Welcome to Slovak Sunday #4, where I’m making Eastern European rye bread. With rye flour, grated potato, and a hint of caraway, these loaves have an amazing depth of flavor. Cut a slice while it’s still warm and devour it on it’s own, smother it with butter, use it to make a sandwich, or use it to mop up whatever’s left on your plate at the end of a meal. I may have done all four of those things when I made it this week.
This bread makes me think of my grandfather sitting at the head of his dining room table, napkin tucked into his shirt, asking for a piece of bread with butter to catch whatever sauce was left on his plate. As far as I can remember, when I ate with him, there was always bread at dinner for this purpose. I was a neurotic child who liked everything separate on my plate so I could eat things in order from least to most tasty, so I’m pretty sure I gave him some horrified looks when he did this. He would tell me that everything ended up in the same place, so why not eat it all together. I couldn’t argue with that logic, and I’ve since picked up his habits.
This rye bread has a hearty, chewy texture. The recipe starts with grated potato, salt, sugar, and water boiled for fifteen minutes. You then pour this over the rye flour and let it cool before adding yeast. This sits overnight at room temperature, giving the rye flour and yeast time to hang out and ferment, creating a rich and complex flavor similar to sourdough bread.
The next day you add the rest of the ingredients and knead it into a smooth dough. The original recipe called for adding shortening at this phase, but I decided to skip since the dough already smelled amazing and felt like most of the bread doughs I’ve successfully made. The bread turned out delicious, so I think you can also skip it. The dough rises once, then you divide it into two loaves, let it rise again in bread pans, and bake for thirty minutes.
The result is a hearty loaf of bread that has a simple list of ingredients but has a complex flavor that you just don’t get from packaged sandwich bread. We devoured both loaves, buttering it for breakfast and making cucumber-avocado-hummus-tomato sandwiches for dinner. And you can’t beat that freshly baked bread smell when they come out of the oven.
- ½ russet potato, grated
- 2 cups water
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ¼ cup rye flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon caraway seed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- Combine the potato, 2 cups water, ½ tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and boil for 15 minutes.
- Add the rye flour to a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling ingredients over it and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cool for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water and ½ teaspoon sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add it to the rye flour mixture. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture is no longer lumpy. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit overnight.
- Add the caraway seed, sugar, salt, all-purpose flour and water to the sponge. Stir with a wooden spoon, then turn out onto a floured counter and knead until the batter is smooth, five to ten minutes. Return to the mixing bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Turn dough out onto counter and divide into two equal halves. Place in oiled bread pans and let it rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake for 1 hour, or until loaves are browned on top. To test doneness, you can take a loaf out of a pan and knock on the bottom. If you hear a hollow sound, the bread is done.