New York rye bread is a version of rye bread which has been made famous by New York's Jewish community, although it can be made in plenty of other locations as well. This particular version of rye bread is distinguished by the high proportion of wheat flour in the dough, which gives the bread a lighter crumb and a more mild flavor. There are all sorts of uses for New York rye bread, ranging from sandwiches to breakfast toast, and many bakeries and markets stock several varieties of New York rye.
Like wheat, rye is a grass which produces large grains which can be ground to make flour. On its own, rye flour is coarse, heavy, and dark; some traditional Eastern European breads use only rye flour, creating a very memorable flavor. Because this flour has an intense flavor and it behaves differently from wheat flour while baking, rye flour is typically blended with wheat flour in bread recipes to make the flavor less heavy and overpowering. In New York rye bread, the proportion of rye to wheat tends to be fairly low.
The other distinctive feature of New York rye bread is the addition of caraway seeds for extra flavor. Caraway is closely related to the carrot, and it has a distinctive tangy flavor which is used in liquors and a variety of other foods in addition to bread. Many cooks also sprinkle the bottom of a loaf of New York rye bread with cornmeal; this was originally intended to prevent the bread from sticking to the oven while it baked.
You may also hear New York rye bread called Jewish rye, in an reference to the community which made this bread famous. Many people in the Jewish community in New York are of Eastern European ancestry, and they undoubtedly brought a taste for rye bread with them to the New World. With wheat flour being readily available, the New York style Jewish rye bread was born.
There are several ways to make New York rye bread. Many people prefer to use a sourdough starter for the bread, creating a chewier bread and a more robust flavor. Sourdough breads also have a certain tang to them which some people greatly appreciate. For cooks in a hurry or without the inclination to care for a starter, it is also possible to make New York rye bread with yeast. To make New York rye bread at home, start with your favorite bread recipe as a base, using one part rye flour to every two parts wheat flour, and sprinkle the loaves with caraway seeds before baking.