We are a bit of a sucker for baking rye bread here at doughies. It is probably our single favourite sourdough to both bake and eat. So much so we are seriously considering becoming a rye only microbakery (comments below please!). In short we think it is rye-tastic. We currently do a 100% russian type rye, in small (400g) and large (800g) made with a rye starter, proofed and baked in a tin.
Rye is a low gluten bread, and behaves differently to wheat breads. Rye is the goose of the grain world. Just as geese do not take to industrial battery farming well (only flourishing free range) rye does not take to industrial Chorleywood bread production processes well (only flourishing as a slow sourdough). But with some slow fermentation bakers can unlock and nurture the low gluten into something special.
Of course, not all rye you buy is in fact 100% rye. As rye bread does not conform to wheat bread processes, it is quite common for bakers to add a proportion of wheat to increase workability. So you might have a 80% rye, 20% wheat loaf; or a 70:30; or a 50:50. But when does it stop being a rye bread? Does a 30% rye 70% wheat loaf still class as a rye bread? We don’t think so, which is why we prefer the 100% type recipes
Rye is the traditional bread of Eastern Europe. There are some fantastic variations out there which we’ve been trailing, like the Danish Rye Bread [RUGBRØD] – a seeded multigrain rye from the Danes, the Russian Rye Bread [Bordinsky] – a caraway/coriander rye from the Russians and Ankerstock – a sweet rye bread originating from Sweden.
At home, doughies are fond of rye based breakfast and lunch – where you toast a slice of dark rye bread and top it with whatever you have (seasonal veg, fish, cheese – you name it). The concept of a foundational rye open sandwich or “smørrebrød” is again very common in Eastern Europe in particular (as well as elsewhere) – and an inseparable part of Danish and Icelandic food culture.
The concept of growing rye (for our rye breads) is a tantalising thought here at doughies.
I came across this old grain map in an old pocket atlas the other day – you can see the strip of rye cultivation across north eastern Europe where rye bread is commonplace.
As you can see, the highlands of Scotland are well placed to grow rye, being a similar lattitude to the Eastern Europe rye heartland, along with the more familiar grain of oats. Crofters in the West Highlands would typically have sown a landrace of small oats and black rye. This year on the croft we have sown some trial plots of Rye and Oats, as we slowly re-discover some grain growing skills.
To this end, we were excited to read that the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) are hoping to run a practical course on Uist this Autumn titled “Traditional Stooking and Seed Harvesting Techniques” – 2 days spent with Uist crofters, consisting of talks & seed harvesting machinery demos, hands-on stook building session, croft & field visits. We have registered and hope it runs [if anyone is interested the course is £80 for 2 full days (meals not included) – contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01343 209384 to register interest]
As some may know, we collect waste bread from the Deli, and [though it doesn’t happen much because we are not the only people who love rye…] – when we get waste Rye back, we’ve been experimenting with making a fermented drink called Kvass.
And its quite something….
Refreshing; simple; low alcohol; scrumptious; honest.
Below is the process in photos, but in summary here’s what we do:-
- Slice and toast the waste rye bread (we’ve been doing this post bake as the hot oven stones naturally cool, to save on energy). The darker the toast, the darker the Kvass.
- You crumble the rye toast and steep under boiling water for 24hours [it starts to smell rather nice at this point…]
- Then you strain the mash (thru a strainer and/or cheese clothe), and end up with a bucket full of sweet smelling rye tea.
- At this point, the pigs squeal and receive some tasty rye mash; and we add a good dollup of sourdough culture to the rye tea, and sit it in a warm place for 24-36hours.
- And the Kvass simply bubbles away, turning the sugary rye tea into a low alcoholic waste rye beverage.
- We then put it into a recycled 5l jug and it sits in a fridge for a few days (the longer the better) until we can’t hold back any longer and have a taste – it keeps 2-3months in the fridge, and gets better as the jugs slowly (or quickly) empties….