The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fermenting Rye

Abbey's picture

Fermenting Rye

  I am in the process of trying to get my head around baking rye breads and have found a definite difference of flavor in breads which ferment overnight, and those that do not. The breads which lack any fermenting time also lack a rye flavor, in my opinion. I have heard others say this too. So I was wondering if anyone can offer some guidlines as to taking a recipe that does not call for a fermenting period and adding one?

  The recipes I have tried that ferment overnight use half the flour in the recipe, half the water, and all the yeast. Can I use these mathematics for most other recipes so long as I try to keep that "thick paste" consistency that it seems you want in a fermenting rye dough?

Hope that made sense. :) Thank you!



grind's picture

Not being familiar with your recipe, I'd be iclined to use less yeast in the overnite ferment and then use the remainder in the final dough.  This will slow down the rye sponge and give your bread a nice spring in the oven.  Cheers, Tony.

Abbey's picture

Say I was going to use "Peasant's Hearty Rye" from Laurel's Bread Book, which originally consists of this:

-2 tsp yeast

-1 1/2 cups water

-4 cups rye flour

-3 cups wheat flour

-2 1/2 tsp salt

-1 tsp caraway seeds

-1 tbsp molasses

-2 tbsp cider Vinegar

-1-1 1/2 cups more water (as needed)


This recipe follows the common protocol of mixing all ingredients, slowly adding water and kneading. Rising the bread twice before proofing and baking.

My understanding is that the vinegar is suppose to act as a ferment would? I'm just wondering if its possible to change a recipe like this into one that has a fermenting process. I don't know if people do that? I'm assuming if I was to try it, I'd have to cut out the vinegar, mix half the flour and maybe 1/2 of the yeast with enough water to form a thick paste. Let that ferment overnight then mix the rest of the ingredients and follow the recipe's directions? 

Do you have any suggestions as to how much yeast to use in the ferment and what percentage to save for the final dough?

The Apricot Rye recipe I have been working with uses half the flour, and all the yeast in its ferment. If used less of the yeast and saved some to add in the final dough, this will help it rise in the oven? Makes sense :), that is one problem I have had is gettign the loaves to rise up enough. I've been using 2 tsp yeast in the Apricot Rye recipe for one loaf, so again, how much yeast would you put in the ferment and how much would you save for the final dough?


Thank you for the help!


grind's picture

I'm just wondering if its possible to change a recipe like this into one that has a fermenting process

Yes it is possible.  Maybe start with 1/4 tsp of yeast and all the rye and however much water required to make that paste.  It should puff up by the next morning.   It will puff up but you'll figure out how long it takes and the temperature etc.  Then carry on as you would normally. 

If you want, you can hold back a tablespoon of your fermented rye and use it to seed your next batch.  This will eventually turn into a sour culture.  You can still use the yeast in your final dough.

Good luck, Tony.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you make it if you follow Tony's idea.  It helps to get the rye to a more acid pH which helps it ferment and stretch.  Yeast will quickly go thru rye flour,  I would cut the yeast back to just a pinch and save one cup of dry rye flour for the next day.  The rest of the yeast can be added when mixing up the dough.  (Unlike wheat, 8 hours or overnight fermenting will exhaust the rye so it is good to save a little fresh flour for the next day.)  Use wet hands to handle the dough and it will be easier.


Abbey's picture

Thank you Tony and Mini, both helpful advice. I will be experimenting with your suggestions next baking day. :)


wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Hamelman et al suggest resting rye breads for 24-hours after baking before eating them. I have to agree. One hour out of the oven, rye bread tastes bland, boring even; but give it a day, and the flavour comes into its own.


Personally I never make rye bread without a preferment, rye starter, rye levain, etc.

rhomp2002's picture

Personally I think I would make the recipe as is the first time to see what the result of that is and then start playing around with it.  Then you have a baseline to check against to see what your changes are doing.  Otherwise you are just throwing stuff at the wall to see what will stick.


Once you have a baseline, then it is party time and have at it.