Borodinsky bread is my childhood staple food. We had it practically every day and never grew tired of it. The aroma, the well balanced sweet and sour, the substantial “meaty” crumb and thin glossy crust — should I go on listing all the wonderful things that put this loaf in the bread hall-of-fame?
Nowadays, it seems that every dark rye bread sprinkled with caraway or coriander seed claims the name Borodinsky. I tried those sorry numbers from stores that carry Russian foods… Half of them are too dry and too fluffy, others are missing that signature tang that only wild sourdough can lend, others still, generously “enhanced” with chemicals resemble very little of the bread we used to eat instead of chocolate.
Over the years, I’ve seen scores of recipes of Borodinsky and, having tried more than enough of them, came to a grim conclusion that the true Borodinsky has become a myth, an urban legend, an elusive unicorn — many claim to have seen one, but none actually delivered the goods. However, I knew that somewhere out there in the world of used books, there should be an old school formula from soviet bread factories, a so called GOST (Government Mandated Standards) recipe, or even an older one, which, if done right with good ingredients and a bit of careful planning, could yet bear the right results.
I was right. There are still some serious bread enthusiasts, both in Russia and otherwise, who dug up the old textbooks and technologies and rendered very good step-by-step instructions accompanied by beautiful photos explaining the process in modern terms and in great detail. Some even dared to adapt for available flour types in each country via many a trial (and, no doubt, some error). Exciting!
Now to the business of the actual Borodinsky. Majority of us who grew up with Borodinsky, consumed the part rye/part wheat bread. It was delicious and we loved every bit of it. There is, however, a version of Borodinsky of a higher grade, called “supreme”, which is 100% rye. It blends whole rye and white rye flours in 85/15 proportion. No wheat to be found. The formula of that bread is cited in the book by Plotnikov called 350 Varieties of Bread (4th Edition, 1940). Some of the formulas in the book existed before government standards were established (1939). See, many GOST formulas were streamlined for mass production, sometimes simplified, cheapened, etc., while many of the pre-GOST formulas upheld the old school best traditional methods and standards of bread making, thus yielding superior (albeit more labor and time consuming) bread.
Sprouting organic rye berries to make red rye malt
Final product — red rye malted flour, milled moderately fine
When I stumbled upon the pre-GOST formula, and soon thereafter a detailed blog post with illustrations, I was beside myself. The only thing that stood between me and 100% rye Borodinsky loaf was red rye malt, more precisely, the lack of the above. Now, that one I still can’t get over. Possibly due to differences in product naming, and partly due to the fact that I can’t reliably get the true organic red rye malt anywhere in quantities less than 100 kilo (190 lbs), I finally decided to make red rye malt flour at home. I entrusted myself to the detailed set of instructions I found on this site (THANK YOU!!!), and made my first batch the other day.
I have to say that the aroma that permeated my house during the roasting process has brought back some serious childhood memories, and for that alone I will be forever grateful. It also brought the first promise of true Borodinsky in the future, because it smelled exactly like our USSR bread shops filled with still warm unwrapped bread loaves.
Anyway, I am getting distracted here, as my bread is almost done baking and the entire house is now smelling unbearably beautiful.
The process is quite lengthy, but the actual hands-on time is minimal. Good ‘ole “good things come to those who wait” has never been more true (well maybe beat by the famous Pumpernickel). The most important thing here is to plan your pre-baking stages, so that they don’t disrupt your busy schedule.
My impression of the bread: for me it turned out a bit sweet and under-salted, even though I weighed everything quite precisely. The aroma and visual appeal were definitely there. The crumb and crust are both as I remember them. Thin, slightly crunchy crust and substantial, lightly moist, uniformly porous crumb. Color is about milk-chocolate shade. I feel I could have given it a bit more rise and it could be baked at a higher temperature — the top didn’t come out quite as dark as it should be, but the bread was at 180F throughout and baked uniformly through. I will definitely try this recipe again with the above adjustments. Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend this formula, especially if you like your bread with a touch of sweetness. It passed the ultimate test of schmaltz with cracklings and coarse salt, the sweetness of the loaf was just perfect for this.
- Detailed blog post with superb step-by-step photo of rye+wheat Borodinsky 1939 version (in Russian) http://registrr.livejournal.com/16193.html
- Blog post with excellent photos of 100% rye Borodinsky Supreme (in Russian) http://mariana-aga.livejournal.com/152489.html
Makes a small loaf in a 1-1/2 quart (1.4 liter) pan.
From start to finish (with some steps going simultaneously) – 14-16 hrs
Step 1: Rye starter
Refresh your 100% hydration rye starter (6-8 hrs), you will need 125 g of it
Step 2: Scalding (5-6 hrs)
- 200 g boiled water at 150F (65C)
- 50 g whole rye flour
- 25 g red rye malt flour
Step 3: Pre-ferment (3-4 hrs or until doubles or more)
- all of the scalded batch
- 125 g refreshed starter
- 125 g whole rye flour
- 125 g water, room temperature
Step 4: Final dough — soft and very sticky (30-90 min bulk fermentation or until doubles or more)
- all of the preferment
- 200 g whole rye flour
- 75 g white rye flour
- 5 g salt
- 30 g sugar
- 25 g molasses (I used Blackstrap)
- 2.5 g ground coriander (best if freshly ground for more intense flavor)
- 0.5 g dry yeast activated in 75 g water and 3 g sugar (20 minutes)
Step 5: Shaping and final proofing (60 min or until tops the pan)
Grease 1.5 quart loaf pan. Pack the dough nicely into corners at first and then the rest. Smooth over with wet hands. Cover with plastic and let rise until reaches the top of the loaf pan.
Step 6: Flour washing (1 min)
Mix 1 tbsp AP flour with 50 ml water, shake well. Brush the bread right before setting into the oven. Sprinkle the top sparingly with whole coriander or caraway seed, if desire
Step 7: Baking (60 min)
Preheat to 400F (200C). Bake 60 minutes.
Step 8: Kissel (custard) washing (1 min)
Mix 1 tsp corn or potato starch with 150 ml water. Bring to a boil. Brush the bread as soon as it finishes baking. Remove the loaf from pan and cool on rack.
Flour wash before baking and custard wash after baking are needed for creating that famous beautiful glossy, almost lacquered looking crust on top of the loaf, which also prevents the bread from going stale too fast.