The most common bread in Belarus is dark and flavorful, and tastes simply amazing. Recipes are hard to find, though. It's baked fresh in the local bread factory in each town every day.
Here's the ingredients label from a packaged loaf (as opposed to unwrapped loaves simply sitting on a shelf, which you can still see in some stores):
Мука ржаная сеяная, мука пщеничная первого сорта (М36-27), солод ржаной сухой, вода, концентрат квасного сусла, пюре картофельное сухое, патока крахмальная, соль пищевая йодированная, дрожжи, тмин, кориандр.
Sifted (?) rye flour, wheat flour of the first class (M36-27), dry rye malt, water, concentrate leavened wort, mash potato powder, starch molasses, iodized salt, yeast, caraway, coriander.
Ordered a book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking because it has a potato-rye bread recipe that sounded promising.
Late December 2009
Tried the potato-rye recipe from the book, with the ingredient measurements exactly as written, just to try it out, although I couldn't imagine it being very authentic with so much white flour and so little rye. The first outcome was some rolls on Christmas Day, which we didn't have any trouble eating.
The day after Christmas I bought a baking stone from Williams Sonoma. Theirs has a lifetime warranty (but costs $40 unfortunately).
Next morning, I tried making a loaf, but that recipe is so high-moisture that it ran off the edge of the board while it was rising, and after baking it was also very flat. We weren't patient enough to let it bake long enough or cool long enough, so it was still gummy inside. (The 30-35 minutes specified in the recipe is way conservative, IMO. Such wet dough will inevitably take much longer.)
A few days after that I finished off the first batch of dough, but this time kneaded in more rye flour to stiffen it up. That worked well; the loaf was nicely formed, and still rose well enough too, in spite of the kneading. I forgot to add water to the broiler tray, and overbaked it a tad besides. That loaf was OK in some ways, but not as dark as I'd like (having way too much white flour after all), and due to overbaking the crust was nearly inedible, but the crumb was pretty good.
Then without washing out the bowl (to keep the yeast culture going), I made a fresh batch of dough, using 4 cups rye and 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour rather than 1 and 5 1/2 as the recipe recommended, and only one yeast packet. This batch seemed more active during the initial rise. Then I let it rest in the fridge a few days.
2010 January 4
Made a loaf with the fresh dough from a couple days ago. I didn't add much flour while I was folding the dough, and didn't knead it (just as the instructions say). The result, again, was that it was too moist and flattened out too much (at least it didn't "run" off the edge of the board this time).
Figured out how to make the corn starch wash (how much is "a small amount of water to make a paste"? I used a bit more than I thought they meant, because the first attempt was too thick to use. I wish they'd just write "2 tablespoons water" or some such.) That provides a much smoother finish than without. This time I didn't forget the water in the broiler, and maybe even baked it about right. I turned down the temperature from 450 to 375 after the first 20 minutes or so. (Medieval ovens were always "falling", because the fire was built first, then removed, and the bread was baked using residual heat.) It's darker but of course it's not going to be as dark as the real thing without some molasses. I think I actually got carried away with caraway... didn't know that was possible. The flavor is actually overwhelming.
Next time I'm going to knead in some flour until it gets a bit stiffer, and use white flour because the rye may actually be a bit excessive in this batch. (So basically I'm not impressed with the "revolutionary new method" which is not supposed to involve any kneading... I just can't get it stiff enough to hold a shape without doing that. I think the authors must be putting in more extra flour than they let on.)