A Swirl of Black and White — Marbled Rye

It is an exciting time when you have just acquired  whole bunch of baking paraphernalia; pots and pans and some new ingredients. Have you ever had these little acquisitions haunt you when you are awake and appear floating through in your dreams? I did!  I have been eyeing them for  couple of weeks now just waiting till I could actually get down, and bake something cool. With my goodies spread out in front of me, I had a hundred things that I wanted to bake all at once. I, however, had to settle for just one.  These decisions are never just black and white. There are so many things to consider. Should it be cake? A bread? A cookie? Or maybe  brownie? Hmmm. . .  Decisions. . .  decisions. . .

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Then I thought about what I would like to eat. I knew I wanted something satisfying. I also wanted something pretty. It had to be something I had never made before. By the time I processed all these thoughts, I realised, I also had to decide on what to make for dinner. Then, right before me, was the answer. It was as clear as black and white and as pretty as a picture and would work perfectly for dinner. I had decided to make a marbled rye bread. I had these new bread pans that were begging to be baked in, some rye flour (I have never worked with rye before) and some delicious Swiss cheese which would be perfect with the bread. That decision made, I looked to Peter Reinhart for the perfect Rye bread recipe. To my dismay, I realised, to make the bread I would have to first make a starter and a soaker and finally the bread. I did not have five days to make the bread. I did not even have five hours. So back to the working board, some quick thinking (did not want to waste more precious time) and some calculations later, I was ready to measure the flour.

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I was excited. Rye bread was something I have been wanting to make for a long time. Rye flour was so hard to come by and when I did, it seemed criminal to pay a king’s ransom for it. So when I saw this huge bag of rye flour for a throw away price I could not help, but buy it. Never mind that I would have to lug it half way around the world! Everytime I lifted the heavy suitcase, I could only think of a hearty slice of rye bread, speckled with caraway or onions. Now that I think about it, a marbled one is so much better.

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I had to get two sets of dough ready around the same time. One regular and one dark. I always thought that the dark swirl was pumpernickel and was very surprised to find that it was just an addition of cocoa or coffee that brought on that delicious dark colour. That’s right, Cocoa or coffee. Trust me, the bread tastes nothing like chocolate or coffee. The addition just enhances the colour. I, of course, did not want to waste my best cocoa on something that did not require it. You might need to adjust the quantity of cocoa depending on how dark you want the bread.  While I was kneading the bread, I seriously doubted if there would be marked colour difference; but there was. (I might,next time, add a tad more cocoa).

I had to work on both the doughs simultaneously. I kneaded one for a couple of minutes, let it rest as I worked on the next and went back and forth this way until they both were perfect. If you have stand mixer, this confused and complicated process becomes even easier. To be honest, I added a little more water than what I have mentioned in the recipe. So the water measurement is an approximation. Use as much as you need to get a tacky dough, which will clean the sides of the bowl but still remain a little sticky. I have always found it simpler to err on the side of over hydration than less, particularly with breads which contain, whole grains, whole wheat or rye, else they will turn hard and dry (I even got it to rhyme!!)

USA and rye bread post 2While I waited for the dough to rise, I smiled to myself. While people usually advice you to find a warm place for the yeast to do its job, I was looking for  cool corner in the Chennai heat simply so my dough does not double in 15 minutes. The little nook in my air conditioned bedroom did the trick. In about an hour, my dough had doubled and was ready for the next step. Gently rolled and twirled, (the dough was really easy to handle) I carefully placed the shaped loaf into one of my new pans. And back to the bedroom, where I explained to my perplexed family that I needed that cool space for my yeast to be alert as opposed to a bedroom to go to sleep. They just nodded with  really worried expression (they anyway think I am a little crazy). So while my yeast was enjoying a royal treatment, I continued to fantasize about a perfect loaf of black and white.

