Salt-Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

 

Rye Bread 1

This year we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at one of my favorite restaurants, The Inn at Little Washington. Unfortunately, the visit to the restaurant coincided with my recent return from a trip to Africa, where I picked up a pretty nasty bug that accompanied me home, where it continued to wreak havoc on my digestive system for weeks. As anyone who has been there knows, the restaurant is not cheap and is best reserved for special occasions for that reason. So imagine my dismay when I could barely get through the meal. Fortunately the obliging and very well-trained wait staff packed up my Thanksgiving dinner for me to take home. It was just as good the next day, even if I wasn’t eating it in such elegant surroundings.

Rye Bread 4

Fortunately, I could eat bread in spite of being so sick. This bread was served with several others in the bread basket at the restaurant. All were really good, but this one was a standout for both me and my husband. The crunch of the salt and the caraway seeds on the outside was a nice contrast to the currants and nuts in the bread, and butter only made it better. Weeks later, when I volunteered to take an appetizer to a dinner party, this bread with a couple of different spreads was what I chose to take.

Rye Bread 2

 

Salt Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

3 Cocktail Size Loaves

I served this bread at a dinner party as an appetizer with the smoked trout spread from an earlier post and with honey butter, both to rave reviews from the dinner guests. The bread also works well with thin slices of cheese or smoked salmon. It also freezes well, making it ideal to have on hand for unexpected guests.

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

7 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, divided

1 tablespoon salt

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups warm (95 degrees) water

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup dried currants

1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caraway seeds, the tablespoon of salt and both flours in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until thoroughly combined then slowly add the warm water with the mixer running. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Add the pecans and currants and continue to mix for an additional 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, wipe out the bowl and spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down, divide into thirds and form each into a slender loaf about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Combine the kosher salt and the remaining caraway seeds in a small bowl. Brush the loaves with water and coat them with the caraway seed mixture, using your fingers to pat as much of the mixture as possible into the dough, as shown in the photo below.

Rye Bread 3

Place the loaves on a lightly greased sheet pan and set in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for 30 minutes, turning the pan every 10 minutes so they brown evenly. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook by Patrick O’Connell