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Rye Pain au Levain with Cracked Rye and Caraway Seeds

holds99's picture

Rye Pain au Levain with Cracked Rye and Caraway Seeds

Pain au Levain - Rye with Cracked Rye Soaker and Caraway Seeds

This formula produces an excellent rye bread that tastes great and is good plain or
toasted.  With  cracked rye soaker and caraway seeds
incorporated into the final dough mix, toasting this bread brings out a pleasant
and more pronounced rye and caraway taste. 
The soaker and caraway seeds gives it a good texture and a distinct rye
taste.  This is a medium rye,
high-hydration dough that produces a rustic type bread with open crumb and nice
color and crust.

Yield: 8 lbs 15 1/4 oz of dough or 4.08 kilograms (4 loaves @ 1
kilogram (2.2 lbs) each, or 2 loaves @ 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) each.  This recipe may be halved to produce 2 loaves @
1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) each or 1 large miche type loaf @ 2.2 kilograms (4.2 lbs).


  • Ferment: Double levain build (starting with a mature rye
         starter): 1st levain build 12-14 hours, 2nd levain mix 2.5 - 3 hours for a
         total of approx. 15 hours prior to final dough mix, depending on room
  • Soak cracked rye: Overnight
  • Mix final dough: 8 minutes
  • Stretch and Fold : 1 hour with 4 stretch and folds at
         20 minute intervals
  • After 4th stretch and fold, shape the dough into a
         large ball and place it in a lightly oiled covered plastic container and retard
         dough in refrigerator overnight.
  • The following day remove from refrigerator, allow dough
         to come to room temperature (75 deg. F)
  • Pre-shape, rest, and shape: 35 minutes
  • Proof: 2.5 – 3 hours
  • Bake: approximately 45 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 75 deg. F

Levain Build No. 1 Ingredients:

  • 1 Tb (1.2 oz./34g) ripe 100%-hydration sourdough
  • 8 oz (226g) water at 75 deg. F)
  • 8 oz (226g) light rye flour

Levain Build No. 2 Ingredients:

  • All of Levain Build No. 1 plus:
  • 8 oz (226g) water at 75 deg. F
  • 8 oz (226g) pumpernickel flour

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 10.5 oz (298g) first clear flour
  • 44.5 oz (1,262g) bread flour
  • 1.3 oz (37g) salt (2 Tb)
  • All of the double levain build
  • 35 oz (992g) water
  • All of the soaker
  • .5 oz (15g) caraway seeds (2 Tb.) Note. If you prefer a
         stronger caraway seed taste, add an additional tablespoon of caraway seeds
         to the final dough mix

Soaker Ingredients:

  • 7 oz (200g) cracked rye (1 1/2 cups)
  • 12 oz (500g) boiling water (1 1/2 cups)

Note.  Conversion rate of 28.3495321 or 28.35 grams per
ounce was used in this formula.



Prepare the soaker (at least 8 hours
in advance, or overnight) before you plan to mix your final dough.  Measure out 7 oz (200g) cracked rye (1 1/2
cups) and place it in a 1 quart bowl, e.g.: stainless steel bowl.  Pour 12 oz (500g) boiling water (1 1/2 cups)  of boiling water over the cracked rye, cover
immediately with aluminum foil and allow to sit at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Levain Build No. 1

  1. In a 2 quart container add 1 tablespoon active starter
         to 8 oz (226g) room temperature water (75-78 deg. F).  Mix with a wire whisk until the starter
         is completely dissolved into the water.
  2. Add 8 oz (226g) of light rye flour to the container
         and, using a Danish dough hook or wooden spoon, mix well until the flour
         and starter-water is thoroughly mixed together.  This will be the 1st levain build.
  3. Cover the container and leave out at room temperature for
         12-14 hours, or overnight.  This 1st
         levain mixture should double in volume.

Levain Build No. 2

  1. After 12-14 hours, add 8 oz (226g) room temperature
         water (75-78 deg. F) to the container holding the 1st levain build and mix
  2. Add 8 oz (226g) of pumpernickel flour to the container
         and, using a Danish dough hook or wooden spoon, mix well until the flour
         and starter-water is thoroughly mixed together.
  3. This will be the 2nd levain build.
  4. Cover the container and leave out at room temperature
         for 2-3 hours.  This 2nd levain
         mixture will be much more active and will double in volume at room
         temperature (75-78 deg. F) in approximately 2-3 hours.

