Monday, December 20, 2010

Old Milwaukee Rye Bread

I think I am going to drown in drool. This bread is baking right now and the aroma is heavenly! The recipe comes from:

The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton, copyright 1973. Clayton has written other books since then. This was the original and my wonderful sister bought a copy for me back when it was first published. I think he was largely responsible for teaching a new generation to make excellent bread. Many of our parents grew up eating homemade bread, but then commercially produced bread became readily available after WWII and my generation was never taught how to do it. I remember the first time I tried to make bread. I had no one to show me, and it would have made a good door stop I think. All of that has changed over the years. A friend taught me how, hands-on in 1972 and I've been doing it every since. Good bread is such a blessing and a joy!

So, here is the recipe. It's one of my favorites. I don't make it very often, because it is only partially whole grain, but if you need rye bread - say for ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches or something like that, THIS is the bread to have!


This is a two or three day affair that produces a fine rye loaf. It can be made into 2 large round loaves, or 3 or 4 long, slender loaves.

Under the taut plastic wrap covering the bowl, the sponge will rise and fall as it bubbles to it's maximum goodness in approximately 3 days, give or take a few hours.


The sponge: 1 scant Tablespoon (1 package) dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F - 115F)
2 cups medium rye flour
1 Tablespoon caraway seed

All of the sponge
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105F - 115F)
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tablespoon caraway seed
1 egg
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup rye flour
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, approximately (I used less)
3 Tablespoons butter

Glaze: 1 egg
1 Tablespoon milk
Caraway seed

Baking sheet, greased or non-stick, or with a silicone mat


Set the sponge in a large bowl by dissolving yeast in the water. Stir in rye flour. Add caraway seeds. Cover the bowl snugly with plastic wrap. The sponge may be used anytime after 6 hours although the longer the better - up to 3 days when it will have ceased fermenting.

On baking day, uncover the sponge bowl, sprinkle on the new yeast and add the water. Stir well and then add the molasses, caraway, egg, salt, rye flour, and about 2 cups of the white flour. Stir this together well and then start adding more white flour 1/2 cup at a time. When you have enough, the dough will clean the sides of the bowl as you stir.

Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, sprinkling just a little white flour under the dough if things get sticky.

Return to large bowl and butter the top of the dough. Replace the plastic wrap and let your dough rise in a warm (80F) place until when you poke it with your finger, it sighs, and does not spring back. Punch it down and allow to rise for 10 more minutes while you pre-heat your oven to 375F.

Working on your floured surface, you can form the dough into two large round loaves, or 4 long skinny loaves and put those on your baking sheet. As you can see, mine are the big round ones.

I lightly sprayed the top of my loaves with baking spray and then placed the plastic wrap on top of them and set it back in the warm place. Let your loaves raise until double, slash them with a sharp knife in 3 places (I use a serrated bread knife) and the mix the egg and milk, brush it over the tops of the loaves and sprinkle them with a bit more caraway seed.

Bake at 375F for about 40 minutes. It took these 45 minutes to get done. Then let them cool on a wire rack.

This bread will keep for at least a week and freezes well. Please don't slice it before it is cool.

This will be on our Christmas buffet table.


  1. It sounds like a lot of work but looks really yummy, as usual!

  2. Actually, this sort of bread gives the illusion (at least to me) of being "easier" because you start it ahead of time, so the work is divided up.

  3. I am going to give this recipe a try. Like that you can start it one day and bake it later.


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