Reuben season

My limited research (and by that I mean Googling it) reveals there is some debate about who created the Reuben sandwich.  Apparently there are several men named Reuben who take credit for it -- from Chicago to Nebraska.  Despite having no real idea where it came from, we are big fans of the Reuben.  In our house we see an uptick in sauerkraut consumption once the weather turns cool and I put the soup and sandwich meal back into the supper rotation. The hot and gooey Reuben appears often.

That said, there is one thing that's even better than a hot Reuben sandwich -- an entire loaf of Reuben sandwiches.  A loaf, you say? Yes. It's true. You can make a baked version of this beloved cheesy-krauty sandwich that is large enough for a group or, better yet, provides lots of leftovers for lunches (as it travels well in lunchboxes or pockets).

I see, after closer examination of the faded recipe clipping I use to make it, that Fleishman's yeast deserves all the credit for the Reuben loaf idea.  I found this recipe more than 20 years ago and have been making it with a few tweaks ever since. (Is it really possible I've been cooking that long?) My main twist:  I make it with veggie beef.  Heresy, you say!  I know.  A Reuben is all about the meat . . . but I think it works this way too.  Of course, make it how you like.

Hot Reuben Loaf
makes one loaf

3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. SAF-instant dry yeast
1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup hot water (125-130 degrees)
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
8 ounces sliced corned beef or veggie meat slices
1/4 pound sliced Swiss cheese
8 ounces of saurkraut, well drained
1 egg white, beaten
caraway seeds

In a large bowl, mix together two cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast.  Stir in the hot water and butter.  Add only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for four minutes. (Be sure to give it the full four minutes).

Grease a large baking sheet and put your toddler to work rolling out the dough to measure about 14x10 inches.  If you don't happen to have a toddler handy, you can try it yourself.

Spread the dressing down the center third of the dough.  Top with layers of meat, cheese, and sauerkraut. After you've piled up the filling, cut one-inch wide strips along both sides of the filling and fold the strips at an agle over the toppings, overlapping and alternating. (See the photograph above for a fine example of this technique.) Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and set it in a warm, draft-free location (proofing drawer or oven is great) for about 45 minutes, or until it has risen to be about double in size and the spaces between the strips have filled in a bit.  Brush with egg white and get your toddler to sprinkle it with caraway seeds.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 35 minutes -- until the bottom is crisp and the top is lightly browned and filling is bubbly.  After cooling slightly, slice and serve it warm.


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