You pulled your rye preferment out while coffee was brewing, right? Good. After about an hour it should be ready to be built into a couple of generous loaves of rye bread.
I love the flavor of rye. I don’t like the “kitchen sink” approach to many of them. You know, with caraway, coffee, molasses, and the like. I don’t like leaden rye breads, nor do I like those whose consistency is basically Wonder Bread masquerading as something good. This one strikes a path down the middle. It has plenty of rye flour for great flavor, and also some whole wheat for additional texture (it has a gluten content of 14%) and nutrition. The balance consists of unbleached bread flour to lighten things up.
I love, love, love dill with rye – fresh dill, dill seed. I chopped up some fresh dill fronds to add at the very end of the kneading period, then sprinkled the tops of the loaves with dill seeds. Heavenly.
This is a good, moist bread, so it’s a good keeper. Cool completely before storing in a plastic bag.
RYE BREAD WITH DILL
Make 2 generous loaves
16 ounces warm water (90 degrees)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant)
1 tablespoon honey
All of the preferment
1 cup stone-ground rye flour (dark, if possible)
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached bread flour, plus 1/2 cup retained
1 tablespoon salt
2 ounces soft butter*
1/4 cup fresh dill fronds, chopped
1 egg beaten (to brush loaves before baking)*
2 tablespoons dill seeds for garnish
2 teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt
Grinds of black pepper
*A note to my vegan friends: substitute olive oil for the butter, and brush or spray the loaf with water before garnishing.
- Measure water into bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Whisk it in. Whisk in the honey.
- Add the preferment, rye flour, whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt, and soft butter. Mix on low speed until all dry ingredients are hydrated. Stop the mixer and lower the bowl. Don’t worry if the dough looks shaggy and moist and not like a dough yet. Wrap a piece of plastic around the top of the bowl. Allow it to autolyse for 20 minutes. Rye and whole wheat flours contain large particles – pinch up a bit of each one and rub between your fingers to feel how much more coarse they are than bread flour. It takes a while for them to fully hydrate. The autolyse allows them to take up moisture outside of the stress of kneading, which can actually prevent them from fully hydrating by squeezing them.
- After the rest period, have an additional 1/2 cup of bread flour next to the mixer. Remove the plastic, set it aside because you’ll re-use it, raise the bowl, and begin kneading on low speed. If the dough is reluctant to come together and leave the sides of the bowl within about a minute, stop the mixer and add the additional bread flour. Also add the fresh dill at this point. Begin kneading again on low speed. As soon as all the additional flour has been incorporated, dough should leave the sides of the bowl. Don’t worry if some strands of dough remain stuck to the bowl. Remember, rye flour is sticky. Stop kneading at this point. If you continue, expecting that the dough is going to completely clean the sides of the bowl as many doughs do, you’ll actually begin so squeeze water out of the dough. I call this “shagging out.” It turns back into a sticky mess that looks like the initial mix, and you have to start heaving flour into the bowl to try to bring it back together, which will ultimately result in a heavy, dry, bread. So stop while you’re ahead, okay?
- Either oil or pan spray a mixing bowl large enough to permit the dough to double in size. Scrape the dough into the bowl with a plastic scraper and turn it over once. Cover with your piece of plastic and allow to proof at room temperature until doubled. This may take a couple of hours.
- Rye bread is typically given a long, oval torpedo-like shape called a batârd. To shape your dough, turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide in half with a bench scraper. Shape each half into a torpedo shape just long enough to fit the short way on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Set loaves a good distance apart. Drape with your piece of plastic and allow to proof until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- After a half hour of proofing, set oven to 375 degrees. Whisk an egg in a small bowl.
- Bread is ready to bake when you can gently poke it with a finger, and the dough retains the indentation.
- Brush loaves with beaten egg. Sprinkle with dill seeds, coarse salt, and pepper. Use a serrated knife held at an acute angle to make 4 or 5 slashes straight across the tops of the loaves, about 1/2″ deep.
- Place loaves in oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the half-way point. Bread is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees.
- When done, remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack. Cool for 30 minutes before slicing for a magnificent sandwich.