The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First 100% Rye The Vollkornbrot attacks!

Deepak's picture

First 100% Rye The Vollkornbrot attacks!

I'm doing it, my first Fresh loaf post! I've been a regular on this site for almost two years and now it's time.I'm very grateful for everyone's wonderful post and I hope I get some congratulations for this first post because my bread certainly won't be getting any.

I felt it was time to rise to the next level of baking so I chose a Vollkornbrot bread from Peter Reinharts 100% whole grains. The finished product came out as scary as the word "Vollkornbrot" sounds.

Any ideas, suggestions or advice of any kind would be gratefully appreciated.

Here's what went down...


900 g 165°f water

360 g dark rye flour

3 g diastatic malt

85.5 g flaxseeds

Kept around 150° f for 3 hours


213 g rye mother starter (75% hydration)

639 g light rye flour

510 g water

developed at room temp for 6 hrs

Final dough:

1362 g starter

1275 g mash

765 g light rye flour

127 g sunflower seeds

30 g salt

21 g instant yeast

42 g cocoa powder

This, again, was my first time working with 100% rye, it was awkard. Like making bread for the first time. I ended up adding another 100-200 g rye flour to get the dough to meet Peter's final description, "very tacky, verging on sticky". 1st question, how do you know when a rye dough has been sufficiently worked? After mixing cluelessy well with the dough hook(since I've realized the paddle would have been smarter) I let it rise for 1 1/2 hour then placed it in the fridge overnight.(it was getting late). Took the dough out 3 hrs before shaping. 2nd question is this ripping normal with such a dough?

After shaping and panning..

 I let it rise for about 1 hr 15 mins(it still hadn't quiet doubled) I followed Peter's baking instructions.

500°f oven steam pan, steam, turn down oven 375°(i did 350) bake 30 mins, taking steam pan out at 10

turn 90 deg then bake another 30 mins

remove from pan and bake 40 more mins turning very 10

let cool 3 hrs, wrap in towels and let sit 24 hrs.

and the final product..

3rd question why can't i get this photo rightside up? :)

The crust almost broke my thermometer and my teeth. The flavor was pretty sour, but besides for that very vollkornbrot like yummy. Also, it fell apart when sliced.

Thanks to everyone for this wonderful forum.






Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

oops    That was the first and major problem.  

100% ryes do not retard well.   Don't retard overnight in the fridge, it is fine for a starter build but not for the finished dough.  It will mature and stiffen and loose what little strength it had and that is the end of that.  Sorry to be blunt, guess you learned it the hard way.   The dough looks very stiff.  Ripping is a sign that the gasses have left the dough and it is over-proofed.  It is a ripe stiff starter at this point.  (Do not bake, it will not rise much if at all.  Add lebkuchen spices and work in an egg and a cup of sugar and roll out to make a gingerbread house.)  

Now that it is baked, use some of it to feed starters for the next rye loaf.  Soak it first.  Save what is left to stop intruders.  Don't let this discourage you.  You learned a valuable lesson.  I'm sure if you try it without the retarding, it will work for you.    Do it just as it reads.  Rye is a whole different kind of flour than wheat.  :)


Deepak's picture

Thanks so much for that great feed-back. I'm using your advice for the second attempt. I'll post the results in a few days.


Deepak's picture


I followed the same recipe as above without the overnight retard. Also, I did a much shorter proof. The dough felt much better when working with it. I didn't get any ripping when shaping it into a loaf, but it never did come together in the end. 

Although disappointing, it was fun and exciting and it tasted excellent!

A sad sight.....

Please any tips to inspire a third try would be greatly appreciated.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
  • Was the loaf shaped with wet hands and wet surface or flour and a floured surface?
  • How did you shape it?  How did the dough feel? 
  • Did you dock your loaf?  (Poke deep toothpick size holes in it all over the surface before baking.)
  • Do you think the long bake dried it out?  Did you break any teeth on this one?  :)

 I'm seeing a thick hard brown crust under the loaf and up the sides but not on top, can you explain the pan & oven set up? I would like to suggest reducing the recipe to fit just one pan until all the kinks are out.  

My eyes are not the best, could you please take a close up crumb shot?   Thank you!


