Rye Bread, True NY Sour - pareve

Posted by : Barbara Leass

Posted by : Barbara Leass 

This lengthy post will tell you everything you ever needed 
to know about making the PERFECT New York Sour Rye Bread 
-tastes just like we used to buy in Brooklyn, bring home 
warm and slather with butter-. It is from "Secrets of a 
Jewish Baker" by George Greenstein. If you add charnushka
(black caraway) seeds, it becomes Russian Rye.  

"We make the sour at our leisure and refrigerate it at any
stage in its development.  The first time sour is made, it
is begun with a starter. After that, enough is always left
behind to begin the next batch.   

  Starter  (Prepare 48 hours in advance)   

Caraway seeds can be ground in a coffee or spice grinder or with a
mortar and pestle.  In the bakery we crush the seeds with a rolling
pin.  The crushed seeds disappear in the ferment and add a
distinctive flavor to the sour.  The minced onion helps to
hasten the fermentation and adds flavor.   

        1/2 cup rye flour 
        1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast (see Note*) 
        1 cup warm water 
        1 tablespoon crushed caraway seeds (optional) 
        1 teaspoon minced onion   

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until 
smooth.  The mixture should have a thin, soupy consistency.
Cover and allow to stand in a warm spot until bubbly and
fermented. It can be left up to 24 hours.   

  *Note: Save the rest of the packet for the first dough.   

Rye Sour, Developing and Fortifying:  In making sour use
approximately 3/4 to 1 cup flour to each 1/2 cup water.  
(Notice that Stage One calls for a higher ratio.  This is 
done to adjust for the initial consistency of the starter.)
The object is to make a thick consistency as close as 
possible to that of a soft dough.  It is not necessary to 
thicken to the point that the mixing becomes burdensome.  If
the mixture is too soupy, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time.
Mix until smooth.   

   Stage One  (Prepare 24 hours in advance) 

        1/2 cup water 
        1 1/4 cups rye flour 
        All of the Starter, above 
        1/4 cup rye flour for sprinkling   

In a large bowl or container, combine the water, 1 1/4 cups 
of the flour, and the Starter; stir until smooth.  The dough
should pull slightly and may start to come away from sides 
of the bowl.  Wipe down the sides of the bowl with wet hands
or a bowl scraper. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour over the entire
surface of the sour.  Let stand, covered with a cloth or
clear plastic wrap, until doubled in size and the floured
top appears cracked with fissures spread widely apart.  This
may take 4 to 8 hours.  Avoid letting the sour collapse.  

  Stage Two:  (If a double recipe is desired, this can be
              increased to 1 cup warm water and 2 cups rye 

              1/2 cup warm water 
              1 cup rye flour 

To the Stage One sour add the water and 3/4 cup of the
flour; mix until smooth.  Wipe down the sides of the bowl.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup flour over the entire 
surface of the sour.  Allow to rise in a warm area 4 to 8

  Proceed with Stage Three:

As the sour begins to rise, you can refrigerate it at any
stage for later use or overnight for mixing the following
day.  Refrigeration retards the rate of growth of the sour,
which continues to rise slowly.  Whenever time permits, I 
prefer to make two stages the day before, refrigerating the
second stage overnight and preparing the third stage the 
morning of baking. If the dough is to be mixed first thing 
in the morning, the third stage is prepared the evening 
before, so it can rise slowly all night and be ready in the 

  Stage Three: 

        1/2 cup water (see Note*) 
        1 cup rye flour, or more   

To the Stage Two sour add the water and the 1 cup flour. 
Mix until smooth.  Additional flour can be added to 
attain a dough-like consistency.  The sour, when fully
risen in Stage Three, is ready for use in the dough.  When 
the third stage is mixed, set aside 1/4 to 1/2 cup and 
refrigerate in a covered container with a light film of
cold water floated over the top.  I have kept sour under
refrigeration for months at a time.   

  *Note:  Use warm water if the sour has been refrigerated.

