The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye Sourdough Recipes with added Commercial Yeast

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Rye Sourdough Recipes with added Commercial Yeast

I recently posted in my blog a general formula to make German style breads with a rye-wheat flour mix.

The formula has been derived from the blog of a German baker, and it contains a bit of yeast in the final dough.

This fact caused some surprise.

I further researched this practise: the primary reason to use yeast is to have a predictable schedule, but yeast is also a means to influence the acidity by cutting the bulk fermentation short (Hamelman, Bread, p.169, in the comment)

The German "sourdough guidance" wiki gives a table of different starter types and their effect on the dough, and where the use of yeast is appropriate or necessary.

Just for reference I also checked some of the books I have for rye sourdough formulas with yeast, and found quite a few:

Peter Reinhart

The Bread Baker's Apprentice

New York Deli Rye, page 236

PR's comment: “The best rye breads are made with a mix of wild-yeast starter and commercial yeast. This is what makes them so flavourful.”

Pumpernickel, p.248

Sunflower Seed Rye, p.249

Crust & Crumb

Team USA Swiss Sunflower Bread, p.185

Daniel DiMuzio

bread baking - An Artisan's Perspective

Deli-Style Rye Bread, p.216

Hearty Sourdough Rye, p. 220

Jeffrey Hamelman

Bread, A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes

Whole Wheat Multigrain, p.169: Yeast shortens bulk proof to prevent acidity to hide grain flavors

Golden Raisin Bread, p.172

Five Grain Levain, p.175

Cheese Bread, p.180

Normandy Apple Bread, p.181

Roasted Garlic Levain, p.183

Roasted Hazelnut & Prune Bread, p.185

All breads from the chapter “Sourdough Rye Breads”

 Happy Baking,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

These books were written to underline the importance of sourdough to an audience of avid commercial yeast users stressing the need to use some pre-fermented or sourdough additions to enhance flavor not normally found using commercial yeast.   (I have not read Dr DiMuzio's book yet.)  It is also aimed at those not familiar with rye flour or timid about using it.  As a home baker familiar with using predominately sourdough to raise my ryes and add flavour (in other words, viewing from a different angle) added yeast serves more as a timing device, shortening the rise and speeding up gas formation.  Which I don't really prefer but find often in high % rye recipes.   For those surprised at your addition of commercial yeast, using instant, cake, active dry or otherwise is not a crime against sourdough, they are all common tools to be used.  The fun part is getting out of a fixed idea that only one type of leavening (in this case sourdough culture) must be used for a particular project.  Having to substitute ingredients or leave them out often leads to a new kind of euphoric freedom or a grand disaster, enlightenment along life's merry way.

Back to SD & Yeast: I feel that generally adding additional yeast to a dough reduces the flavour factor when sourdough is involved by cutting short a complex fermentation process.   There are many exceptions.   One would be if the yeast numbers were down in my starter and I was worried the sour might get the upper hand.  A second if I was building a sourdough (and thus flavour) in carefully controlled steps over several days, adding yeast to the final proof reduces variables that might destroy the work involved.    Important is to know the characteristics of the sourdough and be able to judge its deterioration on the dough at any given time.   

When rye is the dominant flour in the dough the delicate stretching character of rye becomes a major factor and ever more important as the proportion of rye flour increases.  Stretch is related to acid build in the dough which is progressive both increasing with fermenting time until the fermenting has gone far enough to break down the integrity of the dough.   We don't want to go there.  When it's broke, it don't get up again.  This occurs much faster in rye than with wheat.   (Sometimes hard to get used to.)   If I add yeast anytime (which involves deflating the dough and without adding any additional flour) during what I consider the first half of fermentation, the dough has to go into the baking oven within 20 to 45 minutes of adding yeast or risk over-proofing.  (20 to 45 minute variable has to do with using a cold or hot oven at 23°C.)  Rye recipes with added yeast have very short proofing times.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sourdough guidance information in German is most interesting.  

The sourdough category of "O" includes preferments started with commercial yeast and after the dough has sat from 8 to 16 hours, lacto-bacteria has started to grow and therefore is included as a sourdough, "sour" building not being a goal but used for its dough improvement qualities.

