A can of all natural steamed rye bread, anyone? I am giving away a litter of half a dozen cans after a week’s worth of experimenting and feasting on this German yeastless version of traditional black bread that’s so revered throughout Eastern Europe.
Moist, spongy bread with a robust bitter sweet taste. Strong. Distinctive. Healthful.
Every other morning this past week we had it for breakfast topped either with fresh Mexican cheese and a dollop of my homemade black plum and rose jam or spread with my black plum and rose jam and topped with a slice of soft and crumbly Mexican cheese.
You get the idea. Sandwich possibilities are endless. If you like sweet toppings like me, especially for breakfast, try it spread with butter, cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraiche, a jam of your choice and a sprinkling of cinnamon or allspice.
My latest craze is queso fresco or fresh Mexican cheese. It reminds me of брынза, a Moldovan cheese made from sheep’s milk. Very mild and milky, borderline buttery, with a pleasant salty aftertaste. Yum.
Here’s a good formula to stick to when you build a sandwich with a sweet topping: Use a piece of hearty bread for your base, something creamy in the middle, like some of the toppings listed above, to soften up the base and offset the sweetness of the top layer that is usually constituted of a spoonful of a fruit preserve or a drizzle of honey.
This bread is steamed rather than oven baked. So, just to put all the conjectures to rest, I did not purchase it canned, nor did I can it myself. I steamed it in a can placed in a hot water bath for 2 hours. The two cans I started out with had previously held sweet corn kernels, then got emptied, washed out, and repurposed to make the bread. They were later joined by a couple of garbanzo bean cans. And no, they didn’t have any after smell.
Though primitive, this cooking technique yields delectable and wholesome results, not to mention the gorgeous little loaves in the traditional round shape that are fun to slice and serve, and I thought I’d give it a try as the surge of making no-knead breads had finally swept up by me.
And yes, whereas making bread in this fashion might not be as a satisfying and glamorous food experience as calling in at the baker’s to buy a freshly baked loaf while strolling the quaint streets of downtown Prague or Berlin, it is a satisfying thought indeed for a mother who cares about the nutritious well-being of her family.
So, a can of all natural streamed rye bread, anyone?
Recipe for All Natural Steamed Rye Bread, adapted from Russian, Polish and German Cooking by Lesley Chamberlain
½ cup (50g) rye flour
1/3 cup (40g) unbleached ultragrain flour or all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
A pinch of allspice, optional
1/3 cup (50g) fine semolina
3 tablespoons black strap molasses
1 cup (250ml) kefir or cultured buttermilk
2 14.5-oz. cans
1. Grease the cans with butter and line with 4”x 9” pieces of parchment paper.
2. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl. Stir in semolina.
3. Add the black strap molasses and kefir and mix thoroughly.
4. Divide the mixture between the 2 tins, then cover each with an 8” x 12” piece of heavy duty aluminum foil folded in half. Secure with a rubber band or baker’s twine.
5. Place the cans on a trivet in a large pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides. Cover with a lid and simmer for 2 hours, checking the water level occasionally.
6. Carefully remove the cans from the steamer. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack, and cool completely. Wrap in foil and use within 1 week.