The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Update: German Farmhouse Rye Bread

ltlmccomas's picture

Update: German Farmhouse Rye Bread

Inside of loafInside of loafBurned crust and weird crackBurned crust and weird crack

Ok, I am the newbie trying to please a German friend with a good loaf of sourdough rye bread. I tried the recipe for Soulful German Farmhouse Rye posted by Rainbowbrown. I concocted my first rye sourdough starter and let it ferment 2 days. The starter was nice and bubbly. I was ready to begin the bread making. I opened the rye starter and dry heaved into the sink. I began to mix up the dough but I had to stop and wash the bowl the starter had been in because it smelled so bad that I couldn't work. I finished the dough. While I was kneading I realized something had gone wrong. The dough was very easy to work with - not 'shaggy' at all. Once I started the rising process, I discovered that I had shorted the recipe by 1/2 cup water. I baked the bread into very cute, flat, decorative paper weights. I thought I might just use the paperweights for salad croutons but I couldn't cut the loaves up into small squares. I threw out the large stones. So...I tried the detmolder 3 stage recipe for sourdough rye. I tried to be very careful as to follow my recipe directions. The dough was pretty and it was nice to knead by hand. I let it rise 30 minutes, punched it down, let it rise 30 minutes, punched it down, and then let it (theoretically) rise for 2 1/2 hours. The dough got kind of dry while theoretically rising. I baked it on a pizza stone at 450 degrees with water for 10 minutes. Then I turned the oven down to 400 degrees and baked the bread for about 2 hours. It seemed like it took FOREVER for the internal temperature to reach 190 degrees. So, now its about 11:30 pm and I take the loaf out of the oven. It is (what I consider) burnt on the outside and weighs as much as my 8 year old. I left the bread until this morning. I tried to cut the loaf. I considered asking my husband for his sheet rock saw. But miracle of all miracles, I was able to break through with a strong butcher knife. Once the loaf was cut, I examined it with my untrained eye. As I was examining the bread for crumb and oven spring, I realized I didn't know what those terms meant. So, I searched the internet to find the definitions. I examined the loaf again. I think the loaf was about a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Claus stopped by this morning, tasted the bread and told me that it needed to cook longer! Gees, how long is longer? How do I get the internal temperature higher and save the loaf from burning? Here are some photos of the bread so everyone can tell me what went wrong. (My Photos are first because I can't figure out how to make them come up after my text.)  Any advice would be appreciated.

rainbowbrown's picture

Hi, ltlmccomas.  Sorry this one didn't work out for you.  Keep in mind that it's quite difficult to reproduce German bread.  I'm in a German (language) class and my professor and some other students who have been to Germany say that they've never had anything close to what they've had in Germany anywhere else. I'm actually hoping to impress everyone at the end of the semester potluck and am (weekly) practicing the art of German bread as well, and still haven't really gotten anything I would be proud to bring them. 

As for your starter, something weird might have happened; the rye starter that I keep always smells really pleasant, even when it's a little over-ripe.  Did you convert it or start from scratch? Mine is an old conversion from a wheat starter.  As for the bread itself, the only thing I noticed in your write-up that sounds weird to me is that you punch it down several times during the first rise.  I don't know if this is commonly done with rye breads, but I don't usually do it.  I would think that it would encourage a denser crumb, but I don't know.  Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Oven spring is when the dough rises initially when it's inside the oven; it's the yeast's one last growth spurt before it dies.  You'll notice it when your slashes have opened up or the crust cracks open.  As far as I have been able to tell ryes don't generally have all that much oven spring.  Crumb is a reference to all the bread that isn't crust.  German rye breads, I believe are generally denser than wheat loaves.  So the crumb isn't as open or airy.

Hope this helps a little.  And keep practicing, as I will.  I think German breads are really an aquired skill. I sort of doubt we'll ever really truely replacate something to be gotten in Germany, but I'm sure we'll come real close sometime.

ltlmccomas's picture

Claus has a saying regarding Germans and their breadmaking:(stated in a heavy German accent)  "We make bread.  (dismissively) You play."

