Caraway Rye the Way I Remember It

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:



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.









Hearty Multigrain Multiseed Bread

Yes, bread baking can be addictive.  Having stocked up on my favorite Bob’s Red Mill flours and having baked both a Sesame Semolina loaf and an Artisan crusty loaf in the past three days, I was inspired to harken back to my favorite, most toothsome loaf first created before I started this blog in the winter of 2015.

This is another loaf that employs the magic of Dutch oven baking, and, because I love the texture and seedfullness of this loaf for sandwiches, I make it a very large boule – a full 2-1/2 lbs.  Yes, it can be halved with minor adjustment to the baking time, but it also freezes beautifully if you want to cut half and store it.

Hearty Multigrain Multiseed Bread


IMG_3792 2



1/2 cup Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf

2 cups boiling water

1 tbsp SAF instant yeast or other quick-acting yeast

2 cups AP flour

1-2/3 cups whole wheat flour

2/3 cup semolina flour or rye flour

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Seeds: mix together 2 tsp each sesame, poppy, flax and caraway and 1-1/2 tbsp sunflower

1 egg white lightly beaten


Stand mixer with 5-quart bowl, paddle attachment, and dough hook

another 5-quart mixing bowl

7-quart cast iron Dutch oven

parchment paper

cooling rack


Place Kashi pilaf in stand mixer bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  let sit until lukewarm, about 18 minutes.  Meanwhile, in your other bowl combine all the flours, sugar, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and all but 1 tbsp of the seed mix.

Sprinkle 1 tbsp yeast over the cooled water/Kashi mix and add 1 cup of the flour mixture, stirring until smooth.  Using the paddle attachment on your mixture, gradually add the remaining flour on low speed to form your dough.  Cover with plastic wrap or cotton towel and let rest 15 minutes, then need with your dough hook at #2 speed for 10 minutes.

Lightly oil the 5 quart mixing bowl, add the dough, cover and let rise about one hour until doubled.  On a floured surface, punch the dough down and shape into a boule.  Place a large piece of parchment into your 5-quart bowl, move the boule onto the parchment-lined bowl, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining tbsp reserved seeds mixed with 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Cut three shallow slashes with a sharp knife across the top.  Cover again and let rest 30 minutes.

Place your Dutch oven in the center of your oven and preheat to 450.  After 30 minutes, very carefully move the loaf in its sling into your Dutch oven, place the lid back on, reduce oven temperature to 400 and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake another 25 minutes until crust is a deep golden brown.  Internal dough temperature should be 200-205.

Set loaf on a rack to cool and enjoy after about an hour.






Dutch Oven Artisan Bread



The pain in my right thumb was well worth the minimal effort that went into baking this latest loaf of Dutch oven bread.  After heating my Le Creuset Dutch oven for 30 minutes  during the final rise of my loaf, I gently placed the dough in its parchment sling into the oven and then reached for the lid – without my mitt.  Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

But the rest of the process in turning out this loaf was a breeze.  Simply put – combined 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour with 1/2 tsp SAF yeast, 2 tsp kosher salt, and 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stirred with a wooden spoon and covered with plastic wrap.  Went about my business for the next 10 hours.

Put my 6-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven with lid into the oven to preheat at 450.  Turned out the dough onto a generously floured sheet of parchment, floured my hands, and shaped it into a ball.  It flattened a bit as I released it and then covered it loosely with plastic wrap for another 30 minutes.

Final handling step – sprinkling some more flour over the top of the dough, moved it in its parchment sling into screaming hot Dutch oven, and lightly scored the top with a sharp knife.  Piut the lid back on – this time with my mitt – and baked, covered for 30 minutes.  then removed the lid and finished baking for 12 minutes.

Why buy when this is so easy and beautiful?  The key is placing your dough in a preheated Dutch oven where the steam that’s released creates this gorgeous final rise. The final 12 minutes give you a golden crisp crust.  Waiting a few minutes before slicing – can’t wait!

What I’ve learned about bread baking this winter

As I have mentioned, this endless record-breaking winter has had us encased in snow and ice – picture the White Wall guarded by the Knight’s Watch on Game of  Thrones.  This has awakened my cocooning instincts big-time, with freshly baked loaves out of the oven every two or three days.

