The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Jewish rye - effects of flour and rye

isbur's picture

Jewish rye - effects of flour and rye

I just made my first Jewish Rye using George Greenstein's formula. Without better knowledge I used Organic whoel rye flour fpr the sour and Gold's Bteer for Bread flour (unbleached, unbromated, enriched). For being my first Jewish Rye the consistency, shape and crust came out quite well but the taste was to strong on the rye side. I know that Greenstein says you can use less sour if you want a more mild taste but reading some of the blogs here I learned that there are different types of rye (like white rye) and that I should have used first clear flour (which I didn't know before). So before I start simply reducing the amount of sour I would like to get some information about how changing the type of rye or flour would affect the taste. For example, is white rye milder than whole rye? Would the clear flour affect the final taste so it wouldn't be so "rye" strong?



Elagins's picture

Jewish rye by definition uses white rye only, in part because darker ryes carried a very strong association with the poverty and persecution that most Jews suffered in Eastern Europe. White rye, which has the bran sifted out, was considered a more refined, elite flour, especially in the northern areas that couldn't support wheat cultivation and where any wheat flour that was available was imported from southern Europe or the Ukraine.

White rye is much, much milder than the darker ryes, with whole (dark) rye in particular having an extremely strong taste. A good way to get a side-by-side comparison of the flavors is to buy the three varieties of Scandinavian rye crackers (Ry King or Wasabrod) and do a tasting.  Another important thing to know is that the darker the rye, the thirstier it is. When I bake with dark rye, I generally use well over 100% hydration, whereas my medium ryes are well under that. 

The use of first clear flour in Jewish rye has more mythic qualities than actual qualities. The Jewish bakers used first clear because it's the cheapest, highest-extraction patent flour fit for human consumption. All the millers that sell second clear flour, which is a grade below FC, specify that it's for use in animal feeds only. The one virtue of FC, besides the price to bakers, is its protein content, which, at around 14.2%, is comparable to high-gluten flours like All Trumps and Sir Lancelot.

The biggest difference between FC and the high-glutens (besides price) is the ash (fiber) content. Where the standard hi-g flours have ash in the 0.52-0.55% range, FC ash content is somewhere around 0.85% (and whole wheat is around 1.80%). Considering everything else that's going on in a rye bread -- the caraway, the sour, the salt -- the impact that an additional 1/3 of one percent of fiber content might have, if any, is going to be insignificant and imperceptible. I've used both FC and high-gluten flours in my Jewish ryes and have never been able to find a noticeable difference.

The important thing to know about Jewish ryes, besides the flour story, is that there is no one "Jewish rye" recipe. I've seen recipes ranging from under 20% rye to well over 40%. It all depends on what you want. Greenberg's recipe is an OK starting point, but I would urge you to experiment with various proportions and additions, e.g., whole/ground caraway, onion, nigella, etc, until you find the taste you're looking for.

Stan Ginsberg


isbur's picture

Thank you very much for the detailed explanations. This explains the strong taste I got.

UnConundrum's picture

First time I took a class up at KA, I was addicted to Jewish Rye and was talking to Jeff Hamelman about First Clear Flour.  He told me it isn't necessary and suggested that I just use their AP flour.  I came home, tried it, and haven't bothered looking for FC since.  It really didn't need all that protein.