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Dan's New York Sour Jewish Rye Bread

  • Sourdough:
  • 2 cups of rye flour
  • 1 cup plain yogurt at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed caraway seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • To be added each of the last three days:
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar dissolved in
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • For the bread:
  • 3-6 pieces of rye bread soaked in water and squeezed dry; this may be either from a previous baking of this recipe or from a loaf of commercial rye; you need about 1-1/2 cups of soaked/squeezed rye bread
  • 3 cups of sourdough as made in the description above
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt
  • Caraway seeds (as much as you wish - 2 tablespoons is average)
  • 4 cups of white flour
Most people who speak nostalgically of New York sour Jewish rye bread are unaware of how easy it is to make the same bread anywhere. There is nothing special in the bread except a great secret which was rarely spoken of because it was (at least in my New Jersey neighborhood) against the law.

Specifically, it involved the use of old bread in the making of the new and, for a chemical reason that I neither understand nor know about, the bread is never really very good unless it is made with old bread. And I mean old rye bread. The bakers used to take the old loaves that had been brought back by the delivery trucks and use that bread to make the new bread. That was the illegal part.

I have found through experimentation that one can use the ordinary store-bought rye bread just as satisfactorily, though I do not eat such commercial rye bread by itself. So I keep a loaf of it in my freezer and, whenever I make rye, I take out some slices and use them.

The first time you make this recipe it will be a pain in the neck because you have to have a good sourdough and I will supply one here that is perfect for this kind of bread. It will take four days to make this sourdough and, if you are careful you will never have to do it again.

To make sourdough:
Combine first 7 ingredients in a sizeable bowl and beat until well- blended. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Beat in 1 cup rye flour with brown sugar/water mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Repeat previous procedure again. Let stand another 24 hours.

Repeat previous procedure again. Let stand another 24 hours after which the sourdough starter will be ready for use. You will have far too much but you can give some away and use it for other sourdough purposes.

Now that you have the sourdough, you are ready to make the bread. As you take from this supply to make the bread, you must replenish it with a mixture of 1 cup of rye flour, 3/4 cup of lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar for each cup of sour you have taken.

Allow this replenished mix to sour at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in your refrigerator.

If you do not use the sour for a month, it would be wise to replenish it even should you not intend to use it. It is a living thing and needs to be fed. If left alone for more than 6 weeks, it is likely to die and then you have to start all over again. In the refrigerator, it may be stored in a jar with the lid loose to avoid pressure build-up.

To make the bread:
In your mixer with a dough hook, place squeezed-dry rye bread, the sour, yeast, salt, the caraway seed, and 2 cups of flour. Mix for 5 minutes (be patient, you rascal). Add flour 1/4-1/2 cup at a time and knead for approximately ten minutes (be patient, you rascal). The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl after all the flour has been incorporated and it is a tough haul for your mixer unless you have a good motor. This is dense dough.

Allow to rise up for 3/4 hour. Punch down, put on floured work board, cut into two equal parts and make each half into a loaf, round or long as you prefer. Place on baking sheet prepared with corn meal. Allow to rise up for 45 glorious minutes (be patient, you rascal).

Prepare oven at 450° keeping an empty pan in the oven while it is heating. Five minutes before putting the bread in the over, pour 1 cup of hot water into the preheated pan. CAREFUL!!! There is going to be steam.

Cut top of bread with knife, brush with an egg wash, sprinkle caraway on the egg wash, and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until done. This cooking time is for a non-convection oven.

It is very doubtful that you will have any bread left over for making the next batch so keep a loaf of commercial rye in your freezer. If you make the bread without the addition of old rye bread, you will understand the nature of the secret being given here.

From: Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California (
Submitted by Tess M Nov 10, 2009


"This is a great recipe,I found it about three years ago as I've used it since with great reviews from family and friends who'd tried. Thank you. " - Lastenia Gregg
"A lot of work for an average rye bread. This takes four days to get to the point of baking it. It rises super slowly, as well. It's a good bread but not one I think I'll make again." - Deborah Vaughn
"This is the best rye bread I ave baked. I will experiment a bit with the white/rye ratio and also witht he number of slices of "old" bread I put in, but it is delicious as is." - Nancy Harrington
"Your recipe has given me four excelent loaves of bread so far. Everyone that I have shared your/my bread with have only high praise for the taste produced by this recipe. Thank you for the experienc" - Louis Puzon
"I tried to print the receipe, 5 different times the whole 2nd page would not print. I now have to hand write it, but befor I do I was just bombared with my daughter and her family. When they leave." - Sshaug1953
2 stars based on 7 reviews 15 min 30 min 45 min
Recipe Rascal