People often ask me if there isn’t anything that I miss about the U.S. In the main, my answer is no. However, the few things that sometimes I DO get a hankering for are all food related.
Now, most things one can find through the various import stores. You may have to pay for them, but you can get them. Still, there are fresh things that just can’t be found.
A doctor once told me that his theory was that the foods you ate as a child had a resonance for you that new, “learned” foods would never have. And I think that for me there are several of those mostly things that come from the East Coast, where I grew up.
For example, I sometimes can almost taste a Taylor’s Pork Roll sandwich in my mind. The smell and taste of that will always be linked with childhood visits to the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Just writing about it I can taste it, smell it’s odor mixed with that of fresh roasting peanuts from the Planter’s peanut store and the salt of the ocean. I can see my parents, the push chairs, the crowds, and once again I’m just a child.
I DO have a recipe for knock-off Pork Roll that I plan to try later in the year, just to see if I can do it. But I have the strong feeling that it will never be the same.
But there are things that I CAN re-create successfully, and one of them is Jewish Deli Corn Rye. I have tried the recipe from “Secrets of a Jewish Baker,” and while that is successful, it’s also time consuming and needs to be planned out, as just making the sour takes several days. So, I wanted to create a recipe that was easy and above all, quick. I think I have succeeded.
I suppose it seems silly to crave these things when I live practically next door to a bakery. But a French bakery, no matter how wonderful, will never be a Jewish Deli, and when that craving comes over you, the heart wants what the heart wants. So, here is what I do:
JEWISH DELI MINI-CORN RYE ROLLS
1 C rye flour
2 C white flour (I’ve used bread flour, all-purpose, a special pizza flour I get from Italy and a mixture of bread flour and something called semi-whole wheat. All have given good results)
1 1/4 C warm water (clearly, you may have to adjust this depending on the flour you use and weather conditions)
2T Olive Oil
2 tsp Sea Salt
2T Caraway seeds (if you hate caraway, leave them out, but I do think they are what “make” rye bread!)
1T lemon juice (this helps the yeast to work, but also I think it adds a small hint of sour without any taste of lemon in the final product)
1 pkg yeast
1 C leftover dough from last batch (this is optional, but over time, it builds the flavor and texture and eventually you have what is basically a sourdough starter and can leave out the yeast).
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking pan and top of bread
I mix this in my stand mixer. Because I’m lazy, I don’t proof the yeast. I put the rye flour in first, then sprinkle on the yeast, then add the rest of the flour. This lets me use water that is a bit hotter (from the tap, not microwaved) without killing the yeast. But if you want to proof the yeast the traditional way, go for it!
I toss in the rest of the dry ingredients and the leftover bread dough, including the caraway seeds, then pour in the oil, lemon juice and the water and start the mixer on slow. Once the majority of the flour is incorporated, I turn the speed up for kneading. I do keep an eye on it because the flour/liquid balance really needs adjusting as you work. Its amazing how a humid day or the batch of flour you use can affect the way the dough comes together.
Now, because of the rye flour, this is a sticky dough. I let the machine knead it until it mostly pulls away from the sides of the bowl and there is very little flour residue left. However, it never completely forms a tight ball the way a white bread will do. I always finish the kneading off by hand, and even once it is a ball, it remains a bit tacky. That’s okay.
I oil a bowl or a plastic container with a lid and throw the dough in there. One of the things I like about this recipe is that it’s very versatile. If I want to make the rolls quickly, I put the bowl (as long as it’s not metal!) into the microwave, set it at 350 watts and microwave for a minute, let the dough rest for about 5 minutes, than microwave at the same power for another minute. I leave the bowl in the microwave with the door closed, and let it rest for 20 minutes, and it has by then doubled and is ready for shaping and baking.
If, on the other hand, I don’t have time to bake it right away, I put the covered bowl in the fridge and leave it for several hours. This slows down the rising, and I have plenty of time to do other things without worrying about it.
Once it has risen, I take a chunk of dough that is 1/2 cup to 1 cup in size and put that in a reusable container with a lid. I chuck that into the fridge, but you can freeze it if you aren’t going to use it within the next few days.
The rest of the dough I separate into 8 pieces and form into rolls. I put them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment that I’ve sprinkled with cornmeal. I like to roll the pieces in the cornmeal so that they have some on the top as well, because I think it gives them a nice, rustic appearance when they’ve baked.
I slice a cross into the tops then put them in 200 C (400 F) oven for 20 minutes.
You could also make this into a single, large loaf if you so desire; just adjust the baking time accordingly.
Ciao for now and Bon Appétit!