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Hearty Rye and Tricky Recipe

hanseata's picture

Hearty Rye and Tricky Recipe

A while ago I bought a new baking book full with mouth watering photos of gorgeous looking loaves: "Brot", an introduction to Germany's best bakers and their signature breads. Luxurious as this book is, its principal purpose seems to be promoting culinary travels to the featured bakeries, not giving readers understandable instructions on how to make those lovely loaves at home.

The sourdough starter you simply "buy from a bakery" - no mention of hydration levels - and breads are baked "at falling temperatures". And if you obediently follow the recipes' baking temperatures and times you will end up with howling smoke alarms, crazed pets, and charred bread corpses - the instructions are probably meant for wood fired ovens. The publishers obviously printed the recipes in as they came from the bakers, never bothering with having them edited.

So I was up for a great challenge - would I be able to overcome these handicaps?

The first bread I tackled was one from my hometown Hamburg, "Hamburger Kräftiges", a hearty rye sourdough. In the book it looks like this:

"Hamburger Kräftiges" from "Brot - Deutschlands beste Bäcker"

This is the original recipe (2 breads)

520 g rye sourdough (from a bakery)

500 g rye flour type 1150

350 wheat flour type 550

540 g water (25 - 28 C)

 25 g sea salt

 16 g Bioreal-yeast


Knead all ingredients for 8 minutes at low speed, adding the yeast after 2 minutes. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. Shape into a round loaf, place on a baking sheet and proof for 1 - 2 hours, in a draft free location.

When surface shows distinct tears, place in 260 C/500 F preheated oven (no slashing). Pour 50 - 60 ml water on another hot baking sheet or oven floor. After 20 minutes, drop temperature to 220 C/425 F. Overall baking time: 60 - 70 minutes.


Wanting to start with one bread only, I took half of the recipe. To make the rye starter, I used the 3-step build from Martin Pöt Stoldt ("Der Sauerteig - das unbekannte Wesen) with 60 g ripe rye starter, 100 g rye flour and 100 g water and had a pleasantly sweet smelling active rye sour (100%).

A cold retardation seemed a good idea, and working with P.R.s stretch and fold technique, also. All went well, but when I took the dough out of the refrigerator I wasn't quite sure whether it had overproofed, it seemed to have grown more than I expected.

I shaped a boule and proofed it on a parchment lined baking sheet, waiting for the "distinct tears" to appear. The loaf grew, showing a little cracking, but not anything dramatic. I didn't want to wait until it overproofed, and put it in the oven. I knew that the baking temperatures and times had to be off, so I reduced the heat after 10 minutes, and checked the bread after a total baking time of 40 minutes, the internal temperatures registered already 210 F.

The bread didn't look bad, but not at all like the one in the book:

Was the photo in the book photoshopped? It looked much lighter than my loaf. And why didn't I get those pretty tears in the crust?

The bread tasted pretty good, too, but I wasn't satisfied - I wanted the one from the stupid book!

I posted those pictures, and friendly TFLers made some helpful comments, but nobody could figure out why my bread looked like a disadvantaged sibling.

Revengefully I didn't touch the book for a while and worked on other projects. But since I usually don't give up easily, and so far had managed to adapt many German bread recipes to American ingredients (and better techniques), I started pondering over the recipe again.

What made my bread look so different? Why had it almost overproofed in the fridge? And then, belatedly, I did some research in the "internets". I started with the mysterious "Bioreal" yeast. No wonder it had risen so much - this organic instant yeast contains less yeast cells than regular one, therefore 8 g was too much. For the amount of flour 6 g should be enough.

For the wheat in the recipe i had used bread flour - I know it's approximately the equivalent to German type 550. But what about the rye? Without thinking I had taken what I had: whole rye flour. And there it was! With help from Wikipedia I found out that German rye type 1150 was an "in between" white and whole rye. After some calculations I believed I could substitute type 1150 with a mix of 52% whole rye + 48% white rye. (I had some white rye from testing NYBakers recipes, but didn't use it).

Finally, why had the bread on the photo such dramatic cracks, and mine only puny little tears? I found the answer to this question in a TFL post, about proofing a boule on a baking sheet seamside up, not down - to achieve just such a distinct pattern!

So I tried the "Hearty Rye from Hamburg" again, with these modifications. I also changed the temperatures and baking times to the ones I use for "Feinbrot" and many other lean German mixed rye wheat breads.

I liked this result much better:

It also tasted better - according to my husband this was: "the best bread you ever made"! (He is the best of all husbands - he says that every time, when he likes a new bread).

Hearty Rye from Hamburg - crumb

This is my recipe adaptation:


60 g rye sourdough starter (100%)
100 g water, lukewarm
100 g whole rye flour
270 g water (95 F)
6 g instant yeast
all starter
110 g whole rye flour
140 g white rye flour
175 g bread flour
13 g salt


Prepare starter.

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add to all other ingredients in mixer bowl. Mix at low speed for 1 - 2 min. until all comes together. Let rest for 5 min.

Knead at medium-low speed for 2 min., adjusting with water, if necessary. Dough should still be sticky. Resume kneading for another 4 min., the last 20 sec. at medium-high speed.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Stretch and fold 4 times, with 10 min. intervals (total time 40 min.) After last S & F, refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

Preheat oven to 500 F/260 C, including steam pan.

Shape dough into boule, place seam side UP on parchment lined sheet pan. Proof at room temperature for 45 - 60 min., or until dough has grown 1 1/2 times, and surface shows distinct cracks.

Bake 10 min. at 475 F/250 C, steaming with 1 cup boiling water, then reduce heat to 425 F/220 C and bake for another 10 min. Rotate bread and remove steam pan. Continue baking for 20 - 30 min (internal temperature 200 F/93 C).

