I was on a mission to make a tangy rye bread long before I started working with sourdough. It all began when I arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, on one of the coldest days on record. I’d just come from Norway, where I’d fallen in love with gjetost, a whey-based goat cheese that’s the color of caramel, has the richness of fudge, and melts on your tongue. Before leaving the country, I splurged on a log so large you can’t find it in the States. It was usually served with dry crispbread in Norway. Once I was settled in Russia, I discovered my favorite pairing for the cheese: Russian black bread.
The rye bread I ate in Russian bore little resemblance to what’s typically labeled “Russian rye” in America: no instant coffee, no cocoa powder, no caraway, no corn syrup. It was simply flour, water, and salt, all leavened with a sponge or starter. In other words, a sourdough bread. The problem was getting a recipe. Bread was subsidized when I was in Russia; a rye loaf cost 33p (about $1), and no one I met in the city was making it at home. The bakers where I bought my bread clearly thought I was a crazy American when I asked for the recipe: they started spouting ratios I could barely understand that seemed to start with about 50 pounds of flour.
Learn to make Sourdough Rye Bread and Gorgeous Grilled Cheese