I’ve got to admit, when my friend Chuck told me about a Reuben loaf appetizer that he saw at a party, I was intrigued.  At first, I tried buying a loaf of rye bread, cutting the top off and hollowing out the loaf before stuffing it with Reuben sandwich filling and baking it.  I found that when you sliced the loaf, the top fell off and it all fell apart. So I decided to explore baking a home made rye loaf stuffed with filling so that it would not fall apart.  Luckily, there are lots of Reuben loaf recipes on the Internet so I have adapted some of them here. Ingredients: 1 ¼ cups bread flour, with more set aside for dusting your work surface 1 cup rye flour 1 package (¼ oz) active dry yeast 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon butter, softened 1 cup hot water (at about 120 degrees) ¼ to ½ cup Russian salad dressing (see my home made recipe) 6 ounces thinly sliced corned beef, or mix in some pastrami in combination to make 6 ounces 4 ounces sliced Muenster cheese 6 ounces sauerkraut, canned or bagged, drained, more or less to taste 1 egg white, beaten 1 ½ tablespoons caraway seeds You can substitute all purpose flour, but without the bread flour the dough will not rise as much and without the rye flour the bread will have no taste.  Rye flour has more taste but less gluten for rising so the bread flour, a better rising flour, will make up for that.  Many Reuben recipes call for Swiss cheese but I like Muenster because I think it melts better. Combine the 2 ¼ cups flour plus the yeast, sugar, butter and salt.  Add just 1 tablespoon of the caraway seeds too, reserving the rest for later. Many people use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water but what I do is put a drop of the water on the inside of my arm and if it just feels warm like it’s ready to put into a baby bottle then that is the right temperature for me.  Stir in the warm water and combine until the dough forms.  For stirring gummy flour mixtures I use the stick end of a wooden spoon because things won’t cling to it so much. Place the dough on a work surface where you have sprinkled some extra flour and knead the dough for about four to six minutes.  I use my Kitchenaid mixer with a bread hook on its lowest speed to do the kneading for exactly five minutes, then I finish by kneading by hand for another two minutes.  There is no substitute for a couple of minutes of kneading by hand.  During the kneading, the dough changes form to become much more plastic and smooth.  Don’t be afraid to use some extra flour when handling the dough because it will stick to the surface and your fingers and everything else unless you dust it with flour often.  Use only enough flour to stop the dough from sticking since too much extra flour will make the bread too heavy and tasteless. When kneading manually, just flatten out the dough on the work surface by using the heels of your hands to push the dough away from you and form about a 12 inch by 12 inch shape.  Then fold the dough once towards you and turn it ¼ turn and flatten it out again, repeating until the time is up.  Be careful about the kneading time because too much kneading is no good.  You will know when it is done because the dough will be smooth, soft and will hold together in a round ball.  When you push into it with two fingers it will mostly spring back when ready.  After kneading, roll the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl which has been lightly oiled to prevent sticking.  Tightly cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and place it in a warm location so the dough may rise.  I turn on my oven to 350 degrees and then I quickly shut off the oven after 60 seconds and that makes a good place for my dough to rise.  You will know when the rising is complete when it has about doubled in size.  Try pressing two fingers into the top of the dough to a depth of about ½ inch.  If the indentation keeps its shape and does not spring back quickly then the rising is complete.  If the dough collapses or rises past doubled its size then it has over risen and you must start over.  Over risen dough will be dense, foul tasting and it cannot be saved.  For me the rising takes about an hour for this bread. Some breads require a second rising but no second rise is necessary if you are using the active dry yeast. Take a baking sheet and grease it lightly then flatten the dough on it to form about a 14 inch by 10 inch rectangle.  Layer the filling in the middle third of the flattened dough, taking care to stay ¾ inch away from the edge of the dough on the long ends.  See the photos on this page for guidance. I layer the filling in this order:  first the corned beef, then some of the cheese, the pastrami if you are using it, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and finally the rest of the cheese.  I think that if you put the dressing on the very top or bottom then the bread will get soggy. Before closing up the dough to form the loaf, you can cut some side strips with a knife then alternate folding the strips over the top of the loaf.  If some filling pokes through this lattice then that’s okay – it actually looks better that way.  See the photos on this page for an idea on how to do this. After you close the loaf, brush it with the egg white, then sprinkle on the last ½ tablespoon of the caraway seeds. Bake in a hot 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until the loaf is lightly browned.  Remove it and let it set for 5 minutes, then slice it hot and serve! My Reuben loaf comes out a little dense on the bottom and I think that comes from the weight of the filling keeping the bottom of the dough from rising.  Someone needs to try rolling the filling up in a wrap, distributing the dough and filling some more, to see if that solves the problem!  
Baked Reuben Loaf
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