The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Getting better rise on Jewish Rye

I_hate_ads's picture

Getting better rise on Jewish Rye

Newbie Dave here.  I joined a while ago and have been lurking, reading, taking tips/hints and incorporating into my sour rye.  I've been at this 5 months, I guess about 25 loaves and I think my wheels are spinning.  Any help, points to other posts, etc. is much appreciated (and yes I've done searches)  My sour rye is OK, certainly not bad, but just isn't anywhere near the rye I used to get from a bakery now long closed.

Here's what I've worked up so far

240 gr water (at 100 degrees).  I heat my water to 108-110, then add to my KitchenAide stand mixer bowl swirling it around until i get 100 degrees).  I've tried bottled water, but seeing no difference I use my tap well water (here in central MD.)

240 gr light rye sour.  My hydration is 150% so when I replenish I use 100gr rye to 150gr water.  I take my plastic container of sour (from frig) and place in 110 degree water for about 1/2 hour.  The water loses temp to 96-98 and my source is EXTREMELY active.  I mix it down before measuring out.  The sour is light and fluffy and floats on the water in my stand mixer.

1 1/2 Tablespoon of IDY (I use SAF Red Label)  Is there different/better?  Is active dry yeast a better choice?

175 gr Light Rye

395 gr First Clear

1 Tablespoon pink salt

1/4 cup Caraway seeds

I mix until the dough balls around the dough hook and will not mix any longer, so about 4 mins.  It balls up completely and the sides of the mixing bowl are pretty clean.

The dough is moist but not sticky.  I knead for a few mins (I've tried 5 mins, 8 mins,  10 real difference).  I gather into a 5" ball and place on parchment paper dusted with corn meal on pastry board.  I place a huge stainless steel salad bowl over the dough to let it rise.  But it mostly just flattens out to about  3 1/2" high to a 8+ " circle.  I've taken to putting the pastry board with bowl in my kitchen window to catch the morning sun and heat the stainless steel.

I've let it rise 60 min, 75 mins, 90 mins, even 2 hours.  Not really much difference.  I know not to touch the dough, not even to look at it wrong or it WILL deflate.  That's why I use parchment and bake on the parchment.  You don't touch the dough.

During the time the dough rises I preheat my oven to 375.  I use a perforated metal pizza pan at the top rack to filter heat from the coils.  I have a big baking stone about 24X16 in the middle rack.  On the bottom I use my Lodge cast iron 12" frying pan as my steam 'generator'.  My oven is brand new as my old one gave out a month ago...It's electric, built-in KitchenAide.

After dough rise, I GENTLY brush with water and slide the parchment and dough onto the baking stone.  I add 2OZ of water to the cast iron pan and quickly close the oven door as steam is generated.  I set the timer for 5 mins.

After 5 mins I brush the loaf again with water.  The recipe I'm leveraging says to reduce heat to 350 but lately I've just left the bread in a 375.  I think the loaf is lighter in color at 350 and bit darker at 375.  The recipe I'm leveraging says to dock after 5 mins, but I've learned all that does is DEFLATE the rye...  

I set the timer for 70 mins and dock after 20 mins.  (I'll brush with water again)  I use a bamboo BBQ skewer and make 6-8 holes in a circular pattern (doesn't seem to do much).  I get a little oven spring, about 1/2"

After the 70 mins (I've gone longer) I take the temp at the top of loaf from one of the docking holes.  I get 206, sometime 208...

The bread is OK.  I give to my neighbors who tell me it's good, but they are being polite neighbors.  The bread is moist but dense, it's just too heavy, there are no space pockets, just dense dough.  The crust is chewy.  It toasts OK but not like the rye I used to get. The dough just doesn't seem to rise anymore.  I dislike the heavy, dense loaf.  The flavor is OK, the kitchen smells nice!

I get my ingredients from (White Rye, Clear, SAF IDY).  I've fired them some questions, but amidst this COVID crisis I'm sure they have their hands full just running the business... so I've never heard back from them....

