Rye bread (rupjmaize, rudzu maize) always has been a staple of Latvian diet. Traditionally, Latvians ate whatever was available during the season – cereals, legumes and root vegetables, meat and dairy. Rye and barley was available all year round thus becoming the most important source of subsistence (wheat was considered to be a delicacy). It was believed that while there was rye bread on the table, no one would go hungry.
Rye has been grown in Latvia for more than 1200 years, and rye bread became common more than a thousand years ago. Similarly to Scandinavian and Slavic traditions, rye bread was baked from leavened dough and it was considered to more nutritious and tastier than barley bread. In late 19th century sourdough bread gained popularity, but it was mainly baked for celebrations as it was more time consuming.
Rye bread was eaten at every meal, however, it was not served with porridge (another staple). Good bread was the pride and joy of every hostess and no effort was spared when baking the bread. During the harvest, the owner of the house would bake the first batch of bread to check the quality of new flour, how well it rises and sticks. The sower of rye would be offered the first bite of the bread to celebrate his effort, only then the baker and the rest of the family would eat.
Other, still observed, customs dictate:
– If the bread is accidentally dropped, it must be immediately picked up and kissed.
– Do not wipe breadcrumbs on the floor, otherwise God will not place more bread on the table.
– Do not place the bread bottom side up, otherwise the family will experience hunger.
The recipe of rye bread presented here is one of three recipes I tried to see if it is possible to skip 120km round trip to the only shop in town that sells proper rye bread and bake my own at home. From all three recipes this was the easiest and least time consuming (borrowed from here). Baked loaves may appear lighter in colour than usual as the flour was very fine and I did not have malt extract to replace the sugar (malt extract gives darker colour), but the taste was just as good.
- 750g rye flour
- 600ml buttermilk
- 80ml apple juice
- 4 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon instant yeast
- caraway seeds (optional)
- Warm the buttermilk to blood warm temperature (test by putting couple drops on the inside of the wrist - it should not burn).
- In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients together and add all liquids. Mix well. The dough will become very thick. Continue by kneading the dough in the bowl or on a kitchen bench for 15 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky.
- Place the dough back in the bowl and flatten the dough with wet hands.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm spot (above 25 degrees Celsius) to rise for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper or lightly oil the pan.
- When the dough has risen, wet your hands and split the dough in half to create two loafs. Place both loaves on the pan and let them rise for 30 minutes. When dough has risen, brush both loaves with cold water.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake in 250 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for additional 25 minutes.