Rye Bread, Bridges and a Vote for Really Big Loaves

Reprinted from the Zingerman’s Newsletter, January-February 2009

Bridges break. My mother died this year.

It’s a strange feeling, this death of a parent thing. Everyone who’s been through it, I’m sure, has had some sense of what I’m talking about, though, of course, we each work with it in our own way, and I can only speak to my own experience. While there are many layers of grieving for me to get through (I’m only about eight months into it), and I’m sure that the process will continue for many years—most likely, I guess, for life—I think the hardest part so far really has been this sense of a bridge having broken. I know that the “land” on the other side, where I lived my life until this past May is very real. But it’s equally real and all too true that I’ll never be back there again.

Mind you this isn’t an essay about death so I’m a bit wary to get into all this. But bread and life, and hence bread and life’s absence have been linked for many thousands of years as they have been this year for me. In honesty, my grieving process hasn’t been one of tragic turmoil. It’s very hard and very strange but it has not really been heart-rending in the way I often imagined it to be. My mother lived a full life and made a positive difference for a LOT of people. She substitute-taught in the same Jewish day school (where I went as a kid) for probably nigh on 40 years. There were like 600 people at her funeral, many of whom were former students who loved her. She died at 78, which, I know isn’t so “old” any more, but it’s not like the friend of a friend who died last month in a helicopter crash—he was forty with young kids.

I can’t really say the sense of the bridge breaking was so shocking. I’ve long been conscious of the reality that, sooner or later, this collapse of connection with the past would come. With that awareness in mind, I think my mother and I long ago made an unspoken peace with the reality that things would end and that one day one of us wouldn’t be there, wouldn’t return from one of the many trips we each took to interesting spots around the world. And that’s what happened. She went to Israel for her annual (or sometimes twice annual) visit and this time she didn’t come back. She died pretty quickly in a way that was in synch with her life—she was traveling, she didn’t suffer nor did everyone around her. She was living actively, intellectually engaged and on the move right up until she died really. But die she did. And without her…there’s a link that’s missing for me.

The more I thought about the bridge breaking, of not having any way back to really touch or learn about or experience any more where my mother came from, I realized that I’ve often had a somewhat similar sense about rye bread which was such a big part of my growing up. The good news I guess is that while my mother is gone, really good Jewish rye is very much alive and well in my life (and I hope, in yours too). We continue to make it at the Bakehouse every day, and I’m guessing and hoping (for my benefit and for yours!) that we’ll continue to do so for many years into the future. While it’s small solace in the context of losing a loved one, good bread does add life, color and enjoyment to my days, and, I think, to those of many others as well.

Rye Bridge

In my case, the rye bread isn’t just a random selection. It gives me a small but meaningful way to hold on to a positive piece of my past, and strengthens my connection with my mother, her parents, grandparents, and though I’ll never know, probably many more generations before them too. While I can’t re-cross the bridge, I can still put this amazing rye bread in my toaster and on my table every day, and think about her and the world she and my grandparents came from.

I certainly grew up with it. It’s clearly been a low-key connection, solidly if silently in place, between my mother and me. Unlike many things that caused conflict, rye was a culinary link that we both liked, one without hugely difficult emotional baggage, no philosophical controversy over which we needed to disagree. It’s obviously much bigger than just bread. In a way, this is a culinary unveiling—the Jewish ceremony that takes place a year after the death when the tombstone is placed on the grave that had been, until then, unmarked. By putting this down on paper I guess I’m likely committing to mind and memory what I think of whenever I eat rye bread.

All that said though, I wish I had some romantically relevant story to tell you about how my mom and I got up early every Sunday morning and made rye bread together. But, we didn’t. Now that I think about it I doubt my mother ever baked a loaf in her life. I’d love to tell you that my grandparents owned a bakery and that she grew up surrounded by the smells of rye and other old time Jewish breads baking but that’s not true either. They owned a laundry for a long time on the Southside of Chicago. Bakers end up with lots of bread to take home; my grandparents came home with cloth sacks with someone else’s now-lost cufflinks.

