He Said With a Rye Smile

When I retired, I realized I needed a new hobby, beyond brewing beer, (I have a batch of English Bitter about to be bottled) so I decided to start baking seriously, expanding my skills and experimenting with new recipes and techniques.  Now,  having nearly mastered the concept of retirement, I bake a lot of bread. I also bake a lot of pastries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, crackers, pizza, bagels and pretzels. (I’ve gotta get another hobby!)Hubble Deep Field Image

One of the holy grails of baking is to produce a good New York Jewish Rye Bread. This bread has a tangy rye flavor, chewy crumb and glazed, blistered crust. There are as many recipes and techniques to make this bread as there are galaxies in Hubble’s Deep Field image.

The recipe/method I chose was from Chef John V., A Good Cooking Recipe! This is not the easiest recipe, nor does it use the most common ingredients, however, his historical introduction rang with an authenticity that hooked me. His grandfather owned a dairy farm, as did mine. He was from Hudson NY, whereas mine was from Salisbury Vermont. He sold the farm and became a baker, whereas mine was a farmer to the end of his life. His other grandfather would work at the bakery whenever they needed help, whereas mine, did not. I didn’t say we had parallel experience, just that his sounded authentic.

Chef John V. uses some unusual, or at least uncommon (to me) ingredients that I found intriguing. Potato water: I have recipes that use small amounts of potato flour, but never potato “water”. First Clear Flour: milled from spring wheat and has a very high gluten and protein content which gives this rye its chewiness. White Rye Flour: milled from whole rye berries after the bran and germ are removed. I made the potato water and purchased the unusual flours from King Arthur (another Vermont connection.) He also uses a sour starter which requires 3 days of room temperature fermentation. When ready, the starter has a very yeasty, sour aroma – delicious.

The result of this first try was three small loaves of flavorful, aromatic, chewy crust and crumb rye bread, well worth the effort and will certainly be repeated. It might be fun to try an “easy” rye bread recipe to contrast the effort/reward of the two techniques. I think two medium sized loaves (think bigger sandwiches) would be appropropriate for this recipe.

New York Style Jewish Rye

Recipe by: Chef John V., A Good Cooking Recipe!

This recipe is as close to the original as can be. The only difference is they baked it in ovens that could inject steam during the first 10 minutes, which gave the crust its blistered look and chewy texture.

Note: This is a must have proper ingredient recipe! You can’t substitute medium rye flour without a change in texture. Light Rye or White Rye flour is a must is as 1st Clear Flour. Also note that flour has a different moisture content during the winter as in the summer, so in the winter you may need to add a bit more water and in the summer a little less. No more than a few tablespoons should do—this is a stiff dough! For your success please remember to measure exactly as baking is a science.

Serving size: 3 – 1½ pound oblong rye loaves (Note: next time 2 medium sized loaves)

Preparation time: Start to finish is 3 days including a sour starter


  • Sour Starter—
    • 1 cup warm potato water*
    • 1 cup light rye flour—see footnote
    • 1 Tbsp. yeast, dry active or 1 fresh yeast cake
    • Stir to blend well, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 3 days at room temperature 65-70o F

* Potato water—Peel and quarter 2 pounds of regular potatoes, cover with water and season with salt. Cook like you would for boiled or mashed potatoes, drain—saving the water the potatoes were cooked in. This is potato water, it gives bread a moist and compact texture. Save or eat the potatoes as you like.

