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Did you know that during the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century), much of Europe, certainly the peasants, ate rye (or barley) bread?  Funny how things change.  Now, rye bread is enjoyed by almost everyone, and did I mention that it is the very foundation for that wonderful comestible called “The Reuben”?  Not only did the peasants eat rye bread, they ate “off” rye bread!  Loaves of rye, also known as trenchers, would be used as plates for other food.  This was not some delicate, light bread…no, no, no!  Yeast would not have been used to make bread, so you can imagine that these were not what we think of as even edible.  These were no nice little bread bowls!  The “plates” would be eaten, but only when they became saturated with sauces or gravy.  And trenchers were “classless”, since they were used by both upper and lower classes.

I’ve been working on perfecting a rye bread, but it’s been a challenge.  I wanted to use mashed potatoes, caraway and onion.  I tried a stuffed rye bread that had a terrific flavor, but it was heavy and not what I wanted.  And I tried a couple of others, but again, heavy and they just weren’t what I was looking for.  Then, I ran across this recipe from my sister.  She’s one fine baker and I realized I had several of her recipes, and this was one of them.  I have no idea what the origin of this recipe is, the recipe card simply says, “Suzanne’s Rye Bread”.  There it was…all the things I was looking for.  It has been there all the time and I just didn’t see it.   I cut her recipe in half, lest it too, went the route of the other ryes I had tried.  Needless to say, it didn’t.  This is the rye I’ve been looking for.  I did make a couple of changes to the method.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t proof yeast anymore.  I always add it to a small amount of flour, and that’s what I did here.  I also always add dry milk powder.  I used dark rye flour, but you may use light rye or pumpernickel…they all work equally well.  I think next time I make this, and there will be many next times, I’m going to add some poppy seeds and whole yellow mustard seeds, too.  Now, as they say, a picture is worth…a lot!

I make a “glue” with water and cornstarch that’s cooked, then cooled.  It should be about the consistency of pancake syrup.  This makes for a shiny, crisp crust that lets the seeds cling and not fall off.  I smear that on the loaf and sprinkle with Everything Bagel mixture.  Trader Joe’s® makes a good version, but I’ll post the one I make, later.  Bake at 375°F for about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 190°F.  Cool completely, if you can stand it, before cutting…fabulous aroma will permeate your kitchen…life smells good!

Potato-Rye Bread with Caraway & Onion

  • Servings: One large loaf
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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This is fabulous toasted and it freezes very well.

  • 3/4 cup dark or light rye flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons caraways seeds
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons black onion seeds (kalonji or nigella, optional)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vital gluten (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)
  • Large pinch ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (see NOTE)
  • 1 1/4 cups very warm (120°F) water or coffee
  • 2 tablespoons oil, butter, lard or bacon fat
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 1/2-3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons dry minced or chopped onions (toasted, if possible)

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the rye and all-purpose flour, kosher salt, instant yeast, dry milk powder, cocoa, seeds, vital gluten (if using) and ginger.  Give it a good stir to make certain the yeast is coated with flour.  Combine the potatoes, fat, molasses and very warm water.  Stir…I combine everything in a 2-cup glass measure.   Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and beat on  medium-low speed for about 2 minutes.   Change to the dough hook, add 2 1/2 cups of the bread flour and continue kneading until the dough comes together.  Add more flour, if needed.  The dough will be slightly sticky, but it should begin to clean the sides of the bowl.  Knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth, and no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl.  There may still be a bit in the very bottom of the bowl.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, push the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 35-45 minutes.
When the dough has risen, gently deflate it and plop it out onto a lightly floured surfact.  Shape it into a loaf and transfer to a greased loaf pan or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cover, loosely with plastic wrap; let rise until doubled in size again, about 30-35 minutes.  When the dough is close to being doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F.  Bake for 30-40 minutes (190°F internally), until crusty and golden brown.  Cool to room temperature before cutting.

NOTE:  If using dehydrated potato flakes, reconstitute 1/2 cup flakes with 1/4 cup water; stir and let stand for at least 5 minutes.  I usually do this in a 2-cup glass measure, then fill to the 1 3/4-cup level with hot water.  I add the molasses and fat (check the temperature-it should be around 120°F); stir and pour into the rye flour mixture in the mixing bowl and proceed with the recipe.  The black onion seeds, also called kalonji or nigella, are readily available at Indian markets.

Potato-Rye Bread with Caraway & Onion Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020.  All rights reserved.