Hands down, my mum makes the best rye bread. In my opinion it's way better than what the local bakery sells. Her bread has a nice crisp crust, a flavorful and chewy interior which isn't too dense or too fluffy.
Starting off with her base recipe, she'll make changes depending on what she has on hand, but her method, gleaned from various cookbooks and through trial and error remains the same. I did notice all of my mum's flours are from Bob's Red Mill. I asked her about that and she told me she basically stocks up on whichever flour happens to be on sale, opting for organic whenever possible. She also likes the King Arthur brand. Often she adds rye flakes if she has them, this time she added a 7 grain cereal mix with flaxseed instead.
This recipe turned into a two week process (mostly waiting). You could finish the bread sooner if you prefer, however the flavor of the dough improves the longer it sits in the refrigerator.
caraway rye bread
1 1/2 cups rye flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp dry Bob's Red Mill 7 grain hot cereal (can replace with rye flour or rye flakes)
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (my mum prefers Fleischmann's, although sometimes she uses Saf-Instant)
2 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water
11 cup Cuisinart food processor
large glass container with lid (for storing the dough in the refrigerator)
10 ice cubes
ovenproof metal container (to hold ice cubes)
Into a bowl or using a large measuring cup, measure out the rye flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, cereal, and gluten . You can change things up a bit if you like, but the final (flour) measurement needs to equal 4 cups.
Dump the flour mixture into the bowl of an 11 cup food processor. Add the yeast, caraway seeds and salt. Run the processor for about 10 seconds to combine.
This was where things got interesting for me. My mum took the temperature of her flour which was about 70°F. and to that added water which was 60°F. She told me the combined temperatures need to be 130°F for a Cuisinart or Kitchenaid food processor. I think the combined temperatures for a Braun was 150°F. She told me she came across this procedure in Charles van Over's "The Best Bread Ever".
She poured the water over the flour and stirred it up a bit with a spoon. She allowed the mixture to sit in her food processor for about two minutes. Then she pulsed everything for 45 seconds, stopping when a soft, gooey ball of dough had formed. She again took the temperature of the dough and was pleased when it registered about 74°F. She told me the ideal temperature is about 75°F, with anything from 71°F to 79°F being acceptable. If the dough is warmer than 80°F, then place it into the refrigerator for several minutes to cool down.
Butter a glass container, one with a lid that is large enough to hold the dough (after it's risen). Drop in the dough and leave it out on the counter until it has doubled in size; about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. My mum told me that the flavor improves the longer it sits in the refrigerator. I imagine you could bake it up after a day or two if you can't wait.
on the day of baking
Prepare a cornstarch glaze for brushing onto the loaves. You can keep any that's leftover refrigerated for several weeks.
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold water
Combine the cornstarch and salt in a small pot. Add a small amount of water and whisk until it is smooth. Slowly whisk in the rest of the water. Heat the mixture while stirring, until it thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
About an hour before the bread is ready to bake, preheat the oven (and stone) to 500°F. Place the stone onto the top rack which should be in the middle of the oven. The second rack should be below that holding a metal pan for the ice cubes which will be added later. My mum picked up a small cast iron frying pan just for holding the ice cubes. It doesn't warp as it heats up.
Just before the bread is ready to be baked, brush each loaf with the reserved cornstarch mixture. Then using a very sharp knife, cut a few slits (about 1/2 an inch deep) across the top of each loaf.
Carefully place them onto the preheated stone. Add the ice cubes to the pan and close the oven door. Reduce the temperature to 450°F. and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaves are done.
Remove the bread from the oven. Allow to cool completely on a rack, before cutting.