The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

80% Sourdough Rye Bread

Franko's picture

This is an 83% rye bread with a whole and chopped rye soaker and leavened with a ginger beer barm. As part of the total hydration it includes water that has been infused with fresh ginger to lend an accent of fresh ginger throughout the bread.

Ginger/water infusion

Ginger is something I use quite often in my cooking but until now have never used it in bread. The idea of adding some ginger, fresh or otherwise, to a high percentage rye bread I'm sure has been done before but darned if I could find anything in my searches that really matched what I was looking for. What I wanted was a formula for a dark, high ratio rye with a balance of sweet and sour and an accent of fresh ginger, not a gingerbread made with rye flour, which was mainly what I found in my searches. I decided I'd have to wing it and see if I could come up with something on my own. The idea for using a barm occurred to me when I discovered that one of the microbreweries here on Vancouver Island makes a true ginger beer. It seemed like such a natural fit for this bread that I wanted to include it and I'm glad that I did. This is the first time I've used a barm and I'm happy with not only it's leavening ability, but the malty undertone it contributes to the flavour of the bread. Whatever ginger flavour this particular barm adds is difficult to say as the ginger infusion is the primary source of that flavour, but I feel the bread would not have been as good had I used a typical levain. I'd like to mention at this point that Shiao Ping's post on making 'Dan Lepard's Barm Bread' was the guide I used for making the barm, and many thanks to her for making that information available to use as a reference.

Once the barm had become active and bubbly (approximately 15 hours) it was mixed with the other ingredients and the dough bulk fermented for 50 minutes at 82F inside the Brod & Taylor Proofer. It was then shaped and panned in a 9x4 Pullman tin, and placed back in the proofer for a final rise of almost 2 1/2 hours. There was a point where I wondered if the dough would rise enough to even bother baking off, but was confident the barm had been strong and lively when it was added to the mix, so I waited...and waited. My assumption was the ginger infusion was retarding the yeast activity as spices often do, but felt the yeast cells would eventually work through it, which they did. The pan went into a 485F oven with the lid in place and baked for 10 minutes before the temperature was lowered to 450F for the remaining bake time of 45 minutes, with an additional 30- 40 minutes in a cooling oven. When I removed the lid of the pan a caramel and ginger scented waft of steam rose up from it that told me in part that I'd had some measure of success. The loaf had slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan making it very easy to remove the bread, literally dropping out of the unlined pan into my hand. It looked good, with a uniform shape and rich brown, slightly soft crust. When tapped it sounded well baked with no soft spots or cavities that I could detect and it smelled wonderful! The bread was wrapped in linen and left for over 24 hours before slicing to allow what would hopefully be an even celled crumb to set up. Happily the crumb did not disappoint as it's the most open, even celled, high ratio rye bread I think I've achieved in a long while...if ever. The flavour has a good balance between the sweet and sour, with the ginger adding a slightly spicy background note to the overall flavour, rather than predominating, which is what I was after from the start.

The dough was intentionally scaled on the small side for the size of pan used since I didn't want a full size loaf of this bread for two reasons. The idea from the beginning was this bread would be used as a base for canapes or small portions of meat, fish, or cheese. More of a cocktail bread than one meant for typical sandwiches was my intention for it. The other reason is that one of the flours included in the mix is a lovely Central Milling Organic Pumpernickel that breadsong brought back from a recent trip to California and thoughtfully shared a portion of it with me. The stock is limited and I'm doing my best to make it last for some other breads I have in mind.

Photos, formula and procedure posted below.



 A few slices with smoked tuna rillettes made earlier in the week.


If a true ginger beer is not available, substitute any strong to medium flavoured beer or ale of preference.

The ginger infusion/water was made with 120 grams of fresh ginger cut in large pieces, skin on and combined with 270 grams of water in a heavy stainless steel pot. Bring slowly to a simmer and cover with a lid for 60-90 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep overnight before using. The ratio of ginger to water was an estimation based on the level of flavour I wanted for this bread. Adjust accordingly to personal preference.


Final rise times are approximate. The ginger water infusion seems to retard the yeast activity during this time and patience is needed for an optimum final rise.


The dough requires a sealed pan of some kind for baking to keep the baked loaf moist. A standard loaf tin covered with a sheet pan should work in place of a Pullman tin.




Heat the ginger beer to 158F/70C and add 50% of the rye flour blending thoroughly. Cool to 68-70F/20-21C before adding the mature starter. Keep the barm at 70F/20-21F for 15-18 hours, adding the remaining rye flour at around the midway point. The barm should be quite active and bubbles breaking the surface before incorporating into the final mix.



