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Pure Sourdough Rye, year 1939

Shiao-Ping's picture

Pure Sourdough Rye, year 1939

With this basket of assorted pure rye breads I wish to tantalize your taste buds and tease you with these pure sourdough rye: 



                                                                      Assorted pure rye breads

Centre bottom: Sour Rye, year 1939 (recipe from Mariana-aga's most informative and beautiful post on Russian rye here)

Right: Jan Hedh's Sour 100% Rye Bread (recipe from Dan Lepard's The handmade loaf, page 31) 

Top: Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye (recipe from Hamelman's Bread, page 201)


Like most Asians, I have not grown up with rye, an acquired taste, many would admit.  I am from an area of the Chinese world where "fish and rice, and other luscious colors of food exist," as the saying goes.  My parents would think very little of rye.  You may have already been a convert but it took me a lot of efforts.  As Dan Lepard says of rye bread, "What was once the bread of the poor has become the staple of the rich man's table" (The handmande loaf, page 66), I am excited that finally I have had a glimpse into what some bakers are passionate about.  I hope that, with the following photos taken from my kitchen table, you will share my enthusiasm.



                             A close-up shot of Sour Rye, year 1939, a lot of soul....  I must be imagining.


(1) Sour Rye, year 1939, from Mariana-aga's blog post here.

  • 350 g ripe 100%-hydration rye levain
  • 420 g medium rye flour
  • 308 warm water
  • 14 g salt
  1. Rye starter: 83% baker's percentage
  2. Prefermented flour: 29% of total flour
  3. Overall hydration: 81%
  4. Fermentation: 2 hours bulk + 35 - 50 minutes proof
  5. Total dough weight: 1,090 grams

Refer to Mariana-aga's link above for method.   I used Google to translate Russian to English.  The translation does not always make sense, but does the job alright.  Where you find gaps, you can fill them in with your own imaginations. 


The instruction says you smooth out the surface of the dough with wet fingers "frequently."  Whenever I saw "cracks" developing on the crust, I smoothed them out with wet fingers and/or my plastic scraper dipped in water.  I ended up doing this every 20 minutes or so throughout the fermentation.  I covered the dough with a big roasting pan.




The style of this bread is unlike anything I've made before.  I asked my son how he liked the bread in the picture.  Instead of saying he finds it unattractive, he politely asked where I got this strange looking basket.  I said from a garden and plants nursery.  I used to do a lot of flower arrangements and I have my fair share of strange looking vessels. 





A mate of my husbands, who comes regularly for morning coffee, was here the day before yesterday when I was slicing this bread after it had rested for 24 hours.  The first thing he said after having a piece was, "This sourdough rye is sour and tangy!"  AND, he liked it very much.   I had a couple of thin slices myself with butter.  Very tasty and moist.  I surprised myself.  It is medium strength sourness, very pleasant.   I think that the flavourfulness comes through in the crumb shots above and below quite well.   



I like this bread the most out of the three pure rye breads pictured in the basket above.  The reason why this is so is because this bread was the last one out of more than half a dozen pure rye breads that I made over the last two weeks - my rye starter up to that point was full of vigour and had developed a lot of flavors when I used it to make the bread.


(2) Jan Hedh's Sour 100% Rye Bread, from Dan Lepard's The handmade loaf, page 31. 

  1. Rye starter: 67% baker's percentage
  2. Prefermented flour: 35% of total flour
  3. Overall hydration: 85%
  4. Fermentation: no bulk + 5 hours proof
  5. Total dough weight: 850 grams

According to Dan Lepard, Jan Hedh has inspired the new generation of artisan bakers in Sweden.  Dan's book has lots of wonderful formulas and stories, but the book's unassuming appearance and colorful pictures are perhaps too easy going for the serious home bakers.  I don't seem to see a lot of his recipes being used here.  I find his book a seriously good book. 




This formula is interesting in that it uses a gelatinized rye mix (4 parts boiling water to 1 part rye flour).  Not just it gives elasticity to the crumb, it also makes the bread very moist and as a result, the bread has even a better keeping quality than the other two breads.  Chinese use a similar gelatinized flour mix called "65 degree C dough" with similar flour to hot water ratio and for similar purposes.




(Note: the above two shots were taken at night time.  The reddish tone is due to the yellow spot light in my kitchen and is not reflective of the real color.) 


(3) Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye, from Hamelman's Bread, page 201.

  1. Rye starter: 119% baker's percentage
  2. Prefermented flour: 38% of total flour
  3. Overall hydration: 79%
  4. Fermentation: 20 minutes bulk + 1 hour proof
  5. Total dough weight: 1,640 grams






This was my second try on the Detmolder formula. 






My Detmolder sour rye was made before the first two breads in this post above and is not as tasty as those two breads.  One possible explanation is that my rye starter used in this bread was not as robust to start with. 

