What's Fabulous: Black Rooster Rye
I was recently at West Side Market picking up a few things on my way home where a very engaging man, set up at a little table at the end of one of the store's narrow aisles, was handing out samples of dark bread that he had sliced thin (1/4-inch) from a small loaf and then smeared with a little butter. I instead reached for one of the yet-to-be-smeared naked pieces for a taste. And then I reached for another. I could have eaten the entire loaf. Instead my manners and appetite had me buy one.
Black Rooster's Baltic 100% Rye bread has a wonderful and complex flavor, with a tang that is rather sweet and sour, tilting more to the sour, and a tight crumb that is very firm but also tender.
Even if you are a bread baker, as more of we home cooks are, this is the kind of bread we are very unlikely to bake ourselves.
Black Rooster Rye is made by hand in Brooklyn using what they describe as old world Latvian recipes. They make two kinds of sourdough rye bread: Baltic 100% Rye bread with caraway seeds and Baltic Rye Loaf with Fruit and Nuts which is excellent with cheese. Both breads are remarkably dense: the 6 by 3 by 3 1/4-inch loaf of Baltic Rye I bought weighs 18 ounces. (I'll do the math for you -- that's a loaf that can fit in the palm of your hand that weighs more than a pound.)
Using a regular but sharp knife, and not a serrated one, you can slice it thin which is probably best, especially if you're topping the bread with goat cheese, smoked salmon, French ham, or herring, or making a remarkable avocado toast. It is perfect for open-faced sandwiches, the kind we associate with Scandinavian cuisine. If you're entertaining, thin slices of this bread cut into small squares and topped with a slice of pork sausage with a little hot mustard, or an equally thin slice of aged gouda cheese, or a single shrimp and a dab of good mayonnaise would make irresistible hors d'oeurves.
If you're accustomed to buying those little square loaves of pumpernickel or rye bread for your canapés, this is a far better choice as I consistently find that those little square loaves are dry and tasteless. But Black Rooster will instead be both tender and flavorful.
Black Rooster Rye contains no wheat flour and stays fresh for weeks, although you could easily freeze half if a loaf is too large. Here are the ingredients: 100% rye flour, rye malt, yeast, caraway seeds, salt, and enough sugar to activate the yeast. Its nutritional information label says it contains 2% fat per 50-gram slice but no saturated fats. It also has calcium and iron.
The loaves sold in stores are sold as a single unsliced piece and they appear to be a wedge of a much larger loaf as you can see through their plastic bags it has two cut surfaces. If you buy the Baltic Rye online at their website, it is sold as a 5-pound loaf.
You can buy Black Rooster Rye in many stores in the northeast U.S. and also at their website. In NYC you can find it at Zabar's, Fairway, West Side Market, Bedford Cheese, Forager's, Russ & Daughters, and others; in Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, MD at Broad Branch Market, Rodman's Wagshal's, and others; at Formaggio Kitchen in Boston and Cambridge and in other shops there as well as in Concord, MA; and in western Massachusetts in the Berkshire Co-Op Market in Great Barrington and The Old Creamery Coop in Cummington. Check Black Rooster's website for more stores and locations.