Old-School Jewish Deli Rye

14 Jan

One of my favorite things to eat is a hot Pastrami on Rye with Thousand Island dressing.  We happen to have a little gem of a pub in town called Reese’s which is one of the oldest on Long Island, New York where I live and it serves one of the best pastrami sandwiches I’ve ever had.

Anyway, if you want to make your own pastrami sandwich you have to start with a great Jewish Rye bread which is easier said than done.  I’ve tried many recipes over the years and few have lived up to my high expectations.  I recently purchased a new book to add to my extensive cookbook library called Inside the Jewish Bakery by Stanley Ginsburg and Norman Berg.  I’ve only read about 25% of the book so far, but I really have enjoyed the history lesson regarding the origins of Jewish bakeries in America.  I do have to say, after reading a brief description of the daily life of a Jewish Baker I don’t think I’m ready to open my own bakery just yet if ever!

I have tried several of the recipes so far in this excellent book with some mixed results but I was very happy with how my attempt at the Old-School Jewish Deli Rye came out.  This loaf is a 40% rye that has a nice tangy flavor as a result from a three-stage build for the sour.

One thing that I found interesting in this book is the brief description debunking the need to add “altus” or  left-over bread to make an authentic Jewish Rye bread.  It is a fact that many old-school Jewish bakers did add the altus to their loaves, according to the authors it has a marginal effect on the final outcome of the bread.  In other words, unless you have left over bread you want to get rid of it is not necessary to create an authentic Jewish rye bread.  I have tried this method in the past in other recipes and have not found it to make that much of a difference in the final outcome of the bread.

To make the recipe below I converted my 68% hydration white flour starter to a 80% rye flour starter.  If you already have a whole wheat starter you can use that instead to create the rye starter below.  Also note that most Jewish Rye recipes call for the use of First Clear Flour which is taken from what remains after the millers sift the patent flour out of the straight flour.  Patent flour is the purest and highest quality flour available.  First clear flours come from hard wheat and has a protein content of 15.0 – 18.0% which is ideal to strengthen the lower protein content of rye flours which are normally around 6.5%.

High-gluten flour can be substituted for First Clear and has a protein content of 13.5- 14.5%.

White rye flour is very important in authentic Jewish style rye breads and comes from the heart of the endosperm.  It contains only 6.5% protein.

Medium rye flour is milled from the whole grain after the bran has been stripped away and is used for high-percentage rye recipes (heavier breads for sure).

Dark rye flour, is what remains of the rye kernel after the white rye flour has been sifted out.  As you can imagine it is very dark and strong flavored flour.

Day 1:


0.5 oz. (15 grams) Wheat or Rye Sour Starter (80% Hydration)

2.5 oz. (70 grams) White Rye Flour (you can get this at King Arthur Flour or other online sources)  You can also use medium Rye Flour for a stronger Rye Flavor in your bread.

2.0 oz, (55 grams) Warm Water (90 degrees F./32 degrees C.)

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly mixed and cover with a saucer, plastic wrap or dish towel in a warm place for 5-6 hours.  The starter should increase in bulk and have a fresh, sour smell.

After 5-6 hours add the following:

5.0 oz. (140 grams) Sour from above.

9.0 oz. (255 grams) White Rye Flour

7.0 oz. (200 grams) Warm Water (90 degrees F./32 degrees C.)

Add all ingredients together and cover and let ferment for 4-5 hours until bubbly and then place in refrigerator overnight.

Day 2:


21 oz. (600 grams) Rye Sour from Day 1

17 oz. (480 grams) First Clear or High-gluten Flour

10 oz. (285 grams) Hot Water (108 degrees F./42 degrees C.)

1 1/4 tsp. (0.2 oz. or 5 grams) Instant Yeast

2 3/4 tsp. (0.6 oz. or 15 grams) Salt (sea salt or table salt)

1 Tbs. (0.5 oz. or 15 grams) Ground Caraway Seeds

4 Tbs. 92.0 oz. or 55 grams) Caraway or Nigella Seeds (Optional)

Add the hot water to the sour, and blend together.  In a separate mixing bowl combine the flour, yeast, salt, ground caraway and 2 Tbs. of the seeds (if using) and blend together by mixer or hand with a whisk or wooden spoon.  Now add the sour mixture and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and firm.

If using a mixer, switch to your dough hook (I have a Bosch which only does not use a dough hook) for 6 to 8 minutes  or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and firm.  Place in a glass or plastic bowl covered to rise until doubled in bulk.  Depending on how hot it is in your kitchen this could take anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours.

Around 20 minutes before baking, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. and put a pan to hold water on the bottom rack of your oven along with a baking stone.  Put the risen dough on your work surface and degas it completely.  If you are afraid of the dough sticking to your work surface, you can use some bakers spray or oil spray.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and press the dough into a flat oval and roll it towards you and form a football shape with rounded edges.

Set the loaves on a peel or parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal with the seams facing down.  Cover loaves with a damp towel and allow them to rise until they are about 1 1 /2 times the original size.  This should take around 60 minutes or less and if you poke your finger gently into the dough it should leave a slight dent.  You can now brush or spray the loaves with water and apply the seeds if desired.






Pour  cup of boiling water ( I usually use the hottest water I can get from my tap which works fine) into the pan on the bottom shelf of your oven, slash the loaves 2 to 3 times crosswise and slide them onto the stone in your oven.  I usually also spray the inside of my oven 2-3 times for good measure.  After 3 minutes pour 1 more cup of boiling water into the pan on the bottom.