  • Dough for the bread—
    • 2 cups warm water, about 120o
    • 1 Tbsp. sugar
    • 1 Tbsp. yeast
    • Add—starter from above
    • 2 cups light rye flour
    • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
    • 2 Tbsp. caraway seeds
    • 4 ¾ cups first clear flour—see footnote
  • Glaze—1 cup water
    • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup cold water—no lumps


  1. In a mixer or by hand combine 2 cups warm water with sugar and yeast, mix and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the sour starter and the remaining ingredients. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes with a dough hook, then increase to medium speed and mix 6 minutes longer, be sure all the flour is absorbed into the dough by raising and lowering the bowl from time to time.
  3. Remove from the machine and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 2 hours @ 70o or until doubled in size.
  4. Portion into 3 – 1½ pound pieces of dough and shape into oblong loaves, place on baking pans that have been sprinkled with semolina flour or fine cornmeal. Cover with a damp but not wet cloth and let rise for 40 minutes at @ 75-80o (on top of the stove is fine).
  5. Carefully remove the damp cloth, then slash the dough 3 times across the top with a very sharp knife or razor blade about ¾ of an inch deep. Immediately place in a pre-heated 375o oven, and place a pan of boiling water on the oven’s bottom. Remove the pan after 10 minutes, this will create steam and help with crust development. Continue to bake for 30 minutes or until center is 180 degrees F.
  6. For the glaze: boil 1 cup of water, mix the cornstarch with ¼ cup cold water, then combine with boiled water and stir continually until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap.
  7. Remove the bread and with a pastry brush, brush with the cooked cornstarch. A small amount of this glaze is enough, it’s used to create a shiny surface. Cool the bread on wire racks for at least 1 hour before slicing.


White Rye Flour is milled from whole rye berries which has the bran and germ removed and is unbleached. Medium rye is the next grade with is darker in color and if it were to be used in this bread it would make a darker loaf but not as dark as pumpernickel.

First Clear Flour is milled from spring wheat and has a very high gluten and protein content which gives this rye its chewiness.

Retirement is Loafing… NOT!

I admit it. I have a bread machine. I was consistently underwhelmed by the results from Whitebread1this device. Currently, it is in storage in the garage. I also have a KitchenAide mixer with a dough hook and am very pleased with the consistently good results from this device. It both mixes the ingredients and does 90% of the kneading. It would probably do all the kneading but there is something satisfying about having your hand on, and in the dough, feeling it develop the gluten into a soft, resilient ball.

Here is a tip: if, while using your stand mixer to IMG_0029knead bread, it walks across the table, put a silicone baking liner under the mixer. I buy a Cooks Essentials 24″ x 72″ roll every year or so.

After a long search (and many test bakes) for a “go to” white sandwich bread recipe I found one on, of all places, the back of a bag of  Gold Medal flour, duh! I have changed the Method a little, but held pretty close to the Ingredients. I did try substituting butter for the shortening, no big difference, but don’t leave it out. I tried both bread and AP flour, and prefer bread. (I am making bread… why would I not use bread flour?)



  • 6 to 7 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour* or Better for Bread® bread flour
  • 3 Tbl sugar
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • 2 Tbl shortening – NOTE: 1 Tbl shortening weighs 13g, easier to weigh than spoon
  • 4 1/2 tsp quick active dry yeast (2 packages regular)
  • 2 ¼ cups very warm water (120° to 130°F)
  • 2 Tbl butter or margarine, melted, if desired


  1. In large bowl, with the dough hook, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat  on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle, not very sticky.
  2. Increase the speed to medium, KitchenAide (4 or 5) and knead for 7 minutes.
  3. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is smooth and springy.
  4. Spray large bowl (I use a dough rising bucket with snap on top) with canola, or other sprayable oil. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap (if using the bucket, spray the lid also) and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. (I use the proofing setting on my oven. This is a little higher temperature than recommended but the results justify the process.) Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
  5. Spray the bottoms and sides of two 8×4-inch or 9×5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
  6. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. (I find I end up with two 750g dough. Gently flatten each half with shaping into a 18×9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. (I used to use a rolling pin, but I prefer the texture by treating the dough more gently and not deflating too much.) Roll dough up, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal and form a tight seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in pan. Here is another point of option. You can either brush loaves lightly with butter a this point, or for a crustier crust, don’t. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  7. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425°F.
  8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. For the crusty crust, add a baking pan below the bread and pour a cup of water into the hot pan when you put the bread in to bake. Remove the pan and water after 10 minutes and let the bread continue to bake.
  9. Remove from pans to wire rack. For a softer, but still chewy crust brush loaves with butter, otherwise leave them dry; cool.