USA and rye bread post 5Now, I have heard a lot about rye breads falling flat, raising then shrinking back a little, most of all I have heard horror stories about the loaf being dry and hard. I watched anxiously as the heat provided the right amount of oven spring. The yeast sure loved the pampering it was receiving! So far it looked like a perfect loaf. It was turning a beautiful golden in the oven. I normally go about my regular work as the bread is baking. This time I was hovering around the oven like a protective mother hen. “She is just waiting for her bread to come out of the oven” my family commented to each other, amused by my distracted demeanor. And finally the baking was done. Now I had to just let it cool before I could slice it.

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It had to be right. The bread was beautifully risen, it felt springy, the base made a hollow thumping sound against my fingers as I tried to beat out a steady rhythm. Now all I needed were perfect swirls. I held my breath as I sliced it. And it was beautiful! A symphony in concentric circles, a perfect dark brown against the creamy white. I could not have asked for anything better. A proud mother, I could not but help but walk around the house with a beaming smile. Now dinner was going to be a meal to remember.

USA and rye bread post 7INGREDIENTS

For the White Rye

3/4 cups Stone-ground whole grain rye flour (or white rye flour)

1 1/2 cups Bread flour or All Purpose flour (I used All Purpose with an addition of 1 Tbs of vital wheat gluten)

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp instant yeast

3/4 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

1/2 Tbs molasses ( I used melted Jaggery, you could also use brown sugar)

1 Tbs oil or softened butter

About 1 cup water at room temperature ( you might need more or less. So watch out.)

For the Dark Brown Dough

Use the same measurements as above and add 1 Tbs of cocoa to achieve a dark brown colour.

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1. Stir together all the dry ingredients for the white dough and add the molasses, oil and water. Bring together until it form a rough ball. Let it sit for about 5 minutes

2. As the first mixture rests, bring all the ingredients for the dark dough together.

3. Now go back to the white dough and knead well for about 4 minutes till you have a supple but somewhat sticky dough (increase or decrease the water as required) It is important that the dough feels soft or your final bread will be dry and crumbly.

4. Now back to the dark dough. Proceed as you did with the white dough. Make sure both the dough have the same consistency. If they are different, the softer dough will rise faster and expand more both during the fermentation process and in the oven and you could have an ugly split loaf.

5. Roll the dough into a ball and place in oiled bowls. Cover and allow to double in size.

6. When double, gently degas the dough and divide each into 4 pieces each.

7. Roll each piece into a rough but equal sized rectangle.

8. Place each rectangle one over another, alternating between light and dark, starting with the light and finishing with the dark.

9. Now roll the dough like you would a Swiss roll. Pinch the edges well and place the loaf seam side down in a lightly greased pan.

10. Cover the pan and let the loaf double in size.

11. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Lightly mist the loaf with water and bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes until golden and done. If you find the bread browning too fast, tent with an aluminium foil.

12. Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting and enjoying the visual beauty.

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It is important that you use bread flour or vital gluten because rye by itself has a very low gluten content. Feel free to add finely minced onions or chives.You could even go the distance by adding poppy seeds or onion seeds. If you like a shiny crust you could give the bread an egg wash. I just brushed some butter on the baked bread to give it a softer crust and that lovely glow. The slightly coarser crumb makes for a substantial sandwich able to stand up to most fillings without getting mushy on you. I might have lost out on some of the flavour by opting for a faster method. Next time I am going to make the time to create a starter with rye flour. But that is for another day. Right now I am off to take a bite of one of the prettiest sandwiches I have made.

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8 thoughts on “A Swirl of Black and White — Marbled Rye

    1. Mallika, this is a rye bread.so if you do not use rye flour it will no longer be a rye bread. If you just looking to replicate the swirls, you can use a regular bread recipe and add cocoa to one half of the dough and follow the same method.


  1. Hi Harini…..

    The bread looks heaven no doubt about that!!! could you please let me know from where to buy the unbleached flour in chennai???
    I can ask my friend to get it for me…since I’m in Bombay…Thanks!!


    1. I have not seen any store here which sells unbleached flour ( at least it is not labelled as such). Some of the smaller stores which sell loose flour might have unbleached flour. The only way to make out the difference is that the unbleached flour has a creamy colour unlike the bleached one which is bright white.


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