Beer, Buttermilk and Caraway Seed Bread

Several years ago the fates had taken me to Cleveland, Ohio, for business and as I walked out into the street from the warmth of the lobby of my downtown hotel I had to pinch myself to make certain that I was not dreaming and had been transported overnight to Dublin, Ireland!  I stood in near disbelief as cars passed by filled with people dressed as leprechauns!  The air was filled with shamrocks and, even at 7:00 AM the local pubs were bustling with raucous activity, patrons dancing Irish jigs on the street.  Human pots of gold were skittering up and down the streets… green beer was flowing!  Could there be any doubt that it was St. Patrick’s Day…  I was in the land of the Irish!  My only regret was that I was on my way to the airport to catch my return flight home and would miss my traditional evening meal of corned beef and cabbage while in transit back to California…!

Yesterday marked another St. Patty’s Day and we dined on a magnificent brisket of corned beef as the warm spring air danced through the open back door, sans leprechauns, shamrocks and human pots of gold!  The brisket went into the pot early in the afternoon so it would have a full three hours to cook in the array of spices added to the kettle.  Over the years we’ve been disappointed with that puny little packet of spices that is tucked away inside the brisket packaging and now add to the pot a cheesecloth sachet filled with a bottle of pickling spice to give that beautiful brisket the flavor it deserves!  Once the brisket is cooked it is transfered to a plate on the side to rest while the crisp cabbage wedges, buttery baby Yukon gold potatoes and sweet carrots are added to the kettle and simmered to perfection.  There simply is not a better boiled dinner!

While the brisket was simmering I was already entertaining visions of leftovers.  The brisket was a large one so I knew there would be an ample amount of meat for another meal.  What about Reuben sandwiches… piled high with thinly sliced corned beef, tangy sauerkraut, a generous slice or two of Swiss cheese… slathered with homemade Russian dressing on top of a wonderful slice of toasted rye bread?  Perfection!

The weather was perfect for baking bread so I made the decision to bake a loaf or two rather than run to the market to purchase a commercial rye loaf.  I also thought it would be fun to take on the challenge of creating a new recipe with what I might have on hand in the pantry and in the fridge… a dangerous proposition, I know!  With the mission before me I gathered my ingredients and took on the challenge with gusto.  From the pantry I pulled rye and all-purpose white flour, as well as caraway seed.  The recesses of the fridge yielded active dry yeast, a container of buttermilk… and a bottle of ale.  Mixing was quick and easy, thanks to the dough hook… and the dough rose beautifully in the warmth of the afternoon temps.  Following the second rise in a couple of loaf pans, I brushed each loaf with an egg white wash and sprinkled on additional caraway seed.  As the loaves baked the fragrance being emitted from the oven was intoxicating!  The loaves cooled overnight and the first slices were sampled this morning for breakfast.  The result?  A beautiful dense and moist crumb with a flavor rich in rye and caraway and a lovely hint of ale… perfect for a Reuben sandwich!  This loaf is delicious toasted and slathered with fresh creamery butter as we discovered this morning and would also make a glorious hot pastrami sandwich.  Since I knew we would be using these loaves for sandwiches I chose to bake them in loaf pans for ease in slicing and sandwich assembly.  However, they could be shaped as rounds and baked accordingly on parchment.

Buttermilk and Ale Rye Bread

To the stainless steel mixing bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle add:

  • 4 C medium rye flour
  • 5 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 T salt
  • 3 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 T caraway seed

Mix on low speed until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.


  • 2 1/2 C buttermilk, room temp
  • 3 T melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C ale, room temp

Mix to incorporate then replace paddle with dough hook.  Knead for approximately 7 minutes.  Turn our onto a lightly floured work surface using a plastic scraper:

Dust lightly with flour and knead for several additional turns.  Shape into a ball:

Transfer to a large bowl coated with a turn of extra virgin olive oil.  Turn the dough to coat all sides, then cover the bowl with film and allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk, approximately 1 hour.  Punch dough down and transfer to a lightly floured work surface.  Dust lightly with flour and knead for several turns.  Divide dough in half with a sharp knife:

Shape each half to fit into two well-greased loaf pans, placing any seams on the bottom of the loaf, or shape into round loafs and place on a parchment-lined large sheetpan.  Cover with film and allow to rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush risen loaves with:

  • 1 egg white, beaten

Sprinkle each loaf with:

  • Additional caraway seed (optional)

Place in preheated oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes.  Loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool:

This evening’s Reuben was easy to assemble.  The first order of business was to mix a tasty and tangy Russian dressing.  Rather than using a dill pickle relish to add zest to this flavorful accompaniment we chose to add a magnificent condiment that we recently discovered at Berkeley Bowl West… Woodstock Farm’s Spicy Chipotle Relish… delicious!  A wonderful dill relish of choice, however, will do the trick beautifully.

– Homemade Russian Dressing –

In a medium bowl combine:

  • 3/4 C Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 C creme fraiche
  • 1/2 C chili sauce (we recommend “Homade”)
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 heaping T Spicy Chipotle Relish
  • 1 T finely minced red bell pepper
  • 2 green onions, green leaves excluded, finely minced
  • 2 heaping tsp bottled horseradish
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 generous dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 generous T fresh Italian parsley, finely minced

Mix well to thoroughly combine and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Heat a small skillet over moderately high heat.  Add:

  • crisp refrigerated sauerkraut of choice (we recommend Bubbies)
  • several generous splashes of ale of choice

Stir until well heated.  For each Reuben sandwich slice and toast two 1/4 – 3/8-inch thick slices of Buttermilk and Ale Rye Bread.  When toasted, spread each slice with:

  • a sparing layer of Dijon mustard

Top with:

  • the heated sauerkraut in ale
  • thin slices of corned beef
  • 1 – 2 slices Swiss cheese

Place in the preheated 450 degree oven and, watching closely, heat until the Swiss cheese has melted over the sauerkraut and corned beef.  Remove from the oven.  Top with:

  • Russian dressing, as desired

Cap with the remaining toasted rye slice and serve with potato salad or cole slaw.  A crunchy dill pickle slice would be wonderful as well!  This splendid sandwich is probably best enjoyed with a knife and fork.  However, if you are not adverse to delectable juicy drips and many dabs of a large linen napkin, dive in and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day for a second consecutive day… Bon Appetit!

Copyright 2010, Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved



Tags: ,

Categories: Beef, Breads, Sauces

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!


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