The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye - Leader

zolablue's picture

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye - Leader

This is a new recipe I made from Daniel Leader’s book, Local Breads, for a Parisian loaf of Pierre Nury’s who is a recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award, as noted in the book.This is a very rustic light rye considered to be his signature loaf and is compared to Italian ciabatta.

It was very interesting to make and loads of fun although my timeline didn’t quite match Leader’s description of what would take place in the amount of time noted.I have made notes below in the recipe for how this worked for me.

This is delicious bread!I will definitely bake this loaf again.The recipe is so simple I see it as almost a no fail bread.The flavor is very good and I would describe it so far as the most tangy bread I’ve made to date keeping in mind my sourdoughs are very mild.I think it is really an outstanding flavor and toasted it is wonderful with a real depth of flavor.

The crumb is beautiful and very moist and almost spongy.It is very open like a ciabatta which just seemed so odd to me after such a long, overnight rise.

Here is the recipe for those of you who might like to give it a try.

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye – © Daniel Leader, Local Breads

Makes 2 long free-form loaves (18 ounces/518 grams each)Time:

8 – 12 hours to prepare the levain

20 minutes to mix and rest the dough

10 to 12 minutes to knead

3 to 4 hours to ferment

12 to 24 hours to retard

20 to 30 minutes to bake


45 grams - stiff dough levain(45%)

50 grams – water (50%)

95 grams – bread flour, preferably high-gluten (I used KA Sir Lancelot) (95%)

5 grams – stone-ground whole wheat flour (5%)

Prepare levain by kneading and place into a covered container.Let stand at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F) for 8 to 12 hours until it has risen into a dome and has doubled in volume.*

Bread dough:

400 grams – water (80%)

450 grams – bread flour, preferably high-gluten (I used Sir Lancelot) (90%)

50 grams – fine or medium rye flour (I used KA medium) (10%)

125 grams - levain starter**

10 grams – sea salt (I used kosher)


Pour water into bowl of a stand mixer.Add the bread flour and rye flour and stir until it absorbs all of the water and a dough forms.Cover and autolyse for 20 minutes.


Add the levain and salt.By machine, mix on medium speed (4 on a Kitchenaid mixer) until it is glossy, smooth and very stretchy for 12 to 14 minutes.***This dough is very sticky and will not clear the sides of the bowl.Give the dough a windowpane test to judge its readiness by gently stretching a golf-ball sized piece until it is thin enough to see through and not tear.If it tears mix for another 1 to 2 minutes and test again.To get maximum volume in the baked loaf, make sure not to under-knead.


Transfer dough to a lightly oiled container and cover.Leave to rise at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees) for 1 hour.It will inflate only slightly.

Turn: (stretch and fold):

Turn the dough twice at 1-hour intervals.After second turn, cover dough and leave to rise until it expands into a dome twice its original size, 1 to 2 hours more.****It will feel supple, airy, and less sticky.


Place the container in the refrigerator and allow the dough to ferment slowly for 12 to 24 hours.It will develop flavor but not rise significantly.Two to 3 hours before you want to bake, remove from refrigerator and let stand on the counter, covered.It will not rise and will feel cool.

Preheat oven:About 1 hour before baking heat oven (with baking stone) to 450°F.

Shape loaves:

Scrape dough onto floured counter and coat the top of the dough with flour.Press the mound of dough into a rough 10-inch square. Cut dough into 2 equal pieces (18 ounces/518 grams each).With floured hands, lift up one piece from the ends and in one smooth motion, gently stretch it to about 12 inches long and let it fall in whatever shape it may onto parchment paper.Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, spacing the two pieces at least 2 inches apart.(No need to score.)


Steam oven as usual.Immediately after shaping, slide loaves, on the parchment, onto the baking stone.Bake until crust underneath the swirls of flour is walnut-colored, 20 to 30 minutes.


Cool on wire rack for about 1 hour before slicing.Don’t be surprised by the long troughs running through the crumb.This is part of the bread’s character.


Store loaves with cut side covered in plastic at room temp for 3 to 4 days.For longer storage, freeze in resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.


*Leader says to allow the levain only to double in the amount of time noted.My starter more than tripled in less than 6 hours so at that time I mixed the dough.I think this may have slowed my fermentation way down since my starter had not fully risen and collapsed but I find I am always at odds with Leader’s instructions on firm starters.

**The levain recipe calls for ingredients which make up more than is needed for the dough recipe which I find problematic only because it bugs me.I want instructions for making the amount I need for a recipe and not to have any levain as leftover.He does this in some recipes and not in others so to me that is another flaw in their editing.Just make sure you weigh the proper amount for the dough recipe.