Make the soaker during the same time as the barm and leave at room temp until final mixing.


Final Mix and Shaping-

Add all ingredients to the mixer (or bowl if hand mixing) and mix on 1st speed for 4-5 minutes (7-8 minutes by hand) until a uniform and smooth paste is achieved. Bulk ferment for 45-50 minutes at 82-84F/27-28C. Using wet hands and a scraper shape the paste into a rough log shape 9 ” long and place in a 9x4 Pullman tin. Firmly press the paste into the four corners of the pan and along the sides, making sure it's as square to the corners as possible and the top is flat or very slightly peaked.

Final Rise-

Final rise/proof temperature is 82-84F/27-28C for 1-2 hours.


Bake at 485F/251C for 10 minutes in the Pullman pan with cover on for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 450F/232C and continue baking for 40-50 minutes. Slide the lid back and check to see if the bread has pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan. Turn the heat off and leave the bread in the oven for an additional 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully de-pan the loaf to a cooling rack and wrap in linen. Cool for a minimum of 24 hours before slicing to allow the crumb to set.

83% Sour Rye with Ginger Beer Barm%Kilos/Grams
Input desired loaf weight in yellow cell.Input desired %'s in green cells.Do not alter white cells.


Dark Rye Flour100.00%114
Mature Rye Starter-100%14.00%16
Ginger Beer125.00%142
Total weight239.00%271
ripen for 14-18hrs at 70F/21.1C

Rye Meal Soaker

Rye Meal 50.00%31
Rye Berries50.00%31
Total weight230.00%145
Keep at room temp until final mix

Final Dough
Bread Flour-strong25.0%90
Central Milling Organic Pumpernickel Rye35.0%127
Dark Rye Flour60.0%217
Ginger water50.0%181
Rye Meal Soaker40.0%145
Blackstrap Molasses8.0%29
Sea Salt2.9%10
Total weight317.9%1150

Overall Formula
Total Flour100.00%548
Bread Flour16.51%90
Central Milling Organic Pumpernickel Rye23.12%127
Dark Rye Flour60.36%331
Rye Meal/Rye Berries 11.49%63
Mature Rye Starter-100%2.90%16
Blackstrap Molasses5.28%29
Sea Salt1.92%10
Ginger water33.03%181
Water/Ginger Beer52.08%285
Total weight210.00%1150
Total Hydration71.62%392
Total Pre-fermented Flour22.18%121.47
DDT 82F-84F



Link to working version of spread sheet-

Franko's picture


This bake started out with two things in mind. I wanted to make an 80% sour rye bread and to bake it in my Pullman pan, which I’ve used only once since I bought it this past summer. While I was looking through Hamelman's 'Bread' for a recipe to use, I stopped on the photo page showing the assorted rye breads from Chapter 6, and not for the first time thought what a marvellous display of craftsmanship it was. The one in particular that has always stood out among the others for me is the Pullman loaf at the back, sitting vertically with a series of diagonally crossed slashes the length of the loaf. I've wanted to try that slashing pattern ever since seeing it, so now I had a third thing I wanted to do, but first I needed to find a recipe to use. Unfortunately the photo in the book doesn't say what particular bread the Pullman loaf is. The only rye in the chapter other than the Horst Bandel Pumpernickel that calls for a Pullman pan is the 70% Rye with a Rye Flour Soaker and Whole Wheat Flour, and that didn't fit with what I had in mind. I decided to make Hamelman's 80% Sourdough Rye with a Rye Flour Soaker, but to make it using only natural leavening rather than the combination of sour and bakers yeast called for in his formula, and to substitute dark rye for whole rye in the soaker and final mix. Somewhere along the line I decided to throw some toasted sunflower seeds into the mix as well for a bit of added flavour and texture.

When I was making the sour/levain the night before the final mix and looking at the tiny little portion of mature sour expected to convert all that raw rye flour into the only source of leavening for this bread, I must admit I had some doubts. 18 hrs later it was clear that I had underestimated just how active my starter was. It had just about popped the lid off the container, looking more like a ripe, dark, poolish than any rye sour I've made before. Simply amazing how voracious natural yeast can be in the right environment.

Three hours before the final mix the seeds were toasted in a 350F oven for 10 minutes before I checked them for colour. I was looking for a medium to dark colour to bring out a rich nutty flavour, which I think is a key component of the overall flavour of this loaf. The time will vary for different ovens, but the smell and colour of the toasted seeds is the best indicator to watch for.

