The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye Sourdough, tacky/sticky, and 'Room Temperature'

gmask1's picture

Rye Sourdough, tacky/sticky, and 'Room Temperature'

Hi all,

 I'm hesitant to post as I'm certain that my questions have been answered elsewhere on the 'net, however I'll ask anyway...

 I've been carefully working away at my very first starter, with the intention of making a 100% rye loaf. It's winter here, and the starter has taken a while to get moving; now it looks good, and over the weekend I decided to take a shot at making something with it. I used the 100% sourdough rye recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice, as this was one of only two or three recipes that didn't mix wheat into the rye flour (this is important for us).

 At the end of the baking, my first two loaves resembled, well, heavy projectiles with a solid crumb and no rise until they went into the oven. I figure that the writing was on the wall, as the first ferment (barm into firm starter as per the recipe) and second ferment (starter into final dough) had no real rise occuring.

 I see two questions presenting, that I'd love to get some experienced advice on!

- first, many receipes suggest 'room temperature' for water, standing dough for fermenting, etc. Our house temperature is around 60 degrees F, and I suspect it's too low to qualify for fermenting and the water temperature. Should I be raising the temperature of water going into the dough, and is there a particular temperature that you'd suggest I aim for to encourage good rising/fermentation?

- secondly, recipes suggest that dough be sticky or tacky at the early stages, but I'm not quite sure I'm able to recognize or distinguish these states yet. Are there any online videos/pictures that might highlight what these mean - especially for a rye dough?

 Thanks so much for any help you can provide a budding baker! :)

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, gmask1.

Welcome to TFL!

My definition of "sticky" is, when you touch the dough, some sticks to you fingers when you pull them off (the dough). "Tacky" means there is a feeling of adhesion when you pull your fingers off the dough, but the fingers come away clean.

60F is too cold for activating sourdough starter, fermenting dough or proofing loaves. You need to make yourself some sort of "proofing box." The simplest and cheapest is a bare light bulb on a cord stuck in a covered cardboard or styrefoam box. Some use a microwave oven in which they have first brought a cup of water to a boil, or an oven which has been turned on briefly. Ideally, you want an ambient temperature of 70-75 degrees.

Disclaimer: I have lots of experience baking rye bread but none making proofing boxes.

Good luck!


gmask1's picture

Thanks so much for the speedy reply - I'm quite keen to try again, even after the brick-like first results!

 It seems like my most immediate requriement will be tracking down a proofing box- your suggestions look sound to me, and I'll give them a try. I think that our house will make a wonderful baking house in the summer (naturally cool all year), but right now it's being rather uncooperative

 Thanks also for the descriptions of what the dough looks and feels like when the experts suggest tacky and sticky. I'm always worried that I'm adding too much water to the flour, but now I at least have a better idea of what I should be looking for.


Thanks again!

campcook's picture

I live in the desert but our winters are cool and we keep the heat off so our typical mid day temperature is in the middle to high 60's.  I solve the problem by using the oven as a proofing box.  It has an incandescent oven light.  If i leave it on the temperature inside stays around 75 to 78 degrees.


an engineer trying to bake good bread.  Have Nutrimill

audra36274's picture

a pan of boiling water. I boil it then sit it on the bottom of the oven, with the light on, place the covered dough inside and watch it happily do its thing. The dough seems to like the warm humid environment very well. Only hangup is that I don't have two ovens so when it is time to preheat, you have to disturb it. Also it never fails that when I am in the "bread zone" I also seem to want to do other things that require the oven at the same time. Alas.....


knit1bake1's picture

I use a big storage container, which I turn upside down. In the winter I put boiled water in a small container in with the dough. I heat up the water every now and then. In the winter my kitchen is at around 65. Sometimes I put the dough in the oven with some hot water, but that doesn't work once the oven needs to preheat, obviously.

dougal's picture

Hi Gmask1 - I have noted that you said the fact that the recipe used rye without wheat "was important" to you.


I'm sure you are well able to recognise that trying to start baking on an entirely rye, sourdough-leavened project is jumping in at the very deepest part of the deep end of the pool for your first swimming lesson!


So, I'm wondering if you have 100% checked out that the wheat aversion is actually to wheat, and not to any of the myriad of much stranger (and easy to react against) things that get put in commercial/industrial bread?

Many people find slow-risen (and ultimately sourdough) bread, made with basic ingredients and avoiding technological helpers, to be much easier to cope with than commercially/industrially produced bread.

Another area to explore is that of not-quite-wheats, like Spelt - which are renowned for being acceptable to many for whom 'wheat' is not an option.

Making excellent, light bread with Spelt is a much more readily achievable goal than trying to do the same with a 100% Rye.

gmask1's picture

Hi dougal!

The reason I want/need to do rye is twofold. The easy... fold... is that it's a comfort thing, and I know that rye bread is ok to eat. Much like 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

The second reason is the scienc-y one. It's called Fructose Malabsorption, and while I don't pretend to understand it, I do know that the 'fructans' - chains of fructose - in wheat are of the nasties that makes life miserable. Fruit is another nasty, along with other wonderful foods like honey and onions. So we - my partner and I - cook up sauces and meats without onions, avoid fruit (while having to explain that the food choices aren't for a celiac, please bring out the ice cream and and not a fruit platter!).

Having saturated myself in bread making books, websites such as this one, I am aware that rye bread is not the preferred option for a first shot! I'm determined though, so I'm going to persevere as best as I can! I'll also take a look into Spelt, though I'm not really scienc-y enough to recognize it's qualities right away - more reading to be done...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hi there, welcome to TFL.   I was reading about your concerns and whould like to ask you what you can & like to eat?  We have a few bakers here that bake specialty diet breads and maybe they might have some ideas too.  

On another point, most 100% rye doughs have no strength, so be prepared to bake it in some kind of mold or form: casserole, tin, loaf pan, ovenproof bowl, any form that opens _/ and not _).  You will most likely need a metal candy thermometer to check for doneness.  Ryes do need a longer bake than wheat and sometimes hard to tell when they are done, a thermometer can help.  A 100% rye will not look like a wheat loaf at all, it will not be light and fluffy, it will be heavier and moister and you cut it thinner, really thin.  It will be rich in flavour and improves with age.  Nuts are often added but don't have to be.  How are you on seeds? 

Mini O

gmask1's picture

Hi Mini Oven!

On the topic of foods that we make - vegetables are always in, as are chicken and fish. So a Salmon Patty dusted in rye breadcrumbs is excellent. There's room for a little red meat, so minced steak (no onion) in a potato flour dough is good. Tuna bakes, Shephards Pie (mince and potato), Rye bread for toast, Rice as a side dish - all are good.

Thanks for the information about the rye loaves, I'll keep it all in mind for my next attempt! 

jackl1's picture

how about this . . . a cooler with a bowl of boiling water. That way you can use your oven. You can even install a "peep hole" in it (if its styrofoam) using plastic wrap. Make a bowl of popcorn and watch the show!

nbicomputers's picture

I would like to see the forumla for tjat bread?

since rye has no proten (gluten0 forming at all) I Would expect a heavy gumy dough and finished bread is all you would get.

a jewish type rye is only 40-50% rye sour starter based on the weight of the flour used in the finished dough (which clear flour is the most popularly used)  A heavy sour rye bread (corn Bread) is 100% based on the flour

examole 1 pound sour starter to 1 pound of clear flour that mayes a very sticky hard to handle douth. 100% rye wouls be like stiff paste