristics, but if you’d like to learn more, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Hamelman’s book.

1. Rye flour doesn’t develop gluten the way wheat flour does. No amount of mixing and kneading is going to prompt it to do so. Even though rye flour isn’t considered gluten-free and contains similar proteins to those that develop gluten in wheat flour, other characteristics of rye flour prevent gluten from developing.

2. Because of its higher fiber and bran content, rye flour absorbs more water than wheat flour, which can make hydrating the dough properly a bit tricky.

3. Rye flour has more soluble sugars than wheat, which makes it ferment more quickly. This feature of rye flour means that it has different temperature and timeline requirements for rising than wheat does. Generally it’s desirable for rye breads to rise at a slightly higher temperature (78°F) for a shorter amount of time.

4. Rye breads are particularly prone to developing a gummy structure during baking, due to the amylase enzyme activity in rye flour, unless precautions are taken. This is why sourdough is so often incorporated into rye recipes. The acidic nature of sourdough helps to slow down enzyme activity during baking and prevent the breakdown of the bread’s structure.

5. Rye has a high level of pentosans (a substance found in plants), which contribute to the high absorption rate of rye flour, and also to its inability to develop gluten. Pentosans are fragile and break down easily, which can cause the dough to become stickier; rye flour releases water when kneaded too rigorously. Especially when preparing dough high in rye flour, it’s important to mix and knead it more gently than you would wheat flour dough.

I like to think of wheat and rye as completely different animals.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Wheat is more like your friendly, affable and generally eager to please dog; it’s easy to work with and does what you want it to (most of the time).

Rye, on the other hand, is more like your cat; a little finicky in its needs and tastes and not quite so compliant as its canine counterpart, wheat. And yet, cats have their own unique charm when you accept their nature and don’t expect them to behave like dogs, right?

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

White rye (top), medium rye (left), and pumpernickel rye (right).

In an earlier rye post PJ Hamel covered the different varieties of rye flour available, and how each type of rye tends to behave in a recipe. In addition to this information, it’s important to note the difference in flavor between white rye, medium rye, and pumpernickel rye flour.

White rye, because it contains none of the bran or germ of the rye berry, is very mild in flavor. Medium rye, which contains none of the germ but is milled closer to the bran layer, has significantly more rye flavor than white rye. Our organic pumpernickel flour, which contains the whole rye berry, offers the richest rye flavor.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

When testing recipes for this post I baked loaves with all three varieties of rye flour. And the ones I loved best always used pumpernickel. I love the flavor, and the fact that it’s organic and 100% whole grain. Maybe it’s just the call of my Eastern European heritage, but for me pumpernickel is always the way to go when it comes to choosing a rye flour!

While this recipe will work with medium rye flour (with a few adjustments) and will still be quite tasty, I urge you to try pumpernickel flour and experience the difference.

Our Jewish Rye recipe is only about 36% pumpernickel flour, and so is a bit of a “dog/cat” in terms of how we’ll need to handle it. But it can still benefit from paying attention to some of the requirements of rye flour.

Since the pentosans in rye flour are likely to break down with heavy kneading, we’re not going to go crazy kneading for a long time.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Mix the following in a large bowl. Remember, we’ve already made the rye sour and old bread soaker; see yesterday’s post for details.

3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces, 418g) King Arthur Organic All-Purpose Flour  or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
all of the rye sour, minus one rounded tablespoon (15 ounces, 425g)*
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (8 1/2 ounces, 241g) water (80°F)
1/3 cup (3 ounces, 85g) old bread soaker
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

*The remaining rye sour (1 rounded tablespoon) can either be discarded or used to create and perpetuate a rye sourdough starter.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Because rye can be very sticky to handle, it will be easiest to develop this dough in a stand mixer. Mix on the lowest speed (or “stir” if you have a KitchenAid) with the hook attachment for 3 minutes, and then knead the dough for 3 minutes on speed 2.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

The dough should form a ball and be fairly stiff, but you may need to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently to encourage the dough to come together around the hook. The dough above, having mixed at lowest speed for 3 minutes, has formed a ball; but there’s very little visible gluten development.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

This dough has kneaded for 3 minutes on speed 2. Notice the visible gluten strands? That’s your unbleached all-purpose flour at work.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

The dough will be quite sticky, but strong.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

If you’re brave and decide to mix by hand, be prepared to get a little messy.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

It can be helpful to wet your hands periodically as you knead to prevent sticking, rather than using added flour. The temptation to add more and more flour needs to be resisted with rye dough; rye is always going to feel a little sticky and messy. Scraping down the work surface frequently with a bench knife or bowl scraper will also help prevent sticking. Knead until the dough feels relatively smooth and strong, although still quite tacky (about 10 minutes).

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Ideal dough temperature after kneading is 78°F.

Because rye flour ferments fairly quickly, it doesn’t benefit this dough to extend the rising time. Instead, we want a warm (78°F) first rise for one hour. We’ll then pre-shape the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes; then shape the loaf and allow it to rise for another 40 to 45 minutes at about the same temperature. Beware: an extended rising time may lead to excessive sour flavor and a deterioration in the bread’s structure.

Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl (or off the counter) with a bowl scraper and set it to rise in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl to prevent drying out; or set the bowl in a bread proofer or other warm, moist location.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

If you have a microwave oven, this can be converted quite easily to a proof box by boiling some water in a cup in the microwave. Be sure to insert a wooden spoon, ice cream stick, or other porous (non-metal) object into the cup to prevent the boiling water from becoming super heated and exploding upward unexpectedly. It’s also safer not to set the microwave timer for several minutes, and to heat the water just to the boiling point. Or you can boil water on the stove, then place it in the microwave to warm up your “proof box.”

Rye recipes, particularly rye recipes with more than 50% rye flour, are much more temperature and time sensitive, so a digital thermometer can really be your friend as you check the water temperature when mixing, the final dough temperature after mixing, and also the ambient temperature where you allow the dough to rise.

Once the dough has gone through its first rise, start preheating your oven to 460°F. It needs to heat for a good hour if you’re planning to bake on a pizza stone. Place the stone on a low shelf, with a cast iron frying pan on the shelf right below it.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

After the first rise, deflate the dough with a quick fold. Be sure to flour the work surface and your hands to prevent sticking.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Cover the dough, and allow it to relax for 10 minutes before shaping. This rest will help protect the surface from ripping during the final shape.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Shape the loaf into a football, or bâtard shape. Note that the dough used in this shaping video is a simple white flour dough; very stretchy and resilient. You can’t tug and stretch this rye dough in quite the same way. Take care to be as gentle as you can while shaping, and use enough flour to prevent your hands and the work surface from sticking to the dough. Rough handling can cause tearing in the surface of the dough that will persist all the way through the baking process.

Notice the pinching going on in the bottom left photo? This is only necessary if the bottom of your loaf hasn’t sealed properly.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Place the loaf on sprayed parchment on a baking sheet. You can also add a sprinkling of coarse cornmeal to the parchment, if you like the flavor and texture of cornmeal on the bottom of your rye bread.

If you plan to bake the loaf on the baking sheet, place the parchment in the sheet, as you usually would. If you intend to bake the bread on a stone, place the parchment on the back of the baking sheet; the baking sheet will act as a peel as you slide parchment and loaf onto the stone when it comes time to bake.

Cover the loaf with sprayed plastic and place in a warm spot (78°F) to rise.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

After 40 to 45 minutes the loaf should be sufficiently risen. Don’t let it rise too long; a light poke on the surface of the dough will bounce back a little, but leave an indentation.

While you check your dough for readiness, put some water on to boil. This will provide steam for the early part of the bake.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Next, spray the surface of the loaf with water and sprinkle with additional caraway seeds, if desired.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Score/slash the loaf with five cuts, with the longest cut in the middle of the loaf and the cuts diminishing in size slightly as they approach the ends of the loaf. The blade should be held perpendicular to the surface of the loaf, so it makes a straight cut, rather than an angled or “lip” cut.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Load the loaf onto the stone by carefully sliding the parchment paper and loaf onto the stone.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthur

Place a large metal bowl over the top of the loaf, with the lip of the bowl hanging over the front of the stone.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Pour 1/2 cup boiling water into the cast iron frying pan and slide the shelf in so that the steam vents directly into the bowl above it. Be sure to wear good oven mitts throughout this process to avoid a steam burn!

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

After 10 minutes remove the bowl by lifting it up with a butter knife.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Reduce the baking temperature to 430°F for the remaining baking time. This should be about 35 to 40 minutes, or until your loaf is a rich golden brown. The internal baking temperature should be at least 205°F. Spray your loaf with water again after you remove it from the oven.

Don’t have a stone? You can use the same method, but place the bowl over your baking sheet. A bowl helps contain the steam during the initial period of oven spring and will give you the best results; but you can also simply pour the boiling water into the cast iron frying pan, without covering the loaf.

Want to bake this loaf in a Dutch oven, cloche, or long covered baker? No problem! With a Dutch oven and cloche you’ll want to form your rye dough into a round loaf.

Oil the pot. Sprinkle with a coarse flour such as cornmeal; or place sprayed parchment on the bottom of the pot, then sprinkle cornmeal onto the parchment, if desired. The loaf can rise right in the pot. I like to place a sprayed piece of plastic wrap over the loaf as it rises, as added insurance against drying out.

Place the risen and scored loaf in the preheated oven (450°F) with the lid on. Remove the lid after 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 430°F, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes with the lid off, until golden brown.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Here are our beautiful rye loaves, baked four different ways. The top loaf was baked on a stone with a bowl and steam. The second loaf was baked in our Cloche Bread Baker. The third loaf was baked in our Staub 4-quart Dutch Oven. And the lovely loaf on the bottom was baked in our Long Covered Baker.

As beautiful as these loaves are, remember not to cut into your rye loaf until the next day! Rye bread needs time for its interior to set.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread-45

And now it’s time to enjoy that sandwich! Bring it on, Dagwood!

Please read, bake, and review our Jewish Rye Bread recipe.

Print just the recipe.

And share your own Jewish Rye memories and tips below!

For information on making a rye sour starter, check out the first part of this two-part post: How to Make Jewish Rye Bread, Part 1.

Barbara Alpern
About

Long time professional artisan bread baker, caramel maker and member of our Baker Specialist team, Barb grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has four grown sons. She has baked in Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Texas (if you count baking cookies for her son's wedding!).