A classic Lithuanian loaf made with scalded rye flour
Karaway Bakery’s roots are spread across eastern Europe—and “our products reflect that baking tradition,” says managing director Nadia Gencas. “Because of the climate in that part of the world, rye bread is a staple and the Lithuanian scalded rye is one of the oldest, commonest and most popular recipes”—a claim heralded by its success at this year’s Great Taste awards, where it won a prestigious three-star rating. “Clearly it is not just a Lithuanian taste, but a British one too,” Nadia beams.
Its creation is a combination of tradition and master bakery; the process is an involved one. “It is a recipe that takes around 30 hours, the first stage of which is pre-fermentation,” explains Nadia. The bakers scald the flour (a combination of 75 per cent coarse and fine rye flour and 25 per cent wheat flour) with boiling water—“a process used in making many Lithuanian breads”—then leave the dough to ferment for several hours, with the precise timings dependent on the temperature of the environment.
The effect of this method is two-fold: it encourages the development of natural sugars, “meaning the loaf is naturally fairly sweet, rather than having that sour, tangy taste you associate with ryes.” It also helps it to retain moisture, resulting in a softer loaf that keeps fresher for longer.
The dough is then lined with calamus leaves and baked on a stone for around an hour. “The calamus leaves have an interesting story behind them,” Nadia continues. Originally, the bread would have been baked in a wood-fired oven for a long time, causing the bottom of the loaf to burn. “The roots and stems of the calamus plant were commonly used for medicinal purposes, but the leaves weren’t being used for anything, so they put them on the bottom of the bread to stop it from burning.”
Its use to enhance the flavour and aroma of the bread were a happy bonus. “It really complements the bread’s naturally malty flavour, so the calamus leaves stuck to the bottom of the bread forever—the tradition continues.”
Mellow yet complex
Topped with caraway seeds and a dusting of flour, the resulting loaf is fragrant, soft in texture, and mellow yet complex in flavour. “It develops in your mouth—there are almost three stages to it.” It’s also highly versatile, pairing well with both sweet and savoury accoutrements. “You can have it toasted and topped with marmalade, or kept soft and springy in a roast or salt beef sandwich. Personally, I love it toasted with smoked salmon and avocado or scrambled eggs for breakfast, or as a sweet option with banana, a sprinkling of nuts, and a drizzle of honey. A recent discovery is with lemon curd—its smooth, silky texture and gentle flavour work excellently on toasted scalded rye.
“But it’s not just a base for other ingredients: it’s delicious in its own right, and full of character,” says Nadia. “It’s my absolute favourite bread.”