The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


varda's picture

One of my goals in learning how to make bread was to be able to recreate a bread I ate as a child called tzitzel.   As I understand it, tzitzel mean caraway in Yiddish, and tzitzel is a rye bread with caraway and covered with cornmeal.   So far, despite many attempts and many different formulas, I have not come very close to recreating this memory bread.   Perhaps one can never recreate memory bread.    In any cases, my searches on this site, with its many rye bakers, led me to Greenstein's Secret of a Jewish Baker.   I have tried making his Jewish Rye (p. 136) a couple of times, and not very successfully given beginner's errors.   I have also made Jewish Corn Bread (p. 155) actually a rye bread with caraway wrapped in cornmeal, several times,  and despite many  beginner's errors, this bread is delicious enough to make me (almost) forget about some elusive memory of tzitzel.   The problem with Jewish Corn Bread, at least as I make it, is that while I can get it to taste good, I can't for the life of me get it to look good.   The instructions call for the following:  "[after kneading] Transfer the dough to a prepared clean wet bowl...pat the dough down and cover with a film of water....Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes."   This is the only rise for this bread.   And within minutes after it's done rising it goes straight into the oven.   I suspect that this treatment is what causes it to taste so great, and what makes it so addictive (to me anyhow).   However, it's a bloody mess when it comes out of the water, practically unshapeable, soggy in parts and so on.   And to make matters worse, I'm not 100% sure that his instructions mean to immerse it in water - although that's how I've read it.    Does he mean immerse the dough, or does he just mean spill water over it until it's thoroughly wet.    Also Greenstein gives all his measurements by volume, some approximately, and I just cook it that way, but my results have been pretty consistent, and pretty consistently ugly. 

I'll wait until tomorrow to post crumb photos.   I've learned on this site, that one must wait, wait, wait to cut into rye!

And the crumb...

varda's picture

I have been baking bread like crazy over the last three months.   I've tried a lot of things, I've received a lot of great advice in the forums, many breads haven't worked very well since I am so inexperienced, but now I have a list of breads that either came out pretty well or I hope that with more practice will eventually turn out pretty well.   In order to consolidate what I've learned so far, I will try to bake a bread a day (or so) with seven breads that I would like to get right.   I'll start with the easiest, and since it is also quite delicious, I'll call it the best per amount of effort:   Greenstein's Milk Bread.   In Secrets of a Jewish Baker, Greenstein gives two recipes for this - one with a sponge, one without.   The one I made today was with a straight dough method.   This means you just mix everything up, let rise, shape, rise, and bake.   No pre-ferment, no cold ferment, no sourdough no nothing.   And for bread, a fairly short time from start to finish.  

Mix 2 cups warm warm water with 1.5 Tbsp instant yeast.   Add 5 cups unbleached bread flour (I used a measurement of 133 g per cup).  Add 2 Tbsp soft butter, 4 tsp sugar, 2/3 cup dry milk, 2 tsp salt.   Mix it up until smooth.   Let double.  Cut in half.   Let rest for 15 minutes.   Shape and put in bread pans.  Let rise to over top of pan.   Score and brush with melted butter.  Bake with steam for 40 minutes at 375.   Remove from pan for last 5 minutes of baking and put directly on stone.

Tomorrow Madame Doz Pain de Compagne from Bernard Clayton.

thebreadfairy's picture

How to rest rye breads post-baking

March 6, 2009 - 8:25pm -- thebreadfairy

I have read that sourdough rye breads will develop the best flavor if allowed to rest for 24-48 hours after baking. I would appreciate any advice on the best way to store them during this period e.g. in a bag, out in the open, in a bread box? In my specific case, I am working with a Greenstein's Jewish Corn Bread which is "docked" and so does not have a tightly sealed crust, if that makes any difference.

Any help will be appreciated.


dmsnyder's picture

Greenstein's Sour Rye

Greenstein's Sour Rye

Greenstein's Sour Rye Crumb

Greenstein's Sour Rye Crumb


Back in May, 2007, there was an extended discussion about Greenstein's book and how come he provided only volume and not any weight measurements for ingredients. For anyone interested in that discussion, the link is:

I have made Jewish Sour Rye from Greenstein's recipe many times. It's one of my favorite breads. But, although I always weigh ingredients when the recipe gives weights, I have always made this bread according to the volume measurements in the book – that is, with adjustments to achieve the desired dough characteristics.

Today, I actually weighed the ingredients and can provide them for those who get all upset when they encounter a recipe that instructs them to use, for example, “4 to 5 cups of flour.” By the way, if you make this bread using ingredient weights, and the dough doesn't seem right, I advise you to add a little bit more water or flour accordingly. (Irony intended.)


750 gms Rye Sour

480 gms First Clear Flour

240 gms Warm Water (80-100F)

12 gms Sea Salt

7 gms Instant Yeast

½ cup Altus (optional but recommended)

1 Tablespoon Caraway Seeds

Cornmeal for dusting the parchment or peel.

Cornstarch glaze for brushing the breads before and after baking.


  1. If you have a white rye sour, build it up to a volume of 4 cups or so the day before mixing the dough. If you do not have a rye sour but do have a wheat-based sourdough starter, you can easily convert it to a white rye starter by feeding it 2-3 times with white rye flour over 2-3 days.

  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in the water, then add the rye sour and mix thoroughly with your hands, a spoon or, if using a mixer, with the paddle.

