The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole grain sourdough rye - help request

jasong's picture

Whole grain sourdough rye - help request

First of all, this is my first post to this site, so thank you to everyone associated with it. It looks like a great resource.

I am trying to jump in on the deep end by doing rye sourdough. I know, it is difficult. But I want to learn how to do it.

My main issue is that there are various methods given for rye bread, methods which are often vastly different. So, even finding a good starting point was tough. Further, I use a gas oven.

Anyway, for my first effort the other day, I followed Ronald Feldstein's recipe as given here. It did not rise very much, and came out of the oven with a soggy center. It tasted great, but it was dense and soggy in the middle. Not sure what went wrong but it was somewhat off the mark.

I am wondering if anyone here could recommend a good "recipe" to use as a guideline. I have seen several rye sourdough recipes, often with greatly different quantities and baking times, multiple stages, different terminology, etc. It is somewhat confusing to reconcile the different recipes. The thing is, I have a good batch of starter/sponge/whatever that I have been keeping going with my home milled whole rye flour, and it is nice and bubbly, and ready to go...I just am not sure what exactly to do with it.

My main questions are:

1. How many stages of sponging, or proofing, are really necessary? Recipes that I have seen range from very casual sounding descriptions to anal retentive multi-stage minutes/grams tomes that are difficult to follow.

2. What should I be aiming for with kneading and dough consistency? The first effort was difficult to mix by a spoon at the end, yet was very sticky. Could it have gotten so dry and dense as to inhibit rising and make the center soggy? Or is the soggy center a sign of overhydration?

3. What should I do with the oven? Baking times and temperatures are all over the map in the recipes I have seen.

Any advice that anyone could give, any links, anything, would be much appreciated. I am quite enthusiastic about the idea of learning to make whole rye and whole wheat breads now that I have a home flour mill, but I naturally need some time on the learning curve. My main difficulty now is trying to find a good starting point - the recipes on the internet are not consistent.

Thanks again. Happy baking!


Yumarma's picture

If I'm reading this correctly and you're really just starting up with sourdough, for your first several loaves, I'd recommend you stick to doing normal (well, you know what I mean) white bread so you can learn the techniques and rhythms of sourdough without adding the oddities of rye flour to the issue. At least until you can pull off good, consistent regular sourdough loaves. And for those, may I recommend Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, recipe, on this site.

Rye flour , especially high-percentage rye dough, is going to throw some not insignificant curves at you which you don't need to tackle while getting used to sourdough. Go at it one stage at a time. 

Now much of the above is moot if you've made plenty of normal white sourdough before and your "jumping in the deep end" was more about the rye than anything else.

As for a good sourdough rye recipe, Mark from The Back Home Bakery and also a member here has one that I've done and is very nice. Go to his site and see if it's still posted, otherwise you can drop him a note and ask him for a copy.

Unfortunately, I can't post the recipe myself here; since he's a baker and it is - quite literally - his bread and butter, I'm going to let him decide if he wants the recipe he uses in his shop posted on the board and in public. But he's made mention he's fine with personal requests so go for it, I can attest it's really good bread.

sphealey's picture

I would also advise moving slowly toward the higher rye percentages.  Start with 85% bread flour/10% whole wheat/5% rye, then move up to 80/10/10, 70/20/10, 60/20/20, and so forth.  At each step you will get a better feel for how the dough works as you add more rye.  A good place to start here is Rose Levy's rye receipes (both straight and sourdough) in The Bread Bible; they don't contain all that much rye and have a high percentage of success which is good for eating and confidence.

I agree that the 3- and 4-step method with the exact temperatures (78.3 deg.F anyone?) are a bit excessive for the home baker, but I do find that a multi-stage build with one stage in the refrigerator overnight tends to give the best flavor.

Be aware that when you get past 60-70% rye you are dealing with something that is not really dough as wheat bread bakers think of it.  Personally I find 90 and 100% rye doughs to be more like pottery clay than anything else, and I "knead" (really fold) them in a large ceramic bowl using a plastic dough scraper.

Also, when baking with any significant percentage of rye heat is your friend:  lots of it for longer than you would think.  My typical sourdough multigrain (50/30/20) is baked at 525 deg.F for 15 minutes, steam pan removed and loaf turned, and 410 deg.F for at least 35 more minutes.

Good luck!


jasong's picture

Indeed I have Hammelman's book on the way.

I know it is crazy to jump in on the deep end, but the deep end is ultimately where I want to be, or at least be comfortable in.

I think my problems so far have been improper hydration, too short of a rise time, and too low of an oven temp. Next time I will try the two stage oven temp.

Thanks all for the comments, they are much appreciated.

If rye proves too problematic I will aim at a borodino style, rye/wheat mix, or pure wheat to build some skill there. I do not have much interest in using white flour.

Thanks again!