Really Good Rye

I do love our rye bread. I feel especially close to the caraway. It has always been, I think, one of our best breads, and in the last year or two it’s been even better than ever. (Yes, even long-standing products get better—we’re driven to make improvements all the time!) All family memories, food history or good stories aside, I think this is really a fantastic loaf—moist, flavorful, delicious. The aroma of fresh rye alone is a beautiful thing. It fills the air every time I slice some. Equally enticing, for me at least, is the smell of rye bread toasting. Caramelly, not really sweet, very savory, maybe almost meaty. And with the caraway loaves—which are the ones I’m particularly fond of—the perfume is even more powerful. Just thinking about the smell (let alone actually breathing it in) makes me hungry. And, as you’ll certainly have sensed from all that I’ve already written, it also makes me think about my mother.

Strangely I think that the Bakehouse rye is still really relatively unknown to most Zingerman’s customers. Folks who didn’t grow up with rye rarely seek it out until they’ve had the chance to experience how really good it is (and understand how pallid most commercial product is by comparison). And, realistically, a lot more Americans still like to eat whiter breads. Rye sounds good but most people still seem to want wheat. Nothing wrong with that really. I just think it’s a great, great bread and I want to share that enthusiasm with bread eaters all over our area (and all over the country as well, via I’m sure I’m not alone in my connection to it. We could have the rye club for displaced rye refugees!)

It’s probably just a coincidence, but in the last few months I’ve heard many, many, unsolicited, ravingly good comments on our rye. One came in from one of Chicago’s up and coming restaurant owners, and others from customers who grew up eating Jewish rye bread but haven’t had it for ages. Another was from a friend of a regular customer at the Roadhouse. He’d come to town from New York City and couldn’t stop talking about the food here, in particular how good the rye was, and he wanted me to know that he’d bought a few loaves to take back to New York with him. Another nice compliment came from David Sax, a writer from Toronto, recently moved to New York City, whose book about delis will be out next year. He’s traveled pretty much the entire country (and probably Canada, too) doing research and told me that the Bakehouse rye was the best he tried anywhere. Patti Kuhl, who’s been working with food for a long time now wrote a few days after I started to write this, “Zingerman’s rye bread is probably the greatest single food product I have ever tasted. It has great texture, tons of caraway, and just the right amount of chewiness.” Anyways, I think it’s fantastic this bread. A credit to Michael London who taught it to us over sixteen years ago and to the skills of Frank Carollo, Amy Emberling, Stuart Marley and everyone at the Bakehouse who works so hard on it, and who stay relentlessly focused on making those small improvements that add up to such a special eating experience for the rest of us.

But coming back to my mother, rye bread really takes me back before she was born, to her parents’ generation. It give me a way to touch the past, to connect with the culture, to get at the Russian Jewish and then Jewish American roots I/we/she share.

Although rye is overtly Jewish in its context, it’s not ceremonial stuff in the least. I like to celebrate every day (and stay away from holidays) and rye is all-out good, everyday food. There’s no pomp, and really not a whole lot of circumstance to go with it. It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper like a panettone. There’s no chocolate in it. I’ve never seen it featured on the front cover of one of the national food magazines. My mom was much the same—not fancy, never about making a big show of things, nor of being the star or at the center of anyone else’s universe. Like the bread in question, she never called attention to herself (to the contrary, if you wanted to get her mad that was one way to incite her). She was steady, always working to make a positive, working-person’s down-to-earth difference in the lives of those she came into contact with.

Which, I think is what good rye bread is also all about. It’s kind of a hidden jewel in a world with things like 200-year balsamic vinegar, bean-to-bar chocolates, hand made goat cheeses, newly pressed estate olive oils. Corned beef on rye rarely gets much glamour but it sure is good.

Great Bread; Better Memories

Much of the research on rye bread that follows I did many years ago. But rereading it now…the story is still the same. Early on I hit upon this quote from Lenny Bruce. I was kind of shocked when I realized that Lenny was actually born five years before my mother. I guess I’d really always thought of them as two pretty different generations. Back in those days I related to Lenny Bruce’s rule-breaking much more than I did my mother’s mainstream good behavior. For him, most every sentence was loaded up with what they used to call “curse words.” By contrast, I might have heard my mother swear (maybe!) six times in my entire life. Just the thought of her handling some sort of illegal substance the way Lenny did is pretty laughable. But one thing that they clearly had in common, and in common with me, is their mutual regaling of rye bread. For my mother, rye was what it was—she bought it, we ate it, she sort of enjoyed it. It’s safe to say she didn’t write any poems about it, nor did it ever provoke any big existential arguments. Lenny’s litany, not surprisingly, is much more poetic, profound and its own humorous way, probably pretty controversial. Lenny made it into cultural commentary, one which still makes me chuckle and think in ways that are probably more Jewish inside jokes than I should be putting in print here but …

