The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

spontaneously fermented rye bread

grind's picture

spontaneously fermented rye bread

This recipe is from a friend's Lithuanian grandmother.  This is how it is written:

1) pour boiling water over 1/3 weight rye flour and stir for thirty minutes until the mixture sweetens

2) cover to cool

3) add 2/3 of rye flour and knead

4) keep warm for 1 to 3 days until it rises


Never tried it myself.  Think I'd get the jitters waiting around for the right moment to bake it.

ndechenne's picture

How much boiling water (proportional) did she add?

Seriously stir for 30 minutes eh? And what does she mean by keeping it warm for 3 days? Like proofer warm or room temp warm?


I may be interested in this venture...

pmccool's picture

Water content, assuming whole rye flour, enough to make the final dough around 90% hydration for the first attempt.  Then adjust up or down for future trials until you find the sweet spot.

I'm not sure why the injunction to stir for 30 minutes, unless it's to keep the flour suspended in the water for more even gelatinization.  It doesn't seem as though getting all of the flour uniformly wet would require that much stirring.

As to warmth, probably proofer warm.  Grandma may have had a wood-burning cook stove with a proofing cabinet attached when this approach was first developed.

Just guesses, mind you.


suave's picture

I'm not sure why the injunction to stir for 30 minutes

Because that's what it takes when you have 20 pounds of stuff.

Franko's picture

Deep in my memory I recall seeing something along this line before. When you consider how fermentable rye flour is, I can see how this could, or would happen under the right conditions. Assuming Grandma's rye flour was recently milled, whether it was here (NA) at the time or in the Old Country, it's seems entirely possible.The result would be as natural an organically leavened loaf as one could imagine.The 30 minute stirring indicates a very slow and full gelatinization of the starches, similar to making polenta, allowing it maximize and create some structure for the  COto work against.Guessing that salt was added at some point to the mix to make it palatable? I have to think this would be a very stodgy bread by today's standards, even for a  modern 100% rye bread, but the idea of it is fascinating. Thanks for posting this!


golgi70's picture

I just bought a new book that I have to go find that has something similar to this in it.  Then it says to save a portion of the dough in the fridge for the following loaf.  The time is not quite as long I think it says 24 hours at room temp then bake or if sour is desired a day in fridge followed by a day at room temp then bake.  Not sure what the mixing technique was and it was more up to date with some add ins but a modern approach to an old formula.  

Very nice, I'll have to try that as it seems easy enough




MisterTT's picture

used a more traditional recipe of keeping back a batch of old rye dough and using that as leavening for the next batch of bread. It was a very small amount when compared with the mass of bread that she used to make - no more than 100 grams, most of it stuck to the sides of the wooden bread bucket and scraped loose as needed. She baked the bread in a very hot wood fired oven, which doubled as a stove and house warmer in the winter.

Sadly I am too young to remember the taste, but my grandfather assures me that this was how bread was baked in most of northeastern Lithuania.

cranbo's picture

+1 on the wooden bread bucket's contribution to this recipe. Those remaining bits would no doubt have enabled fermentation to happen more quickly. 

This Day's picture
This Day

Read about Lithuanian bread here:

 The second recipe in the post is Scalded Rye Bread, or Plikyta ruginė duonaThe method is similar to that of your friend's Lithuanian grandmother.

dabrownman's picture

in here. This process was a very common way to make rye bread not long ago, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia as it make its own leaven by following this process, sort of like the ww starter that J Ortiz is famous for but this is pretty much a dump and wait.  I have it on my to do list, which seems to get longer instead of shorter.  i don't know if Mini has done a post on this or not but I bet she has done it many times and I remember her comments on this process in at least one thread here.

I'm also guessing less stirring will be fine,

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Me? I like the results I get from my sd rye starter.  If I didn't have it, and was pressed for time, I might be very tempted to start up a starter and loaf in this manner but would expect a more brick like crumb that improves over time as the starter ages.  I think of it along the same lines as using soaked aged altus to make pumpernickel type ryes.  A similar action is taking place using gelled rye to feed yeasts and bacteria present in the (added unscalded) flour.

dabrownman's picture

When it comes to rye it has to be one of you who knows :-)

ananda's picture

The method I use is to combine a full sour [18 hours ferment time] with a scald to form what is known as a "Sponge".   4 more hours of fermentation, then add salt and flour to sponge for the final paste.


dabrownman's picture

Andy or more? and only for 100% rye?

ananda's picture


For Moscow Rye scald is 20% of the total flour [13% Wholemeal Rye and 7% Red Rye Malt], with 30% of flour in the sour, giving 50% total pre-fermented flour



dabrownman's picture

Andy.  Sorry to bug you, I should have searched fror it in the first place.