A Journey Into Bread Baking World

Minsk Rye from Belarus

Minsk is the capital city of Belarus. Minsk rye is a common rye bread in Belarus named after the city. And it is quite different to most of xUSSR rye breads because it is made using white rye flour instead of a more traditional dark wholegrain rye.

The recipe is known for quite a while now, I have it my Russian book from 1940, I saw it in many bread related blogs and it is present in Ginsberg’s The Rye Baker book as well.

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Steaming and rye crust development

I believe that every bread should have a great crust. But different types of breads will have completely different crusts and their development techniques differ. Rye breads benefit from steamed baking just like wheat breads do yet steaming regiment is a bit different. If one tries to steam rye bread the same way it’s done with wheat breads, the end results might be unpleasant.

The best rye crust I’ve ever had in my life was on a coarse rye from small family owned bakery called Bemberi located in a small town of Saulkrasti, Latvia. Crunchy, slightly sweet and full of rye flavour!

Some of the techniques used by professional rye bakers are virtually impossible to replicate at home. This post covers the methods I’m using at home to get quality crust with common household tools.

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Russian Sour Rye - a recipe from 1940 book

This is probably the simplest sourdough rye bread recipe possible. It only has 3 ingredients: dark rye flour (type 1740, read more about rye flours in my previous post), water and salt. And it comes from a great book called 350 Varieties Of Bakery Products by Plotnikov and Kolesnikov published in 1940. It is the first recipe in the book and is used to describe several bread making techniques.

One important thing to note is that, as the name implies, this bread is sour. Very sour. If you’re not used to really sour rye breads, you might not like it. But this bread is a good starting point in learning how to bake rye.

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Mixing rye dough — tips & tricks

Rye dough can be discouraging — it’s sticky, it’s heavy, it’s hard to deal with. And while it doesn’t require kneading for gluten development, proper mixing is very important. If the dough is not mixed properly there might be dry spots inside and uneven distribution of sourdough and flavouring agents like salt and seeds will result in poor bread quality and taste. The importance of mixing quality grows with the ratio of rye flour and its wholeness: dark rye is harder to mix than light rye and 100% rye is harder to mix than 50/50 rye/wheat combination.

I’ve tried multiple different mixing techniques and I’d like to share the one which made my life a lot easier. This technique is based on a method provided in an old Soviet book called 350 Varieties Of Bakery Products by Plotnikov and Kolesnikov. In its basic form it doesn’t require any tools except for baker’s hands, but I’d also like to note a few tools which make my mixing a lot easier.

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Rye and other malts

What is malt exactly? Wikipedia states:

Malt is germinated cereal grain that has been dried in a process known as “malting”.

When grains (or most of seeds in general) are soaked in water, they start to germinate. This is the first stage of a growing process of a plant. Germination process develops enzymes, which start to break down complex saccharides like starches into simpler ones like sugar and glucose. The same is true for complex proteins present in the grains as well. Simpler variations of carbohydrates and proteins are then used as an energy source and building blocks for a new plant.

This process is halted midway to stop grains from growing into new plants and to get access to all of the enzymes which became available. These enzymes can then be used in multiple different ways for all kinds of products, including bread and beer.

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Rye flour types and where to buy them

This blog is using British rye flour names paired with German flour grading. German flour grades (types) are a golden standard in my opinion and are also used outside of Germany. But since this blog is in English and I, the author, happen to live in UK, it makes sense to me to use British naming conventions.

Common types of rye flour (from left to right):
White, Medium, Crushed Meal, Light, Dark

The issue with British names is that there are no flour standards and regulations currently in UK, so the exact meaning of the terms vary by brand. To make things even more confusing, other English speaking countries are using slightly different terminology. And they also have no standards whatsoever. I’ll try my best in this post to provide some guidance on how to deal with this mess.

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