Somewhere, Under the Rainbow

Frances sent me a picture of these cupcakes thinking I might like the design and might make them. She was right, I did and I did. Sadly, she is not eating any added sugar at the moment… sigh. I also had a new white cake recipe I wanted to try and the confluence of these two irresistible forces resulted in an almost perfect cupcake. However, my unpaid, full time, in-house taste tester felt the cupcake was sweet and adding the buttercream frosting just put her over the edge. You know, the typical shakes, cold sweats and hyperactivity of a pure sugar high. The white cake recipe is a keeper though. Maybe a cream cheese frosting…

Land o’Lakes published the rainbow piping concept. I read it but then I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew (get it?)
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out (never!)
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

Buttercream Frosting

Previously if I wanted multi-colored piping I will fill small piping bags with different colored frosting, snip the ends off and cram them into a large bag. This worked fair at best. This technique is far superior, and maybe even easier. I use Wiltons Icing Colors. They are concentrated and you don’t need much for very vibrant colors.

Once the colored frosting is piped into rows on a piece of food wrap, roll the wrap up and snip off the end. Put the rolled frosting into a large piping bag with a large star end.

Run a little of the frosting out until the mixture comes out evenly distributed, then pipe the rainbows, surrounding the marshmallow clouds.

Thank you Land o’Lakes, this was a great technique.



  • 4 cups of powdered sugar (or 1 box)
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) of softened butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons of milk
  • Violet food coloring


  1. Add powdered sugar to mixing bowl.
  2. Add softened sticks of butter
  3. Add vanilla. If you want white buttercream use clear imitation vanilla. Also, adding a little violet food coloring (like the end of a toothpicks worth) will help lighten the yellowish color due to the butter.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of milk.
  5. Beat on low until powdered sugar is incorporated. Then move mixer up to medium-high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When completely mixed the frosting may appear dry.
  6. Add more milk, a little bit at a time until frosting is the proper consistency.

White Cup Cakes –

I don’t remember where I saw this recipe but it is a basic white cake with whipped egg whites (meringue) gently folded into the batter. I made a half recipe just to try it. This made 15 medium sized cupcakes. Either follow the instructions and make cakes, or do what I did, or both, and make a lot of cupcakes!


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 egg whites


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour paper.
  2. Stir together milk and vanilla.
  3. Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
  4. Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form; gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  5. Bake at 350° for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; discard parchment paper. Cool completely (about 40 minutes).
  6. Spread Vanilla Buttercream Frosting between layers (about 1 cup per layer) and on top and sides of cake.

Sorry, a Bit Groggy This Morning

Purim is almost here. This story is from the Book of Esther and is yet another tale of “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat” and in this case, “let’s drink.” This batch of hamantaschen was practice for the 4 dozen I am making next weekend for Temple Or Rishon’s Purim celebration.  When the story is read aloud, every time Haman’s name is spoken a grager (pronounced grogger, hence the poor headline pun) is sounded.

Thanks to Tori Avery for an excellent recipe and instructions. I made a few additions, but it is hamentaschen99.9% pure Tori. I added another filling to Tori’s fig and caramel apple, when Fran found a cannoli-chocolate chip filling. Talk about a cultural melting pot!