Two days after I made this Detmolder bread, I made it again - my third try in five days.  Talk about a keen baker!  I did it again not because I wanted to see how I could improve on this bread, but more because I wanted to keep feeding my rye levain and I didn't want to throw the excess out.  You wouldn't believe what happened - as I tried to turn the proved dough onto my peel, half of the dough fell out while the other half stuck to the banneton.  A disaster!  I told myself, Calm Down.  I gathered the dough fragments together, reshaped it, and put it back to the banneton.  An hour later, when I tried to turn it out again, the exact same thing happened!  At that point I was in two minds about whether I chuck it or bake it.  In the end I decided that either way it is a goner, and so why not do an experiment with it and watch the show.  I recalculated my ratios and added some more water to change the dough to a 100%-hydration dough.  I put it into a loaf tin this time.  I wanted to see what would happen to the dough with this much hydration and supported by a loaf tin.  Well, I had the most spectacular oven spring ever with pure rye dough (well, 90%, almost pure)!    



      Detmolder 90% Rye @100% hydration and 6 hr fermentation (not pictured in the bread basket above)  


By the time the dough was in the oven, what was supposed to be fermented for only one hour and 20 minutes had gone through a six-hour fermentation.  I was amazed at the amount of oven spring.  I am sure this has to do with the 100% hydration.  It had risen about 30% before it went into the oven, then in the oven it rose another 70 - 80%.  The crumb was quite open - you cannot not have an open cell structure with this much oven spring.  The gumminess on the top and bottom edges of the slice pictured below is the "starch attack" due to excessive amylase activity that caused the break down of the dough structure during the bake, I guess.



The dark, almost chocolate, color in the crumb is natural.  It is achieved through the long fermentation.  I haven't seen a natural dark rye color like this before!    

And the taste?  Well, unpleasant, to say the least!  It has a pungent pickled sour taste, almost like when the pickle is off.  Neverthelss, this experiment has got me excited about an idea for my next pure rye bread experiment along these lines: 

  1. 30% prefermented flour
  2. Rye starter 80% bakers percentage
  3. 100% overall dough hydration
  4. 3 hours (or shorter) fermentation, assisted with, say, 05% IDY


To recap: the 1939 Sour Rye is the most flavorful because the rye starter was at its best condition when the dough was mixed and also because I took more care with the dough.   Jan Hedh's Sour Rye is the most moist because of the gelatinized rye mix that is incorporated in the dough.  Overall, I like all three breads pictured in the basket above.  

I have but one complaint:  that their crusts are too tough to cut; you need a chain sword to slice the bread.  The tough crusts are a result of the long bake which I am told that you need for this particular type of flour.  The average baking time for a 1 kg dough according to both Mariana-aga and Hamelman is one hour at initial high heat of 250 - 260 C for 10 - 15 minutes, then gradually lowering the heat to 200 - 210C.  My Thiezac pure rye bread, on the other hand, was 1.8 kg and I baked it for only one hour and it was perfectly cooked.  So I don't know.  The Thiezac bread was far easier to slice. 

I am ending this post with another bread basket but this time with the breads all wrapped up in thick tea towels:




I am going to enjoy these three breads over the next week or two and observe the changes in tastes and flavors.  Rye enthusiasts would be familiar with Hamelman's story where, as a young man in the 1970s, hiking the Long Trail through Vermont, he picked up the last of his food provision from a post office, a five-week old Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye where the bread still "had a crisp tang, a moist crumb, delicious flavor, and not a hint of mold."  How extraordinary is that!  I am not sure mine would stay like that after one week, or, rather, are like that to begin with, let alone after five weeks! 





My wife is from Saint Petersburg and made this translation last night.  A recipe we will try tonight.

Form:  Mariana_aga Pure Sourdough Rye, year 1939

 Recipe makes 2 loaves at 1kilo each


750g Rye Start    (She never mentioned using yeast, guess it is assumed)

(410g Rye and 340ml of water)


Additional ingredients

900g Rye Flour

30g Salt

660ml of very warm water


First dissolve salt in water

Mix water/salt solution with starter

Very quickly add flower and mix

Now let ferment for 2 hours

 Dough is now ready to form into two loaves

She mentions to take wet wooden spoon and place dough on a table

Using wet hands make two loaves

Now Proof for 35 to 50 minutes (There is no mention of using an oven for proofing)

Loaves need to double.   She also mentioned taking a small piece of dough

and placing in a glass container as a doubling guide.  When it doubles the

Dough is ready.

While the dough is rising using wet hands to smooth out surface or cover dough

with plastic

 Before placing in oven use wet hands to wet the dough and then place on

Baking sheet

 Set oven temperature at 260c (500f) and then place dough in oven

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes

Now lower temperature to 200c (392f) and bake 30 min if ½ kilo or 1 hour

for 1 kilo loaves

Once baked remove bread and brush with water

She now says to wrap bread in towels and then cover with plastic and

Wait until tomorrow

(Black and Tasty)







Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

I had somuch trouble understanding this from the Google translation!

Thank you very much!

Starter is rye sourdough - not yeast.

