The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye and cheating with Xanthan gum, Guar gum, Gelatin, etc.

zandor's picture

Rye and cheating with Xanthan gum, Guar gum, Gelatin, etc.

I've been experimenting with whole rye flour a bit lately, and I'm wondering if some of the assorted thickening agents the gluten free crowd uses might help pure rye rise more.  I don't have any objection to using wheat (or additives that don't cause known problems -- I'm just in this for the flavor and texture), but making a fluffy 100% whole rye loaf would be a nice acheivement.  Actually, I'm really more interested in pulling off an open crumb pure rye than a light, fluffy one.  I'm quite a fan of dense, chewy bread.

Just in case you're interested in the back story, I was looking around for a way to make a cheese sauce that didn't have a floury taste a few months back and came across xanthan gum.  I bought some, and it worked great.  Nice thick cheese sauce with no flour.  The thing is, a small amount of xanthan gum goes a very long way and relative to the amount needed I have a huge bag of it.  I did a couple google searches on it, and came across a bunch of gluten-free bread recipes.  That got me thinking that this stuff might help my beloved rye rise more.

Anyone have any tips for using xanthan gum and other "chemicals" to help rye loaves rise more?


ananda's picture

Hi Zandor,

You do not mention whether your "pure rye" breads are leavened with commercial yeast, or, sourdough.

Most people posting on high rye here on TFL seem to share the same passion for sourdough that I have.   This being the case, and assuming production of a good working culture to protect the delicate pentosans, and to raise the bread effectively, there really is no need for the additives you mention.

If you are trying to make pure rye without the sourdough, I'm not experienced enough to help you.   The sourdough method in rye seems to be the accepted best practice which has evolved over time.   Use of "soakers" to control enzyme activity and encourage good water absorption, as well as imparting sweetness and colour, would be a more accepted alternative to gum treatment.

There are loads of great posts on this on TFL; seek out Mini Oven, nicodvb, shiao-ping, and lots of others too.

All good wishes


Chuck's picture

My understanding is that sourdough rye is more than just a matter of taste; the sourness is fundamental to baking what can be thought of as a completely different kind of bread. Because of the "starch attack", conventional rye bread can't be pushed beyond something like 15% rye flour. Acidic dough though -usually with sourdough or possibly with pickle juice or vinegar- can be pushed much much higher, something like 80% rye flour.

flournwater's picture

Xanthan gum is very difficult to use because it is over the top hydroscopic, Guar Gum runs a close second.  These ingredients in your formula would, it seems to me, deprive the flour of the water it needs for gluten development.  I believe using these two chemicals in anything except a proven gluten free bread formula would be counterproductive.

You might find that adding a bit of soy flour to your formula could help in the amount of rise you achieve.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Let the fun begin!  Of coarse you've already tried scalding, water roux and altus to help raise your rye along with soakers, sourdough and steam and playing with the dough hydration.  Spelt does a good job at fluffing up rye and is my first choice of flour to add to rye if going below 100%.  It has more than it's share of softening/stretching power. 

Once I started using rye and sourdough together, I rarely went back to just instant yeast except for Dan Lepard's pepper rye.  I held my breath for the entire duration and was pleasantly surprised both in the handling of the dough and crumb.  It's not anywhere near 100% rye but I would love to investigate it as 100% or with spelt flour.   If you haven't tried boiling some water with a little rye flour in it and letting the goop cool, I suggest trying this recipe before advancing along.  Might give you some ideas.

I've never touched Xanthan gum or Guar Gum.  I once went looking for Xanthan gum and it was not allowed into Austria, don't exactly know why.  Guar gum I have seen.  I also thought it interesting that green persimmons when they hit the acids in our guts, turn into a gummy ball that doesn't want to be expelled.  The cure? Dissolve with Coke!  That has to be useful information for someone.  

Have you investigated what acid in sourdough and xanthan gum do when mixed together? 

Or tried blending rye with stiffened egg whites?

Muh ha ha and happy experimenting...

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Zandor,

If you are interested in experimentation and willing to try a range of approaches, I have to say from personal experience and from seeing the baking of others, that it is perfectly possible to get a well-risen, open crumbed and beautifully-balanced 100% rye loaf from mini's formula, using sourdough and altus.

With best wishes, Daisy_A

nicodvb's picture

Zandor, I never used xanthan gum, but I have to admit that I had your idea more than a couple of times:-), although I never found a serious motivation to make an experiment.

I have guar gum flour, but I find it very tricky to use bacause the only way to prevent it from making lumps is to sprinkle it in the water when the food mixer is turning, so how you would add rye?

In both cases I wonder if they won't make more harm than good bacause they tend to render the whole dough quite firm. I see that they are helpful with high gluten-free flours  because it's the only way to keep them together, but rye doughs themselves already have a gelly structure (as you surely have noticed mixing them) especially if you add scalded flours as others already wrote.

Moreover rye flour is so full of enzymes that it's not unlikely that some of them would melt the structure created  by guar or xanthan. I guess that if one could get a fluffy rye bread with those ingredients industrial bread giant would have used them to make a super-cheap (cheap for the producer, of course) and light rye bread to sell at an outrageous price, or some milling company would have begun to sell a ready to use flour mix.

If you try let us know how it comes out!

