The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

RYE Questions

Lauraclimbs's picture

RYE Questions

Help! I have so many rye bread questions! I have been baking high-hydration whole grain sourdoughs for 2 years now, but just ventured into baking with rye (and other atypical/non gluten flours, like buckwheat). My last couple of attempts at baking rye sourdoughs weren't very promising. My first try I kneaded the dough for EVER (15-20min) in fear that it wouldn't be developed enough, and was surprised when it came out as a tough, close crumbed, dry brick. My second attempt, I kneaded the dough significantly less (~10min total) as I heard that overkneading can incorporate so much air into a loaf that it dries it out, but the end result was the same.

My most recent bake was with Tartine's Country Rye recipe. This high hydration formula calls for only stretch and folds, no kneading. I must say that the bread tastes incredible! I was so surprised! However, there are still many other problems. First of all...

Despite slashing the dough, the cuts did not allow any relief for the expanding loaf as it still burst out of the side. This happened with my last batch of rye as well, but has never happened with my wheat loaves. Does anyone have any advice/information on this issue?

Lastly, both the loaf pictured below and the loaves I baked last time had GIANT holes just in very center of the loaf. What is the meaning of this? My last loaf had only one air hole: a giant tunnel through the very center. Again, I have not had this problem baking with wheat. I do not use oil when shaping or in any of the dough handling phases.


When monitoring dough development when using rye flour, how do your evaluations differ from those that you do for wheat flour? Obviously the dough is stickier. When kneading, I noticed that the dough had a strong window pane and was cohesive after just a few (5 or so) minutes-yet I kept kneading because I thought intensive kneading was crucial for rye dough.


Anyway, I LOVE rye and want to be able to consistently produce great loaves, so any valuable information you have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

here is a Tartine Country Rye thread:

Now, what do you know about docking? 

The more rye % in the dough the less one kneads.  Rye benefits from a slower rise as opposed to a very rapid one, the matrix just can't take the stress.  Intensive kneading is death to the rye matrix.  Window pane with rye?  I would love to see that.  :)   

Rye flour is often used to keep shapes from sticking to themselves, if your kneading includes using additional rye on the bench, that might explain some of the layering you're seeing in the crumb.  Cool effect.  Would be interesting to know how to repeat it. (got notes?)

Lauraclimbs's picture

I do not know anything about docking, except that it is when you poke a loaf several times with a skewer or such instead of slashing it? I wasn't aware of any practical advantage it had. I thought it was maybe just a traditional European scoring technique or something. So now the question is, what SHOULD I know about docking??

This dough was not kneaded, so no, I did not knead in any additional rye flour. I only used stretch and folds. I do have notes, but since I have never produced this 'layering' effect before, I would have to admit that it was entirely accidental.

Maybe the window pane seamed more significant to me because I am always used to baking with 100% or high percentage whole grain flours, but the dough was able to be stretched quite thin between my fingers without my finger poking through.

clazar123's picture

I have Tartine and looked up the recipe. It seems it is 17% rye (medium fine whole rye flour) and 83% White bread flour. Those are some thirsty flours and it may not behave like a high hydration dough even at 80% hydration. Also, with that much higher gluten flour, you don't really need much kneading to develop the gluten but you need some to develop the starch and that is why you got a nice windowpane. The rye probably was enough to make it really sticky and a great way to handle that is with moist hands rather than more flour. It is too easy to go overboard on the bench flour with sticky dough and ,as Mini pointed out, that can layer into the dough and cause problems like the holes you have. Search box "handling sticky dough"  and see what you come up with. Lots of ideas.

The crumb in between the big holes seems fine so part of it may be a shaping issue,also.

As for the exploding dough (only the first pic showed up in the post), it could be a few things-a bit of underproofing, underslashing, tight shaping and rapid rise (poss from a warm room?), not enough salt (though 2% seems fine), underhydration. Lots of possibilities or a combination.

If you followed his technique for all the rests and folds, then you would have given the dough plenty of time to absorb all the moisture so next time I would add a bit more water and see how the dough behaves. Also remember to use damp hands rather than bench flour when handling if the dough is particularly sticky.


Lauraclimbs's picture

Ooops, not sure how the photos didn't make it into the post! Thanks for the reply. I will say that I did not follow the Tartine recipe exactly. I scaled it down and used 500g high gluten white flour, ~130g whole rye, and ~160g whole spelt (don't have my notes with me, but that's pretty close). I then added more water (don't know how much...) to compensate for the extra whole grain, and the resulting dough was quite wet.

Of all of the explanations you gave for the dough exploding, it seems very possible it could have been underproofing. I believe the dough proofed for 3.5hr total, but it is in the high 60s in my house and had been retarded in the bulk rise. However, I was tired and wanted to go to bed and my other dough was I just baked it. Also, I just remembered that when I shaped the dough I shaped one of the loaves into a batard, then realized it was supposed to be a boule! I tried to fix it with a few extra movements, but perhaps the exploded loaf was the loaf that was the accidental batard (the other loaf i made from this dough did not explode)?

DoubleMerlin's picture

Rye gluten is very fragile compared to wheat. If you have more than 25% rye in a lean recipe, you ought to minimize kneading.

I'm not sure what you mean by exploding. That first picture looks like it's overly layered, which could just mean your stretches aren't intense enough. When I S&F, I make sure some gluten rips at least a little bit, otherwise you aren't disturbing the established gluten.

When you say you reshaped it, do you mean after proofing? Because that's the big problem. If you reshape after proofing, the pockets that have developed are going to be weirded and stranged by the reshaping, presuming you've got a gentle hand for shaping. To avoid that, shape your loaves into their final shape, and maybe try proofing the loaves upside down, like in a banneton? That helps to redistribute air pockets so the top isn't much holier than the bottom.