***I used a DLX mixer at about medium speed for roughly 10 to 12 minutes.

****My dough did not rise more than about 25% (if that) in the container in more than three hours after fermentation started.Again, I think that was due to using my levain too soon.I chose to place the dough in my pantry overnight to rise instead of the refrigerator since it had not doubled as it was supposed to by that time.My pantry is very cold at 62°F now as it is on an outside wall and this allowed a good spot for the dough to ferment overnight instead. It rose to just over double by the time I was ready to bake it.That fermentation took about 17 hours total.


dabrownman's picture

I scaled the levain back to end up with the correct amount for one loaf since I put twice the amount in last time I made bread by mistake   :-)  Am now on second turn right now with ZB's and on first turn with David Snyder's new SF Sourdough recipe using the same starter for both 1/3 rye. 1/3 wheat and 1/3 spelt to see which one I like the best.  ZB's are the best looking loaves I have seen and David's bread is tough to beat.  Both are such fine bakers....... and so little time to try all of their concoctions

dabrownman's picture

Baked off Zola Blues Pierre Nury and David Snyder's unfinished latest SFSD  I'm going to try and post some pictures.  Both tasted exactly the same even though David's didn't have any rye in it.  Maybe this is because I used the same starter and build for both.  I couldn't taste the rye at all in ZB's even though 1/4 of my starter was rye.  ZB's proofed higher than David's before it went into the fridge but David's really took off in the retard and after removal from the fridge.  ZB's didn't do much at all in retard or the final rise before the oven.  The 85 degrees final proof was the difference?

I used my new modified parchment containment for ZB's  and David's was placed in a floured basket to retard and rise.  I slashed both but the SFSD  was tough and dry on top, it may have been over proofed, so I botched the slashing and it deflated a little which my have caused it not to spring at all in the oven.  ZB's spring was terrific.  I baked them together with a 500 degree preheat, 475 degrees regular bake for the first 15 minutes with a Pyrex bread pan full if boiling water and 12" screaming hot cast iron pan with  a cup of water and then 425 degrees convection for the remainder after removing the steam at 15 minutes.  I baked ZB's for 30 minutes and David's for 5 minutes longer which was 5 minutes less than David recommended.

Both had the same sourness,  David's had a slightly more open crumb even though it didn't spring.  I like both very much and they seem to be twins except for their shapes .  Why this is I have no idea when one had rye and the other didn't.  Thanks to both ZB and David fo their hard work and fine breads.

Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

Those pictures look great! I am trying to follow this recipe but I having a hard time understanding how you have composed your levain. How is it possible that the ingredients add upp to 195 % of the total content of the levain? It's the same thing with the ingredients for the bread dough, the percentages add upp to 180 %.

Grenage's picture

Those are Baker's percentages; such percentages are of the total flour in the recipe.  For example:


80% white flour
20% rye flour
60% water

60% water would be 60% of the total flour mass, by weight.

Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

Okay, got it! By the way, levain, what does it make to the bread? Why do you make levains?

Frazestart's picture

I'd be interested in trying out this recipe but don't have a starter. Could I just do a poolish? Is there anyone who could point out the quantities/method for an appropriate poolish to use instead of levain in Leader's recipe?

Many thanks in advance.


Frazestart's picture

Thanks to everyone who posted about this bread. I have Leader's book but hadn't even noticed this particular recipe. About two weeks ago, I bought a starter from KAF just to make it. Friday night, I fed the starter and measured out the ingredients for the levain and dough so they would be ready when I needed them. Saturday morning, I prepared the levain and left to run errands. When I got back, I mixed and kneaded the dough (meaning, I stretched and moved it around for 15 minutes with a Danish whisk) and fermented, stretched and folded, etc. per the instructions. I put it to bed in the fridge overnight and took it out to warm up  this morning. It rose to almost triple the original volume while on the counter.  I split the dough into two funny-looking unshaped pieces and baked then on a stone with steam until well-browned. After they cooled for about an hour, I  cut into one. The crust is crunchy and tender at the same time and the crumb is holey and moist without being rubbery (which I feared because of the bread flour.) I am very pleased with the taste. I could detect a distinct but not too strong sour note on the first bite, followed by the full-wheaty, complex flavor of a really good baguette. I used a dark rye flour but could not taste it in the bread. I'll have to see how the flavor changes with time.



Marc Brik's picture
Marc Brik

I looked at the first posted photographs and thought: I want that too.

little problem, I've never made a sourdough starter before. So after a lot of research my head was spinning. But I did learn a sourdough is fermented flour mixed with water catching wild yeast out of the air. fed every day with some bakers flour or rye and water. Easy. 

I made a starter with a little cheating: 1 Cup of flour, 1 C of water 1/2 t of instant active yeast and 1/4 C of cloudy organic apple juice.  Boy... did it bubble. I fed it everyday with 1 C of flour and 1 Cup water and every 3rd day with 1 C of rye instead of flour. for 1 week. After taking what I needed for the levian, I weight 500gr with 500gr of flour and 156 gr of water and turned into a ball starter. I let it start for 1 hr and placed it in the fridge

Then I made the recipe. The flour I use only had 11% protein, so I added another 3.5% gluten flour to get 14.5%

 followed all the rules, window pane, folding every hour and resting for 24 hr. taken out of the fridge 3 hr before baking. 1/2 hr before baking I heated the oven, 2 minutes of steam prep

The result:

tangy, flavoursom, chewy and holiest bread I have ever eten out side of France, and to be honest even in side of France any boulangerie would be struggeling to make such delicious bread.

