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My quest for a great New York style deli rye bread began with a sandwich. The sandwich in question had a grilled portobello mushroom topped with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. For a sandwich this special, only rye bread would do.

Looking for instant gratification, I headed to the bakery section of my local supermarket and bought a loaf of what was labeled rye bread. I took out two slices to prepare my sandwich and was crestfallen.

A great loaf of deli rye should have a fine, even crumb and a tender-yet-sturdy texture that will hold up under sandwich fillings. The loaf I bought had the texture of Wonder bread with a few caraway seeds thrown in for flavor.

Rather than scouring the county looking for the loaf of my dreams, I took a tour of the internet. I passed up any recipes that said “fast and easy.” Time is the most important factor needed for a complex artisan flavor to develop in breads. In the end, I adapted a recipe fromThe Bread Bible.”

Although the bread takes about 8 hours from start to finish, the actual hands-on time is about 30 minutes. Whether you’re looking to make the world’s best pastrami sandwich or a simple grilled Swiss, I guarantee this deli-style loaf will be well worth your time investment.

New York Deli-style Rye Bread

Sponge (dough starter)

3/4 cup bread flour

3/4 cup rye flour

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

11/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon honey

11/2 cups water, at room temperature

In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, rye flour, yeast, sugar, honey and water. Mix until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. The starter will have the consistency of thick batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set the sponge aside while you combine the flour mixture.

Bread assembly

21/4 cups bread flour

1/2 heaping teaspoon instant yeast

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

11/2 teaspoons salt

11/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour, yeast, caraway seeds and salt.

Remove the plastic wrap from the sponge, and gently scoop the flour mixture over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature to ferment until the sponge bubbles through the flour mixture in places. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this will take from 1 to 4 hours.

Add the oil to the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl for 5 minutes, adding a little flour to keep it from sticking. At this point, the dough may be a little sticky. Cover the dough and set it aside to rest for 20 minutes, then knead the dough until it is very smooth and elastic, an additional 5 to 10 minutes. If the dough is still sticky, knead in a little more flour.

Place the dough in a large bowl, lightly greased with oil. Cover and set the dough aside to rise until doubled in size, 11/2 to 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a slightly floured counter and form into a ball. Line a 4-quart Dutch oven with parchment paper slightly overlapping the sides. Place the dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside to rise until almost doubled, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

When the dough has doubled, carefully pick up the parchment paper and move the dough to a bowl about the same size. When ready to bake, place the Dutch oven (or any covered baker) in the oven and set the temperature to 400 degrees. When the oven is preheated and the baker is hot, gently lift the parchment paper with the dough and place it in the hot utensil. With a sharp knife, make 1/4-to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Place the cover on and cook for 30 minutes. Then lift off the lid and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Lift the bread out by the parchment paper onto a rack to cool. Wait at least an hour before cutting.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.

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