It would seem, based on my many, many hours online, that Jewish Rye bread has pretty much disappeared from the American landscape, and the secrets, like that wonderful shiny, cracked crust, have slipped into History.

Apologies in advance (I had a heck of a time with the website today....)  Any help is greatly appreciated.  I had no idea trying to bake sour rye would turn into an obsession for someone who definitely is NOT a baker..

idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL!

You mention the upper heating element.  Is this a convection oven?

Are you baking with or without fan?

Is there a lower heating element?

Are you able to bake with only the lower element, not using the fan?

cfraenkel's picture

but I have baked my fair share of rye breads trying to replicate the deli rye of my youth.  My first thought is that I have never in all my years of baking fussed so much over a starter.  I take it out of the fridge, mix in some water that I let sit on the counter (to let the chlorine out) add the flour and just wait until it is bubbly and (at the beginning when I wasn't sure when it was ready) do the float test.

I have had great success with Hamelman's Deli Rye Bread recipe - the flavour is perfect. 

As for the shiny crust, my research tells me that bakeries often brush with a mix of cornstarch and water - something I have never done (allergic to corn) but if that is your goal, you might try it.

Good luck, and happy baking.

idaveindy's picture

It sounds very over-fermented.

"240 gr light rye sour......

1 1/2 Tablespoon of IDY."

That seems like 3 times the amount of dry yeast needed for a loaf that size, when it already has a levain/starter.  Especially with 100 degree water, and 96 degree levain/starter. No wonder the dough flattens and you get  negligible oven rise for a mostly white flour loaf. 

There might have been a transcription/copying error somewhere in the transmission of the recipe.

Maybe try 1.5 teaspoons of IDY.

idaveindy's picture

"The recipe I'm leveraging says ..."

I'm not clear on what you mean by "leveraging?

Can you link to, or post, the original recipe if it is different than what you describe above? Thx.

I_hate_ads's picture

My oven is a conventional and convection oven.  My old oven was too, but in convention mode, it would heat the top element and toast my bread as it baked.  The temps would swung wildly, as the over turned on to heat to back off, back on, etc.  I decided to shield my bread with the perforated pizza pan.  I do not have a lower heating coil that's visible.  This new oven does seem to be a hybrid in that I notice the fan goes on (even when just doing conventional bake) when the unit is heating and so my perforated pan may not be necessary.

As for sour and getting it going...  I've learned (right here from TFL) that sour has to be active before being used.  I store my sour in my fridge.  From my experience, if you take if from the fridge, mix it as is, the results are less than satisfactory. The sour is cold, 36-38  degrees?  It's gone dormant.  The sour has to be very active.  I've let is sit at room temp for 3 hours and it gets going great guns.  I tried taking the sour out the night before a bake in the AM and it probably rose extremely well, but then used up all the food.  I baked a loaf and it just didn't turn out very good, i think the sour was 'exhausted'.  Now I've short cutted that with heating it gently to get it super active very quickly.  So now when I bake in the morning, I can get my sour going, it's still strong, and ready to use by the time I finish my breakfast....

I've been experimenting with the amount of sour and it seems, at least from aroma, the more sour the more aroma.  Is there such a thing as too much sour?  I don't know ....

The recipe I've started with and have experimented with was posted in a blog by a very nice (and apparently accomplished)  lay person who's site is the   You can go to that sight and look for Jewish Rye Bread.   I was not able to understand how to handle the dough and so could not replicate the recipe exactly.  So I have a different process for HANDLING the dough.  I also found that i had to reduce the hydration and have gotten better (but not great results).  That recipe is expressed in volume.  I've converted to weight and now have done adjustments trying to get good results.

Yes, the recipe is Tablespoons of IDY.  I specifically asked the blogger and yes, it is 1 1/2 tablespoons.

As for shine, yes I've seen all sorts of strategies, butter, egg wash, corn starch, etc.  What I can't understand is how a commercial bakery could do that making dozens and dozens of loaves.  How do you hand brush 50, 75, or a hundred loaves of rye bread?    I've tried the cornstarch and it wasn't substantially better than just water but I'm still experimenting with.

