Grandma’s Rye Bread


      Oma is German for Grandma.   Oma came to Ellis Island from  Germany at 19.  One of my strongest memories of her is her  rye bread.  Before she died she showed me how to make it.  The recipe was in her head,  I still remember the two of us  calculating  the ratios of flour,  potato water, honey, yeast.  

     Making bread her way  is an art form.  You’re dealing with living yeast, water that can’t be too hot or too cold, the correct proportion of flour to liquid, temperature in the room,  kneading the dough.     This week, my wife has been attempting Oma’s rye bread.    If first you don’t succeed, try try again,  certainly fits here.   I won’t tell you how many “distressed”  loaves we have  in the freezer.  Wife was getting discouraged that she still hasn’t got it right.  After every batch, we go over what might have went wrong.  Like a post game wrap up, we discuss the details of her attempt.       Sooner or later she’ll get it right.  The trick is to keep trying.  Success at anything  doesn’t  happen  the first several tries.  I love to teach, I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to pick myself up off the ground and identify where I missed my turn.     At age 42 I discovered I love  to write.   I mentioned to someone  recently, how after I post something, I will occassionally  battle  negative thoughts….“Why did I say that?  What will people think ? You sound so insecure.”  What a bunch of nonsense”…”It doesn’t make sense”  on and on the  negative thoughts come. 

      I continue to work at  learning how to write.  If you don’t take the time to evaluate, you are destined to keep repeating the same mistakes.  If on the other hand, you stay humble and teachable, sooner or later, you’ll hit the ball.  Whether you’re learning how to bake bread, write, make pottery  (Hey lawyer chik..thinking of you here!), working  with  OSHA , you name it,  there is a learning curve.

 Want to finish with this powerful  quote by  Theodore Roosevelt:

       “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.  So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” 

       Any thoughts?

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9 Responses to Grandma’s Rye Bread

  1. lawyerchik1 says:

    That reminds me of a wonderful bread book I have (I actually have 2 copies – bought the newer edition AND KEPT the old one!) called “The Tassajara Bread Book”: “Good bread requires much more than flour and water, milk, or eggs. It requires nurturing and care.”

    I think the same is true with people – we are more than just the ingredients that make up a human being. We are the sum of the care and nurturing that went into our formation, as well as the effort we put into things that are important to us……

    OK, DM… you did this on purpose! 🙂 What we do as a reflection of what is important to us – the one who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, counts more than the one who sits on the sidelines and critiques!

    Brilliant, though. Reminds me of what Paul said about finishing well: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well lawyerchik said it so well, I won’t try to add anything except to say….yum bread. (I’m such a carb addict)

  3. anitz says:

    How often do you let the dough rise? And under what circumstances does it rise?

    I ask because my children refuse to eat store bought bread, so I bake ours. Whole grain anything, sometimes even rye.

    I mix the ingredients (see above, the right amount of water to flour… perhaps try sprinkling the yeast with a wee bit of sugar, sugar activates yeast… I bake now without sugar, but my husband, who follows the EXACT same recepie can only get it to rise with a pinch of sugar!) and let it rise for 30 minutes.

    For this initial rising I put it in a bowl with a lid (Tup.perware) and place it in the microwave for 30 Minutes. I also just run the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up. Only 30 seconds!!! but leave it in the microwave with the door closed–but no longer “on”–for the 30 minutes. That is keeping the dough at a constant, draft-free temperature and safe from all my kids for the half hour.

    I then remove, dust with flour and kneed it by hand on a dusted countertop. Once it has been kneeded well, I place it in it’s form, cover it up (I use baking paper to cover it up as I do not bake in the form, I dump the form over onto the baking sheet after it has raised again for 30 minutes, but you can use a tea towel if you are going to keep the dough in the form for baking). I put the covered form in the oven which is preheated at 50 ° C (sorry, you have to check that out in F) and let the dough rise for a second time for 30 min in that warm oven.

    Since I do not bake it in the form, at the end of the 30 minutes I overturn the dough onto the baking paper and bake the bread: 10 minutes at 210°C and then 30 minutes at 180°C. When the timer goes off, I knock on the bread. If it sounds hallow, then I remove it from the oven, let it cool and “protect” it from the hungry masses…


  4. DM says:

    Anitz, you asked how often I let the bread rise..well, 3 times I think…initially in the large bowl…punch it down add lots of flour and kneed…let it rise again divide into portions..put in the bread pans..and rise a third time..put the soft white towels over it to keep it from drying out…I notice that since it’s colder right now, it doesn’t rise as quickly…we put it in the regular oven (and preheat it just a little first)..but it’s still be giving us fits as far as rising normally….my oma used to make mostly rye bread, but occassionally wheat or even raisin…just thinking about it right now is getting me in the mood to bake tomorrow ;-)…thanks for taking the time to comment! DM

  5. anitz says:

    Ok, then try to add a wee bit of sugar when you first activate the yeast… and keep it during the rising (all three times) away from any draft (stick it in the oven, for example), and place it in the oven exactly how you would to bake it for the third rising.

