Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pickle Juice Rye Bread

You could probably divide a majority of the American population into two groups: people who think something like pickle juice rye bread sounds completely unappetizing, and people who can't wait to grab a slice, schmear it with mustard, add a big chunk of sausage and devour.

Put me in the latter category.

Now, to be fair, it takes a little courage to pour a whole cup of pickle juice into a bowl of flour and yeast. I didn't know if it would taste, well, pickle-y, and I wondered if the baking aroma would fill my whole house with the pungent fragrance of dill and vinegar.

But no. This bread didn't taste pickle-y at all. The pickle juice actually created a wonderful tangy sourdough-like flavor, all without the messy maintenance and feeding of a sourdough starter (trust me, I've done it). The rye flour is mixed with white bread flour, so even the rye flavor isn't especially strong. It's just a simple rustic hearty bread that goes perfect with a big chunk of our homemade summer sausage, perhaps a strong cheese, and a dark beer. My German-Russian ancestors would approve.

I told my dad and step-mom how I was planning to make pickle juice rye bread. This turned into a discussion on the practicalities of pickle juice as an ingredient. A little bit in potato salad or macaroni salad makes it just right; I actually always put a little bit in my tuna salad, unknowingly shadowing something my father has done for years. And, in a soft voice, my step-mom shared one of her culinary secrets: "You know, Claussen is the best pickle juice."  Well then.

Pickle Juice Rye Bread
The original recipe was in the recent February issue of Food & Wine magazine. I didn't measure completely accurately, so my dough turned out a little wet, and thus my loaf didn't rise perfectly, but it still was tasty. Although I love me some mustard and cheese on rye, I found myself just eating slices plain, savoring the tangy sourdough flavor. If you don't have a pizza stone, just proceed without. 

1 3/4 cups stone-ground dark rye flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
1 cup strained juice from a jar of dill pickles, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, thinly spread the rye flour. Toast for about 12 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes, until fragrant and just slightly darkened. Let cool.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the toasted rye flour with the 2 1/4 cups of bread flour, the water, pickle juice, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix at low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough just starts to pull away from the side and bottom of the bowl, about 3 minutes; it will still be sticky and shaggy.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a large bowl. With oiled hands, shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour; the dough will rise only slightly.

Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten gently and fold the edge into the center. Invert and return the dough to the oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a draft-free place until puffy, about 1 hour.

Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten into a 10-inch square. Roll up the dough to form a 10-inch log. Fit the loaf into the prepared pan, seam side down, tucking the ends underneath. Press the dough gently into the corners of the pan. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until the dough is just above the rim of the pan and no longer springs back to the touch, about 2 1/2 hours.

Set a pizza stone on the second-lowest rack in the oven and a cast-iron skillet on the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 for at least 30 minutes. Place the loaf pan on the pizza stone. Add 1 cup of ice to the skillet and shut the oven. Bake for about 55 minutes, until the bread is lightly browned on top and the bottom of the pan sounds hollow when tapped; remove the skillet halfway through baking. Unmold the loaf onto a rack and let the bread cool before slicing.


Karen said...

I'm in the same category! This sounds so good, I'm going to have to make it!

Susan said...

Love anything with dill..especially dill pickles. This would taste wonderful and I am so glad you blogged about it.

Danica said...

My cocktail of choice? A mix of coors light, clamato, and pickle juice with a sprinkle of fresh cracked black pepper on top. Oh la la.

Lara Schneider said...

well done, looks amazing!