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Monday, August 1, 2011

Mociutes Duona

Grandma's Rye Bread

Written by Sigita Miltier (My lovely Wife)

Duona (1 of 1)

Every culture has its own bread prepared and baked following very old and time honored traditions. Because so often in the history of humanity bread has been a life saver and the main staple, every culture, every region, and even every family took enormous pride in their bread making tradition. Each bread maker used seasoning, loaf-shaping and even the crust markings all unique to his or her tradition. Traditionally Lithuanian women baked their bread using mostly rye flour due to the fact that rye was a perfect fit for Lithuanian climate--winter frost is necessary for the rye plant to produce solid grain. Just one of the paradoxes of nature, I suppose. This recipe is the closest I can get to the one used by my Grandmother, and although I may never be able to reproduce the perfect flavor of her bread (no wood stove at my disposal, no wooden bowl saturated with the wonderfully sweet and sour aroma of the dough, no aromatic leaves of the native plants to lay on the bottoms of the pans), the least I hope to accomplish by making my Grandmother's bread is giving my children a taste of my culture, literally feeding the tradition centuries old with their breakfasts or lunches.  Just the other day, a had full-circle experience I will cherish for ever.  My mother flew all the way from Lithuania to visit us for a few short weeks, too short to make up for the past two years of being away from each other, but we did something I had planned and dreamed about for a long time.  We baked rye bread together.  Everyone attended—my grandmother, whose bread I remember, and generations of women who had passed down the tradition to each other.  I am unable to decide what I enjoyed more, the baking or the first slice of the bread.  Perhaps no choice is necessary in this case because I am convinced of one simple truth that one would be impossible without the other.

3 lbs. dark rye flour

3 tbsp. dark rye flour for the yeast starter (wheat flour can be used as well)

1 clove finely chopped garlic for the yeast starter

2 packages dry yeast

Warm water (enough to wet the flour)

3 tbsp. dark rye flour for sprinkling

10 tbsp. sugar

2/3 cup caraway seeds

Pinch of salt

Yeast Starter

Rye bread requires a yeast starter which can be made days and even weeks before making the dough. It can keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and be taken out to get to room temperature while you are preparing the dough. To make the starter mix the dry yeast with a few tablespoons of warm water. Add the finely chopped garlic, add the 3 tbsp. rye flour, mix it in and allow the mixture to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Once it doubles in size, mix it again and put in the refrigerator.


Using a large wooden spoon or spatula and a large bowl mix half of the rye flour with enough warm water to produce a very wet dough (similar in consistency to breakfast oatmeal). Mix in the yeast starter, sprinkle 3 tbsp. rye flour over the surface of the dough, cover the bowl using a lid that fits but does not completely seal, wrap it all in a warm blanket and keep the bundle in a warm place (over a warm air vent or outside on a warm sunny day, just to name a couple of options ) for approximately 12 hours. Then, undo the bundle, add the rest of the flour and knead the dough pushing down with your fists for about 20 minutes. This is the most difficult part of bread making as the rest is just waiting for the dough to rise. A piece of advice--"enlist" someone to hold the bowl for you while you knead the dough, which will become very sticky. Add the sugar, salt and caraway seeds, knead for several more minutes until everything is evenly incorporated, then scrape your hands clean with a spatula. Dip your hands into some water and smooth the surface of your dough. Cover the bowl, bundle it up in the same fashion as you did the first time and let it stand in a warm place for about 6 more hrs. or even longer if the dough has not doubled in size. The dough will be sticky, so have a bowl of water ready to dip your hands occasionally as you form the loaves. You may want to use greased loaf pans and be sure to smooth the surface of the dough with wet hands. Cover the pans lightly with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hrs. Preheat the oven and bake the loaves for 45 minutes until the the crust makes a hollow sound when tapping it. Turn the oven off and allow the bread to cool slowly in the oven. For a wonderful and crispy crust, make a simple syrup (dissolve a few tbsp. sugar in cold water) and brush it onto each loaf. Once the crust is dry, take the loaves out of the pans by placing one hand on the surface of the loaf and turning the pan over with the other. Allow the bread to cool on a rack for at least one hour before you dig in because warm rye bread does not slice well. This type of bread is fabulous with some butter and thinly sliced smoked or aged meats, gourmet cheeses, tomato or cucumber slices, and even fruit jams.

lonzino (1 of 1)-2

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