Caraway Rye Bread from ‘The Bread Bible’

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summary: recipe for caraway rye bread based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Bread Bible” rye bread; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

rye bread The last time I made caraway rye bread, I used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking. We really like it. But as I was leafing through The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, I noticed her recipe for rye bread. A recipe that looked too good.

She had me with the introduction:

Whenever my father had an excuse to return to the Bronx, he’d never come back without a freshly baked loaf from his favourite bakery. I liked the rye bread, studded with constellations of caraway seeds, best. My grandmother, who lived with us, would serve it to me spread thickly with unsalted btutter, the top paved with rounds of sliced red radishes […]

It has taken me years to get my rye bread to taste and feel just right. I like a wheaty flavor with not so much rye that it becomes bitter, and a chewy texture that is not so dense it becomes pasty.

– Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Bread Bible, page 324

How could I not try this bread? And so, after making a trip to the Bulk Barn to get some rye flour, on the evening before I planned to be baking the bread, I started with the first step…

Bread flour?! She uses strong bread flour for rye bread?? Ha. That’s silly (I said to myself). I decided to just use unbleached all-purpose flour. And rather than use the volume measurements, I decided to use my digital scale and began putting together the preferment.

Rrrrrr… my scale doesn’t register fractions of grams! I had to use measuring spoons for the yeast. After stirring the ingredients together in one of our casserole dishes, I put the lid overtop and put the bowl on the counter. And read the next part of the recipe.

When. Will. I. Learn. To. Read. The. Whole. Recipe. Before. Starting?! :stomp:

Beranbaum says to leave this first bowl to sit as you mix together the rest of the ingredients for the bread. Yes! This is a same day recipe.

But no matter. I decided it couldn’t possible hurt to leave this first part on the counter overnight.

The next morning, I started to mix together the rest of the ingredients – flour, yeast, salt. Rrrrrr. There was no more water to be added. I use active dry yeast, not the instant yeast called for in the recipe. So I rehydrated the yeast in a tiny amount of water before dropping it onto the top of the starter. And then as per Beranbaum’s instructions, I carefully spooned the flour mixture overtop.

I should mention that I decided maybe it wasn’t silly use strong bread flour and decided to use it for the second part. I also decided to add a little whole wheat flour too. Even though it’s not called for.

I’m happy to report that I hardly strayed any more from the recipe instructions. Unless you count leaving the kneaded dough in the fridge overnight, because it wouldn’t double after being shaped until way past my bedtime. :lalala:

Early the next morning, I pulled it out of the fridge to bring up to room temperature. If you can call 15C room temperature. And shaped it into two loaves. They looked to be on the small side. (No wonder. *cough* It turns out that this amount of dough is supposed to make one largish loaf.)

rye bread Instead of scissors, I used our serrated long-bladed bread knife to slash. In the past, whenever I have tried slashing, I’ve had problems with the blade sticking. But there are troubleshooting notes in Daniel Leader’s book Local Breads (another recent Christmas present) that came in particularly handily.

Move your blade through the dough with quick, simple strokes rather than dragging it. Wet your knife with water before every slash, because a wet blade will cut through the dough more easily. – Daniel Leader, “Local Breads”, page 102

It’s true that my slashing technique still needs work. But I quite like the look of the results anyway. And the way that the slashes filled in make it so each bread slice is uniformly shaped.

The most important thing to mention though is that this is the best rye bread we’ve had. Thank you, Rose Levy Beranbaum!!

This is what I did to her recipe:

Caraway Rye Bread
based on the recipe for “Levy’s” Real Jewish Rye Bread in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

makes 2 medium sized loaves


  • scant ½ tsp (1.6 gm) active dry yeast*
  • 354gm lukewarm water**
  • 19gm sugar
  • 5gm malt powder
  • 117gm unbleached all-purpose flour***
  • 95gm dark rye flour***

Actual Dough

  • all of the above starter
  • splash (~15gm) water
  • ½ tsp (2gm) active dry yeast
  • 270 gm unbleached bread flour***
  • 70 gm whole wheat flour***
  • 14 gm caraway seeds
  • 11 gm (½ Tbsp) seasalt
  • 11 gm (½ Tbsp) sunflower oil


