We always have Reuben sandwiches for St. Patrick's day, as it incorporates corned beef and cabbage without actually eating corned beef and cabbage. I've tried unsuccessfully several times to make rye bread. Well, I was successful in making bread from rye flour, but it's been either too dense, too hard or both. I tried many recipes off the web, with no success. What I've been hoping to achieve is a soft sandwich rye, similar to Beefsteak rye. Yes, I know, the purists out there will claim this isn't real rye bread. It's too soft, the crumb is too fine and the crust is too thin. Yeah. Exactly. I don't like trying to make a sandwich out of rustic, hard, crumbly rye bread.
So, it finally hit me today. I needed to do two things. 1. I needed to modify a recipe I was already comfortable with, just incorporating rye flour, molasses and caraway seeds. And 2, I needed a little help, in the form of a secret ingredient.
You see, no matter what, any addition of rye flour is going to change the structure of the bread. It all comes down to gluten. Rye flour doesn't have any, or at least it has very little. The answer is to add gluten. Duh.
So, without further ado, here's what I came up with:
2 cups filtered or bottled water, at 110˚
1.5 TB active dry yeast
2/3 cup molasses
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 cup light oil (I used light olive oil)
4TB Vital wheat Gluten with vitamin C. (I used Hodgson's Mills)
2TB caraway seeds. (You can grind these in a spice grinder if you don't like the seeds. This will also give a little more "rye" flavor)
2 cups rye flour
4 cups AP flour
I used a stand mixer, but this can be done by hand if you're man (or Woman) enough. It takes a LOT of kneading.
Put your tepid water, molasses and yeast in the mixer bowl, stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes. (heat your molasses with your water so it's all at 110˚ degrees, or basically warm without being hot) Once it's foamy, add your salt, oil, wheat gluten, caraway seeds and rye flour. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium until a thick batter is formed. Switch to the dough hook and add 2 cups of the AP flour. This is the beginning of the kneading process, so stay on a lower speed. Make sure all the flour gets incorporated. I had to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Once this first dose of flour is incorporated, add another cup and incorporate. This is where I usually stop adding flour and let it knead for a few minutes. The dough will still be really sticky and adhere to the bottom of the bowl, which will actually help since I only have the old fashioned C hook. Once the dough breaks free from the bowl with the final addition of flour, it won't knead as effectively, just kinda clinging to the hook and spinning around. After 5 or 6 minutes, check your dough. It should be still sticky (remember we have another cup of flour to go) and should be elastic. You should be able to stretch it without breaking. You won't get the "windowpane" membrane that you would with a pizza dough, but it should be close. Here's where it comes down to "feel". You'll want to add flour a quarter cup at a time JUST UNTIL THE DOUGH CEASES TO STICK TO THE BOWL. If it's an exceptionally dry day, or the AC is cranked on high, you may not need the whole last cup. If it's really humid or raining, you may need all of it and a little more. You're looking for it to be just dry enough to not stick to the bowl, but it should still be slightly sticky to your hands. If you add too much flour, it'll be too dense and dry a loaf. Once you get the consistency right, you can knead with the machine for another 3 minutes or by hand for another 2 days or so (I did mention it needs a lot of kneading, right?) until your dough feels very pliable and elastic. At this point you should be able to get a pretty good "windowpane". (if you have no idea what I'm talking about here, its when you take a small amount of dough and stretch it out in your fingers like you're making a tiny pizza, forming a thin membrane you can see light through. It should do this without tearing too easily)
Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and form a ball, turning it under itself until you have a smooth tight skin on the outside. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, turning it over a couple times until the dough ball is evenly coated with oil. You'll want the seam side down and the smooth skin side up. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and put in a warm place for an hour or so until it doubles in size. I turn my oven light on right when I first start the breadmaking process and it warms my oven to 75˚ or 80˚. You can also turn your oven on for 1 minute, then off to warm it up a little. This rise can take up to 2 hours. You're really going for double in size.
When it's doubled in size, turn it out on a LIGHTLY floured surface and punch it down to work out any large bubbles. This is a good time to start preheating your oven to 350˚. Divide your dough into 2 equal sections and form into loaves, doing the same thing turning it under itself until it forms a tight skin. Put these into 2 lightly oiled loaf pans and let sit until it's an inch or so over the sides of the pan. This will take a half hour to an hour.
Once the 2nd rise is completed, take your sharpest knife or a razor blade and make 3 shallow diagonal slashes across the tops of the loaves. This is optional, but it makes it pretty and adds texture. Then I like to spray it with a fine mist of olive oil as I think it helps it brown, You can use butter, or nothing, it's up to you. Bake at 350˚ for APPROXIMATELY 30 minutes.
I say approximately for several reasons. Your oven may not be exactly at 350˚. Your oven may be dirty (GASP, it happens to the best of us). Your oven may be old and cook unevenly. Your humidity may affect the bake time. Saturn and the moon may not be in proper alignment that day. Your best bet is to start checking the internal temperature at around 25 minutes and bake until it reaches 200˚-205˚. Lower temp will give a slightly denser, moister loaf. Higher temp will give a lighter loaf. The top should be brown and the bottom should sound hollow when thumped. Cool for 30 minutes or so and enjoy!