A Stir The Pots Post

Cracked The Corn

by | Jan 13, 2014 | Bread

Jewish corn rye is one of the old school breads of the Jewish diaspora deli culture. There's a mythic history that goes with these loaves. At their best, they sport a caraway-seed crust typified by a leather-like sheen, and a tight crumb infused with onion along with nuances of sour rye. After purchasing George Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish baker, I attempted to bake one using his formulas. 

Note, these corn ryes are a generational bread that most bakers simply don't know about them. It's a lost art, as are most Jewish breads that were part of the Jewish deli culture. So when my attempts to recreate the bread from Greenstein's book resulted in failure, I went digging for help. My source?  The Fresh loaf,  specifically to David Snyder's thread on the subject, where you can find tips from a retired baker named Norman, someone with 25 years of experience baking Jewish breads.

Norman offers a plethora of information on the steps in making these Jewish ryes, which are very different from their non-denominational brethren. Translating some of Norman's tips, I fed my starter with some onion, that added enzyme and enhanced the flavor. And where both Greenstein and Norman both used commercial yeast, I opted for natural sour dough. Usually they brush the dough with a water-and-starch mixture to get that beautiful shine on the crust, I used a creuset method in which the humidity from the bread, itself, creates its lovely outside luster. 

Another note worth consideration. The dough is fermented in a very wet environment. And unlike French-style breads that are given several fermentations, this bread gets only one, after which it is shaped and then goes straight into the oven. It has its own demands. Oy vey! Anyway, after finishing all that, like a good Jewish (or half-Jewish) baker, I crossed myself, gave a hail Mary, and hoped for the best. One hour later a shiny caraway crust emerged, and after an overnight to cool, a fragrantly familiar Jewish rye crumb appeared when sliced, taste was great and I started hankering for some pastrami or herring!

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  1. David Snyder

    I am happy and sad to see the link to my 2008 TFL blog entry on Jewish Sour Rye. I am happy to see another baker enthusiastic about a great bread with a great history. I’m sad because it reminds me of the loss of Norm Berg, who was so helpful to us around traditional Ashkenazi Jewish baking. Norm, along with Stan Ginsburg authored a terrific baking book, “Inside the Jewish Bakery,” before Norm passed away. It’s well worth a look.
    The Greenstein Sour Rye recipe ingredients in the linked entry are in volumes. Subsequently, I converted them to weight measurements. That Formula can be found here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/32681/jewish-sour-rye
    Happy baking!

  2. Jonitin

    Thanks David for visiting and telling more about Norm…loved his descriptions, somehow his description was so much easier to follow! Greenstien’s book is great, but I loved the richness of Norms descriptive and old world feel. I wonder if he ever mentioned pumpernickel or if there is a link?


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