I can't believe I'm this fussy either as my normal baking (consisting of quick breads) is basic approximations and throwing stuff together.  I've read a number of posts here and it became clear I needed to at least have a consistent process that's known/understood/documented.  I was making bread once a week with the same recipe and was getting different results.  If I was going to make adjustments I figured I had to have a repeatable baseline.  So know as I make adjustments, at least I'm moving from a known point.

As for over-proofing, I don't know...  If so I wouldn't have the issue where the loaf doesn't rise enough.  I'd have too much rise, and the loaf would collapse.  I check the loaf periodically as it rises.  It never reaches a peak and then deflates.  The loaf just doesn't seem to rise robustly and become 'light'.  It's a dense, heavy loaf.  The bottom layer looks compacted, all squished down.  

I'm trying to replicate the rye I got for many, many years.  My grandmother would call it half and half rye.  It wasn't a swirl rye of pumpernickel and light, it was a light, sour rye.  As I searched Jewish rye and recipes I learned quickly it's white/light rye with first clear flour.  I wondered, was my grandmother calling it half and half because it was 1/2 rye flour and 1/2 clear?  So that's basically what I've been working towards, is getting a loaf 1/2 rye , 1/2 clear strictly on the assumption my grandmother knew something about that bread. 


idaveindy's picture

Mini Oven.  She is the TFL rye expert.


there seem to be three  things going on:

1. your dough has low hydration, 57%, so there might have been an error in your adaptation from  cups to grams, or how you make the sour.

2. with the fan blowing (and it has to come on if there is only an upper element), and  because there is no lower heating element, you might need a baking vessel (cloche, dutch oven, etc) to protect the loaf  crust from drying and setting too soon.  That is why the inside is undercooked while the outside looks done.

generally speaking, if your electric oven does not have a lower heating element, you can't cook a bare loaf, and need to use dutch oven or cloche. After the loaf is mostly done, then you can uncover it to brown tbe crust.

3. your description of the crumb sounds like over-fermentation.


I did follow the link to the recipe. I am not a rye expert, but it does look curious. It looks like it has very little margin for error.  so you may be better off looking for a rye recipe that is already in grams, so it won't need to be adapted.

Small adjustments are common, but once you start making adaptations or substitutions to someone else's recipe, all bets are off, and it's hard to arrive at the intended result.


I'm pretty sure Mini Oven can point you to some easier rye recipes that match your goal.

 Though with a convection oven, you will have to turn off convection mode, or get a dutch-oven/cloche or some other covered pot/pan/roaster or inverted oven-safe bowl.

Good luck!  I know a good rye bread is a worthy goal.

I_hate_ads's picture

It's been my experience that adding more water, leads to less rise and a big fat rye pancake. There's nothing to hold the dough together (in my experience).  You start with a nice 5" ball after kneading and after an hour the dough is 2" high, spread out across the pastry board.  That's why I have been reducing hydration to hold the kneaded ball in a ball shape and get something that looks like the bread I used to get.

Over-fermentation?  I've let the dough rise for an hour and I get a dense loaf, 75 mins a dense loaf, 90 mins a dense loaf, etc. etc.  Am I using too much sour?  Am I using too much IDY?  Is IDY the incorrect yeast to use?  is 375 degrees the 'right' temp. should I reduce to 350 or leave at 375.  Is 70 mins enough?  Is an internal temp to 208/209 too low?  Is my sour too active?  Is the water temp of 100 too favorable of an environment for the IDY?  As my Polish grandmom would say Ouy Yae ...

The recipe I'm leveraging calls for much MORE sour and water than I'm using.  I'm at a loss to handle sticky rye dough to clings to your hands like sap from a pine tree or the LaBraea tar pits.   How do you form a mass that won't hold a shape into a nice circular but 5" oval loaf.  Certainly the bakery I used to get rye from didn't use any vessel. I figured, since they were a large bakery that had retail but sold through other stores, they didn't have time to dole over each loaf.  I can only assume they mixed several hundred pounds of dough, divided it out, shaped it, put it on racks to rise, baked it and took it out for sale.  Other than a quick dock at some point in the bake cycle, I just can't image how they large scale baked!!!

