I’ve just spent five days on the coast of Devon. The house we stayed in was a short walk to the beach, and had a wonderful kitchen. I settled in and began to bake.
First up was Weekend Bakery’s Rye Lovers Dark Rye Bread, a dense moist Dutch traditional bread that takes ten hours to bake. The loaf’s main ingredient is cracked rye. I had not been able to find this in London, so this ingredient was the great excitement of my Shipton Mill excursion.
The Netherlands has a tradition of both wheat and rye bread, the former historically the luxury option. The Dutch also go in for the elaborate sweetbread traditions of much of continental Europe. Call me a little Englander, but I am still a mixture of impressed and nonplussed by these creations. This loaf is a hearty everyday sort and more my thing. The Weekend Bakery speculates that it was originally baked overnight on the residual heat of a stove.
Taste test: I was expecting an assertive rye tang to this. Instead, it was dense, dark and interesting but surprisingly mild. The consistency is moist, almost cake-like.
We ate it with barbecued mackerel on the beach.
It was a tiny deserted beach, surrounded by cliffs. Devon beaches are covered in strict notices (“No Dogs At All,” “No fires, no camping, no radios”), but this one had been forgotten. We barbecued undisturbed, except by the wind.
Recipe notes: Aside for acquiring cracked rye (two months of searching, a fruitless trek to Wholefoods), this is very easy. No kneading, no leaven even. You soak, mix, then bake.
The wise person follows Weekend Bakery’s instructions for this recipe, because they are excellent for clarity and the right amount of precision for an enthusiastic home baker. I include this here mainly for my own record, with a few things tweaked. This make two standard loaves.
700 g cracked rye grain
200 g dark rye flour
50 g light rye flour
50 g wheat flour
2 tbsp molasses (I used black treacle)
2.5 tsp salt
700 ml hot water
240 ml water at room temperature
wheatgerm to coat (I used flour)
Make some rye
1. Add the 700 ml hot water to the 700 g cracked rye. The water should be just off boiling. Leave it to soak for two hours.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the soaked rye, and mix thoroughly to make a soft sticky dough. Vary the water according to how moist you like your bread (original amount was 200 ml).
3. Divide the mixture into two. Shape each half into a rough loaf shape, roll in the wheatgerm and pop inside a standard loaf tin.
4. Wrap each tin in two layers of tin foil so that no moisture can escape.
5. Bake at 110 C (yep, very cool) for 9 – 12 hours. I baked for 10 hours, but suit your schedule.
6. Once the baking time is up, do not unwrap the foil until the loaves are completely cool. This preserves the moisture and will take several hours at least.