The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough rye Vollkornbrot with flaxseed and pinhead oats.

Xenophon's picture

Sourdough rye Vollkornbrot with flaxseed and pinhead oats.

A couple of days ago I decided to try my hand at Jeffrey Hamelman’s Vollkornbrot with flaxseeds.  I did this with some trepidation because

a)     I’m a western expat living in New Delhi, India and THE key ingredient (rye flour) is not available here, meaning that I have to bring it in from Europe on each trip.  This one recipe  would blow about 1/7 th of my precious supply.

b)    The recipe as per Hamelman requires the  use of a sourdough starter, used to create a long fermenting sourdough and two soakers (flaxseeds and rye chops) .  To these are added the last fraction of the rye meal and the salt + some water and yeast so it’s not exactly a straight dough setup with minimal rise time.

The original recipe can be found in ‘Bread’ by Jeffrey Hamelman, I’m not going to reproduce it here for the obvious copyright reasons.

Modifications vs the recipe:

a)     I didn’t have rye chops and there’s no way for me to acquire those here.  So I used pinhead oats (also called steel cut oats) instead.  This worked without a hitch.

b)    One of the big challenges of baking breads here is dough temperature control.  We’re past the peak of summer but still, the temperature in my kitchen is about 35 centgrade.  This is an obvious problem when using ‘long’ rise times/preferments etc.  What it boils down to is that I shortened the sourdough rise time from the recommended 14-16 hours at around 21 centigrade to 9 hours at 33-35.


The dough (detailed instructions see the recipe in the book):

For the sourdough I used a sourdough starter that had been initiated 3 months ago, it started out as a rye sourdough starter but has been refreshed countless times with normal bread flour so it’s totally white now.  This is added to 100% rye flour and water.  Hydratation is 100% at this point.

While this is covered and put away to start its long rise, a flaxseed and –in my case- a pinhead oats soaker were prepared.  I added all the recipe’s salt to the oats soaker in order to inhibit enzyme activity (long rise at high ambient temperature).

After 5 hours I could definitely see activity in the sourdough, based on the look/consistency and the taste I decided it was ripe after 9 hours of fermentation.  Tasting/feeling/looking are imho the only sure ways to determine ripeness.  Let it ferment too long and the taste becomes harsh/vinegary.

Everything was brought together with some extra rye flour and mixed at slow speed for 10 minutes.  Bulk fermentation took 15 minutes.

After bulk fermentation I had a very slack, sticky dough that proved almost unmanageable and had a very dense texture.  This was dumped in a large cake tin (no pullman form available) that had been oiled and covered in rye flour.  I used a spoon to flatten the top somewhat.


First 15 minutes in a hot oven (245 centigrade)  with steam, followed by 1 hour 15 minutes at 195, dry.   Hamelman remarks that a full bake is imperative and I concur, given the high hydratation and the density.

Unpanning and cooling:

15 minutes before the end of the bake time, the loaf is taken out of the baking tin (very easily, no stick at all) and baked off the remaining 15 minutes to remove some extra moisture and firm things up.

After baking I was stuck with what literally seemed to be a very dense brick.  This then has to cool/rest between 24 and 48 hours so the internal moisture has time to redistribute.  It took an almost superhuman effort but I managed to wait 30 hours.  Don’t give in to temptation, I think the bread really requires this long rest before slicing.

Some pictures: 







Rye sourdough with flaxseeds and pinhead oats after unpanning and cooling for 30 hours at room temperature.










As you can see, the crumb is very, very dense and looks underbaked.  However, it looked and tasted exactly like the German whole grain Vollkornbread that’s for sale in (North) Germany.  It can be sliced very thin (4 mm is not a problem at all) with a serrated bread knife and the taste is slightly sweet, nutty with a delicate sourdough tang.  If you really want an extremely pronounced sourdough taste I guess you’d have to let the sourdough ferment a couple of hours more.  The bread goes very well with cured meats, jam, (dark) chocolate spread and cheeses that have a pronounced taste.


Big warning: Only try this and the other Vollkornbrot mentioned by Hamelman if you really like very dense German breads like Pumpernickel (the German version, has nothing in common with what's sold as such in the US).  Do not try to make rolls or smaller loaves as the crust is very hard indeed and -in the case of rolls- these would be inedible because this bread can only be enjoyed if you slice it really thin.


nicodvb's picture

It came out very well indeed! Iìm sorry that you can't find rye flour in your country, it's a real pity!

dabrownman's picture

pretty good for an early try at this very tough to make bread!  You were wise to wait so not to cut into it too early.   If you want a different crust and even more moist crumb, you can try going to a further reduction in baking temperature per Andy's (anada) posts on rye.  After 30 min at 195, you might try to finish it off at say 150 - 160 until it is done but this will take much longer and my not fit your schedule.  You could also not take it out of the tin to dry out the last 15 minutes of baking but wait to depan until it has finished baking and cooled completely.  You will get a more moist crust and crumb and the crust will be softer too, especially if you bake it covered with foil since I too don't have a Pullman and have to use the plan B foil :-)

Wrapping the bread in linen, after depanning, also helps to moisten the crust as it waits to be cut and is redistributing the moisture to the crust.  48 hours of waiting before cutting will also make for better  rye - but that is really tough to do.

I'm not great rye baker like Andy, Varda  and some others but these are the tips I gleaned from their posts that made my rye breads so much better than my original bricks that I was so very good at :-)  Yours isn't a brick at all though. 

For a more pronounced sour you can also retard the dough for 12 hours or overnight in the fridge before panning it and letting it rise.  For final proofing,  Phil (pips) recommends to sprinkle the top with rye flour and when it cracks - it is ready to bake. 

Very nice baking - you have the rye touch!

longhorn's picture

I do Volkornbrot in various forms regularly. I really like the idea of using steel cut oats in the place of rye chops as a variation!

The bread looks fine - just about what I would expect! Nice job!

Mebake's picture

Excellent effort to bake Volkorn Rye where you stay, Xenophon! Too bad your supply of Rye flour is dimishing.

Beautiful Slices of Volkornbrot! Well done.