I am so pleased it worked. The recipe and my sourdough starter


WSR's picture

Hi.. I'm very, very new to the bread game.  I understand and have mastered the basicis of the sponge (poolish) for baguettes (for example).  I am however, very confused by the levain listed in the Pierre Nury's Rustic Light Rye recipe. 

The recipe is broken into 2 parts, the Levain and the Bread dough.  Here's my confusion... the first ingredient in the Levain is 45 grams - stiff dough levain(45%).... how does this work, please?

Your recipes look and sound great and I'd really like to get better at this... I just need a little help to get me going.

Thanks in advance and thanks for a great site!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

45% is baker's percent.  

Levain is also formulated with flour at 100%.  (the % is the formula)  So 45% is not the hydration but 45% of the total flour weight of the levain.  

If the total flour weight is 100g then the stiff dough levain will weigh 45g.  

If the total flour weight is 200g then the stiff dough levain will weigh 90g.

A stiff levain feels like a stiff dough when elaborated.  Somewhere between 50% and 60% hydration depending on the flour. 

Does that help?

Meat Loaf's picture
Meat Loaf

I have another question: Why do you use levain? What does it do to the bread that you wouldn't have got without it?

dmsnyder's picture

Oh, my! Where to start ... ?

1. better flavor

2. better shelf life

3. easier digestibility

4. better crust and crumb texture (A matter of taste. Not true if Wonder Bread is preferred.)

5. a link with traditional breads (All leavened bread was made with levain/sourdough starter for 6000 years, until the advent of commercial yeast starting ca. 1880).

There are good breads that are not made with levain, of course, but there are some types of breads that are just not "right" made any other way, e.g., most rye breads, San Francisco-style Sourdough Breads, Flemish Desem.


cjc's picture

According to the recipe above – the levain is 45%.  Does this consist of the 50 grams water, and 100 grams flours to make the 45 grams of levain?  OR does the levain come from someplace else?  If  you add the %’s, it is 195%, if the add the grams, it is 195 grams.  I understand just adding 125 grams of the levain to the dough.  I just can’t seem to understand where the 45 grams of levain fits into this.  Any help is appreciated.

dmsnyder's picture

Any formula for a sourdough bread with assume that you already have a healthy, active sourdough starter. Typically, the formula will provide instructions for the final feeding of the starter (levain) that will be mixed in the final dough.

Zolablue's formula will confuse you if 1) you are not familiar with sourdough baking, and/or 2) you do not understand baker's math. Your questions suggest you have both issues. I strongly recommend that you do some reading on these two topics, and then look at this formula again. Both topics are addressed in the TFL Handbook (See the menu bar at the top of each TFL page.) You might also find my own tutorial on baker's math helpful. (See Baker's Math: A tutorial )


cjc's picture

I shall do what you suggest - didn't realize that levain = starter.

aafaraguna's picture

Very new here, so hope you will bear with me.  I would love to make this, but how did you make your "stiff dough levain?  Does this mean a sough dough starter?  Thanks for the help.


tonycue's picture

As a reasonable newcomer to bread baking and especially sourdough I was thinking that proper artisan style sourdough was out of my league, until I found this site and this recipe.....I was initially unconvinced that I could attempt this..... 80% Hydration!....I've always stuck to around 65% before, as anything over that I found to be unmanageable....but forged ahead anyways (what did I have to lose?) and this turned out to be a resounding success...Amazing taste and those big holes that had always eluded me....Thank you so much to everybody here with your bread-making advice and especially to Zola for this recipe


Bakern's picture

I found this recipe when googling "world's best sourdough recipe" and it didn't let me down.

I doubled the recipe to get the amount of dough I'm used to working with. Took the dough out of the fridge after 8 hours and cut it in half.

One half I folded and put back in the fridge for a further 12 hours, the other half I shaped to a boule (twice with a 10 minute break) and let it sit in a proofing basket for 4 hours before baking. It fell pretty flat on the baking stone, but what a bounce! The result was a pretty huge boule with delicious crumb and flavour!

The two loaves made as per the recipe turned out well and even more juicy! After splitting the dough in half I gently rolled the dough over so that the "scar" was sealed and facing down. I'm a sucker for symmetry:) Great recipe and great comments to read through!

Bakern's picture

This is the boule. As you can see it stuck to the proofing basket and collapsed a bit. I thought it was done for, but it just bounced right back!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Since when is a Pierre-Nury so good looking?  

dmsnyder's picture

It's way too pretty! Hope it tastes as good as it looks.