“Now I neologize Jewish and goyish. Dig: I’m Jewish. Count Basie’s Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor’s goyish. B’nai Brith is goyish; Hadassah, Jewish. Marine corps—heavy goyish, dangerous. Koolaid is goyish. All Drake’s Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and as you know, white bread is very goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish. Macaroons are very Jewish—very Jewish cake. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.

“Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Spam is goyish and rye bread is Jewish.”

The Lenny Bruce era is, I guess, about the time I entered the world of American Jewish rye. In the middle of the 20th century it was, as he says at the end there, a given that, “rye bread is Jewish.” But interestingly the more detailed origins of Jewish rye bread as we know it here in the States were far, far harder to track back than I had thought. Sometimes the most seemingly obvious foods are the ones that surprise me with how hard they are to track back. With most every other food I’ve studied, I find a lot of people who remember eating it, who know that it tasted a certain way even if they were small children at the time they ate it. But with rye bread it’s been hard to find. There are a lot of books that tell tale of it. And I do love books. But the people, like my mom and Lenny B., they’re pretty much all gone and there aren’t a whole lot of great rye breads out there to talk about.

If, that is, they were ever there. I was in Washington, D.C. a while ago to speak at a conference, and made time to visit with Mark Furstenberg. A very fine baker for many years, he’s also Jewish and (much to his frustration) he’d just turned 70, so he’s been around this stuff a long time. We’ve talked about this rye bread thing before so I wasn’t really expecting any huge new insights or anything. The conversation started out along those lines, both of us really just repeating what we kind of already knew and shared in past conversations. But then he sort of stumped me with a question I’d never really considered. “What,” he wondered in his seriously quizzical and always lovingly concerned and challenging way, “What if there really wasn’t ever any good Jewish rye here? Maybe it’s mostly all so-so today because it’s always been that way here? We really don’t know.”

In honesty, that was a question I’d never really even considered. So when I got back to town I asked Jack Stanzler, a fascinating guy who’s probably a couple years older than my mom. To get the conversation going I gave him a big fat slices of the seeded rye from the 2 kilo loaf I’d taken to carrying around with me while I was working on this piece (more about that in a minute). Came back an hour later to see how he liked it. “It was delicious,” he said straight away and with great enthusiasm. I liked that—no hesitation and a nice sparkle in his eyes told me that he wasn’t just being nice by giving such a positive response. “Just curious,” I inquired, “What do you remember about rye bead from the old days?” He smiled slightly, as he so often does, and said, “Well, I remember it was never tasty as that.”

Comments like that, coming from smart people like Mark and Jack who both have good taste make me wonder. “What really makes a great loaf of rye bread? And what makes it Jewish? Did my great-grandparents really eat bread like this? Has it changed since their time? Why? How?

The Rye Belt

Rye is a relative newcomer among foods; people have been eating it for only about 3000 years. Originally it was probably nothing more than a weed, intruding into the hard-to-maintain northern European wheat fields. At some point farmers must have given up fighting the stuff and switched to growing it. Today it is the third most important cereal grain in the world, after wheat and rice. Making bread from rye flour alone is difficult (though definitely doable) because it has none of the gluten you need to make a bread rise. Because it’s harder to work with and because it lacks gluten, rye flour is usually mixed with that of other grains—barley, millet, buckwheat or wheat—for bread making.

Rye certainly sustains a lot of people. It’s the principal grain of northern Europe, so people in places like Scandinavia, Poland, Britain, Germany, the Baltics, and Russia all rely on it. It’s also grown in rather large quantities in the U.S. and Canada. For Russians and Scandinavians rye has long been their daily bread. In Germany it’s used to make the traditional “Schwarzbrot”, or the very typical, 100% rye, Vollkornbrot that we do at the Bakehouse. The French serve “pain de siegle” (rye bread) with oysters. Here in the States, rye has a solid history most of which has nothing to do with Jews. It was first planted here by the French, probably back in the 17th century. In Boston rye flour is used to make Boston Brown Bread and we now make a darned good version of that at the Bakehouse, too (see page 6). The new grain was milled and mixed with corn meal to make what was known in New England in centuries past as “rye and Injun” bread and what we call here simply Roadhouse Bread. We’ve been making it since we started the Roadhouse five years ago and it’s become by far my favorite bread that we bake.

