Smoky Rye

Smoky Rye Bread

I’ve been making way too much bread – that is, more than my bread circle can soak up.  So today I made a smaller loaf than usual, with an experimental combination of flavors:  rye, smoke essence, and Everything Bagel seasoning on top.  In terms of technique, this loaf is a cross between Italian Rosemary and No-Time Bread.  See what you think!

For any No-Time Bread, please note:

  • Preheat the Dutch oven: bake the bread in a preheated Dutch oven for a thin, crackly crust.  If you heat the pan while you heat the oven, it will be hot enough to give the dough a good oven spring — which results in a loftier loaf.

  • Preheat the dough: Cover the kneaded dough in a large microwave-safe bowl with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with oil or Pam;  zap on high for 25 seconds to activate the instant yeast and get the dough rising.

  • Rest the dough between bursts of heat; In between microwave bursts, let the dough rest in the microwave where it will continue to rise.  Follow the first 25 seconds of microwaving with five minutes of resting, and the second burst of microwave heat with 15 minutes of resting time.  If you are using a heavier flour, like rye, you might want to do a further round of 25 seconds plus 15 minutes before baking.

Make sure to grease the rising bowl;  you need not grease the Dutch oven or Le Creuset casserole because once it’s super-hot, the bread will pull away from the pan.  Once you’ve finished the final rise, don’t poke at the dough.  Use oven gloves to take the casserole out of the oven, invert the bowl over the casserole and nudge the dough until it falls into the casserole.  Make sure to score the top with a sharp knife.  Bake, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

Experimental (Smoky) Rye Bread

This quantity makes one small loaf, about 700g or 1½ lb.  You can make it in a loaf tin, but where’s the fun in that?


5-8g (a generous tsp) dried yeast
5g (1 tsp) any type of sugar
200g (1 cup plus a bit) boiling water – have some extra water to hand
150g or so levain (sourdough starter) or poolish (see note at bottom)
150g (1½ cups) organic bread flour
150g (1½ cups) organic rye flour
8g (1½ tsp) kosher salt
30g oil – I used organic sunflower oil, but any light oil will work
8g (1 tsp) balsamic vinegar
½ tsp smoke essence – mine came as a sample from Olive Nation
Everything Bagel seasoning – available from Trader Joe’s or CostCo

Small, heavy Le Creuset (enameled cast iron casserole) with lid, or small Dutch oven


1.   Take your levain or poolish out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.

2.   Place a medium mixing bowl on your electronic scale, set to grams. Add 200g hot water, and a tsp of sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the levain or poolish; stir again.  Set aside in a warm place for 5-10 minutes while you measure out the flours and salt.

3.   When the yeast mixture is bubbly, use an electric hand mixer to beat for 30 seconds. Add the oil, vinegar, smoke essence, flours and salt.   Beat until mixed, scraping the bowl from time to time.  You should have a wet sticky dough.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with oil or Pam, and press onto the surface of the dough.  Set aside for 20 minutes to autolyse.

4.   Sprinkle flour on your countertop, dump the dough onto the flour, and immediately wash and dry the mixing bowl. Spray with oil or Pam and set aside.  Knead the dough for five minutes, until it is elastic and no longer picking up extra flour.  Place in the oiled bowl, cover with the same piece of plastic wrap, and pop in the microwave on high for 25 seconds.

5.   Let rest (in the microwave) for five minutes. Zap on high for 25 seconds and let rest for 15 minutes.  If necessary, repeat the 25 seconds and 15 minutes rest.

6.   While the dough is rising, place a rack in the middle of the oven and place a small Le Creuset and lid or small Dutch oven and lid on the rack. Heat the oven to 450°F / 210°C.

7.   When you are ready to bake, remove the hot pan from the oven. Tip the dough from the bowl into the hot pan, and shake to settle.  Slash the top of the dough quickly with a razor blade or lame.  Sprinkle with the Everything Bagel seasoning to taste.

8.   Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature hits 195°F, about 10 minutes more.

9.  Tip the bread out of the pot and let cool on a rack at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Leftover bread can be stored cut-side down at room temperature for up to three days. It can also be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil (or a Ziplok bag) and frozen for up to three months.

Note:  I use a POOLISH instead of sourdough starter, because it’s easier to keep going and makes a less ‘sour’ result.  To start a poolish (or ‘polish’ as my autocorrect insists on calling it), make a thick paste of 200g flour – all-purpose or bread flour, or a combination of the two – with water (at room temperature).  Add a good pinch of dried yeast, and beat incorporating air until the paste is sloppy but smooth.  Leave it at room temperature for an hour or so to activate.  Store in the fridge, and feed with more flour+water paste every day or so, depending how much you use in your (daily) bread-making.  Baguettes require 250g, and other types of bread take 150-180g per batch.  Feed your poolish every day, keep it in the fridge, and bring out an hour before you need it so that it’s live and bubbling (and room temperature) before adding to the yeast mixture.  Set aside yeast+poolish in a warm place until it’s actively frothing.

AND… here is the printable .pdf for Smoky Rye.