Russian Gourmet:Bread

There can’t be a Russian meal without a loaf of bread. Nowadays, with everyone trying to lose weight, bread may not be as essential as it used to be but if you have bread in the house you won’t go hungry. I survived two years in the army by eating mostly bread and butter and whatever edible bits I could find in the crappy food we were given; the bread was always fresh and delicious. I have a 92-year old aunt who will not sit down for a meal without some bread; that comes from living through the war, evacuations, bread rationing and hunger.

I wrote about bread before. Luckily, after years of substandard “wonder” bread, bread-baking is making a comeback in this country as it should. Many people responded to the recent Donna’s post about baking bread. What do I have in common with a lady who lived all of her life on the farm? We bake bread! The commonality ended when she wrote about breeding a cow, but still…

I posted this recipe before ,it was published in Cooks Illustrated some time ago. but this time it will be illustrated and the bread will be rye – even better for you. It apparently promotes weight loss, so I ate about half-a-loaf yesterday hoping to lose a lot of weight.

To start, you will need to assemble these simple ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour (15 ounces) consisting of 8 oz of unbleached all-purpose flour and 7oz of Rye flour, plus additional for dusting work surface.
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (that would be beer for you- unsophisticated readers)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


You will also need a large-size cast iron pot or Dutch oven. If you feel like throwing away close to two hundred dollars for a fancy one, be my guest (literally, be my guest), I bought mine for $23.

I also recommend getting a scale. It can have multiple uses in the household especially if you are dealing drugs.


1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms.

P1020302 P1020303

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours; I let it sit overnight and even longer. I usually put it in the oven with an oven light turned on to keep it warm. Here is another important step: if you followed directions you should have 9 ounces of perfectly good beer left in the bottle. If you are a gentleman – finish it, if you are a lady – yell at this lazy no-good domestic partner of yours to come make himself useful and finish this nasty beer. If you don’t have anyone to yell at or your domestic partner is another lady, just go ahead and drink it yourself, no reason to waste a good product. Now relax, you are done for the day.

2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Parchment and Wax paper may look similar  but they are not the same, do not use wax paper or you bread will taste like you are sucking on a candle.

P1020309 P1020313 P1020314

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.


Time for another beer.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough.P1020320

Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.


Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer.


Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.


P1020327 P1020338 P1020339


Now, if actually waited for 2 hours (I admire your patience)  you can finally slice your bread and spread some real butter on it, maybe a pinch of salt of you feel adventurous.


Eat is slow, crunchy crust, warm crumb, amazing smell…

Here is a clip from a very famous 1949 movie Kubanskie Kazaki about the joy and excitement of wheat harvesting  at the collective farm.