Do you love cultured foods? Have a pro-biotic "pet" of some sort that needs to be used? This recipe requires a few very niche ingredients, but it's totally worth it! Firstly, this uses sourdough starter. I grew my very own sourdough starter (from Sam Fromertz's instructions on this very site), and have been looking for new tricks beyond the standard white boule. Secondly, I love pickles, especially the fermented kind. I feel guilty dumping the juice down the sink, but there are only so many pickle juice cocktails a girl can take. This recipe solves the problem by using whatever quantity of pickle juice you have (topped off with water) for the bread poolish (see note). Of course the baking kills off the healthy pro-biotic bacteria, but the taste they leave behind is full-bodied and delicious. This bread works particularly well with pastrami, sausages, kraut and beets, but is also delicious simply spread with butter.
NOTE: Do not use vinegar-based pickle juice here--just naturally fermented salt brine. The more water you use, the less intensely flavored the loaf will be. You could certainly use all water here if you wanted to. —Suzanne Miller
- Serves 8 or so
natural pickle brine mixed with water
salt, to taste
all purpose flour
- The night before you plan to make the dough, take your starter out of the refrigerator, feed it, and let it sit out on the counter.
- Mix the starter, rye flour, spices, commercial yeast and pickle brine in a bowl to create a thick paste. This is the poolish. Let it bubble away for about 4 hours on a warm countertop, or up to a day in the refrigerator.
- Taste a teensy bit of the poolish. Depending on how much pickle juice you have used, it may need anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 teaspoons of salt. Dissolve the salt in 2 tablespoons of water, and then add to the poolish.
- Work the all purpose flour into the poolish. I am lucky enough to have a stand mixer, so that's what I use. You can certainly do this by hand. Just know that this is a rather sticky dough, so avoid adding too much flour. If you are using a stand mixer, use a dough hook and run the machine for about 10 minutes on medium speed to develop the gluten. The dough will still be bit sticky, but much less so. It should stretch in strands when you pull the dough hook out.
- Cover the bowl, and let it rest for 2 hours. During this rise, every 30 minutes, you can develop the structure of the dough further by stretching and folding the dough thusly. Grab a handful of dough, letting the majority stretch back down to the bowl. Fold your handful back on top. Turn the bowl a 90 degrees. Repeat 3 more times. Come back in 30 minutes and do this again. This is more complicated to explain than to do.
- After 2 hours, form the dough into a loaf by patting it into a flat rectangle about 11 inches (width), by 18 inches (length), by 0.5 inch (height). Roll up the rectangle and tuck the seams under. Let the loaf rise on a floured cutting board, covered with a flour-dusted tea towel and a loose layer plastic wrap for 1-2 hours, until doubled (or refrigerate overnight).
- Place a clay bread baker or a dutch oven in the (real) oven, and preheat to 450 degrees F (235 degrees C).
- When the oven has come to temperature, use a serrated knife to slash vents in the now-puffy loaf. Spritz lightly with water. Take off the lid of your cooking vessel and gingerly place the loaf inside. Cover again and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and brown the crust for 10-15 minutes, until it comes to an internal temperature of 205 degrees F.
- Let your loaf cool to at least body temperature before cutting and serving. Serve with butter and pickled foods.