I'm all for finding a better sour rye recipe of adjusting what I have so far.   Part of me thinks, it shouldn't be THAT hard.  Simple ingredients; rye, clear, water, yeast, salt and caraway (I think).

thanks much.

idaveindy's picture

I feel your frustration, bro. Let's back up a bit and see where things are at...

1. do I understand correctly that you've only done "quick breads"  before trying this Jewish rye?   Is this your first yeasted loaf recipe? 

2. You've never used sourdough before this, correct?

3. You've made enough changes to the Jewish Rye that you essentially are now inventing your own rye recipe. This isn't adapting or leveraging, this is exploring unknown territory.  Pioneers always get surprises.   Therefore, lots of mistakes and frustrations are to be expected.

It's hard to learn baking without having a mentor at your elbow to first show you things, and then explain why, if things go wrong.

4. while your modern convection-only oven is okay for loaves in a _pan_ , like quick-breads, it is  inappropriate and not applicable for a _bare_ loaf.  I can almost promise you that your mother's and grandmother's electic ovens had _lower_ heating elements for baking.  Bro, this oven just won't work for a bare loaf, no matter if you get the recipe perfect.

The only ways I know of to "make do" or "work around" with a convection-only home oven, is to use a loaf pan, or have a  closed or covered _baking vessel_ as previously described.  It's either use a baking vessel or use a conventional bottom-heat electric oven.  (Commercial convection ovens with steam injection can be exceptions.) Gas ovens also require a baking vessel, or baking in a _pan_.

If you have a toaster oven with separately controlable top and bottom elements, (and if it has a fan, keep it off), that would be better than a convection-only oven for bare bread.

5. Having not used sourdough before, your rye-sour is likely "off" in some respect, like maybe  degraded proteins or too acidic. You/we just don't know, because you don't yet have a base-line of sourdough success to compare it to.

Net:  Stop. Back up. Set aside this recipe that is causing you so much frustration.  It's not worth it. Things are going on that no online  helper can see. And your convection-only oven also limits things.

Suggestion: look for a rye and white flour recipe that is only: rye flour, regular grocery store white flour (AP flour or Bread flour), water, salt, dry yeast.

Forget about "first clear flour" for a while. That is too advanced a topic for a beginner. Stick to name brand grocery store flour, like Gold Medal or King Arthur to establish a base of easy to replicate success.  

Look for a recipe that specifies what kind of rye flour, as there are so many and the names get confusing.

Look for one that says to bake in a loaf pan, because that is all your oven can handle until you get a covered baking thingee.  

Even with a loaf pan, because it is  a convection-only oven, you will have to "tent" the loaf with aluminum foil, so the top crust doesn't get over-done and dried out while the inside is under-done.  

Even then, some recipes say to take the loaf out of the pan at some point, and bake bare for just  a couple minutes, so the bottom and sides get nicely done.

Good luck, amigo. Take it slow. Take baby steps. We all start that way. That is, unless you want to spend big bucks going to Cordon Bleu school.

I_hate_ads's picture

Yep, baking has been limited to quick breads and fresh pizza dough (Anito Caputo 000), 24-48 hour ferment and occasional pies, cinnamon rolls, etc.  (when the mood strikes).

Re: the oven - darn, darn, darn.  It's brand new built-in with microwave and was pretty darn expensive, drat.  I can understand the fan kicking on during heat cycle can have an adverse affect, but it doesn't account for the mediocre dough rise. it might account for other elements, but it has to at least start with a good rise.

Nope, never used/baked with sourdough before.  The sour seems fine but as you say, no baseline.  Smells fermented.  I've tasted nearly every loaf, at least part.  Anyone I've doled it out to says, good.  Some have said it was excellent (but think they were just being nice).    I haven't poisoned anyone! (thankfully).

