The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking a light rye for the family over Thanksgiving

JMonkey's picture

Baking a light rye for the family over Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving weekend, we've got guests for the first time in years. When we lived in Boston, Aurora and I decided after a couple of years traveling to Atlanta for Thanksgiving that it's just too much to hop on a plane. Flying on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving sucks rocks, and both of us always have to work that day, so we had to rush to the airport in the evening holiday traffic. Then we spend just a few short days before rushing back home on Sunday, hoping our flights don't get canceled or delayed, leaving us marooned in some strange city and missing a day of work.

But now that we're in Oregon, family is (relatively) close by, and so her father, his wife and Aurora's grandmother all came up from Southern Oregon to spend the weekend.

Aurora's grandmother grew up in Oregon, but shortly after she graduated high school (in the 30s), she headed east to NYC to pursue a career as an actor. There, she fell in love with what her local bakery called "Sour Corn Rye." It was dense, had caraway, and clearly contained a high percentage of sourdough rye.

I've played around with rye, but didn't feel entirely comfortable making a rye with more than 50% rye flour for the meal. So, instead, I made a 40% caraway rye that mostly followed the recipe in Hammelman's Bread, which has got to be the most useful and comprehensive bread baking book I've ever seen. And that's coming from a guy who bakes 90% of his breads from 100% whole grains. Hammelman never exceeds more than 50% whole grains unless it's a rye (and the rye section is especially good -- Hammelman has a particular passion for German ryes), but the techniques are applicable to just about any bread.

Anyway, about the rye. The first loaf I made a couple of days ago was at 68% hydration, and, though it was delicious, it wasn't as open a crumb as I'd have liked. So for the holiday bread, I increased the water to 75%. I also keep my rye sourdough at 100% hydration, rather than the eighty-something that Hammelman uses, simply because it's easier for me. I did follow Hammelman and add instant yeast, however, since the oven would otherwise be occupied with a massive turkey in the afternoon -- I needed to bake in the morning. Recipe and percentages are below:


  • Strong white flour: 60%
  • Whole rye flour: 40%
  • Water: 75%
  • Salt: 1.8%
  • Caraway seed: 1.8%
  • Instant yeast: No idea -- I used 1/2 tsp per loaf. Maybe 0.33%?
  • All of the rye flour is pre-fermented as a sourdough at 100% hydration

Ingredients for one loaf

  • Strong white flour (I used KAF Bread flour, which is 12.5% protein): 300 grams
  • Rye sourdough at 100% hydration: 400 grams
  • Water: 175 grams
  • Salt: 9 grams
  • Caraway seed: 9 grams
  • Instant yeast: 1/2 tsp or 1 gram (about)

Again, I was in a bit of a hurry, so after mixing all the ingredients together, I kneaded it for 5-10 minutes until it would windowpane. This was a pretty sticky business, and it wasn't the most pleasant kneading, but with a dough scraper nearby and damp hands, it was tolerable. I then shaped it into a ball and put the dough bucket in my picnic cooler on an upturned bowl. After throwing a cup of boiling water in the bottom, I closed it and didn't open it back up for about 90 minutes. It generally stays about 80-85 degrees in the cooler. I then preshaped the dough, let it rest 15 minutes and shaped it into a batard.

After shaping, I wrapped it in baker's linen that I'd dusted with rice flour (the best stuff in the world for dusting surfaces that will hold sticky doughs) and put it back into my makeshift proof box for anotherr 90 minutes. Then, 45 minutes on a hot stone with steam at 450 degrees F and an hour's cooling.

Great with leftover roast turkey, strong mustard and whatever other fixings you can dig up.

I've just put another loaf in the oven, this time a long-fermentation 60-40 whole wheat-white wheat batard, and it's a cold oven bake. I'll post it later tonight or tomorrow. Hope it goes well with tonight's turkey soup ....


browndog's picture

That's a beautiful loaf, JMonkey. Maybe I'll skootch out of my comfort zone long enough to try it. 

Did Aurura's grandmother have any success onstage? 

JMonkey's picture

She did! She played in a lot of theater, including several Shakespeare plays, and was in one of the first televised plays ever, "The Long Christmas Dinner," by Thorton Wilder.

She met her husband in NYC -- he, too, was an actor. For a short time, they had their own theater company and it was going well, but unfortunately one of the members stole not only all their cash, but also their clipbook, which held all their reviews. Starting over was impossible, and then, WWII came along with a child. Her husband was drafted, so they moved back West and left professional theater behind, though they continued to be very, very active in community theater.

browndog's picture


I think we could fill a book with the stories from TFL. 

You know, in the end community theater might have been the more satisfying route anyway, I wonder if they thought so too. 

Paddyscake's picture

This method of giving a high five isn't as nice for you (my stars are still jumping around) because you don't get a counted vote. I think the crumb looks just fine. If it was any more open, that great strong mustard would ooze out all over the place! Really enjoyed hearing about Aurora's family history, makes us all a little more real to each other.