Onion Rye


300 grams Rye Starter Note 1
300 grams Water
500 grams High Protein Bread Flour Note 2
500 grams Coarse Rye Meal Note 3
500 grams Water
1250 grams High Protein Bread Flour
250 grams Light Rye Flour
20 grams Instant Dry Yeast (To 25 G)
50 grams Salt
150 grams Brown Sugar
500 grams Water (To 600 G)
200 grams Roasted Chopped Onion Note 4
100 grams Caraway Seed
50 grams Charnushka Seeds Note 5


I am happy to share my rye recipe. It is adapted from a formula used by the American team in the Coup du Monde bread baking competition in Paris a few years back. It is a bit elaborate, and also requires some less than common ingredients. I am including notes and commentary for your edification. The formula is for about a 10.5# batch. It can easily be cut back to a smaller batch, although ideally you should end up with total dough weight divisible by 18 oz. (which is a fun math challenge since the formula is expressed in metric measures). I recommend a good scale to any baker who doesn't have one.
Soaker and Pre-ferment should be made approximately 8 hours ahead of dough preparation. Each should be covered after preparation to avoid surface drying. Preferment should be well risen, and just starting to recede, when ready to use. (I have cheated and made the dough only after about 4-6 hours. I have also been distracted and not made the dough for 12 or 16 hours. These variations are not recommended, although the end product was still pretty good.)
Combine initial dry ingredients first. Whisk with your hand or wire whisk to disperse yeast, salt and sugar. Add preferment, soaker and about 2/3 of water and mix at low speed to incorporate all, about 2-3 minutes. Add onion, mix at low speed for another minute or so until incorporated. At this point, dough should be fairly firm, maybe even a bit overly dry with some excess flour still remaining unincorporated. Goal with a rye dough is to have a heavy, well-developed but still slightly sticky end product. Rye is sticky stuff. If dough is too dry, add most/all of remaining water, a little at a time, until
Usual rising and proofing rules: Initial rise in lightly oiled bowl, covered, until doubled (you can actually do this two or even three times). Punch down. Divide into one and one-half pound pieces
(approx.). You then want to form log-shaped loaves about 8 or so inches long.
(Shaping is the hardest thing for me to do, let alone explain, so just make your loaves about half the height and width and 2/3 the length you hope to end up with, by folded letter or rolled out ball methods or whatever works for you, doing your best to end up with a well sealed seam and nicely rounded ends. Many bread baking books have helpful pictures that try to show you what to do. There is no substitute for repeated experience, however).
Lay out each loaf, seam side down, on parchment paper-covered baking sheets, lightly sprinkled with polenta or coarse-ground corn meal. Preheat oven at this point to 375F.
Allow loaves to rise, covered, for an hour or so, until nearly doubled. Brush loaves with egg wash mixture (1 large egg + 2T water).
Slash tops of loaves near each end and in the middle, perpendicular to length of loaf, with lame or extremely sharp knife, and immediately put trays in oven. (For crisper, chewier crust, increase initial oven temp to 425F; spray oven with water right before trays go in, when they go in, after two minutes, after four minutes and after another minute, reducing temp to 375F after initial five minutes or when loaves first start to show color). Bake for 15-17 minutes, turn trays to avoid uneven baking, then bake for another 15-17 minutes until loaves are deeply browned. They are ready, as so many baker/authors explain, when a tap on the bottom yields a hollow sound and a ther
#1: Starter is a challenge all by itself. You can start from scratch by combining a few ounces of water and an equal weight of light rye flour and let it sit out uncovered for a few days in the hope that enough wild yeast will populate the mixture to begin the fermentation process. If it takes, you add more flour and water (again in equal proportions) to build the starter, and continue to do so over several days (always doubling the amounts or dumping half or more of the earlier quantity), until you end up with a starter that rises and bubbles up well within 4-6 hours after a feeding. There is no need to use anything but flour and water. Some purists rail against any added ingredients. Others suggest a start with a pinch of domesticated
As an alternative to starting from scratch, you can take an established white starter and convert it to rye, i.e. start feeding with rye instead of white flour over a period of several days, until the rye is predominant. If you feed and dump, eventually all the white stuff will disappear, leaving a pure rye culture.
If your starter is very active, use the lesser amount of yeast mentioned in the recipe (or even a little less); the more active the starter, the greater the leavening power it has in the preferment.
#2: You want to use a high protein bread flour (plain bread flour, with an ounce or so per pound of wheat gluten added, will do nicely) because an enzyme in the onions tends to break down the gluten too much otherwise. Also, the rye flour in the recipe has very little or no gluten forming capacity. What happens to your beautifully formed loaves when the gluten decays excessively during the proof stage is not very attractive. Trust me. I know my friend George Greenstein ("Secrets Of A Jewish Baker") says to use "first clear flour." George even sent me some, and it is good stuff (if you can find it). It is not, however, high in protein. So use it in other rye bread recipes, but not if you are going to use onions.
#3: Available from Bob's Red Mill. Use meal if possible because it gives the bread a nice texture. If you must, you can go with a course rye flour as an alternative.
#4: Two to three medium yellow onions, chopped into about an 1/8" to 1/4" dice, mixed well with 2-3T olive oil, should be spread on a baking tray and placed into a 400F oven. After 20 minutes, you want to pull the tray, move the onion together into a pile, turn and re-spread them. Roast for another 15 minutes at 350F. Go through the same process again, and turn oven down to 250F for another 20-30 minutes. The goal here is to get your onions well carmelized and cooked-down to 1/4 or less of their original volume. I suppose you could use dehydrated onions and save the work, but I never have. The total amount of onion you use in this recipe is a matter of taste. Roasted onions should be totally
#5: Spelling of the word varies. Available from Penzey's or locally (in Portland) from Oregon Spice Co. Good luck trying to find it at any grocery store. Also known as black caraway, nigella or nigella sativa seeds. Not to be confused with black onion seeds which are a totally different creature. Chernushka seeds are small and roundish with a distinctive smoky flavor. A good rye should not omit them.
Comments:Don't waste your time or money on rye bread or pumpernickel mixes or other overpriced crap. If you want a dark rye, add a few grams of cocoa powder, molasses, instant coffee powder or black shoe polish-or a little of each
(just kidding about the shoe polish). If you can find it, liquid or crystal caramel coloring ought to do the trick as an alternative. In my opinion, there is no real difference between light and dark rye-the latter has just been colored. Although I don't have the facts on this, my theory is that dark rye was created by some old Russian for the sole purpose of hiding the arguably unattractive grayish color of natural rye.
A word on "sour" taste. A good bread which uses sour dough starter should be slightly tangy, not intensely sour. This rye recipe will have that tangy characteristic (which the caraway tends to emphasize). Any mature starter used in a slowly fermented dough will add this quality. Personally, the thought of adding souring agents to any bread is abhorrent (and will throw off the pH balance of the dough). Those who think that real sourdough must be really sour (think factory made San Francisco "Sour") have fallen prey to such additives. If you think I am making this up, check the ingredient




2.0 servings


February 12, 2010



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