I love rye bread. It reminds me of a school ski trip where we travelled by coach. Don’t ask me why we travelled by coach to a European snowy country. Madness. Also, don’t ask me which countries we passed through or where we went. I have no idea. I was too busy trying to woo inappropriate males who probably didn’t even know my name. Oh for those unrequited teenage years…
The things I do remember are wearing a large cross around my neck in homage to Madonna, trying neat vodka for the first time, applying a trowel full of make up before I slept (just in case the boy of the week were to look at me as I snoozed open mouthed against a window) and continental service station rye bread. The bread is the only habit I cared to continue with. Though I do admit to sometimes forgetting to remove my make up before bed.
This rye bread won’t break your teeth or your bowels. Try it. Even my toddler son loves it. He eats it with no adornment, though I wouldn’t advise it. For me it’s all about lashings and lashings of butter.
Makes one large beast of a loaf/baton thingy.
- 200g rye flour (I use Doves)
- 500g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dredging)
- 10g table salt
- 7g sachet of easy blend yeast
- 460g baby bath temperature water
- 100g soft unsalted butter
Pop the flours, salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix a little, then add the water. Use one hand to pull the mixture together and then once it’s combined into a shaggy mess, tip onto a work surface and start to knead. I use no flour or oil. But that’s just me. Do whatever you like but beware adding shed loads of flour and ending up with a brick of bread.
The way I know the kneading is done is when the bits of dough on my hands are starting to be picked up by the big ball of dough. It should also feel elastic and start to take on a shine. It should not be sticking to the work surface. If it is, you need to carry on kneading. (NB: Do not be put off by the grey appearance of the dough. That’s the rye flour. It’ll come good. Promise.)
Pop the dough back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and leave until it’s doubled in size. Once it has, tip it onto the work surface again and give it a 2 minute knead to squeeze air bubbles out of it. Then knead the butter into it. I do this by making a kind of well in the middle (more like thumping an indent to be honest) and then putting the butter in it. Then kneading until you have a slippery buttery dough – this takes a while and as first you’ll worry you have ruined the dough. It might even start to break up. Worry not. Keep kneading. It’ll come together. When it does, shape the dough by rolling into a baton shape, dredge with some extra white flour and then place on a baking sheet and cover loosely with a flour covered tea towel.
When you think your loaf has almost doubled, quickly slash it with a very sharp knife, then pop the oven onto Gas 7 and check the rack is just above the middle of the oven. Leave the oven to heat up for 15 minutes, then place the loaves in and bake for about 30 minutes, until well risen, brown and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Feel free to finish off directly on the rack for a truly crisp bottom. Then cool on a wire rack.