Deepak's picture
  • loaf was shaped with flour and floured surface
  • the dough felt soft and slighlty sticky, it still seemed to want to tear as i shaped it, like in the first posting photo. So, I was being gentle with it. Maybe to gentle?
  • I didn't dock it, that's new to me
  • the crust didn't break any teeth this time :), but it was still a little hard. 

I have a professional size vulcan oven. Starting temp for the bake was 500 f, cast iron skillet on the bottom. The pan used was a heavy duty standard size loaf pan. there's only to rack settings in my oven, I had the loaf on the bottom rack which is about 8 inches from the bottom.

I wish I could take another crumb shot, but the bread got picked apart and devoured. :) I'm going to start another first thing in the morning, i'll take some close ups on that one.


sphealey's picture

I have made the Reinhart volkornbrot recipe 20-30 times, including for our German exchange student, and munched on a piece baked by Reinhart at one of his classes.  Other than the gap from shaping [1] your second attempt is pretty much what it looks like.  It is a heavy, dense, moist bread-food and nothing like a poolish-style french bread at all.  You are on the right track; a few more trys should have it.


[1] probably too much flour on the shaping surface.

Deepak's picture

Thanks for your comment. I do really enjoy the heavy denseness of this bread and I look forward to having baked vollkornbrot 20-30 times. 


ananda's picture

Hi Deepak,

I offer the following advice as a means to improve on what could be just an amazing loaf of bread.

Firstly, if you tot up the hydration % , this comes out near to 70%.   Not high enough for all rye.

To rectify this, I would slacken off the sourdough; especially if you work on only 6 hours of fermentation, which is not long enough for a stiff sour.

Get rid of the cocoa powder, and add in some wholegrain rye flour instead.   Cocoa powder is thirsty stuff, and all light rye will just lend a claggy texture.

You are right about the paddle; a dough hook is no use to mix this sort of paste.   There are distinct problems with the formula you have posted, however, I love the mash portion.

Best wishes


sphealey's picture

=== You are right about the paddle; a dough hook is no use to mix this sort of paste. ===

I just mix / "knead" it in the bowl by folding it with a plastic dough scraper until it is smooth.  Doughs above 80% rye are more like wet pottery clay than anything resembling wheat dough.


Deepak's picture

Thanks Andy, I' going to take Mini Oven's advice and use all your advice. I'll post the results in a few days.

Thanks again



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you haven't kneaded with water before, it's high time to do so.  Get yourself a bowl or small tray of water big enough to get your entire palm wet.  I tend to work in the air without using a work surface, if I do, I slightly oil it and splash about a tablespoon of water before turning out my dough.  Dip hands in water first before touching the dough.  

100% rye is very sticky and the right consistency is somewhere between soft cookie dough and pasty wet cement or clay.  It is hard to hold the dough without it wanting to slime between the fingers and sloth away.  It sticks to itself much better than when loose flour is involved.  It is also amazing how clean you can keep your hands although there will be a thin film of slime on them.   Shaping the dough takes all of 3 seconds, well maybe a few more seconds but keeping wet hands to just fold the dough once or twice and tuck under the corners goes super fast and smoothing out the surface of the dough is easy with a wet hand.  Alternate wetting one hand at a time works best.  Place into pans and smooth rough spots with wet finger tips.  It takes a little getting used to "slippery slimy" but once you get the hang of it, it's fast and fun.  Clean up is also easier.  With a wet finger, it is easy to do a poke test on rye to feel the weakening of the expanding dough.  It will be weaker than a wheat dough.  If you poke it often during the rise, you can see how the dough changes and responds to your poking and you can feel the gas matrix forming inside the dough.    

Andy suggests (use all his advice) adding more water to the starter.  That sounds ideal!  Bring up the water to equal the flour weight (add 129g water) in the starter.  Because of the addition of flax (in the mash) you can actually raise the total dough hydration up to 86% because the flax will hold the water until it is baked releasing it as steam to help the crumb.   (Chia seeds as well as crushed flax hold lots of moisture.)

Docking is done with a wet toothpick or fancy roller contraption (expensive) or skewer or knitting needle.  I poke about one hole for every square inch.  Make a pattern if you're feeling fancy!  Poke about half way into the loaf.  This collapses any large pockets of accumulated gas.  

Go for it!