Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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My Dad's Onion Rye Bread

Butter is not optional.
For as long as I can remember, my father has made onion rye bread, three loaves at a time, mostly in cold months. The first loaf we eat while it’s almost too hot to handle, rivulets of melted butter besmearing our hands; the second is half gone before it cools to room temperature; and the third, more often than not, is deployed in ham sandwiches. With 24 hours, not a crumb or crust remains.

Not long ago, I jumped at the chance to bake a few of these dense, moist loaves with him. Since snow recently had fallen, we cooled a pot of hot milk and sugar in the white stuff while the yeast proofed in the warm kitchen. Turning one’s back porch into an extension of the freezer is perhaps the only part of Winter I truly miss.

Cooling hot milk in the snow
When it came time to pull the ingredients together, I was amused that he regards aromatic elements in recipes — even his own — as I do. Only three tablespoons of caraway seeds in the recipe? Meh, sprinkle in some more until it looks right. One cup of chopped onions? We could probably put in a bit more without upsetting anyone.

Slightly misshapen, but so damn good.
Mind you, we both inflate the volume of those kinds of ingredients in the first place when we transcribe  recipes, so we might easily end up using twice the spices and aromatics as whatever the recipe called for before it got to us. The ingredients below are what’re on his written directions. If you want more onions or caraway, then you’ve got a baseline.

Our family isn’t shy about slathering butter on almost every slice. You shouldn’t be, either. Because the tops of these loaves are strewn with coarse salt before baking, though, stick with unsalted butter.

Onion Rye Bread

2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
4 tsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
6 cups all purpose white flour
3 Tbl caraway seeds
1 cup chopped onions
2.5 cups rye flour
Corn meal
q.s. cream
q.s. coarse salt

Scald milk; stir in the sugar, salt, and oil. Cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in the warm water and when it’s foamy, add this yeast mixture to the lukewarm milk.

Blend in all of the all purpose flour, mixing well. Add caraway seeds, onions, and 2 cups of the rye flour.

Sprinkle the remaining rye flour on a board or counter and knead the dough until it’s smooth. Put the smooth dough into greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Punch down and fold dough from edges to center.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the mass rise again until doubled. Divide into three equal loaves. Put each into a greased pan sprinkled with corn meal. Brush the tops of the loaves with cream, then strew liberally with coarse salt. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise again until doubled in size.

Bake at 350ºF/175ºC for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from pans when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on wire racks (unless you plan to tear into them right away, then just grab a board, a knife, and a boatload of butter).


Tiare said...

This really does sound good! i rarely bake (i`m too lazy) but maybe i should..

Matthew Rowley said...

Of course, you should! Even San Diego, where it doesn't get truly cold, experiences plenty of chilly nights and mornings in the winter. Hot bread, whether it's onion rye bread or buttermilk biscuits, are the perfect thing to help keep out the cold. Well, that is, they're almost as good as a hot rum toddy.

Ruby said...

Looks delicious! But there was no snow in KC this Christmas. Hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday wherever they were. I was happy to hear that your dad is ok and was not robbed and stranded in London and did not desperately need money to get home.

Matthew Rowley said...

We were in San Diego, Ruby: the temperature was in the 70's Christmas day and it was a clear blue sky. It was perfect.

Ah, you got that email, too? That was a particularly sophisticated con — but it was obviously a con. My father? In London? Not a chance...

Ruby said...

I thought maybe I am creeping you out so sorry about that! I am not a stalker! I am a friend of your parents. My dad and your mom were in the same cancer support group. Your dad hooked me up to your blog and I've been a fan of yours for a couple of years now. Happy 2012!!!!

LC said...

Love this recipe. Many thanks for posting it is delicious!

Ali said...

My go to for Onion Rye-love this recipe. Thanks so much for posting!