Let cool on wire rack.

UPDATE 10/15/11: in the meantime I made a side by side comparison with American medium rye (a lighter variety, not a medium grind!) and imported (so to speak) German Typ 1150. American medium rye is a perfect substitute for German medium rye types 1150 or 1370, and my sample tasted even better:


Mebake's picture

All look so nice Karin! Rye is so tricky, you have to watch your dough like a hawk, and mixing has to be subtle yet effective. I guess you know all that, but as you know bakeries in germany are professional in Ryes.

No matter, yours is satisfying to the eyes as nourishing to the tummy, Karin..


pmccool's picture

And some good-looking bread, too.  When you bake this again, as I presume you will, you can also try proofing the dough in a banneton. 

If you want to see the cracks opening as it proofs, place it in the banneton seam side up.  This will require that you turn it out of the banneton, seam side down, then turn it again onto the baking sheet, seam side up.

Conversely, if watching the seams open during proofing isn't that important to you, proof it seam side down.  Then you can turn it directly from the banneton onto a piece of parchment so that the seam side is up.

I'm not sure which approach will give you the most open cracking of the loaf's surface.  One way to encourage the cracks is to dust the dough lightly with rye flour before closing the seams at the end of shaping the boule.


hanseata's picture

I was thinking of proofing the bread in a banneton, seamside up, but was a bit afraid of handling it too much and degassing it, if I emptied it out and then turned it over again.

I did proof some breads seamside down in a banneton, and the weight of the dough seemed to close the seams so much, that they didn't much open again.

But dusting the seams with additional flour might work, i'll try it next time.



ehanner's picture

Great job trying to recreate this bread. In my experience, getting the natural craggy tears in the top surface is one of the hardest things I have yet to master. Hansjoakim seems to have the touch with his whole grain loaves. I sense that it is a combination of knowing the proofing condition and a very hot start to baking, followed by a lower temp second phase. Regardless, you made progress and your crumb looks very nice. Thanks for sharing.


hanseata's picture

Before I made this bread I thought rather naively those cracks were totally easy to achieve...


hanseata's picture

I just looked at Hansjoakims blog and saw that he proofed his bread in a banneton seamside down to achieve nice cracks, instead of slashing it.


varda's picture

This looks fabulous.   I think I'll try it as my next adventure in rye.  Thanks for sharing! -Varda

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

differences.  In the book photo, the crust surface is rather smooth and hard between the cracks.  Why?  Aside from the proofing stage differences,  could it be the flour that the loaf was shaped with, or the flour in the banneton?  Or letting the dough surface dry a little bit?  It makes sense to use a banneton just because it is easier when weighing and shaping lots of loaves to have something to hold the dough before it goes into the oven (as in a bakery).  Something simple like a floured dish towel.  For just a short while.

I'm actually surprised the recipe included any added yeast.  I would try it without and give it the extra hour or two it needs to rise on it's own. I think your sourdough starter is more yeasty than "Brot's" recipe.  I would not retard the dough in the fridge, I might put it to rise in a cooler 15°C (60°F) room while the oven is heating.  With the added yeast, I would proof for a shorter time.  I think your fears of overproofing were real.

The loaf surface....  With that much wheat, it is possible to play with the shaping a little more.  But I don't use a mixer, I do play more in the shaping as the rye content drops from 100%.  I'm sure the bakery is using a mixer but... I bet they mix the wheat flour longer than the rye when adding.  The starter can't be overmixed in my opinion because it has already broken down structure so... putting the wheat first with the water and giving it a good mix and autolyse before adding the starter and rest ingredients might be the trick.  (Bread spice and altus in the starter the night before.)

In the banneton, or out of it, when rye is firm enough to slash or unpinched seams exist and appear swollen shut as the dough proofs, make note.  The structure is weak at those spots, weak enough that when it goes into the oven and startes to expand, they open up again.  It's the first place the surface tears open.

Your bread looks great and crumb is picture perfect so I wouldn't worry about the picture in the book.  After all, you said it was more of a picture book than an real baking book.  No baker will reaveal all the secrets.

"Der Teufel steckt im Detail."   "The devil is in the details."

hanseata's picture

You are right, Mini, on the photo in the book the surface looks quite different, smoother, dryer, and the tips are somewhat burnt. The baking time is much longer, the initial temperature higher - I think the bakery must have a wood fired oven.

Hansjoakim confirmed that he achieved the cracks in his bread by placing it seamside down in the banneton - I'll try that next time.

I do not think my second bread was overproofed, but there will be a difference in the flour, even though I tried to emulate the German type 1150 as good as possible.

All in all this is a very good tasting bread and it was fun to figure out how to do it - it doesn't have to be 100% perfect. And who knows whether this recipe is exactly how the bakery does it.

Thanks for your input,


Ricko's picture

So if I read this correctly, the boule is formed and placed in the banneton seam side down. Then after final proof, the boule is turned out and baked seam side up? Is this the correct process? And also with no slashing.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

seam side down in the banneton and seam side up for baking.  The seam will split open while baking.  

hanseata's picture

In the meantime, I baked a lot of Forkish-type breads, all are proofed seam side down, to give the bread an attractive, rustic appearance.

I haven't baked the Hamburger Kräftiges for a long time, but I bought the original when I was visiting Hamburg. It was a rather disappointing experience, though it looked like the one in the book, it didn't taste as good as my trial loaves!

In the meantime, I discovered another Hamburg bakery, Jochen Gaues. I love their bread (all sourdough, and boldly baked). I bought their baking book, and, fortunately, no disappointment there. Everything I made so far was really good. I  will post something soon.