The Fresh Loaf

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Mixing Starter into 5-10% Rye Woes

SLanney's picture

Mixing Starter into 5-10% Rye Woes

So I'm trying to make a rye sourdough with only 5% rye and 10% spelt, I have a 50/50 rye/AP 100% starter. I've been using Trevor's method of doing a long cold salted autolyse which has been developing gluten very nicely. However I've been running into a consistent issue that I can't seem to get around no matter how careful I am. 

When mixing in my, starter into the dough I run into two problems:

1. I usually use gentle folding of the dough to mix-in the starter but gluten starts to tear pretty quickly. I give it 10-15min rest between mixing but that doesn't seem to work consistently

2. Dough becomes sticky and weak if I mix thoroughly, I think this is just a property of rye but my seems to be worse than what I see others go on youtube.. 

I'm worried that just S&F to mix in the starter won't mix in it sufficiently. It's weird because I see videos using rougher mixing methods than I and they seem to get thorough mixing with high hydration and rye whereas I struggle to mix just a little bit. 

Help would be appreciated... 

Note: I use a rye with dark flecks classified as dark rye. could that be a problem?? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...gentle folding of the dough to mix-in the starter..."

Gentle folding is for egg fluff and cake batters. Important for cake not to deflate the bubbles created.

But...  (Very Big But...) 

The bubbles come later with bread dough thru yeast gas bubbles so that being rough and tearing while mixing sounds  like more liquids may be required in the autolysis.  Cut up the starter.  

What makes up the rest of the flour in the dough?   I don't think that small amount of rye is interfering with anything.  

SLanney's picture

Apologies i meant stretch and fold of the dough to incorporate the starter. Any other form of mixing seems to cause tearing after 30 seconds and it quickly devolves into a sticky mess with no strength, as indicated by pulling on the dough causing tearing without signs of elasticity. The recipe I used is champlain sourdough from BreadWerx! 

389g AP flour (Canadian so its strong relative to american AP).

38g spelt

304g water

9g salt

50g starter (50/50 rye/AP, 100% hydration)

7g rye

I've tried mixing without being gentle but the bread ends up going from manageable --> sticky --> liquid mess. I do however, think the rye plays a major role as this behaviour only happens whenever I use rye (even 5%!) in my dough - even when I don't use a levain culture. 

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

It could be the consistency of the starter that's causing difficulty. Since your starter is 50% rye, it will have a thicker consistency than one that is 100% AP. The recipe uses a very small amount of starter, and it can be difficult to work into the dough evenly if it's too thick. You are doing the right thing when kneading by waiting a few minutes then starting up again, but it may not be enough to effectively work in that thicker starter. And since the gluten is already fully developed from the overnight rest, the result is the tearing that you are experiencing.

Some potential solutions:

1) Hold back a portion of the water from the recipe when you make your premix (25g to 50g should do). You can either add it at the time you add your starter, disperse the starter in the water before adding it to the dough, or even add it to the starter itself when you mix it. The point is that the added liquid will help the starter to disperse more evenly when you add it to the dough. The dough will be sloppy and slippery at first, but after a few minutes should smooth out again. This is what I do when making this recipe with a thicker starter (reserve water then disperse the starter in it before adding to dough).

2) Use a 100% AP leaven instead. The thinner consistency should help it to incorporate better.

3) Use more starter. Maybe twice as much. It will be easier to incorporate the larger amount since it won't need to be spread so thinly throughout the dough when you mix it. 50g really is a small amount of starter -- it's intended to allow for a long slow rise, but 100g is an amount more typically seen in most recipes. Adjust proofing times as necessary to accommodate.

4) Any combination of the above suggestions.

I hope that helps.



SLanney's picture

Thanks Trevor!


Makes total sense, yes the starter is thicker than the AP starter in your video. I like the slow and long fermentation, as the one success I've had with the recipe was amazing, so I'll stick with 50g starter. For the current batch I kneaded it and it tore as usual, but I added a tiny bit of flour to combat the stickiness and build some tightness; it seems to be holding up strongly with S&F.

I'll try holding back some water next time, I was worried about the sloppy nature caused by adding water after mixing, but your assurance is encouraging. May also switch to 100% AP starter as it'll be more flexible for experimental bread concoting.  

I'm excited to try this out, thanks again!