New York, or Jewish, Rye Bread and a Reuben


That’s my rye bread…and inside, underneath the ooze of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, is my corned beef.

That’s the Reuben.

Here’s how I made the rye bread….


First, as I wrote yesterday, I made a rye sour.  I let that sit for just under 24 hour hours, during which time it bubbled up and then dropped back down.  The image above was taken shortly before I began making the bread.

I also left four pieces of (store-bought) rye bread out to go stale.  I know, I know.  You’re going to MAKE rye bread, so why buy it?  Or…you BOUGHT rye bread, so why bother making it?


Here’s what Bernard Clayton had to say about it:

The secret ingredient long known only to bakers is a wet mash of crusts of old rye bread held over from an earlier baking.  Many years ago in New York City when refrigeration facilities were not that they are today, the wet crusts were hidden from health inspectors, usually in a barrel.  “Kid, what’s in the barrel?”  The reply from a child sitting on and protecting the barrel lid:  “Pickles!”

The resulting mash, like the sour, helps give the bread its proper flavor and texture.  And since I wanted to do this right…I bought some rye bread the same day I made the sour and left it out to go stale.  Then, the day of baking, I soaked the stale bread in some water…


and then squeezed all the excess water back out of the bread.

Here’s what I ended up with: 


Mmm.  Soggy stale bread!

Next, I removed the cheesecloth bag of chopped onion from the sour and gave it a stir.  It was smooth and tangy-smelling.


Both the sour and the wet bread went into the bowl of my stand mixer and were blended together.


To them I added all-purpose flour, water, yeast, and salt.  Very simple. 

Here’s the dough.  You want a rather soft dough, so it’s okay if it seems wetter than it should.


Let the dough rise for half an hour, covered, in the bowl.  Then scrape it out onto the counter.


Divide the dough in two…


And shape each portion into a loaf.

Cover the loaves lightly and let them rise for half an hour, until they’re almost, but not entirely, doubled in bulk.


About twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 F.  Put a metal pan in the bottom of the oven – you’ll be pouring water into this to create steam.

When the loaves are ready, brush them with egg wash (a step I neglected to do for some reason), then slice a tic-tac-toe pattern in the tops of the loaves.  Sprinkle with caraway seeds.  (I didn’t – we didn’t have any more seeds and I don’t really like them anyway.)


CAREFULLY pour a cup or so of water in the pan and shut the door while your oven gets all nice and steamy.  A couple of minutes after that, slide the loaves into the oven.  Be careful – steam is hot!  And it will fog up your glasses. 

Bake the loaves for about 40 minutes, or until they’re dark brown.  Allow them to cool to room temp before slicing.  Or try, anyway.


So, that was the bread.  I made it on Monday.

And on Tuesday, for dinner, I made Bill a Reuben.

Just Bill.

The kids, sadly (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) don’t like corned beef.  I know – WHAT???  But it’s true.  I made them grilled cheese sandwiches, or, in Alex’s case, grilled cheese and tuna.

But for Bill – the Reuben.

Two slices of rye.

LOTS of sliced corned beef.


Thousand Island dressing.

Swiss cheese.

Grilled in butter, until it’s all warm and melty.

OH – and since the corned beef had been in the fridge, I wanted to warm it up before making the sandwich.  I sliced it, and placed the slices in the leftover liquid from when I boiled (simmered) it on St. Patrick’s Day.  Then I heated it gently in the microwave, cooking it for a minute, then rearranging the slices and heating it for another minute, until the beef was warmed through and softer.


I had a bite.


Okay, here’s the recipe for the bread.  Like the sour, the recipe is taken from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Bread.

Seeded Rye 

(also called New York Rye and Jewish Rye)

(two large loaves)


1 1/2 cups rye bread pieces

3 cups rye sour

1 pkg (2.5 teaspoons) dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons caraway seeds (more if you like the flavor, less if you are Jayne and you ran out and don’t like them much anyway)

4 cups bread or unbleached flour, approximately

1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 tablespoon water


Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal (oops.  I just used parchment.)

Soak a half dozen crusty slices of a previously baked loaf of rye (commercial is fine).  Squeeze dry.  Set aside 1 1/2 cups for this recipe; the balance can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

In a large mixing or mixer bowl drop in the squeezed-dry pieces of rye bread.  Add the rye sour.  With a wooden spoon or a mixer flat beater stir until the bread is thoroughly incorporated into the sour.  Stir in the dry yeast, salt, and 1 tablespoon (or more) caraway.

Add 2 cups white flour and mix vigorously into the sour.  Ad more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring first with a wooden spoon and then with the hands, or with the mixer flat beater.  The dough may be sticky at first but it will become elastic and smooth as it is worked.  Lift the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured work surface.  Or leave in the mixer bowl under a dough hook.

Knead the dough under a dough hook or with your hands for 8 minutes.  Don’t overload the dough with flour.  It is better to keep i ton the slack side.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured work surface.  Divide into 2 pieces.  The dough may be fashioned into round loaves or long plump ones.  Place the loaves on the baking sheet.

Cover the loaves with wax paper and put aside to rise for 30 minutes to proof only three-quarters, not the usual full proof of double in volume.  This is not critical but it is nice to come close to this degree of proofing.

Preheat the oven to 450 F 20 minutes before baking, and prepare 1 cup hot water to pour into a pan on the bottom shelf 3 minutes before putting in the loaves.  This will create the steam used in commercial ovens.

Cut the top of the loaves into a pattern with a razor blade or sharp knife.  Try a tic-tac-toe design or diagonal cut across the top.  Brush with the egg-water mixture.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon caraway seeds.

Place in the hot oven.  Midway through baking, turn the loaves around so they brown evenly.  The loaves will bake a deep brown in about 40 minutes.  Turn one loaf over and tap the bottom crust to determine if it is done.  If it is not hard and crusty, return to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes.

Place the loaves on a metal rack to cool.


That’s it!  No go forth and make it rye!


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