"Dinkel Säure nicht gut verträgt." =  Spelt doesn't tollerate acid very well.  The sheet suggests Spelt starters to be used in one step sour doughs with matured warm (28°C) thin starter with additional yeast being added.   Interesting...  The idea is not to let Spelt sourdough recipes ferment naturally too long for they will get too sour too fast. 


clazar123's picture

So what you want to happen in the ideal world of high percentage rye dough is that:

1. you build a sour that will condition/increase the stretchability of the rye proteins,

2.ferment it slowly enough to gently stretch it over time and develop the best possible flavor


3. not let the sour get to the point where it will destroy the rye proteins (overprove) and cause the loaf to lose its integrity/collapse/not hold the gas for a rise.

Scenario A:

Adding commercial yeast after developing the sour will probably affect #2 and cause it to stretch too quickly and likely over-prove and not develop much flavor but the baking can be more scheduled. If you are successful in the proofing, you will have a loaf that will stretch and look good but may not have much flavor(or at least not as much flavor as it could have had).

Scenario B:

Adding commercial yeast at the beginning can affect the ability of the sour developing and decrease the stretchability of the rye dough thus decreasing the rise,poss causing the dough to break down and definitely affecting the development of flavor. This loaf will likely be dense and with much less flavor.

So an ideal situation is to develop the sour and then develop a slow rise but not allow too much sourness and bake when each curve on the graph is optimal. Whew!

The next notch down would be use SD for the sour development and a small amount of commercial yeast after this to control the timing and still have flavor.

After that comes making quick,possibly useful but less flavorful loaves.

Am I getting the gist of your experience? This can only come from really extensive hands-on with rye dough and that is really why I love this site. I am so grateful. It would take years for me to develop this sense without bering able to discuss the experience of so many others.

Thank you! Good questions and good discussion.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

would be a building sourdough process like the 3 step Detmold or where a large part of the dough has already been fermented.  Then the final prove with added yeast would have flavour because it contained large portions of already soured dough.  

I'd say you got the essence of my experience.  

jcking's picture

It seems most of the listed breads contain additives such as seeds, nuts, whole grains and fruits. Even in a non-sourdough formula extra commercial yeasts is often added to help lift these items.


stevel's picture

Discussions such as these, priceless.  Thank you

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and many times roll the dough in seeds to up the fat and protein content.   I take into account that the rise will be lower but sometimes I am just so surprised how the sourdough pushes everything up!  One of my tallest rye loaves was chuck full of seeds!  I especially like seeds that absorb liquid and then give it off in the baking (added steam) like flax and chia giving the dough a little more stiffness for handling with a high hydration yet the crushed flax and chia are so small the "anti seed" folks in the family don't know I hide it in the dough.  Trick here is to be sneaky.  

I suppose one could pack enough stuff into the dough to make energy type muesli bars.  Interesting idea... wouldn't take much dough, just enough to stick everything together.   When the dough started to foam around the fruit and nuts, bake the thing. The kid in me wants m&m's on top.

Mini o hiking

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Mini, Jim, clazar123,

Thank you for your views.

I haven't got much time right now for a longer reply, but I find your contributions very exciting.

It seems quite clear to me now that yeast can be used as a great tool to influence the prooving times and rescue breads with starter problems, but it is not necessary to get the lift.

I made some 60% ryes with and without yeast, and with and without altus, to find out about the influence on taste and structure.

The particular formula I chose (60% wholegrain rye, about 8% wholegrain wheat) made wonderful bread, but with only very subtle differences. I'm going to look for a formula where the differences are more pronounced (possibly on Wednesday). I'll keep you posted.

Mini, you are inspiring as always. The m&ms would certainly add color.

Another thought: Rye chocolate bread? I suppose there's little that hasn't been done ...


PS> When I started with sourdoughs, some years ago, I tried spelt starters (after I had some success with rye and wheat). Those didn't get too sour, they went off quickly after short period when they were bubbeling. Another thing to revisit ...