New York Deli Rye Bread
Deli-quality Rye that’s soft, fragrant and flavorful—perfect for sandwiches!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: ~5 hours (includes resting and cooling)
Bread, unlike many other baked goods, is very forgiving. As long as your yeast is good (i.e. active), your bread will likely be good. I say this from experience; I was always really intimidated by bread-making, and this nervousness manifested itself in my making boneheaded mistakes with recipes (“Oh. This called for an egg?” or “Oh crap! I forgot to add the yeast!” < realizations that occurred after everything else had been mixed together and the dough was formed).
But each time, I would mix or knead in the forgotten ingredient, and weirdly, the final product never seemed to suffer much for it. So if you’ve never given bread-making a shot, you absolutely should—not only is it really satisfying to feel like a baking wizard, but there are few things tastier in this world than warm homemade bread fresh out of the oven.
How do you tell if your yeast is still good, though? Yeast is a biological leavener, meaning it’s a living organism that eats the glucose (sugar) in your dough and releases gases that create air pockets in the dough. Then, when you bake the dough and the liquids in it begin to evaporate, and the steam inflates those pockets like balloons, creating lift in your bread. Yeast works more slowly than other leaveners, however, which is one reason* you need to proof bread dough.
*The other reason is to allow the gluten in your bread to relax and regain elasticity.
But yeast isn’t immortal! If you’re at all worried that yours might be past its prime, you should test it. Stir a teaspoon of sugar into a half cup of warm water (it should be in the neighborhood of 110 F|45 C). Stir in the 2 and ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) of yeast and let it sit for about ten minutes. The water should be super foamy at this point. If it isn’t, your yeast is kaput (and aren’t you glad you know that now before wasting all those other ingredients!). If it is foamy, use the water immediately in the recipe, as the yeast is super active and ready to go.
Since rye bread includes rye flour (surprising, I know), your dough won’t get as smooth and pretty as dough made purely with white flour. Rye is interesting stuff. Even though it’s very close to wheat biologically speaking, it doesn’t contain nearly the same amount of gluten. So breads made purely with rye flour are denser and don’t have as much rise as those made with wheat flour (because more gluten means more structural support for those inflated air pockets).
Even though the practice of mixing wheat and rye flours to produce a lighter bread has been around for a very, very long time, in the US we associate it with Jewish American culture, specifically New York deli culture. This bread is soft and slightly sour, with a unique flavor imparted by caraway seeds (this is my favorite variety), and is way tastier than anything you can buy at the grocery. It’s pretty damn delicious with anything you’d want to pair with bread, but takes corned beef sandwiches to another level!