It is best to stir down the starter every 3 to 4 days if
unused.  Periodically (every 10 to 12 days) dispose of half 
and refresh it by mixing in equal amounts of flour and water
If there is some discoloration on the top, it can safely be 
skimmed off and the sour used as normal.  When going away 
for long periods of time, I freeze a small amount of sour.
When preparing a new starter from scratch, I add the frozen
sour to preserve my original culture.  To ensure the proper
strength of the sour, in each stage you can only double the 
amount of starter you begin with.  For example, if beginning
with 1/4 cup starter, you can add up to 1/2 cup water plus 
flour to thicken.  If Stage One contains 1 cup sour, Stage 
Two can be prepared with up to 2 cups water plus flour.  If
a large amount of sour is required, extra stages can be

Sometimes the process goes awry.  Perhaps there is
insufficient sour left to start the next batch, or the sour
might have been forgotten and was left standing to get old 
or dry.  There is a remedy.  The bakers call it an
einfrisch, meaning to refresh.  A small amount of sour is
thinned down with water to a soupy consistency.  Swishing
1/4 cup water around in what remains clinging to the sides 
of the empty bowl can yield enough to restart the sour.  Let
this einfrisch stand, covered, at room temperature or in a 
warm spot until bubbly.  If desperate, add a pinch of yeast.
When ready, add enough flour to make a first stage, allow to
rise, and proceed with two more stages.   

  Sour Rye Bread  

This is real Jewish rye bread, written by a Jewish baker, 
made for the most demanding audience in the world, the New
York consumer.  This bread transcends its ethnic boundaries
due to its universal appeal.  To my knowledge an authentic 
version of this recipe has never been published. Bakers, 
like chefs, are reluctant to part with their recipes and
invariably try to hold something back.  Few breads offer
such a distinct flavor coupled with a unique crust. The 
secret of great rye bread is the sour, or ferment, that give
the bread its outstanding qualities.  Sour is the product of 
the controlled fermentation of rye flour and water.  Once it
is begun, the baker always saves a small amount of sour each
time he or she bakes.  This becomes the starter to begin
the next batch.  

Sour Rye Bread is made up of water, flour, yeast, and salt. 
There is no sugar or fat added to this pure bread. Rye bread
is ideal for deli sandwiches and as an accompaniment to meat
dishes.  It is excellent with cheese. A favorite of mine is 
cream cheese and olives on rye toast. A real Jewish treat 
(high in cholesterol)used to be a roast beef sandwich on rye
with Bermuda onion and chicken fat (shmaltz).  My 
grandmother would take afternoon tea with toasted rye that 
had the crust rubbed with garlic while still warm. She lived
well into her nineties and I always attributed it to the tea
and garlic, but now I firmly believe that it was the rye bread.   

        1 cup warm water 
        1 package active dry yeast 
        3 cups Rye Sour 
        1/2 cup altus (optional, see *Note) 
        4 to 5 cups common flour (see *Note)
        3 teaspoons salt 
        Rye flour, for dusting work top 
        Oil, for greasing bowl 
        1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds, or more to taste (optional)
        Cornstarch solution (see *Note) or water, for brushing leaves  

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add
the sour. Add the altus, if desired.  Without stirring add 3
cups of the flour and salt.  Gently stir the dry ingredients
with your fingertips to incorporate, then stir with a wooden
spoon, adding more flour as necessary until the dough comes 
away from the sides of the bowl.   

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead.
If the dough is moist and sticky, add more flour 1/4 cup at
a time.  Knead until the dough feels soft and silky (5 to 8
minutes). Rye dough will be softer than usual and tend to
feel sticky.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn
several times to coat.  Cover and allow to rest for 15 to 20
minutes.  Punch down, sprinkle with the caraway seeds (if

Shaping:  Shape the balls into 2 free-standing pan loaves.
Place on a rye flour- or commeal-dusted baking sheet.  In
the bakery we proof the leaves and bake them on the oven
hearth using a wooden peel.  Cover and allow to rise until
doubled in size.  Brush with the cornstarch solution, then
cut 3 horizontal slashes on the top of each loaf.    

Baking:  Bake with steam in a preheated 375 degree F oven 
until tapping the bottom with your fingertips produces a 
hollow sound (35 to 45 minutes).  The top and sides should
feel hard to the touch.  Brush again with the cornstarch 
solution, then let cool on a wire rack. 

Yield Makes 2 loaves.


Altus -- is European in origin, and little known outside of
the bakery establishment.  Newcomers to the bakery think of
it as a method of using up stale bread.  However, as with 
many old-fashioned techniques, bakers find that it enhances
the desirable qualities of certain breads. It's use seems to
have begun in the making of pumpernickel doughs, and the 
best of these breads often contain altus.  Altus is a mash
made by slicing and trimming the crusts from leftover sour
rye bread, soaking the trimmed bread in water for several 
hours or overnight under refrigeration, squeezing it dry, 
and adding small amounts to the bread dough. Altus 
intensifies the distinctive flavor of pumpernickel and rye
bread and helps them retain moisture.  When using altus, all
for a little extra flour in the recipe.  The mash keeps well,
covered, in the refrigerator. 