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

you have a gummy crumb IMO. Cooking it longer doesn't help when you have a gummy crumb due to technique with the rye.  I strongly recommend some reading on the nuances of using rye flour.  pentosans, etc...

Your rye sourdough could have been insufficiently acidic enough to help protect from that, handling is also important.  The one with the smell that put you off probably went too long without refreshing, the second one probably didn't acidify sufficiently (?).  Sufficient acidity in a rye sourdough is helpful to protect against gummyness.  Tell us also in detail how you kneaded and for how long.  Kneading ryes shouldn't be like kneading wheat breads.

I've made that Soulful rye, my only complaint is that the "cumin" should not be used.

I would perhaps suggest starting with some breads with a greater % of wheat flour to start, while you get your rye sourdough in really good shape, then try some with more rye %.  I noticed recently that one of my favorite German rustic loaves (called holzofen brot)  from an excellent wood-fired German bakery, has wheat flour as the first ingredient, then rye sourdough, then rye flour, so I'm thinking you can impress your German friend in the meantime with easier wheat-dominant ryes before you master the higher % rye breads. 

It is also difficult to find nice fresh rye flours here that are comparable to the German rye flours.  I grind my own from rye berries now.

There is a whole thing to rye breads, it takes a while to learn, and I am still learning. 

I also suggest removing "punching down" from the vocab.   There's a book called Bread, A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes by Hamelman that would probably be helpful, or the book that that recipe came from (Local Breads by Dan Leader) discusses the nuances of rye a little also.  Rye's properties are much different than wheat flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The recipe you used (Soulful German Farmhouse Rye by Daniel Leader) makes reference to another recipe found on page 275 of his book LOCAL BREADS. That recipe states it will take from 4 to 10 days to activate a culture. I think the sourdough culture was not ready and therefore did not sour your rye.

I have more than once been pressured to produce a loaf of rye without the sourdough, but it is not the same quality , but maybe you would like to try it:

First divide the ingredient "sourdough" into 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 c water. Take the entire amount of rye in the recipe and sprinkle with two tablespoons of 5% apple vinegar then add enough water (from the recipe) to form a dough, working it in well and let it sit 20 minutes. At the same time in a separate bowl, combine the other ingredients (no salt)(change cumin to caraway) increase the instant yeast to 2 1/2 teaspoons and with remaining water let them also sit for 15 minutes. When the 2o minutes for the rye is finished combine both sprinkle with the salt mix them together.

Continue with the recipe as stated. (I found the rising times too long in his recipe.) Please do not punch down the dough at any time. Mix well by kneading or a mixer but use gentle shaping methods once you start raising (proofing) your dough. I recommend using a casserole with lid to bake it. You can also reduce your oven to 385°F and bake longer until done. Rye is done when thermometer reaches 180°F

Hope this works for you, Mini O


About the picture thing... move the cursor to the end of your writing before clicking on the camera icon, that way the download will appear after the cursor. Also while still making the comment (or editing it), the cursor can be added between the picture and the title and a space can be added, this brings the title under the picture instead of getting cut in half. :)

ehanner's picture

Could you post the recipe you are referring to in it's entirety and the method you are detailing? Is the apple vinegar you mention 5% strength or are you saying use 5% of the weight?

What do you think about adding a small amount of vinegar to the sourdough component to help sour it up some?

Every time I see the mention of cumin I wonder how many breads have fallen victim to this translation error.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The recipe is HERE

It was posted on the previous thread with similar title.   Apple vinegar is 5% acidity and I have no idea what % of liquid it would be.  The recipe is normally 65% hydration so it should not be a big deal.  About the spices, I would add a teaspoon of each, at least!   I was reading out of the book as I wrote the above comment.  My red pen in hand, poor Daniel, if he only knew!  It is a good book though.  I did get the book on sale probably because of the cumin thing. 

Mini O