  1. Starter On the evening before making the bread: In a medium sized bowl, mix the yeast with the lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist). Whisk together until dissolved and creamy looking.
  2. Add the malt, sugar and flour and using a wooden spoon, stir together until it is smooth. This is pretty sloppy mixture. Notice that you’re supposed to start mixing the rest of the dough now. Pretend you haven’t noticed that. Cover the bowl and leave it on the countertop in a draught-free area (if your kitchen temperature is warm, put it in the fridge) until the next morning.
  3. Actual Dough On the next morning (the day for making the bread): In a small bowl whisk yeast into tiny amount of water until the mixture looks creamy and set aside.
  4. In a largish bowl, mix together the flours, caraway seeds and salt.
  5. Spoon the yeast mixture on top of the starter. Then carefully spoon the flour mixture overtop of that. Cover the bowl and place it in a warmish no-draught area (oven with only the light turned on in winter; counter in summer). Leave it for 4 hours. Beranbaum notes that some of the starter might begin to ooze up through the flour mixture but not to worry if it does. Don’t worry if it doesn’t either.
  6. After the 4 hours is up, add the oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir everything together until the dough pulls away from the bowl and the flour is pretty much encorporated. Cover and set aside to sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface. Wash and dry the bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  8. Without adding any extra flour, knead the dough until it is silky (about 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. Keep scraping any dough that is on the board so the board is always clear. If the dough seems too sticky (this can happen with rye flour mixtures) add traces of all purpose flour. Add as little extra flour as you can.
  9. Put the dough in the clean mixing bowl. No need to oil the bowl or the dough!! (Beranbaum says to oil the bowl AND the top of the dough) Cover and allow to rise in a no-draught area (warm room temperature) until it has doubled.
  10. When the dough has doubled, you can either gently push the dough down or you can shape the dough. A good way to tell if the dough has doubled is to wet your finger (use water, not spit :lalala:) and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  11. If your kitchen is cold and it’s already rather late in the day when the dough has doubled, gently push the dough down, cover it and put it in the fridge overnight. Take it out the next morning and let it sit for an hour or so to bring it up to room temperature.
  12. Shaping: To shape the bread, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Divide it in two even pieces (eyeball the cut; it doesn’t matter if it’s exact). Gently, but firmly, pat each piece into a narrow rectangle. Fold each one like a business letter: the top third down to the middle and the bottom third up to the top edge. Roll like a jelly roll and seal the seam. Place them seam side down on a parchment covered peel. Cover with a clean tea towel and a plastic bag overtop. Allow the loaves to rise until they have almost doubled (about an hour and a half). To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  13. Baking: Twenty minutes before you are going to bake, put a breadstone onto the middle rack and turn oven to 450F. (If you don’t have a bread stone, you can bake the bread on a cookie sheet.)
  14. Just before putting the bread in the oven, use a wet serrated knife to slash the tops. Then spray the loaves liberally with water. Put the bread in the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes until they are hollow sounding on the bottom. Turn the bread around once to account for uneven heat in the oven.
  15. Remove the bread from oven and allow to cool on a well ventilated rack. Wait til they are cool before cutting them. They are still continuing to bake inside!****
* I weighed the ingredients but every recipe in Beranbaum’s book has measurements by weight (grams & ounces) and volume. She also states the final percentages at the end of the recipe. Because our scale does not register fractions of grams, I used volume measures for the small amounts. Beranbaum calls for 1.6gm instant yeast, 18.7gm sugar, 4.6gm malt powder, etc. etc.

** Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave.

*** The all-purpose flour is “No Name” unbleached (about 11.5% protein). The dark rye flour was purchased at the Bulk Barn (no idea how much protein). The wholewheat flour is “Five Roses” at around 13% protein and the bread flour is “Robin Hood” ‘best for bread’ flour (about 13% protein). (Please note that a Canadian tablespoon holds 15ml and a Canadian teaspoon holds 5ml.)

**** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat uncut bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust perfectly.

rye bread I would love to have tried the bread with butter and sliced radishes. But we didn’t have any radishes…. Initially, I had thought we would be making Reuben sandwiches with it. But T was so thrilled with how light it was that we decided to serve it with goulash and steamed broccoli. It was brilliant!

We will be having the rest of the goulash tomorrow night and there won’t be any rye bread left for Reuben sandwiches. Darn. I guess I’ll just have to make more. (Remind me to make a double recipe.)

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3 responses to “Caraway Rye Bread from ‘The Bread Bible’

  1. Nancy (n.o.e.)

    Oh, how I love a good rye bread, especially toasted with butter. Yum! Your bread looks delicious, and I’ll bet it was perfect with that goulash.

    It was indeed all three of those things, Nancy! It was also good to toasted with goat’s cheese. The only bad thing about the bread is that it’s all gone. -Elizabeth

  2. Bob Evans

    In view of your comments about “smallish” loaves, I decided to make one large loaf. It worked well and had excellent taste and texture. The only question I have is in regard to the four hour waiting period after ladling the second yeast bit and the bread flour “carefully” on top of the starter and then waiting the four hours before adding the oil and kneading and shaping. Why the wait? If you have not mixed the yeast, starter and flour together yet, what happens during that period? Thanks.

    I’m glad to hear that making one loaf works, Bob. Many thanks for the report. As for the wait period before mixing the oil, rest of flour, etc. with the starter, I’m guessing that it is for flavour development in the starter. And maybe adding all the rest of the flour on top is just so you don’t forget how much flour you’ve already added? I’m afraid I have no idea and was merely following directions. I looked on rye bread ( to see if anyone else had a similar question. Alas, no. That particular thread is quite old but you could still try asking. -Elizabeth


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