Citizens! It will probably not surprise any of you that your revolutionary and always respected Leader – the almighty TFD! – has deep Eastern European roots, including Mother Russia. As such, there are many recipes of this genre here on the blog – but few touch the heartstrings of the Highest more than this one. Genetics are strong indeed when it comes to remaking and enjoying the different foods of your ancestors!
No staple is so important to a Russian table as bread. Especially black rye bread. In Russia bread has its own laws, regulations and even price controls.
The famous Russian tradition of welcoming guests is called “Bread and Salt” (“Khleb-Sol”) – if this doesn’t emphasize the importance of this bread to Russians, I don’t know what will! From times immemorial the Slavs believed that people who shared bread became friends forever. Thus the old tradition of welcoming dear friends, newlyweds, and new settlers by serving bread and salt. Bread means a full table, whereas salt is an ancient and nearly forgotten symbol of protection and guarding the home from fire.
Bread is not only the basis of Russian table, but also a symbol of people’s wellbeing. This is why there are a number of customs related to bread. It should be remembered, that the national Russian bread is black and sour rye bread with leavening. Being much cheaper and more nutritious than white wheat bread, it has played a dominant role in life of the people.
In times of trouble, Russian black bread has literally meant the difference between starvation and life itself. During the Nazi siege of Leningrad, residents ate black bread with hardly little else for almost three and a half years – and survived. In times of plenty and celebration, Russian black bread is a symbol of wealth and health.
Black bread is called black, as rye flour gives it a characteristic dark color. Black and brown bread (made from a mixture of flour), which contain rye flour in its composition, is absorbed by the body several times slower than white – making it a good choice for diabetics.
In addition to fewer calories, it also brings other benefits. It contains: fiber, trace elements, macronutrients, amino acids and mineral salts. Also the proteins of rye bread are richer than lysine. Of course, rye bread contains less calories than wheat, but it also helps to eliminate carcinogens and harmful metabolic products from the body.
My version of the classic incorporates several ground spices (all traditional to this cuisine) and uses some truly authentic Russian ingredients. Like sour pickle juice (if you have access to any, you could also use the fermented Russian beverage Kvass for a similar flavor profile) and genuine Russian sourdough starter. Other specialty ingredients such as rye flour, first clear flour, rye bread improver and black cocoa can be purchased from the provided links.
First clear flour is what remains after milling patent flour, giving it a darker color and higher mineral content. Traditionally, Jewish bakeries used first clear flour to bake their rye breads – the protein in first clear balances the lack of gluten in rye flour to give rye breads loftier rise and better chew.
Combine first clear flour with flours that typically produce denser loaves (like whole wheat, rye, or spelt). It’ll improve the rise and final texture of your baked goods.
Since I am Russian Jewish by descent, I MUST use the ancestral recipe here! The directions for making the sourdough rye starter is from the unmatched Stanley Ginsberg – it is truly spectacular, though I made one tiny change by specifying the Russian yeast starter.
Citizens, unleash your inner Russian and try this rye bread straight from the source – you will thank me as it will be one of the best recipes for rye you’ll ever try! 🙂 Remember that if you’re making this for the first time, you’ll need to make the sourdough starter a week in advance.
After that, you can make it anytime you want as long as you keep feeding the starter. Try it smeared with your best butter, add some caviar and enjoy a traditional Russian zakuski (appetizer) – or try it with pork fat (or smoked pork), with some onion slices or just on your favorite sandwich!
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