Recipe.  Started with the one from and based on not so good results, had to make changes, note them and continue adjusting.  I'm not experimenting for science, I'm just trying to figure out what's going on.

I'll snoop for other tested recipes and no I have no desire to become a baker.  Quite frankly I have no idea why I'm obsessing over sour rye bread you can no longer buy.  As I approach retirement I guess it's a natural thing to desire the things of life past you simply can no longer have.

idaveindy's picture

"I can understand the fan kicking on during heat cycle can have an adverse affect, but it doesn't account for the mediocre dough rise. it might account for other elements, but it has to at least start with a good rise."

Yes, I agree. But as I said  _There are multiple issues_  going on here. It's multi-dimensional, and it's near impossible to learn/adjust in multiple dimensions simultaneously ... too many factors are in play that are  at cross-purposes with each other.  That's why I suggest backing up, and learning one thing at a time.

Rye is a different animal from wheat. Rye is an advanced subject for bakers. And you don't yet have a "base line" to work from....  neither yeast nor sourdough.   IOW, you're going at it blind.

We haven't even gotten into how to build a "starter" into a "levain" or "sour" and feeding schedules and feeding ratios.  Those are among the other things that could be sabotaging your rye loaf if you did not learn to do those properly.

Starter feeding/maintenance is among the top tripping-up points for beginners. If you let it build up too much acid, it ruins your dough.

i really want to emphasize: a) Rye is not wheat.  b) "first clear flour" is not "regular" flour.  It's kind of like a hybrid between white and whole wheat.

as a matter of fact, Caputo 00 pizzeria flour is not "regular" flour either, as you've likely noticed.

Lofty goals are great, but it's easier when you start small and work your way up.

Don't worry about the oven.  A cast iron dutch oven, or even a Graniteware type roaster will work fine.  A $14 cordierite baking stone with an inverted stainless steel bowl from Walmart can work too.

 But just try a simple yeasted rye + white (AP/Bread) flour pan loaf, with a little caraway, and work up to sourdough. 

idaveindy's picture

Here's a simple recipe for rye. I have not tried it, but it comes highly rated, from 199 raters, and 175 reviews:

Dark rye flour in this case will be "whole grain rye", such as Bob's Red Mill, not Bay State's definition of dark rye, which has more % bran than whole grain.

Do not try this with your light rye flour. Use actual whole grain rye _flour_, not rye "meal", not "pumperknickel."

also has KA  Bread flour (use this exact brand if at all possible), dry yeast, and common ingredients.  In a loaf pan.  Be sure to use the aluminum foil for at least the first 1/2 of the bake.  Taking internal temp is a good idea. (I got an electronic probe type thermo for under $15 on Amazon.)

If you don't have a mixer, don't worry, just mix/knead by hand a bit extra.

If you can't find demerara sugar at the store, use white table sugar,  but substitute out 1 tsp white sugar for 1 tsp light brown sugar.  Or substitute out 1/2 tsp white sugar for 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar.

Don't try to convert to grams. Just follow the recipe as is.  Maybe stir up or sift the flour so it is not packed when you scoop it.


This may not be be "Authentic" NY Jewish rye you're looking for. (you eventually will need a rye sour.)  But it's an easy first step to get your feet wet.  

Bon appétit.

I_hate_ads's picture

Ok I chucked my sour and will make a new one.   I've got to be honest my sour seemed perfectly fine UNTIL Sunday.  I fed it like do weekly but after an hour there was't much activity.  I had miscalculated my feed and add too much water.  After a bit it just didn't seem correct and didn't have that sweet beer smell... So I disposed of it.

I just found that KA finally (after 5 months)  has both white rye and first clear back in stock so I bought some AND 1 oz of their ridiculously expensive sour starter....  I'll retry when they arrive.  Their sour will give me a bit of baseline but I'm guessing their's is a wheat sour, not a rye sour.   Here's pics of last bake to give you and idea of where I'm at... It's not bad/horrible, but the dough does not want to rise UP.  It just wants to spread out.  I came across a Vital Wheat Gluten product from KA and based on description might give that a try...

