After falling in love with rye breads I became fascinated with developing a bread containing 100 percent rye. I knew that taking all of the wheat flour out of a bread recipe would wreak havoc on the end result and a high-rising crusty bread would not be obtainable. This is because wheat flour is unique in that it contains two proteins in the wheat endosperm called glutenin and gliadin. When these proteins hydrate and undergo friction, they unravel like balls of yarn, bind together into sticky strands and form a structure building network. This elastic web of protein holds in air bubbles during leavening and acts as a structure builder after the bread cools, resulting in a high-rising, fluffy, springy loaf.
Rye flour does contain tiny amounts of gluten and gliadin but not enough to form a considerable amount of gluten in baking applications. Rye flour contains about the same amount of protein as wheat flour but the proteins have no effect on leavening. Rye flour has something else that assists leavening and structure: vegetable gums called pentosans. Pentosans absorb about 16 times their weight in water despite being about only 2 to 3 percent of the rye berry by weight. This gummyness doesn't build structure and trap air bubbles as effectively as gluten but it's still enough to make a favorable loaf. Since the bread is made from all rye flour it has a considerably complex flavor that is not obtainable with a wheat flour-based bread.
Dark rye flour doesn't contribute to the darkness of this bread. Molasses and espresso powder instead make for a dark brown loaf while enhancing rye flavors. I've also included a touch of sugar to take some of the bitterness off the rye and caraway seeds that contribute a subtle spicy cool finish. The cream of tartar is added to increase acidity. The acidity helps round out the flavor giving the loaf a very subtle tart finish that enhances flavor. The higher acid content also deactivates the amylose enzymes from breaking out too much sugars from the starch which would make the bread excessively gummy.
This loaf is considerably denser and flavorful than breads made with wheat flour. It will proof like a wheat bread into a beautiful dome but then shrink down almost to its original size when baked which is normal in this particular recipe.
1 ¾ cups + 3 Tablespoons warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons, or one ¼ ounce package active dry yeast
4 cups dark rye flour
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
½ teaspoon espresso powder
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the warm water and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes to the yeast activates.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the dark rye flour, salt and cream of tartar until well incorporated.
In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the molasses, sugar, caraway seeds, espresso powder and stir until just combined. Whisk in the warm water mixture from Step 1.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl containing the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon in one circular direction for 1 minute. Now stir in the opposite direction for 1 minute.
Add about 1 Tablespoon olive oil to another medium mixing bowl and spread it around the inside with your fingers. Use a spatula to scrape the dough into the oily bowl. With dampened fingers, form the dough into a ball and rotate it around in the inside of the bowl so it's coated in oil.
Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and let it rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours. Alternatively, place in the refrigerator for about 12 to 24 hours. Remember that we want our dough to double in size regardless of whether it spends a full 24 hours in the refrigerator or rises at room temperature. Feel free to let it rise in the refrigerator for some of the time and outside of the refrigerator the rest of the time.
Degass the dough by pressing on it with dampened hands several times until no more gas comes out of the dough. Form the dough into a ball again and let it rise until it's doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours. If you did your last rise in the refrigerator, do this rise at room temperature and allow 4 hours of rise time.
The dough can now be 'proofed' by gently forming it into a lightly oiled loaf pan and allowed to sit covered with a plastic bag until it reaches about 80% to 90% of it's intended size, which should be about 40 minutes. The proofing stage is where the dough takes most of it's shape. It's important to leave room under the plastic bag so the dough can rise sufficiently.
Preheat your oven to 375F (191C). Remove the plastic bag so the dough can rest for about 10 minutes while your oven is preheating. During the baking process, the dough will rise another 10% to 20% of it's intended size in the process known as 'oven spring'. Bake until the internal temperature of the bread measured with an instant-read thermometer registers 200-210F (93-99C). Rotate the loaf 180 degrees in the oven halfway through the baking duration for even baking. If you don't have a thermometer, this is about 40 to 45 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when the loaf pan is tapped with a blunt object like a rolling pin.
Since this rye bread isn't bound together with gluten we need to wait until it cools completely before removing it from the loaf pan so the vegetable gums can solidify. For best results when slicing this bread, use a designated serrated bread knife and clean the gummy dough off the blade after every three slices. This bread is best stored covered in a cool dark place or pre-sliced and stored in a plastic freezer bag in the freezer. Makes one loaf of 100 Percent Rye Bread.