Helios's picture

All this scientific talk on how to make Rye breads frightens me! Lol! Im not very good at figuring out the best addins for Rye. Recently,a friend who was a baker passed away,and I inherited an insanely huge amount of baking items.Different types of flour,etc,and just got it all put into a new pantry built specifically for the new additions. My husband and I have been having fun attempting to make Biblical breads,our friend having gotten us interested in this.Biblical Breads was his hobby,and he came up with some very tasty loafs. I can tell you it is huge fun,trying to figure out what bread was like back in the day. It sure is an eye opener.However,we have one problem.How to use the Rye in the manner it was originally used,before all the Sourdough and other addins to make it fluffy,as the new world is used to.Does anyone have an idea of how they baked with Medium Rye when it was first used ?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

How to use the Rye in the manner it was originally used,before all the Sourdough and other addins to make it fluffy,as the new world is used to.Does anyone have an idea of how they baked with Medium Rye when it was first used ?

Rye dough is not so hard to figure out.  Just don't think about wheat!   Biblical times (2000+ yrs) and very recent "new world times" (production fluffy is the last 100 yrs) leaves a lot of uncovered time not accounted for.  Rye has been eaten by humans for a long, long time and baking with it runs in natural directions easy enough.  In my opinion, it would be one of the easiest grains to figure out for making bread.  Start out boiling and grinding some of the grain and see where it takes you.  The coolest thing about rye is that it is the perfect food for sourdough.  

What came first the sourdough or the rye?  

If you mix some flour with water getting it wet, you soon have sourdough.  If you mix whole or cracked rye grain with water, it will ferment and pretty much fall apart.  So trying to make a rye without fermenting it seems unnatural.  The addition of wine to rye flour would also be a plus for the handling of rye, also wine/beer that turned to vinegar.  Although they didn't know about pH specifically, they knew what made the bread more palatable.  It wouldn't be to anyone's advantage to make loaves that break teeth.  So I think you can safely ferment it and possibly add some souring ingredients.  

Making dough and letting the dough ferment for long periods before adding more flour, shaping into loaves and baking is easy enough to try with no added ingredients.  Keep  in mind that locals would add various herbs and nuts that grew in their climates into the cooked grains.  The Roman army was known for planting chestnut trees all over Europe as they favored chestnut bread.   Milk was a food and cultures central and north in Europe could digest it.  So it stands to reason that milk could also be included in or eaten with breads either as gruel, cheese or yogurt.  


Yutaro Ishihama's picture
Yutaro Ishihama

I challenge to making bread by hand kneading. Is it possible to ferment rye dough, guar gum, water, and instant dry yeast alone? I dont use wheat flour.I tried doing: 100 g whole-rye-flour, guar gum 4 g, water 60 CC, Yeast about 2 grams, 2 tablespoons of yogurt and very few amount of vitamin C.The dough was left under 25 degC thru 30 degC environment.I found small rise after several hours. The sourdough's very expensive in my country. For me, bread with sourdough has a high threshold.  Can you share this your experience (rye and guar gum)?

Yutaro Ishihama's picture
Yutaro Ishihama

Thanks for the messages. I have posted my experimental results on the rise using rye and guar gum.

I would like to bake bread (half wheat flour and half rye) every two days. Such a routine baking tends to

limit myself to use only inexpensive, easy-to-handle, easy-to-obtain substances. Therefore, sourdough,

gluten powder are not the primary choice for me. The ingredients would be wheatflour, rye, water, salt,

some gluten-replacer (such as guar gum and xamthan gum), vitamin C, youghrut (optional) and olive oil (optional).

50 percent rye and 50 percent wheat is preferred.

What I would like to know is the optimal concentration of guar gum for this recipe. I prefer to bakers percent.

While I am browsing US sites, the recipe shows in units of cup or spoon, which necessaiates the conversion

into weight. Thanks in advance.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is not a problem if you have rye flour.  All you need is a 300ml- 500ml container with a snap-on but loose lid (for gasses to escape)  and some non-chlorinated water.  It doesn't take much flour, 20g for the first two days, then every day 10g more (preferably in the mornings)  and enough water to cover and keep things wet.  The first day should be warm 30°C  followed by 25°- 26°C every day to encourage yeast.  Stir by tilting the container and swirling it around a little bit.  Do open and exchange the air and check on the aromas as it progresses toward fermentation and yeast aromas.  

In about 5 or 6 days, when it smells of yeast, feed 10g and wait until the next day to thicken up the slurry with more rye flour  (OR leave the slurry alone and  transfer 20g to a new container and feed 50g water and 50g flour)   and wait for the culture  to bubble and peak (always let the starter reach peak activity before feeding it again.)  You can wait a few hours afterwards with no problem to fit feeding into an 8 or 12 hr feeding schedule with room temps of about 22° to 23°C.  

If the new culture takes longer than 12 hours to see any reaction, return to feeding the first culture a spoon of flour per day until the separating water is slightly darker and the beery aromas increase.  Once yeast make themselves known to you in the culture, you now have to shift to feeding the culture more flour to satisfy their hunger.  If you thicken the culture it will rise if it can trap the CO2 gasses.  Then it is important to use or reduce the starter before each feeding.  


I highly recommend making a sourdough starter with 50% rye flour in the bread dough.  

Yutaro Ishihama's picture
Yutaro Ishihama

Thanks very much. Inspired by Tartine Book No. 3, I started to ferment coarsely cracked rye berries three days ago. The liquid is composed of water and yogurt. I also contained sprouted rye berries. Because I do not like to include oxygen in this sourdough, I fulfilled the contents in a glass jar and never open it to moniter situation. At the next night, it is surprising that inundation happened from the jar. Is this so-called a cultured sourdough? I did not wish contaminated guys grow. That is why I made effort not to include oxygen. Today I will bake bread with this quasi-sour-dough and with wheat flour. I am looking forward to seeing how this dough will rise.