Most Americans think of rye bread as a vehicle for mustard-slathered corned beef or pastrami from neighborhood Jewish delis. But with heirloom grains and artisanal loaves on the rise, rye bread is having a renaissance of sorts in the United States. Rooted for centuries now in European carb culture, “each bread represents a terroir, in the sense that it encapsulates the economies, the agriculture, the lifestyle, the sensibilities and the social mores of each of its origins,” explains baker Stanley Ginsberg.
Beginners might try Ginsberg’s recipe for Swedish limpa from “The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America.” There are many variations of the classic limpa. Some are made from a mixture of wheat and rye flour, others exclusively from rye. It’s not uncommon to find dark loaves of Swedish rye spiced with anise, fennel and even accents of orange peel and citrus zest. Ginsberg’s recipe is a basic one, built on a yeast-leavened straight dough, which he says makes it both quick and easy to bake: “Milk tenderizes the crumb, and a bouquet of fragrant spices, light molasses and pure rye produce a loaf that’s sweet and richly aromatic.”
Yield: 2 loaves (about 1½ pounds each)
3½ tbsp unsalted butter
1⅔ cups whole milk, at room temperature (68–72°F)
⅜ cup warm water (105ºF)
½ cup light molasses, malt syrup or light corn syrup
2 tsps salt
1¼ tsps caraway seed, toasted and ground
1 tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground
½ anise seed, toasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
6⅔ cups medium rye flour
2 tsps instant yeast
flour, for dusting as needed
Prepare the milk: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the milk, water, syrup, salt and spices. Warm the mixture until it reaches 105°F.
Mix the dough: Combine the flour and yeast in a mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the warm spiced milk mixture and set the mixer speed to low (KA2) to form a smooth, firm dough, about 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a clean dish cloth. Allow to ferment at room temperature (68–72°F) or until the dough has visibly expanded, about 40–45 minutes.
Turn the dough, which will be only slightly sticky and very easy to handle, onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 2 portions weighing about 28 ounces each. each. Shape each portion into an oval loaf. Set the loaves on a well-floured peel, if using a baking stone, or a parchment-lined sheet pan. Cover and proof the dough at room temperature until the first cracks appear on the surface of the loaves, about 30–40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and center your baking surface on the middle rack. Bake both loaves until they thump when tapped with a finger. The internal temperature should be at least 198°F, about 35–40 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a rack and cool thoroughly before slicing.
“The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America” by Stanley Ginsberg. Copyright © 2016 by Stanley Ginsberg. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.