black russian rye bread

Rye Bread

Rye bread is a type of bread made with various proportions of flour from rye grain. It can be light or dark in color, depending on the type of flour used and the addition of coloring agents, and is typically denser than bread made from wheat flour. It is higher in fiber than white bread and is often darker in color and stronger in flavor. Rye bread has a low glycemic index, which means it does not cause a spike in blood sugar when compared to white bread.

Dark rye bread was considered a staple through the Middle Ages. Many different types of rye grain have come from north-central and eastern Europe such as Finland, Denmark, Baltic countries, Russia, The Netherlands and Germany. Around 500 AD, the Saxons and Danes settled in Britain and introduced rye, which was well suited to colder northern climates. In Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, rye breads of varying consistency are the most popular type of bread.

rye sourdough starterWhile rye and wheat are genetically similar enough to interbreed, their biochemistries differ enough that they affect the breadmaking process. The key issue is differing amylases, the enzyme which breaks starch down into sugar. While wheat amylases are generally not heat-stable and thus do not affect stronger wheat gluten that gives wheat bread its structure, rye amylase remains active at substantially higher temperatures. Since rye gluten (secalin) is not particularly strong, rye dough structure is based on complex polysaccharides, including rye starch and pentosans. As a result, amylases in rye flour can break down dough structure, inhibiting it from rising.

There are two common solutions: The traditional manner, developed where obtaining wheat was traditionally impractical because of marginal growing conditions or supply difficulties, uses dough acidification to impede the function of rye amylases. Lowering dough pH, however, compromises the use of relatively acid-intolerant Saccharomyces cerevisiae-based “baker’s yeast”. Instead, addition of naturally acidic Lactobacillus “sourdough” cultures lowers bread pH, provides an acid-tolerant yeast strain, and helps gelatinize starches in the dough matrix. The byproduct of this approach is lighter breads.

russian pancakes with caviar

Russian Pancakes

Russian pancakes are a traditional weekend breakfast food in Russia and are also often eaten with tea as a snack or a dessert. They are probably unlike any other kind of pancakes you’ve had before. They differ from French crepes since they are slightly thicker, but about the same in diameter; they are different from American-style pancakes since they are much thinner and wider. The typical toppings and fillings used for Russian pancakes are also quite different. You will never see pancakes with syrup at a Russian restaurant!

You only need a few very simple ingredients to make Russian pancakes – milk, eggs, and flour form the basis of the recipe. The pancakes can be made with or without yeast. They can also be made with buttermilk or regular milk.

Dr. Nina Walsh concludes her series on the benefits of fermented food and beverages from Russia with her recipes for creating rye bread and Russian pancakes.  These breads have far less gluten and none of the health issues associated with breads made from hybridized wheat flour. Click the play button below to listen to the interview with Dr. Nina Walsh from Flow Natural Medicine and Acupuncture.


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