I’ve learned a few things that have made this easier, more economical, and more successful:

  1. Use SAF Instant Yeast and buy it in at least the 1 lb package from Amazon.  This is what the professionals use.  It produces a quick rise, removes the need to proof the yeast separately from your dry ingredients – just add it to the flour – and it will keep fresh indefinitely in a tightly sealed ziploc bag in your freezer. Just spoon out what you need and put the rest back in the freezer.  Way more economical than those ridiculous 3-packet envelopes at the supermarket.  The 1 lb package goes for about $7.50.  And if you’re really into it, the 2 lb is about $11.  Check it out
  2. You can use all-purpose flour in lieu of bread flour if you also keep a box of Vital Wheat Gluten on hand.  Definitely not for those observing a gluten-free diet, but 1 tsp per cup of AP flour is all you need to restore the texture and rise you’d get from bread flour.
  3. If you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (or other brand), use it with the paddle attachment to gently stir your dough ingredients together, and then use the dough hook instead of your arm strength to do the kneading.
  4. Bake your big round loaves in a Dutch oven.  Honestly, this is the key to producing an artisan loaf without the fuss of water-spritzing or using a water-filled baking pan under your baking sheet.  30 minutes covered, 25 minutes uncovered, all at 400 degrees – has worked for me every time.  But if you use this method…
  5. …then buy a roll of parchment paper.  Put your shaped loaf on it before the final rise and transfer it in the parchment to your Dutch oven.  Otherwise, it will be impossible getting that loaf out cleanly and you’ll lose your bottom crust.  Trust me from a lesson learned the hard way.
  6. If you’re adventurous about trying multigrain breads, realize that whole wheat and whole grain flours need lots of encouragement to rise.  That calls for more of that Vital Wheat Gluten than you’d use with simply all-purpose white flour – 1-1/2 tsp per cup for that other flour.  And give it plenty of time to rise or your loaf will be puny and dense (another lesson learned)
  7. Pizza dough made with some semolina flour will produce a chewy rising crust that’s so much better than those limpid crusts that turn soggy under a mound of sauce, cheese, and toppings.  And no need for a pizza stone – I use a sturdy Wilton baking sheet with a rim on one side (for easy grabbing) and press the dough out into one giant somewhat rectangular crust.
  8. You can make the most gorgeous 6-braid challah by dividing challah dough into two portions, one almost twice as large as the other.  Then roll out your ‘snakes’ to be braided into two loaves and place the smaller one atop the larger for final rise and baking.  A bit of egg wash lightly brushed atop the larger loaf will help keep the top one from sliding askew, and you’ll get a loaf that looks like thisIMG_0254
  9. Seeds – sesame, poppy, caraway, flax, sunflower – they all taste great in your bread and look lovely on top.  Buy them in bulk at a health foods store or online source – never in those small spice jars.

Time to go check on that focaccia dough that’s rising. Right now it looks like thisIMG_0309 Hope this has been helpful.

And yet another bread – High Rise Focaccia



IMG_0312Whole Foods sells gorgeous hunks of high-rise focaccia bread from Iggy’s for about $8 for a good-sized piece, enough for a few sandwiches or the bread-board alongside your dinner. I wanted to make my own, and deveoped this easy, no-knead recipe a couple of years ago.  First tried it in a 3″ deep roasting pan, and then – Eureka! – in a large loaf pan.  The result – focaccia for a pittance, minimal effort, maximal results.  Mine is topped with sautéed onions and rosemary, but you can simply add a bit of olive oil and salt if you prefer to leave out the topping.

High Rise Caramelized Onion Focaccia


2 cups lukewarm water

1 envelope active dry yeast

4 cups unbleached bread flour

2 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 medium sweet onion halved and sliced thinly

Salt & pepper to taste


In large mixing bowl, stir the yeast to dissolve. Stir in 2 cups flour and 2 tsp salt and stir briskly until smooth, about 2 minutes. With strong wooden spoon, stir in remaining 2 cups flour for another 2 minutes, until dough pulls aways from sides of bowl and flour is incorporated. Dough will be fairly wet and tacky, but when it pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a loose ball, it has been stirred sufficiently.

Cover bowl with plastic and let rise in warm place about one hour.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion and rosemary in one tbsp olive oil, with salt & pepper to taste, until onion is just beginning to turn golden.

Preheat oven to 500.

Brush bottom and sides of 9 x 5″ large loaf pan (I use a larger Dansk Kobenstyle that makes a very large loaf) with remaining tbsp olive oil and pour dough into it, very gently pressing it out to the sides. NOTE:  Alternatively, lightly oil the loaf pan and line it with a parchment paper sling before pouring in the dough.  Spread the onion mixture over the dough, lightly sprinkle with a bit more sea salt, and gently poke all over with one finger to form shallow depressions. Cover and allow to rise another 30 minutes.

Place bread on center rack in preheated oven and reduce heat to 400. Bake 30-35 minutes until nicely browned. Cool in pan on rack about 20 minutes, then loosen around sides with metal spatula and gently slide spatula under the loaf to remove from pan. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.