Jewish "Corn" Bread (Rye Bread)

Years ago my husband and I ate some corn-rye bread in Los Angeles. Corn-rye bread doesn't have cornmeal in the bread itself, but the outside is coated with cornmeal. The texture of the bread should be dense without being dry, and the crust should be crisp and crunchy. For many years I tried to duplicate the recipe, but rye breads are tricky. They can be too dry and heavy or too light and airy. The rye bread in most supermarkets would never pass muster in a delicatessen. I was overjoyed to find this corn-rye bread recipe in Helen Witty and Elizabeth Colchie's, Better than Store-Bought, Harper& Row, 1979.

Rye Sourdough Starter

48 hours before beginning rye bread, make this starter: Mix 1 T. dry yeast in 2 cups of tepid water. Beat in 2 cups of rye flour. Add a small onion, peeled and halved. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Remove onion. Beat in 1 cup tepid water and 1.5 cups rye flour. Cover and let stand for 24 hours longer. This can be used immediately or refrigerated for 24 hours. This preparation makes about 4 cups of starter (a bit more than required for the bread).

Corn Rye Bread

Yield: 2 very large loaves
The following directions are for hand kneading. If you have a heavy duty food processor, put all dough ingredients in work bowl after you have made the yeast starter. Add starter and combine. Dough will be fairly sticky. Don't use a food processor unless it is quite durable; this is a very heavy dough.

Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast, sugar, and let stand until double (10 min.). Dissolve salt in remaining water. Mix in sourdough starter, then yeast mix. Add gluten flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour and optional caraway seeds; make a soft dough. Spread 1.5 cups flour on kneading surface and turn dough out on it. Knead, adding more flour, to make a soft dough. Do not overknead. The dough should be only slightly elastic, even a bit sticky. Form dough into a ball, and put in an ungreased bowl. Cover with plastic, and let rise until double (1.5 hours). Knead, cover with towel, and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide into 2 parts. Form each into 12 inch loaf. Pinch seam, and place seam down on cornmeal-dusted sheet. Cover and let rise until 3/4 proof. Put a large pan with 2 inches water in oven. Preheat to 400 °. Place quarry tiles on upper shelf of oven. Brush loaves with egg-white glaze, slash with knife. Sprinkle seeds on top. Bake for 30 minutes on tiles. Brush again with glaze; bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

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