The Jewish role with rye in the U.S. likely dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a fifty-year period when large numbers of Jews fled Eastern Europe and settled over here. Broken bridges or not, this much I do know—in the early decades of the 20th century rye was the everyday bread for most American Jews. A 1929 headline in The Saturday Evening Post proclaimed that, “If Wall Street is the Financial District then the Lower East Side is the Rye Bread District.” Sounding very much like a National Geographic report on a distant, heathen, exotic land, the Post declared that rye bread “… is at once a plate, a spoon and hearty nourishing food, and it bulks very large in the East Side landscape. It seems to be on sale everywhere in loaves shaped like a millstone and of pretty nearly the same size and weight. It is cast promiscuously (my note—of course good proper American white bread would certainly have been “neatly stacked”, never “cast promiscuously”) in great heaps, at the base of shop windows and in cellarways, and occasionally it stands piled up on the curb while an old man or young girl keeps watch over it with a large knife.”

In his 1917 novel The Rise of David Levinsky, perhaps the most famous account of turn of the century life of Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side, Abraham Cahan gives credence to the Post’s description, writing that, “For my first meal in the New World I bought a three-cent wedge of coarse rye bread, off a huge round loaf, on a stand on Essex Street.”

Big News from the Past: Bigger Loaves are Better

Take note of the size of the loaves Cahan and the Post describe. Back then poor people’s breads like Jewish rye were generally made into bigger loaves. Mind you this isn’t something I learned from my mother. By the time I was growing up, rye bread was mostly heading home from the bakery in smallish one pound loaves. If I had my druthers, they would still be the bigger loaves because while the trends of the consumer marketplace today are to making everything smaller, the truth is that most everyone in the artisan bread world will tell you that with rustic, hard-crusted, old style breads, much bigger loaves taste better! (Especially true with the 2-kilo French Mountain bread, which had nothing to do with my mother, but is also exceptionally good as well!) So I’ll make my appeal to bread buyers everywhere to opt for larger—or sections of larger—loaves.

Granted, trying to get people to buy bigger breads is running totally counter to trends. Smaller loaves are more “consumer friendly” according to national marketing firms. But the truth is that while smaller isn’t bad, it’s just not where the flavor’s at. I understand why the market is moving in that direction. Soaring wheat and rye prices (down from where they were last spring but still, like, double a year ago) make bakers want to begin downsizing everything. Smaller loaves make the “price points” more “accessible” which there’s nothing wrong with. But the problem is that, while they’re not bad, slices cut from smaller loaves just don’t really taste quite as good.

I know that many people I say that to are skeptical, and I don’t blame them. It seems illogical that the exact same dough would eat that differently just because it was baked in a bigger size. But the truth is that most of us who’ve been around here for a while know that bigger loaves really do taste better. The relationship of the crust is better; the bakers can get the crusts darker which is very good. The caramelization of the natural sugars in the bread—known as the Maillard effect—makes for a much tastier loaf. They have a nicer, moister, more substantial texture. They last a lot longer, they look really good, and, I think, they just feel better. Personally I will always take a quarter or half of a big loaf, and leave the small loaves behind. At the Bakehouse, we’re now baking big, round 2-kilo (5 pound-plus) loaves every Friday (which we’re calling (Rye-day”). I grab one every few weeks. The timing is no accident—they last easily that long.

On the issue of shelf life, let me state with as much clarity as I can muster, these really big (and very beautiful) 2 kilo breads last a long, long time—nigh on two weeks if not more. I had a slice this morning toasted (topped with the Creamery’s hand made cream cheese, which, by the way is very much what David Levinsky would likely have been eating on the Lower East Side a hundred years ago, if he had a couple pennies left to spend after buying his bread) that came off a loaf that, I think, is twelve days old. Honestly, it was terrific. I know I’m biased but I could eat a quarter loaf of this stuff in a day if I let myself. Maybe that’s a bit of genetic bridging back to my grandparents Russian Jewish roots to a time when people ate a lot more bread than most Americans do now.

