When I grew up in Boston’s Jewish enclaves of Dorchester and Mattapan, there was a bakery thriving about every 1/4 mile down the stretch of Blue Hill Avenue, the main thoroughfare that was also populated with dress shops, candy stores, delicatessens, butcher shops, and corner drug stores.
Although my mother was an accomplished baker, she restricted her repertoire to pastries – often made with raised dough – and so our semiweekly purchases at the bakery were entirely breads, bagels and rolls. Her personal favorite and mine was the caraway rye, heavily seeded, and sometimes baked in a loaf pan which afforded us uniform slices for our corned beef or salami sandwiches, sometimes boule-shaped (a shape we simply called ’round’) for slices we’d slather with sweet butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.
I’d often eat a slice of the hearty, chewy bread just by itself, going first for all the middle parts, leaving that crisp, crusty framework for the end. And if the slice I got had that little paper sticker on it from the Bakers’ Union, all the better to have one last little thing to chew on. I was a kid, that’s what we did.
Those bakeries, like most of the little shops of my youth, live only in memory now. “When Pigs Fly” Bakery makes a toothsome rye in their extensive array of breads, sold at local supemarkets and in their few retail shops, but I find theirs a bit on the dry side, and shaped with slices too long and narrow to fashion a good sandwich.
After combing the internet for months and practicing the technique of no-knead Dutch oven bread, I think I’ve discovered a bread that unlocks the past for me. This is a very slow-rising bread that should be started the day before you want to bake it – a full 18 hours to allow the flavor and texture to develop. I started this dough at 1:30 yesterday afternoon and was ready to bake by 8am this morning, after preheating the oven for 30 minutes:
CARAWAY RYE THE WAY I REMEMBER IT
makes 1 2-lb loaf
1 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Rye Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Rye Flour
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek) or kefir, OR 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp + 2 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 tsp kosher salt
1-3/4 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp sugar
3/8 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other similar instant yeast
1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water
Combine the flours, the yogurt or kefir or buttermilk, 2 tbsp of caraway seeds, the vital wheat gluten and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl. Combine lukewarm water sugar and yeast in small bowl and let sit about 5 minutes until foam begins to form.
Stir yeast mixture into flour mixture until well combined, and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave it alone for the next 18 hours.
When ready to bake, place a 5-6 quart Dutch oven on center rack of oven and preheat to 450º. Meanwhile, transfer dough to a floured work surface and shape into a boule by turning and tucking ends under. Place that on a large sheet of parchment, wash out your large mixing bowl, and move the shaped dough in its parchment sling into the bowl. Brush lightly all over with your egg wash and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp caraway seeds. Cover with plastic and let rest 15 minutes while oven heats up.
Make three shallow slashes across the top of the loaf. Remove hot Dutch oven to a heat-safe surface, carefully place the dough in its sling inside, cover and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake another 16 minutes until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 200-205º in the center. Remove to a rack to cool at least an hour before slicing.