Thanks again,



Shiao-Ping's picture

What a treat for all of us. Thank you for sharing with us.  Shiao-Ping



Even though she mentions baking sheet I am not seeing that at her web site.

I only see bread baking pans or a dish.

Not sure, but I will try the baking sheet.

I think the French Bell would also work well on this recipe


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Richart,

A quick translation into Baker's Percent gives me this formula:

Rye SourWeight(g)Percent
Rye Flour 41031
Mature Culture??
Rye Flour90069
Rye Sour75057


(Hydration of the rye sour is 83%)

At 76% overall hydration this bread will do well in a tin as well as freestanding.

The photo in Mariana's blog shows shaped loaves, one in a tin, one on parchament.

I suppose the one on parchament would go into the oven on a baking sheet.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

and it turned out to be one of the best breads I ever made (even if I say so myself).

I followed the above translation closely, the Rye sour has been inoculated with 10% of my rye starter from the fridge (100%HL).

I used warm water to mix the Rye sour, and kept the sour and the final dough at about 26C.

The given times were very accurate at that temperature with my materials. 

I used a banneton, but wouldn't recommend it. Fully proofed the loaf is very sticky and fragile, and I am lucky it came out of the basket in one piece.

Here is a crumb shot:

The crumb feels light and elastic, but not wet. The taste is tangy and very aromatic.

The translated formula has a lot of similarities to the Detmolder Single step formula I usually use, but the outcome is in a class of its own.

Thank you, Siao Ping to draw the attention to this, and Thank you Richard, fot posting the translation.


Btw. the bread at the bottom of the photo is a "Berliner Landbrot", 70% light rye + 30% bread flour

Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Juergen, your Pure Sourdough Rye Year 1939 is indeed a class of its own.  Thank you for sharing your photo.  I would love to try it one day.  Shiao-Ping 

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

for your kind words, Shiao-Ping. They mean a lot to me.

It was your post about Gerard Rubaud that brought me to TFL and finally turned me into a bread nerd!


Shiao-Ping's picture

Whenever anyone mentions the word Russia I think it is so foreign to me. Rightly or wrongly, rye flour conjures up the image of Russia for me, and the snow and the cold. A few times my husband suggested that the family go to visit Russia, my daughter would cheer but my son would be silent. Rye flour is really a very exotic flour for a southern Chinese. I think your Pure Sourdough Rye Year 1939 is so exotic, even though I am the one who did the post in the first place. Two years or so ago when I did the Pure Sourdough Rye Year 1939 I must have done it to conquer the snow and the cold that I felt for Russia. I think your rye sourdough bread looks so delicious that somehow has narrowed the distance that I felt between Russia and me.

Yesterday my sister and I went to a beautiful restaurant called Shi-Yang in the outskirts of Taipei. After two hours of train ride plus bus and taxi, we arrived at a Shangrila sort of a place … far away:









 The same way as rye sourdough bread has been exotic to me, I hope these pictures are exotic to you.  Thank you for sharing your pure rye sourdough year 1939 with me.



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


I must apologise for the late reply.

There is lots going on in my family at the moment. And the UL TFL-meeting coming up...

Your pictures of the restaurant transmit the calmness we need so much these days. Thank you very much.

Dark rye breads were quite rare in the area of Germany where I grew up. It might be for the reason that this part (Black Forest / Freiburg) has been Austrian for some time, and is so close to France. I learned to appreciate the dark ryes only when I moved to Frankfurt, 26 years old.

And although half of my output as a home baker these days is dark rye (about 3 Kg per week), I am always fascinated to see these pastes turn into a delicacy.

Thank you again,




It is wonderful to hear you like the bread. 

I also made the bread last night and it is definitely good. 

Being new at bread making I still have a number of questions.  This is probably my 3rd loaf to make

and I am no doubt not an expert at any of this.  All these terms are new to me.  Still I wish to learn.

Per your translation----

Rye SourWeight(g)Percent
Rye Flour 41031
Mature Culture??
Rye Flour90069
Rye Sour75057


The sour total comes to 750.  In combining ingredients, how long did you ferment the sour before combining with the

750 rye and the 660 water?  Did you combine all ingredients and let the dough ferment for 2 hours and then make your loaves?

How long did you proof?

Did you bake at 500f for 10 to 15 minutes and then lower the temp to 392f for 1 hour?

Did you bake on a flat pan or in a square loaf pan?  Was there any covering on the loaf while baking?

My bread always comes out flat on the top.  Definitely not like what you show in the above picture, square loaves.  Not sure if it is because I live North of Denver at an altitude of 5,300 feet.  Still think there is something I'm doing wrong.

Can you assist??


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Richard,

I am happy to assist - I suppose we should set up a new thread, or use PM / Email?

To quickly answer your question about the sourdough: I generally use a German build system, called Detmolder single step process. For me it is very reliable. I use dark rye. To make a starter (rye sour ) I use 100% dark rye flour, 100% water, 10% mature starter from the fridge and let it sit for 12 to 26 hours at 24 to 26C (78F). The smell should be pleasant, sour and fruity.