The mix was started in the stand mixer and finished by hand. In retrospect I should have done the entire thing by hand and saved myself the trouble of cleaning sticky rye paste out of every possible space it could get into on my mixer. It was just too large for my small KA to handle properly through to a finished mix, but it did get it off to a good start, needing only 2-3 minutes of handwork to develop it into a cohesive paste. Final ferment, rise and bake notes are included in the recipe to follow. Molding the bread into the pan properly is a fairly critical step to have a symmetrical finished loaf, and I spent enough time with this stage to ensure the baked loaf would be level on top and that the corners would be as even and square as possible. One thing I should point out to anyone who might make this loaf or something similar. When you place the paste in the pan, make sure that the bottom and sides of the paste are dry by blotting off any excess water from the initial molding with a towel of some kind. I didn't, and had a bit of a sticking problem in one spot when it came time to unmold the loaf. Once it had cooled a bit, along with some very gentle persuasion, it did release cleanly, but a word of caution on this point. The loaf was set to cool, wrapped in linen, for 16 hrs before slicing.

I have to say this is the best tasting hi ratio rye bread I've made so far, largely due to the sour itself, but also how well the flavour of the toasted seeds compliments not only the sour, but the dark rye flour. A thin slice of this bread has that level of flavour that lasts in the mouth for the better part of an hour and makes you want to come back for more. The crumb itself is moist and dense, and even after 6 days shows no sign of staling, due to the soaker and pan baking I'm sure. The bread is a dream to slice, yielding slices just about as thin as you could possibly want them without crumbling. Although I didn't get the nice definition on the slashing as pictured in Hamelman's 'Bread' it's a fact I can easily live with when the bread tastes as good as this one does. My favourite rye? No doubt in my mind this one is it for quite some time to come.



80% Sourdough Rye with a Rye-Flour Soaker and Sunflower Seeds-adapted from Hamelman's 'Bread'









Whole Rye Flour






Mature Sourdough Rye culture @ 100%












Dark Rye Flour












Final Dough



Dark Rye Flour



High Gluten flour






Sea Salt









Toasted sunflower seeds



Total weight






Overall Formula



Whole rye flour



Dark rye Flour



High gluten Flour









Sunflower seeds




Notes: The total weight of this mix is scaled a little heavier than what you need for a 13x4x4 Pullman pan. Scaling weight for these pans is 2.050kg. Because the dough is very sticky, I found I lost some of the dough to my hands, paddle etc. The final weight of this formula should be more than enough to compensate for that. Scaling weight for the bread pictured was 29 grams short of 2.050 .




Before final mixing:

Mix the sourdough and leave for 17-18 hours to ripen at 65-70F.

Next mix the soaker, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave over night at room temperature.


Final mixing:

DDT -80F

Mix all the ingredients except the sunflower seeds on 1st speed for 3 minutes. Adjust the hydration so that the mix is loose and sticky.

Add the sunflower seeds and mix on 2nd speed for 3 minutes. The mix should resemble a paste rather than a typical wheat based 'dough'. It should be soft and sticky.


  • Depending on the size of the mixer you may need to turn the dough out on to the counter and finish mixing by hand. If so, have your hands wet, and use a scraper to help fold the dough over itself several times until it's uniformly mixed.


Place in a bowl, cover, and let bulk ferment for 30 minutes.My dough was cool after mixing and at 74F. It was given a slightly longer 45 minute bulk ferment.



Using wet hands, form the paste into a log and place in the pullman pan.


  • the pan I used has only been used once previous and the glaze is intact. Because of this I didn't oil or dust the pan with flour. My preferance is that the sides of the loaf look smooth and free of flour if possible. With an older pan it should be either oiled and dusted, or lined with parchment to prevent sticking.

Press the paste into the corners of the pan with wet hands, then using a wet plastic scraper pressed flat on top of the paste, press down firmly, working the paste so that it's even along the edges of the pan on all sides. Try to get the corners as square as possible and then use the scraper to smooth and flatten the top so that it's level across the entire surface.


Final rise and baking:

Final rise of 2- 2 ½ hrs at 70-72F, covered with a clear plastic box if possible or a plastic sheet. Keep the paste damp on top if needed by spraying with water. The bread does not need to be scored, but if scoring do it just a few minutes before loading in the oven to allow the slashes open cleanly.

Bake at 465F for 15 minutes then at 435 for 45 minutes. The loaf should have pulled away from the sides of the pan, similar to the way a cake does when it's baked. Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for a few minutes before tipping it out. Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in linen, for 12 hrs before slicing.



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