I'll look into one of the simple recipes cited and see what I might learn there...



dmsnyder's picture

Here are a couple links that may help you. One is to my recipe which is derived from Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker." It produces a classic Jewish Sour Rye reliably. I provided rather detailed instructions. The second link is to a tutorial for the rye sour I use in this bread.

Jewish Sour Rye: an update

Care and feeding of a rye sour

I hope this helps.

Happy baking!


I_hate_ads's picture

I don't know what the problem is with this website but there's a mega problem.  another 1/2 hour st tho log on.  Funny I visit dozens of other websites and there are no issues....

thanks for the suggestions!  I'll press on to try most suggestions (I draw the line at baking any loaf that has the words "authentic" and "Jewish" and "Pickle Juice" together...  Here's my latest iteration for any so interested...


240 gr Water at 100 degrees

240 gr rye sour at 150% hydration (KA Whte Rye)

150 gr white rye (KA)

425 gr First Clear (KA)

1 TBL IDY SAF gold

1 TBL Salt

2 1/2 TBL Vital Wheat Gluten (KA)

1/4 Cup caraway seeds

Mix above (Kitchen Aide) until dough balls up around dough hook and pulls clearly from sides

Knead by hand 5 mins (OK I cheated and gave up after ?2 -3mins)

1 Hr rise in warm place (I used my microwave, having boiled a cup of water in it)

Punch down/preform the dough

10 min rest

Form into ball, place on corn meal dusted parchment

Place cast iron pan in over, preheat to 375 degrees

45 min rise in warm place (back into microwave)

Brush with corn starch/water (2 heaping tsp corn starch + 1 cup water, brought to boil then cooled down)

Xfer into oven and add 4 oz of water to cast iron pan

Allow 15 mins in oven, then brush with corn starch again and dock with BBQ skewers

Place HUGE bowl over bread as it bakes, reduce to 350 degrees**

Bake 65 mins (remove bowl last 15 mins)


**My oven is a new style with top elements and fan.  Although I select conventional bake the fan kicks on when the top element kicks on and so it's like a convection oven.  I use a huge stainless steel mixing bowl to protect my bread as it bakes.  The rise is OK, the color is good, no tears, oven spring is pretty good. some people say taste is excellent, I say OK.  YMMV!



idaveindy's picture

"but there's a mega problem. another 1/2 hour st tho log on. "

It sounds like you are getting hung up on the Captcha screen where you have to prove you are not a robot. That is Google,  not this web site.

Look for the red message that says "please try again".  that means you either did not click the needed squares, or you clicked ones that should not have been clicked.

It is not always obvious.  And here's the explanation:

You have to click on _all_ the squares that show _any part_ of the objects you are supposed to look for: bus, vehicle, stairs, crosswalks, motorcycle, bicycles, etc.

Sometimes the pictures of the cars and buses are small or fuzzy. So if you have poor eyesight, you can miss them. 

Sometimes, the square goes blank (instead of showing a check mark). In that case, you have to wait for a new picture to appear, and see if it needs clicked too.

If you are using a phone or small tablet, you may have to expand the screen to see sufficient detail.

There are 3 tricky things to know about:

1) If you are not in the US, you might not understand. The "walk/ wait" or "walk/don't walk"  lights are NOT traffic lights !!  those are the ones just above head level. Do not click/check those. It took me a long time to figure that out.  

2) If a traffic light (the green/yellow/red type light) extends across multiple squares, the extreme edges of the light's housing should NOT be checked!  It took me a long time to figure that out.

3) If you see the BACKSIDE of a traffic light, that is the side opposite the bulbs, that needs checked.... I think. 

Terribly sorry to hear about your troubles logging on.  But it really does sound like a misunderstanding of what needs clicked/checked and what does not.  And remember those disappearing/reappearing pictures, they get me almost every time.