Almost No-Knead Rye Bread

If you follow my blog, you probably know that most of my bread recipes involve a bread machine. I often use its dough setting to make baking a whole lot easier and less kneading-intensive, pushing a button and walking away. An hour and a half later, the dough is ready to bake into flatbread, brioche, bagels, or focaccia.

Today’s recipe is a little different. It is a direct descendant of a recipe posted in the New York Times in 2006, then refined by America’s Test Kitchen two years later. No bread machine is necessary, and all the tools you need are a bowl, spoon, pastry board and dough scraper, along with a loaf pan and some parchment paper. It takes about twenty hours from start to finish, though most of this time is unattended. As such, you’ll probably want to make this a weekend project, preparing your dough one night and baking it the next day.

Traditional bread recipes call for lots of kneading, which causes the flour’s gluten molecules to bind together. The gluten forms an elastic network, producing a springy dough that begets a suitably chewy loaf of bread. This takes a good amount of elbow grease (or a fancy, expensive stand mixer) and requires some dough-whispering abilities that I sadly do not possess.

Thankfully, with almost-no-knead bread, water does most of the kneading for you. The magic of this recipe lies in its high moisture content — because the dough is so wet, the gluten molecules align themselves without much manipulation. The long rising period, as well as a half a cup of beer, guarantee a nicely fermented, yeasty flavor, and caraway seeds and dark rye flour add lots of savory, earthy aroma. Rye bread is one of my favorite breads — it is great simply toasted and spread with butter or cream cheese, as the base for a smoked salmon appetizer bite, or as a deluxe sandwich bread.

Now, kneading an almost-no-knead dough can be a bit trying, since it is stickier than molasses and loves to glom onto any surface in sight. Most people will teach you a “push, fold, turn” method for kneading — you push the dough across the board, fold it over itself, then rotate it a quarter-turn and repeat the process ad infinitum.  This dough requires a push, fold, scrape-off-the-board, then turn. A dough scraper is absolutely necessary here. They are easy to find and not very expensive — mine is a $9 OXO model with a nice grippy handle.

One last thing — lining the pan with parchment paper is mission critical, especially when you’re baking with a Pyrex loaf pan and not a non-stick one. Cut the parchment so that a little extra hangs over the sides of the pan, and you’ll be able to remove your loaf with ease.

Okay, I lied, one more thing — an instant read thermometer will make baking projects a whole lot more fool-proof, and it’s a great investment. Rather than guessing when your loaf is done, just take it’s temperature — 200 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re golden.

Almost No-Knead Rye Bread

makes one loaf

12 ounces 00 pizza flour
6 ounces dark rye flour
3/8 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
1 C. water
1/2 C. beer (I used Dead Guy Ale)
1 1/4 Tbsp. white vinegar

1 Tbsp. caraway seeds

1. Combine all ingredients except caraway seeds in a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy, sticky ball of dough forms. Cover lightly with a plastic bag, then let sit at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.

2. Turn dough out onto a floured pastry board and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Knead until the seeds are evenly distributed, about 20 times. Shape into a loaf.

3. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, then put loaf in pan. Cover lightly with a plastic bag and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

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4. Sprinkle the loaf with flour, then score three times, diagonally.

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5. Preheat the oven to 425F. Put the loaf in the oven, then immediately turn down to 350F. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes, then use a probe thermometer to check its internal temperature — the loaf is done when it reaches 200F.

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