  • 170g (¾ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 150g (⅔ cup) sugar
  • 55g (1 egg,) room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4g (1 tsp) grated orange zest
  • 200g (2¼) cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-5 tsp water (if needed)


  1. Slice room temperature butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest to the bowl. Beat again till creamy and well mixed.
  4. Mix with the electric mixer on low speed till a crumbly dough forms.
  5. Begin to knead dough with hands till a smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the crumbles are too dry to form a smooth dough, add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, using your hands to knead the liquid into the dough. Knead and add liquid until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch (not sticky), with a consistency that is right for rolling out. It can easily go from the right consistency to too wet/sticky, so add water very slowly. If the dough seems too wet, knead in a little flour till it reaches the right texture.
  6. Form the dough into a flat disk about 1” thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours to overnight.
  7. Before you begin to assemble the hamantaschen, choose and make your filling and have it on hand to work with. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. The dough will be very firm after chilling.
  8. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick. At the beginning, it will be tough to roll out– you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.
  9. When the dough reaches ¼ inch thickness, scrape the dough up with a pastry scraper, lightly reflour the surface, and flip the dough over. Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out– just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to ¼ inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.
  10. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough.
  11. Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you’ve cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles (unless you’ve kept your dough on the thicker side, which will result in less cookies). (I ended up with 25 circles, less than ¼ of an inch thick.)
  12. Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.
  13. Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.
  14. Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.
  15. Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under– it creates a “pinwheel” effect. This method if folding is not only pretty– it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.
  16. Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape. If any cracks have formed at the places where the dough is creased, use the warmth of your fingers to smooth them out.
  17. Repeat this process for the remaining circles.
  18. After your hamantaschen are all filled, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, evenly spaced.
  19. Place them in the oven and let them bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, till the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden.
  20. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.



  • 1½ lbs. Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium apples)
  • 170g (¾ cup) sugar
  • ⅓ cup dulce de leche
  • Salt to taste

Dulce De Leche (makes 1¼ cups)

  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1/8 tsp salt (or more to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pour can of sweetened condensed milk into a ceramic pie plate or dish. Sprinkle the milk lightly with about 1/8 tsp of salt (for a more salted caramel flavor, use 1/4 tsp salt).
  2. Cover tightly with foil. Place the filled pie plate into a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water till it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pie plate.
  3. Place the roasting pan into the oven. Let the mixture cook slowly for 75-90 minutes, check the water level every half hour to make sure it hasn’t dried out too much. Add water as needed.
  4. At 75 minutes, begin checking the color of the dulce de leche. When it reaches a rich light brown caramel color, you’ll know it’s ready. The longer you let it cook, the thicker and darker it will become.
  5. Take the pie plate and roasting pan out of the oven. Carefully remove the pie plate from the hot roasting pan. Take off the foil.
  6. Whisk the dulce de leche mixture. Use warm, or allow to cool to room temperature depending on your intended use.
  7. Store in the refrigerator. The sauce will keep for up to 4 weeks when refrigerated.
  8. Peel and core the apples. Shred them into fine shreds using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment.
  9. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
  10. Add the shredded apples to the boiling water and return to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture resembles a very thick applesauce. When the mixture is ready, it will start to sizzle lightly in the pan and clump together when you stir it. Don’t let the mixture burn, but do let it get quite thick.
  12. Stir in the dulce de leche; add salt to taste. The salt adds depth and gives the flavor of a salted caramel. It also offsets the sweetness a bit.
  13. Note that the filling is quite sweet on its own (it may initially taste “too sweet”), but it bakes to perfection when used for filling hamantaschen. Let the mixture cool.
  14. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour before using it to fill hamantaschen; this will thicken it and make it easier to manage when filling.
  15. Use about 1 tsp of filling per cookie.



  • 1 ½ scant cups chopped, stemmed, dried black figs (about 9 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) pomegranate juice
  • ⅓ cup (66 grams) sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 star anise, or ¼ tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 cup water


  1. In a saucepan, combine the figs, juice, sugar, zest, star anise (or fennel), and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer over low heat until the figs are softened and the liquid is syrupy and is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
  3. Let the figs cool in their syrup, then puree in a food processor until smooth. [If you dislike the taste of star anise, you should remove it before pureeing, but if you do, leave it in.


  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips


  1. Make the cannoli filling: In the bowl of a mixer, beat all ingredients except the chocolate chips till light and fluffy.
  2. Fold in the chocolate chips and refrigerate, covered, till needed.