Bake the loaves for another 15 minutes and turn them to make sure they are cooking evenly.  After an additional 20-30 minutes the crust should be a deep golden brown and the loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  I usually check with an instant read thermometer and make sure they are 190 degrees F. or 200 degrees F.

Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and try  your hardest to let them cool for an hour before slicing.  (This is a rarity for me as I usually can’t wait that long!)

This post has been submitted to the Yeast Spotting Site here: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/.  This post has also been submitted to http://www.girlichef.com/p/byob-bake-your-own-bread.html, so please visit them for even more baking recipes.

8 Responses to “Old-School Jewish Deli Rye”

  1. Heather @girlichef January 15, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Okay. You got me. Jewish Rye is probably in my top 3 as far as “favorite breads” goes. These are some gorgeous loaves. And I’m craving a Reuben more than you can know right now…lots of hot corned beef, sauerkraut, melty swiss, and messy Thousand Island. Oh my gosh, yum. Thanks so much for sharing your creation with BYOB this month 🙂

    • mookielovesbread January 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks Heather….you’re making me hungry now! It’s about 20 degrees out today so I think I may have to go get some Jewish deli myself with some nice soup!

  2. Heather January 3, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Hello! The steps for day one are not at all clear whether you *add* 140 grams of your original rye sour *to* the 15 grams 80% hydration sour mixture, or whether you’re starting a fresh mixture that uses 140 grams *of* the first day one sour mixture.

    It would also be helpful if you have a more detailed shaping method for the loaves. I’ve made a few loaves of rye bread and a LOT of loaves of non-rye bread, and I’m pretty sure just rolling the dough up into a football shape and calling it good wouldn’t do the trick. Surely you tuck the ends under and develop surface tension while rolling?

    Thanks in advance for clarification. The loaves you have pictured have a beautiful crumb, and I’m on the lookout for a new rye sour go-to.

    • mookielovesbread January 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry if the instructions were a bit unclear. You need to add the additional white rye flour and water to the sour you create in step one and let it ferment for 5-6 hours. You then refrigerate it and use it the next day in the main dough.

      For the shaping you need to form a boule/round ball that is nice and tight. Next you roll the ball out into a football shape. There are many good videos on Youtube that demonstrate how to make a batard/football shape dough.
      Hope this helps.

      • heather January 4, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

        Another question for you: these sponges? starters? Are REALLY stiff, not liquidy at all (I’m following the weight-by-grams measurements), like library paste. Is that right? In the second build it says to let ferment ’til bubbly, but I don’t think something this thick will really be bubbly.


        • mookielovesbread January 5, 2014 at 8:47 am #

          Hi Heather,
          The starters/sponge is supposed to be stiff in this formula. You should see some activity once it starts fermenting and it should increase in size. I have not made this recipe in a while but I do know it’s important that your original starter is nice a lively before creating the rye sponge.
          Let me know how it turns out for you.

          • Heather January 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

            Hi Ian!

            Well, after a late night of baking I’ve got four loaves out: two of this old-school jewish deli rye and two Greenstein’s jewish sour rye, via TFL. They’re very much alike, though I must’ve gone wrong somewhere with your old-school. The Greenstein’s is lovely and fat with nice scoring (though I did burst a seam), but the old-school is much flatter, with truly bad scoring. The weird thing, though, is that while I got a really nice spring with the Greenstein’s that one is a bit denser and blander (by just a touch), and the old-school- while much flatter and not very pretty at all- is a bit lighter and chewier. They’re both beautifully sour, which is exciting.

            The old-school dough was SUPER slack and sticky. Is that right? My “risen” (they really didn’t rise much. They spread more than they rose, even though they were in a supported couche) loaves didn’t look anything like yours, not even close, and when I went to shape them they went squish, even more than the slackest rye dough I’ve worked with in the past. I scored with a fresh utility blade (my go-to) and it just dragged.

            That being said, though, I did get more of an oven rise than I expected, and the crumb looked like yours but with perhaps a few more large holes; pretty much what you would expect with such a wet dough.

            Any thoughts on where I went wrong? And do you have any experience with refrigerating between sponge-building stages? I’m adapting a rye for professional production and can’t have a starter that requires 12-hour babysitting.

            Thanks for the dialogue! I’ve been a professional pastry chef for almost sixteen years, but only now am I building a bread program. Bread being the specialized field it is, it helps immeasurably when those with more practical experience are willing to share their knowledge.


            • mookielovesbread January 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

              Hi Heather,
              To be honest I have not made this formula in a while so I don’t remember how wet the dough was. Most rye breads do tend to get a little wet and sticky but I’m not sure about this one. I will remake this one myself as soon as I get a chance and get back to you. One thing I find helpful when shaping this type of bread is to use cooking spray on the work surface so you don’t end up adding too much bench flour and making a dry dough. The shaping will come with practice.
              I always usually do a retard of the starter and the bulk mixed dough overnight in the refrigerator. As long as you let it come to room temperature for about 1 to 1.5 hours you should be good. I’m not a pro baker but I can certainly understand your concerns about production. It may make sense to try and adapt this recipe to your needs. I do have another Jewish style rye that I love on my blog site made with beer. I am not sure that one will be any better though for your situation.
              Once you get a rye sour dough ready to use it will certainly make it easier. To be honest it is hard to get a good Jewish rye at most places since I do believe they probably take some shortcuts which dramatically changes the outcome.

              Please feel free to let me know if you have anything else I can help you with.
              Once I make this recipe again I will let you know.

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