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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, August 11

Gapers Block

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It seems silly, but many people don't recognize that rye bread and caraway seeds don't have to go together. I don't know why rye bread always seems to have those pesky piquant seeds. I do know that many people won't eat rye bread just because they don't like caraway. It doesn't have to be this way!

I was reminded of this while shopping at a new grocery store. Browsing for some usual bread, I found my absolute favorite: Russian Rye Bread from the Baltic Bakery. (They are good at making bread but not websites, as they don't have one.)

The Baltic Bakery breads are available at most groceries in Chicago, and if you like hearty whole-grained breads, they are absolutely wonderful. Unlike many brown-colored breads in the bread aisle, the Baltic Bakery breads use only your basic ingredients: water, salt, yeast, rye flour. One rarely sees the long list of odd ingredients you wouldn't use in your own kitchen like high-fructose corn syrup or any odd preservatives. And as I spread a little butter and jam or peanut butter on a slice of Russian rye, I was reminded of just how good their stuff is.

That loaf got me back in a habit I had once adopted many moons ago: simple bread for breakfast. Instead of trying to prepare anything, I would just put a slice of good cheese or a little peanut butter on some bread and head out. Most breads wouldn't be to hearty enough to last me to lunch--some serious whole-grained breads like true wheat bread or Russian rye were called for.

I found this multi-grain recipe in an older book that talks about things like growing your own sprouts or milling your own flour. It's very much a part of the Back To Earth movement. I ate this for breakfast every day last week, and there's no question that the texture and ingredients come through in every bite. Two slices are a hearty breakfast. This isn't something I'd recommend as the stuff of sandwiches: enjoy it on it's own terms (with butter of course).

A note about ingredients: some of the items listed here aren't things you'll just happen to have around the house. Instead of buying 5 lbs. of rye flour though, look at your local supermarket for a small section in the baked-goods aisle that has specialty flours in smaller sizes. Most stores that sell bulk-good items (like Whole Foods) will carry rye flour as well.


2 c. boiling water
1 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. molasses
1 c. corn meal
1 c. rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 c. body temperature water
2 pkgs. yeast
1 c. rye flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour

1. Combine the 2 c. boiling water with salt, butter, and molasses in large bowl. Stir in corn meal and oats. (Note: do not pour this all over yourself as I accidentally did, as your kitchen floor will get very sticky.)

2. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.

3. After about 10 min. when everything has cooled, stir in the rye and wheat flour as well as the dissolved yeast. Add the flours 1/2 c. at a time. When you can't stir it any longer, you're ready to knead.

4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding white flour if it is sticky.

5. You'll notice the dough is ready because it's smooth and satiny. Punch it down and place it in a well-oiled bowl and let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours. It should double in size.

6. Split the dough into two loaves and place into loaf pans. (Or not.) Let rise again until double, about 1/2 hour.

7. Bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

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