New York Sweet Rye Bread

Adapted from Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories From the Golden Age of Jewish Baking, by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg

½ teaspoon instant yeast
3 cups rye flour
3 ¼ cup high gluten flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup cornmeal

1. Dissolve the yeast in 2¼ cups hot water in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the rye flour, high gluten flour, and salt and mix on medium-low speed until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 6-8 minutes.

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and, with wet hands, shape it into a ball. Put the dough in a large bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

3. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide it into two pieces. Form each piece into an oval shape, and then roll the dough so the edges are tapered and the loaf resembles a football.

4. Fill a baking pan or casserole dish with ¼ inch of warm water. Pour the cornmeal onto a large dinner plate. Dip the bottom, the seam side, of each loaf into the water and then the cornmeal. Set the loaves on the prepared cookie sheet and brush them with water.

5. Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until they reach 1 ½ times their original bulk and the first cracks appear on the surface of the loaves.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place an empty cookie sheet with sides in the bottom of the oven and allow to heat. Slash the loaves three times crosswise. Put the loaves in the oven and pour 1 cup hot water into the hot cookie sheet. Shut the oven door immediately to maintain the steam. Bake for 1 hour or until the bread is a dark caramel color and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, turning the cookie sheet with the loaves, halfway through.

7. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Yield: 2 loaves

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