Common flour -- called first clear or clear flour, must be
obtained from a bakery.  You can substitute 3 1/4 cups 
all-purpose flour plus 3/4 cup cake flour, but the bread
won't taste as good.  2 cups Rye Sour can be used instead of
3 cups for a milder taste.   

Cornstarch solution is used before slashing the top of the
bread and placing it in the oven.  Bring 1 cup water to boil
dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water; then
whisk into the boiling water until it thickens.  This
solution may be kept for several days.  For a high shine,
brush a second time as soon as the bread emereges from the


Onion Rye --  Omit the caraway seeds.  Knead Onion Filling
and Topping into the dough immediately after mixing. The top
of the shaped loaves should be rolled in additional onion
topping before the final rise.

Marble Rye -- 1/2 recipe Sour Rye Bread, unbaked +1/2 recipe
Pumpernickel Bread, unbaked. Cut each dough in half.  
Flatten out with your hands or a small rolling pin.  Place
one pumpernickel half on top of a rye half.  Shape jelly
roll fashion into a short loaf.  For further variety, shape
the second loaf with the pumpernickel on the bottom.  This
will yield 2 combination breads, 1 rye with pumpernickel 
swirled inside and the other a brown bread with the rye 

Cocktail Rye -- This can be served plain or with either or 
both of the fillings and toppings below.  

Fillings:  Caraway seeds, Onion Filling and Topping  

Knead one of the fillings into the dough after mixing.  Roll
the dough into thin baguette shapes about 1 inch in diameter
and 12 inches long. Roll the tops in fillings before the 
final rise. 

Toppings:  Caraway seeds with Kosher salt, Onion Filling and
           Topping or Kosher salt

In the bakery we use pretzel salt; coarser than Kosher salt,
it does not dissolve into the crust when baked.  If pretzel 
salt cannot be found through your usual sources, try a bagel

  Sour Rye Bread (Food Processor, Steel Blade)

  Instead of 1 cup warm water use: 

        1/4 cup warm water
        3/4 cup ice water 

In the work bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water;
stir to dissolve.  Add the sour and mix until absorbed.  Add
the altus, if desired.  Add the ice water, then mix in 1 cup
of the flour and the salt.  Next, mix in 3 cups of the flour,
1 cup at a time.  Pulse until the dough tries to form up on
top of the blade.  More flour can be added 1/4 cup at a time
if the dough is too soft.  Keep in mind that this dough will
be softer than usual. Process for 2 to 3 minutes.  If
necessary, divide the dough in half and process each half
separately, then knead together. Do not overmix or the dough
will get too hot. Shape the dough into 2 balls, cover, and
let rest for 10 minutes. 

Proceed as in Shaping and Baking, above.  Yield:  Makes 2

  Sour Rye Bread (Dough-Mixing Machine, flat Beater) 

         1 1/2 cups warm water  
         1 package active dry yeast
         4 1/2 cups Rye Sour 
         3/4 cup altus (optional)
         6 to 7 1/2 cups common flour (see *Note)
         1 1/2 tablespoons salt 
         Rye flour, for dusting worktop
         Oil, for greasing bowl  
         2 teaspoons caraway seeds, or more (optional)  
         Cornstarch solution or water, for brushing loaves   

In the mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water
to soften; stir to dissolve.  Add the Rye Sour, altus (if
desired), flour, salt, and caraway seeds (if desired).  
Pulse with the on/ off switch until all is absorbed so that
the flour is not thrown out of the bowl.  Run at the first 
speed until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
More flour can be added 1/4 cup at a time if the dough is 
too soft.      

Remove and scrape down the beater and insert the dough hook.
Run at the first speed until the dough forms up on the hook 
and comes away from the sides of the bowl (5 to 8 minutes.)
Turn out the dough and shape into 3 balls.  Cover and let 
the dough rest for 15 minutes. Proceed as in Shaping and 
Baking, above.  Yield:  Makes 3 loaves.   

  *Note:  You can substitute 5 cups all-purpose flour plus 
   1 cup cake flour but the bread won't taste as good.  3 
   cups Rye Sour can be used instead of 4 1/2 cups, for a 
   milder flavor. " 

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