Latvian rye brick
Latvia is definitely a rye country and I believe that Latvian rye breads are the best in the world. Their unique taste comes from extremely complex dough development processes which span across multiple days and some of them can not even be replicated at home. But there are also some very simple breads which still pack plenty of great flavor. One of such breads is usually called “a rye brick”.
Rye brick is actually a wheat and rye bread, not pure rye. It is very common and differs slightly between bakeries. You can also find similar breads in other European nations like Germany and Russia.
The nickname of this bread comes from its shape. Rye brick is baked in rectangular bread tins, its crust is usually flat and its colour is brown of varying degrees of darkness. Caraway seeds are added sometimes, various nuts and dried fruits might also be added.
The recipe below was actually developed by me personally and it was the very first bread I’ve attempted to make. I’ve spent about two months searching for information, studying books and online articles, trying out different recipes and then one day I’ve finally managed to get the flavor I got used to since childhood.
This is a simple two stage sourdough bread. Half of flour is dark rye (T1740, you can find more information about rye flour here) and half of it is wheat bread flour. All of rye flour is pre-fermented. Black treacle is used as a yeast food to speed up proofing, as a colouring agent and also as a flavouring. Caraway seeds are optional, but I prefer to add some. 2lbs bread tins as sold in UK hold 600g of dough, 21x12x11cm Pullman tins hold 1kg of dough.
Google Docs spreadsheet can be found here. Use it to adjust the recipe to your desired loaf weight.
Time required: 12 hour sourdough build, 1 hour bulk fermentation, 1 hour proofing, 50 minutes baking ~= 15.5 hours including mixing and shaping.
Mix dark rye flour, water and starter together and leave covered at room temperature (about +20C to +23C) for 12 hours. It’s just your regular sourdough build, nothing special.
Pre heat water to +40C, dilute black treacle and salt, then add your sourdough from previous step and mix thoroughly. Add seeds and all of wheat flour, mix thoroughly and knead a little bit. Don’t expect proper gluten development. Also prepare for extreme stickiness, that will be the most sticky dough in your life. Use gloves if mixing by hands. Trust me - touching this dough with your bare hands will be painful. I’d suggest using a mixer, both stand and hand mixers will do. You can find my tips on mixing rye dough here.
Once the dough is mixed properly, cover the bowl and let it ferment for 1 hour at room temperature. Oil the pan and dust it with flour. Deflate the dough and shape it into oblong so it fits the pan. Use wet shaping method. Don’t build tension on the surface or it will rupture and you will have to do shaping again. Put the dough inside the tin, press it and flatten the surface. It should be completely flat and moist before proofing.
Cover then pan and proof for 45-60 minutes at +29C. The surface of the dough won’t crack once proofed like pure rye doughs do and you can’t use poke test with it as it’s sticky as hell, so only practice will tell you when this dough is properly proofed. It might not rise much visually as well, sadly.
Pre-heat the oven to +250C, spray the dough surface with water and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to +210C and continue baking for another 25 minutes. Then turn the heat down one more time to +170C and bake for 15 more minutes. Once the bread reaches +93C inside and sounds hollow when thumped from the bottom, remove from the oven, spray some water on its surface and put back into the oven for 1 minute. Remove from the oven and let it cool down and rest on a rack for at least 12 hours.
It is possible to bake this bread in one working day. Starter to flour ratio in sourdough build should be changed to do that. The recipe above has 1:9 ratio starter flour to fresh flour ratio. In general 1:9 takes about 12 hours to ferment, 1:2 takes about 5 hours and 1:5 takes about 8-9 hours. You can build your sourdough with 1:5 ratio first thing in the morning before going to work, then you can continue the process once you’re back home and you should be able to finish baking before midnight. Please use my sourdough calculator to adjust the ratio and get a correct formula.
A very simple recipe you can bake in a day and enjoy some tasty rye the next day. It is also a great base recipe for experiments: try adding dried fruits, nuts, seeds, maybe even some spices and herbs, increase rye content (the amount of pre-fermented flour should stay the same though) or decrease it slightly, make it your own and enjoy!