Take note, too, that I’m not talking about bread being stored in plastic, nor in the freezer. I mean, a good two weeks just stuck in a big paper sack left sitting on the counter. This is very low technology. It ain’t rocket science, it’s not sous vide. It’s not anything but old fashioned. It’s very local and it’s probably akin to organic. It just works. This is how they used to do it in the old days when people were really busy. Remember, that the flavor of good artisan bread actually develops as it matures! It actually tastes good (in some ways better) a week later than it does when it’s still magically warm right out of the oven.

Bread in Russia

To most folks in America, rye bread is Jewish bread. Not of course to Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Germans and other ethnic groups who have been making and eating rye bread for centuries. In fact it’s likely that in various forms, they are the ones who taught many Eastern European Jews how to bake it in the first place. My roots are Russian, but of course, while I can study hard, I have no relatives left there, no ancestral village to visit. The shtetls my grandparents came from as kids are long gone and preserved primarily in books of old photos, Isaac Bashevis Singer stories and in reading The Joys of Yiddish.

Of course, that said, there’s lot to learn looking at the world of traditional Russian baking. Bread has long played a major part in the Russian diet. The Russian expression “est khleb” which means literally “to eat bread,” used to mean, “to eat a meal.” Russians to this day are said to eat about a pound of bread a day! That may seem like a lot, until you learn that in the 19th century they used to put away about three times that much, and at harvest time bread consumption is said to have reached up to five pounds a day! In Russia black bread was the bread of the poor. There are records of over thirty different varieties of rye flour being used in Russian baking back in the 17th century. Over the centuries that Jews lived in Russia, black bread became their bread too. The thing is, though, I can’t find anything in Russian history to put me on the historical trail of the far-lighter-than-black Jewish rye that I grew up on and that we make here.

Polish Jewish Rye

Years ago when I first started trying to figure all this out, I literally called all over the country looking for leads to explain this gap between the blackness of Russian bread and the rye that I—and my mother—had grown up with. I searched the Grad Library at the University, and visited every Jewish bakery I got even moderately close to, without really making any headway at all. After what was probably a year’s worth of work, I basically stumbled onto the bridge back. If it wasn’t for a really great man named Jack Wayne, I would have walked right by it.

Jack is a long time Zingerman’s customer who I’d seen in the store off and on for years, but we’d never officially met. He introduced himself one day during the Ann Arbor’s annual Art Fair in July, to pass along his praise for what we were doing, and in particular for our breads. I ended up sitting down with Jack, his wife and their granddaughter, and stayed and talked about half way through lunch.

“I just love your bread. I love it!” he told me with this big grin. There is no greater praise to be had in my book. As we’ve been saying all along, bread is a big deal, and Jack knows what he’s talking about. He literally grew up a baker in Poland, in the Jewish community of the town of Lodz, in the years between the wars. His father was a baker, and Jack started working at the bakery at the ripe old age of six! “We had absolutely no machines in the bakery,” he told me. “Everything was done by hand.” Jack worked in the family’s bakery right up until the arrival of the Germans in Poland and the beginnings of WWII and the Holocaust. His memories of the bread are so vivid, so inspiring, the sort that push me to keep going that extra mile in the pursuit of authenticity and flavor. Jack Wayne made the breads of Jewish Poland come alive for me. “The bread we baked back then was fantastic. Oh,” he said wistfully, “those breads were so good.”

“What was the difference between Russian bread and Polish bread?” I asked. “Russian bread,” he said, “was denser because their milling processes were different. The grain was less refined, they left in all the bran, the germ. Russian bread was black and it tasted awful.”

“But Polish bread?” I asked. “In Poland, we had a much greater variety of breads. Rye bread, kaiser rolls, ‘razovanna’ bread (a whole grain bread like ‘health bread’). We had black bread too, but it wasn’t like the Russian bread, more like the rye but darkened with molasses or coffee.”