    Keep the oven at a constant warm (no higher than 50 ° C!) for that third and final rising (and do not forget that clothe).

    Simply remove the clothe but do not “move” the bread for your baking.

    Let me know how it works out!!!

    (I am off to bake right now, or more specifically: just finished making whole grain flower, so I am off to make the dough!)

  6. gary watson says:

    I thought you had posted a rye bread recipe. I am not German but grew up in a German neighborhood, that at that time had 3 German bakeries. What great memories. I was lucky enough to grow up there while some of the old ways were still present. I have just recently at age 52 tried my hand at baking bread. My 1st choice was RYE bread. Well it came out GREAT!
    Ive been a good cook most of life, as my family can attest, but Great Bread is something that seems hard to buy any more any where. My old neighborhood has past as most have in this modern world. We had a large commercial bakery in Cinti called Rubel’s that made wonderful rye breads and they were commercially made breads! have a large pan of sourdough in the making as I am sending this post. This will be my 1st at this recipe called ” Grandmas Rye bread”. If you have your Grandmas I would sure like to make it. If this comes out good I’ll send my recipe. Thanks, gary watson

    • Joan Humphries says:

      I remember the entire Rubel’s Rye Bread jingle:

      Cincinnati a rye bread town, Here’s the reason why I found
      The reason is Rubel’s. It’s baked on stone,
      Brought straight from the hearth to you at home,
      And that’s the reason the bread we buy
      Is Rubel’s Heidelberg Rye!

      I can sing the tune also. I don’t know why that sticks in my mind so well. I did like the bread, and I liked the jingle as well. Guess that’s why!
      How fun! thanks for sharing that Joan 🙂 DM

  7. gary watson says:

    Well, you have not given me your Grandma’s Rye Bread recipe, BUT I will give you mine. It’s not my Grandma’s. This is my Recipe!.This makes a wonderful light Rye. Here it is!
    Garys Light Rye Bread
    3 c. white rye flour
    2 pkg. dry yeast
    1/2 c. 120 degree water
    Mix these together and let sit 15 minutes to proof.
    Mix a LARGE bowl or dish pan: it must be LARGE!
    3 c. white rye flour
    1 Tbsp. sugar
    5 c. 120 degree water
    5 T. caraway seeds
    Add to this mixture the yeast mixture. Mix with a wire whisk until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at least 12 hours. The longer the better, up to 4 days.
    Add to this 3 c. white rye flour and 9 c. bread flour and stir to combine and make a soft dough.
    Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead 10 minutes until smooth and the dough does not stick to your hands any longer. Dust the surface as required.
    Place back into a greased bowl and turn to grease the top. Let rise till doubled, about 2 hours.
    Shape into 5 loaves or small rolls or buns, and place onto corn mealed pans. Slash the tops cross wise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise till doubled about 45 minutes. for loaves or less for bun or rolls.
    Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 35 to 45 minutes for loaves or less for rolls or buns. To give a nice slightly crispy crust have a cake pan 1/2 full with boiling water in the bottom of the oven. Remove the water pan after 10 minutes. Rotate the pans between the racks every 5 minutes to ensure even baking.
    Check the loaves after 30 minutes. These are done when they have a HOLLOW sound when tapping the bottom of the loaves. There is a BIG difference between a THUD and a HOLLOW sound when tapping. Will will be able to HEAR the DIFFERENCE!!!
    Cool completely before placing into plastic bags. I recommend freezing these because there NO preservatives in this recipe.
    Tield: 5 Loaves
    I know you will love this bread. Please let me know and send this recipe to your friends.
    Thank you, Gary Watson

  8. gary watson says:

    Hi, I ommited 1 step on the Rye Bread recipe I posted on 3/27/2008 for Grandma’s Rye Bread. Please accept my apology.
    After the bread has risen for 2 hours PUNCH the dough to deflate all the yeast gasses. Then shape into loaves , buns or rolls and proceed as directed.
    Thank you, Gary

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