This bread has it all – a lovely, yeasty fragrance, a nice outer crust, and beautifully colored interior crumb – all thanks to the use of a flavorful, dark, vanilla porter, which pairs wonderfully with the subtle flavors of rye. This bread is perfect warm from the oven, slathered with salted butter, but is also a great sandwich bread, piled high with nearly any topping you can imagine. And as toast, it’s divine. —Erin McDowell
Make the sponge: in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the rye flour, bread flour, yeast, and water to combine. Cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.
Make the dough: add the remaining ingredients to the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook to the mixer.
Mix the dough on low speed for 3 minutes, then on medium speed for 4 minutes more. The dough will be relatively sticky.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and pat it into a thick rectangular shape. Working from the end farthest from you towards yourself, begin to fold the dough over itself and press firmly with your fingertips to seal. Repeat this movement until you’ve formed a loaf shape.
Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan, and transfer the shaped dough to the pan. Cover the dough with greased plastic wrap and let rise until it reaches the upper lip of the loaf pan, 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes.
Towards the end of rise time, preheat the oven to 400°F. Use scissors or a razor blade to cut a few vents in the top of the bread, then transfer the loaf to the oven on the middle shelf.
Optional extra step: place a baking sheet with about 2 cups of ice cubes in the base of the oven. This produces steam which makes a crispier crust, but can be skipped.
Bake until the loaf is very golden brown and has an internal temperature of 195°F. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then unmold and cool completely on a wire rack.
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.