Aha! A light goes on in my head. This sounds more like the “pumpernickel” we have all come to know in this country as Jewish pumpernickel. Mostly the breads were baked with rye; in fact, in Polish the word “chleb” (meaning “bread”) is used only for loaves that have some rye flour in it. Other breads are called “bulkes.”

“What about the rye?” I asked a bit cautiously, feeling on the verge of uncovering the ‘proverbial missing link.’ It was indeed the bridge I’d been looking for for so long. “What you’re making in your bakery is the closest thing to what we had. I love it!”

It’s hard to explain how excited I was to hear that. I mean seriously, the lack of a way back to the roots of what I knew as Jewish rye was so frustrating. And finally, finally, finally, Jack was laying it out there in a way that made sense; this wasn’t just someone’s theory three times removed from reality—the man had really lived it. It was like putting on glasses for the first time to realize that what you’d taken for reality was really a blurry version of it. Life is clearer, crystalline. But if you’re looking at the wrong thing you won’t find what you want. I had let politics get in the way of reality (not an uncommon mistake in history) and looked to Russia because at the time my great-grandparents came over much of Poland was part of Russia. Russian Jews, Polish Jews, Ukrainian Jews,…they all were part of the Russian Empire. One empire—different breads. Russian Jewish bread and Polish Jewish bread were never the same. What we have come to know in this country as Jewish rye has a solid footing in the Polish Jewish tradition.

London Bridge

Persistence pays off. Sometimes I discover what I was looking for in a place that I should have realized was right in front of me all along. The man I needed to talk to is the one who taught us how to bake the bread. While I’m sure Michael London had shared many of these stories with me at some point in the past, somehow some of it had fled my consciousness.

I should have called Michael straight off. Frank (one of our partners at the Bakehouse) had reminded me to do it. Unlike Mark Furstenberg who wasn’t sure if great Jewish rye really existed, Michael had no reason to hesitate. For him it’s not a study of history; it’s how he grew up. It only took him about two minutes on the phone to get back over the bridge, to remember bakeries and rye bread from his youth in Brooklyn. Unlike me, who paid little attention and didn’t have particularly big access to great food growing up, for Michael the best Jewish breads (and pastries) were part of daily life. “My grandfather always thought it was an actual sin if I didn’t eat rye bread with dinner.” I like that. Like I said, rye bread really hasn’t got a darned thing to do with religion but it was nice to find out that in the right, food-oriented family (like the Londons) that didn’t stop people from tying the two together on their own!

So, clearly, great Jewish rye bread really did exist in years past. While Michael no longer bakes the bread himself (he and his wife Wendy do have a fabulous place in Saratoga Springs, called Mrs. London’s if you’re up that way), he does still love good rye bread. So we sent him one of those big round 2 kilo caraway rye loaves I was glowing about above. And he loved it. When we talked on the phone a few days after the bread had arrived, he started by telling me how good it was. That’s no small thing because, while he likes to laugh and is often good for a quick joke, Michael takes his bread and baked goods very seriously. He’s NOT a guy who’ll tell you a bread is good if it isn’t. And because he’d grown up with it, his authentication, like Jack Wayne’s is a huge compliment to the work everyone does at the Bakehouse. But after he shared his thoughts on the quality he started to slowly step back a bit, moving into a few childhood memories, his own bridge to go back over. “The rye bread,” Michael said, “the beginning of it was that if I got sent to the bakery it never came back with the heels on it.” The more he talked the more he got into it. And unlike my mother who didn’t particularly love to eat, Michael was passionate about it. “I always had rye toast,” he told me. “I love rye toast with scrambled eggs.”

I guess the only sad thing for me in this part of the story is that while bridges have been respectively found, built, and repaired to get me back closer to the Jewish rye of earlier eras, I can’t call my mom to tell her what I’ve learned. Somehow I think she’d have been more excited about the fact that I’d been studying and uncovered something interesting about Jewish history than with the bread itself. Either way, I think she’d have liked both the bread and the story behind it. Clearly I’ll never know for sure. But maybe when I muster up the courage to go to the cemetery to pay a visit to her grave (a hard thing for me to say but I guess that’s the point) maybe I’ll bring some rye with me. It’s traditional to leave stones on the grave, but maybe I can make do with slices. Big thick bold ones cut by hand from a big thick crusted, chewy loaf of caraway rye from the Bakehouse.