Excellent served along with many cheeses, smoked meats and hearty stews, this full-bodied but not heavy bread tastes much like traditional rye breads containing caraway seeds. However, because rye flour can be hard to find, whole-wheat flour may be used in its place; most people won't detect the substitution. They are not likely to notice the beer in the recipe, either. It simply adds a little extra yeasty, malty aroma and gives the bread flavor more depth. If you have a coarse crystal salt on hand, it makes a nice garnish for the loaf top, but the bread is fine without it, too.
To quickly "flatten" the beer, stir or whisk it until the head subsides.
The bread will keep at room temperature for 48 hours. To retain the crisp crust, store it in a paper bag; for a softer crust, store in a resealable plastic food storage bag. Freeze for longer storage.
Servings: 12 - 16
Yield: Makes 1 large loaf (12 to 16 slices)
- For the first stage
- 3 cups (15 ounces) flour, preferably unbleached
- 1 cup (5 ounces) whole-wheat flour or rye flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process, sifted after measuring
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (use a generous 1 1/2 teaspoon if omitting the crystal salt garnish)
- 1/4 teaspoon "rapid rise," "quick rise," "bread machine" or "instant" yeast
- 2 tablespoons corn oil or canola oil, plus more for coating the dough top
- 12 ounces beer, flat and at room temperature
- 2 1/2 tablespoons molasses stirred into 2/3 cup room-temperature water
- For the second stage
- About 1/2 teaspoon corn oil for coating the dough top
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, for garnish
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (optional)
For the first stage: Thoroughly combine the flours, caraway seeds, cocoa powder, salt and yeast in a 3- to 4-quart or larger bowl; mix with a large spoon. Add the oil, beer and molasses-water mixture, vigorously stirring until very well blended and all bits of flour have been fully incorporated. The mixture may seem stiff at first; just keep stirring. Use a greased flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Drizzle the dough top with about 1/2 teaspoon oil (no need to measure); use a pastry brush or your fingertips to spread it evenly over the dough surface. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside at a room temperature of about 70 degrees or cooler for 12 to 18 hours.
For the second stage: Generously coat a 2-quart or slightly larger souffle dish or deep-sided, flat-bottom ovenproof casserole (or similar-size heavy, all-metal saucepan) with nonstick cooking oil spray. (If necessary, check the volume by filling the container with water and measuring it.) Turn out the dough into the dish. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon oil over the top. Spread it out with a pastry brush or fingertips to completely coat the dough surface. Sprinkle the loaf top with the caraway seeds, pressing them down slightly with the fingertips. Sprinkle the coarse salt, if using. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a deep X in the center top of the loaf. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
For a "regular" rise: Let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in bulk. (The time will vary considerably depending on the temperature of the room and the length of the first rise.) If the dough nears the plastic, remove the plastic.
For a "quick" rise: Place a microwave-safe cup containing 1 cup of water in a rear corner of the microwave oven. Microwave for 2 minutes, until the water almost boils. Put the loaf in the microwave oven as far from the water as possible. Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in bulk. If the dough nears the plastic, remove the plastic.
For baking: Position an oven rack in the middle third of the oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Gently transfer the pan to the oven; jarring can cause deflating. Bake on the middle rack for 30 to 40 minutes or until the loaf is well-browned on top and sounds hollow when thumped. Remove to a wire rack; let cool for several minutes. Run a knife around the loaf to loosen, then remove from the pan. Let cool thoroughly on a wire rack before cutting or storing in an airtight container. Cut the loaf crosswise or into wedges, as desired.
From cookbook author and baking expert Nancy Baggett.
Tested by Emily Messner.
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