  3. Stir the salt into the flour and add this to the bowl and mix well.

  4. Dump the dough onto the lightly floured board and knead until smooth. If using a mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead at Speed 2 until the dough begins to clear the sides of the bowl (8-12 minutes). Add the Caraway Seeds about 1 minute before finished kneading. Even if using a mixer, I transfer the dough to the board and continue kneading for a couple minutes. The dough should be smooth but a bit sticky.

  5. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

  6. Transfer the dough back to the board and divide it into two equal pieces.

  7. Form each piece into a pan loaf, free-standing long loaf or boule.

  8. Dust a piece of parchment paper or a baking pan liberally with cornmeal, and transfer the loaves to the parchment, keeping them at least 3 inches apart so they do not join when risen.

  9. Cover the loaves and let them rise until double in size. (About 60 minutes.)

  10. Pre-heat the oven to 375F with a baking stone in place optionally. Prepare your oven steaming method of choice.

  11. Prepare the cornstarch glaze. Whisk 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch in ¼ cup of water. Pour this slowly into a sauce pan containing 1 cup of gently boiling water, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until slightly thickened (a few seconds, only!) and remove the pan from heat. Set it aside.

  12. When the loaves are fully proofed, uncover them. Brush them with the cornstarch glaze. Score them. (3 cuts across the long axis of the loaves would be typical.) Transfer the loaves to the oven, and steam the oven.

  13. After 5 minutes, remove any container with water from the oven and continue baking for 30-40 minutes more.

  14. The loaves are done when the crust is very firm, the internal temperature is at least 205 degrees and the loaves give a “hollow” sound when thumped on the bottom. When they are done, leave them in the oven with the heat turned off and the door cracked open a couple of inches for another 5-10 minutes.

  15. Cool completely before slicing.


  • Comparing Greenstein's recipe to Norm's, the former is a wetter dough and also has a higher proportion of rye sour to clear flour. Both recipes make outstanding sour rye bread. Interestingly, Greenstein says, if you want a less sour bread, use less rye sour.
  • Having never weighed Greenstein's ingredients before, I've never even thought about baker's percentages and the like. FYI, the rye sour is 156% of the clear flour. A rough calculation of the ratio of rye to clear flour indicates that this bread is a "50% rye."



dmsnyder's picture

So, for my last baking experiment of the weekend, I chose another bread I've baked many times - the Sour Rye Bread from George Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker."

 I made two loaves and baked them together, covered for the first 15 minutes with the base of a large oval enameled metal roaster. This was a mistake. I was aware that the loaves were a bit crowded, in order that they both fit under the covering pan. When I attempted to remove the pan from them, I found that the loaves had stuck to the sides of the pan, one badly. I had to remove the pan from the oven with one loaf still stuck to it, scrape the loaf loose and replace it in the oven to finish baking. Both loaves suffered localized loss of crust. 

Compared to my previous bakings of this bread, with the oven humidified with hot water poured into a cast iron skillet, I had increased oven spring. And the loaves were, if anything, a bit over-proofed. For those of you who love burst loaves, this is for you! The crust was a tad crisper than usual, but still not thin and crackly. The crumb was denser than usual, but still quite in the proper range for this bread. The taste, as usual, was delicious - moderately tangy/sour. 


Sour rye, baked covered

Sour rye, baked covered 

Sour rye, baked covered

Sour rye, baked covered 


I will try baking this bread covered again some time, but I won't be crowding two loaves under one cover again.

 At this point, my overall feeling about baking bread covered is that it doesn't make a huge difference in the product - maybe a bit more oven spring, but is easier than fussing with the skillet/hot water method, in some ways. Other kinds of breads, like baguettes, may benefit more than the ones I've tried this weekend. I'll post my results when I try them.

It's been fun!



dmsnyder's picture

Jewish pumpernickel is one of my favorite breads. I have made it only a couple times before, once from Greenstein's recipe in "Sectets of a Jewish Baker" and once from Reinhart's recipe in BBA. But I've never really followed Greenstein's recipe to the letter, because I've never had any stale rye bread with which to make altus.  Well, a few weeks ago, I put what was left of a loaf of Greenstein's Sour Rye bread in the freezer with which to make altus, and this weekend I made "real" Jewish Pumpernickel using altus, pumpernickel flour and first clear flour.

For those not in the know, altus is stale rye bread with the crust cut off, cut into cubes and soaked in water, then wrung out and incorporated into the dough of a new loaf of rye or pumpernickel. It is said to have a beneficial effect on the texture of the bread, and my experience certainly corroborates this.

 Greenstein uses cold water and lets the altus soak overnight. My schedule did not permit this so I used hot water, and it saturated the rye bread cubes in 10 minutes. Wringing it out only resulted in first degree burns.

 Greenstein's Pumpernickel

Greenstein's Pumpernickel

I'm not uploading a "crumb shot." The crumb was very handsome, but it was the texture that was remarkable. It was a bit chewy but with a "creamy" mouth feel. It was simply the best pumpernickel of this type I have every had the pleasure of eating.

My idea of a good time is a slice of this bread, smeared with cream cheese and eaten with eggs scrambled in slightly browned butter. It's pretty darn good with a slice of lox, too.

 Anyone into baking Jewish rye breads who hasn't made Greenstein's Pumpernickel using the ingredients he specifies is missing a real treat!


dmsnyder's picture

Greenstein's Corn (rye) bread

November 18, 2007 - 7:28pm -- dmsnyder

Greenstein's Corn Bread is the ultimate Jewish rye, and it is unique in the technique with which it is made. The ingredients are the usual - rye sour, rye flour, common flour (AKA first clear flour), yeast and caraway seeds. And water. The crust is glazed with a corn starch/water mixture.

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