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A Recipe: Portuguese Rye Loaf

 

You will often find a dense, sticky rye loaf in bread-baskets across Portugal. After living in Lisbon for three years, here's my version of a traditional Portuguese sourdough rye (pão de centeio). I have used carob syrup and erva doce, (sweet anise) to balance out the earthy flavour of rye. Though carob syrup is actually pretty difficult to get hold of in Portugal, as it is exported rather than used in cooking, carob trees grow everywhere throughout the country and the syrup is a really good rich, vegan alternative to honey. Erva doce on the other hand is easy to find in Portuguese supermarkets — native to Southern Europe, it is a much lighter version of anise seed or fennel.

Makes: 

2x 410g rye loaves  

 

Ingredients:

225g water 275g sourdough starter (you can also use 275g leven for a less sour flavour)

25 g carob syrup (substitute option: honey, molasses or treacle)

325g rye flour

5g flakey salt

1 tsp erva doce/sweet anise (substitute option: aniseed or dried fennel)  

 

Directions:

1. Add carob syrup and sourdough starter to water and mix. 

2. Add flour, salt and erva doce to the wet ingredients and mix until the colour of the dough is a coffee colour and its texture is smooth. It will take at least 10 minutes for the dough to reach a smooth consistency and it will have the texture of cement, so get ready for an arm workout. 

3. Once the dough is smooth and creamy, oil a baking tin and then coat with A LOT of rye flour. Take your dough and, using very wet hands, shape into a smooth, oval shaped ball. It will feel a little bit like you're working with ceramics. 

4. Plop your ball of rye dough into the floured banneton/tin and cover the dough with more rye flour to stop it from drying out. 

5. Leave to prove for at least 3 hours, until cracks start forming in the flour. When there are a lot of cracks in your dough, your bread is ready to bake. 

6. Preheat the oven to as hot as it will go. Pop the tin straight into the oven. 

7. As soon as your rye loaf goes into the oven, turn the temperature down to 200oC. Bake for 40 minutes. 

8. After 40 minutes, tip the baked loaf out of its tin and put it back in the oven to bake for a further 10-15 minutes. 

9. Leave your rye loaf for at least 12 hours before slicing and eating as it needs time to set.