Final Dough Mix

  1. Add the 35 oz (992g) of final dough water (75-78 deg.
         F) to the container with the levain mixture and mix thoroughly.  Note. Hold out salt until after autolyse
         (initial final dough rest period).
  2. In a separate large bowl mix the 10.5 oz (298g) first
         clear flour with the 44.5 oz (1,262g) of bread flour for the final dough
         mix and set aside until completion of the next step.
  3. Pour the levain/final dough and water mixture from the
         container into the bowl of a stand mixer. 
         Turn the mixer on low and begin adding the final dough flour (mixed
         first clear and bread flour), a half cup at a time.  When the dough has reached the shaggy mass stage shut off the
         mixer, cover the top of the mixer bowl with film and allow the dough to
         autolyse (rest) for 30 minutes.  Remove
         the plastic film from the top of the mixer bowl, turn the mixer on low and
         slowly sprinkle the salt 1.3 oz (37g) salt (2 Tb)  onto the dough.  Mix until the salt has been thoroughly
         incorporated into the dough, about 3-4 minutes. 
  4. At this point add the cracked rye soaker (19 oz (700g)
         3 cups) to the dough mixture. 
         Continue mixing on low/medium speed until the soaker is evenly distributed
         throughout the dough (3-4 minutes).
  5. Lightly spray the inside of a large enough plastic
         container with vegetable oil.  The
         container should be large enough to hold nine (9) pounds of dough (or alternatively,
         four and a half (4 .5) pounds if you're making half the formula).  Turn the dough out of the mixer bowl
         into the oiled container and cover. 
  6. Give the dough 4 stretch and folds at 20-25 minute
  7. Cover the container and place in refrigerator overnight
         to retard for at least 12 hours.

Baking Day

Remove the container of dough from the refrigerator and
allow the dough to come to room temperature (75-78 deg. F).  This will take approximately 3 hours.

  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, divide
    the dough into either 2 or 4 pieces and pre-shape each piece into a ball.  Cover the pre-shaped dough and allow it to
    rest, covered, for 10-15 minutes before final shaping.
  1. For the final shaping, lightly dust a section of the
         work surface with flour and place the dough on the floured area.  Using the flat of your hand gently degas
         the dough and flatten it out into either a round or oval shape. Move the
         flattened dough to an area of the work surface that's free of flour.  Gather the outer edges of the flattened
         dough and fold it into the center. 
         Continue turning the dough and folding the edges tightly into the
         center forming a roughly shaped ball or oval.  Tuck and rotate the dough and tuck the
         edges of the dough underneath and tighten the dough surface. This final
         shaping is done on a clean work surface free of flour to provide resistance
         needed to get the ball very tight.  After
         final shaping, the seam will be on the bottom of the dough ball.  Don't bother trying to seal the bottom seam.
  2. Lift the dough off the counter and place it, seam side
         down, into bannetons that have been generously dusted with a mixture of
         50% rice flour and 50% bread flour.
  3. Proof, covered, at room temperature, for 2 – 3 hours,
         until the dough passes the "finger poke" test, an indentation
         left by a fingertip comes back slowly.
  4. Note.  One hour prior to putting the loaves
         into the oven, preheat the oven, with baking stone along with a cast iron
         skillet, or pan, on the oven rack located below the baking stone.  Preheat the oven to 500F. You will need steam during the initial phase of
         baking.  Heat a cup and a half of
         water in the microwave on high until it's boiling (approx. 3 minutes) just
         prior to putting the loaves into the oven.  Immediately, after placing the loaves
         into the oven, pour about a cup of the boiling water into a cast iron
         skillet or pan sitting on the oven rack located below the stone.  Use oven mitts to handle the cup of
         boiling water.


the loaves

  1. When the loaves have passed the "finger poke"
         test, they're fully proofed and ready to bake.  Turn the loaves out of the floured bannetons
         onto parchment-lined baking pans that have been liberally dusted with
         semolina, with the floured side up.
  2. Score the loaves and place the baking pans on the stone
         in the oven.  Pour the boiling water
         into the skillet or pan on the shelf beneath the stone.  Close the oven door and don't open it
         until midway through the baking cycle, 20 minutes).
  3. After 10 minutes at 500 deg. F, reduce the oven
         temperature to 475 deg. F.
  4. Midway through the baking cycle (about 20 minutes), open
         the oven door and turn the pans around a full half-turn to ensure even
         baking and also allow the steam to exit the oven.  Reduce the oven temperature to 450 deg.
         F. for the remaining baking cycle.
  5. About 35 minutes into the baking cycle, check the
         internal temperature of the loaves using a digital thermometer.  When they reach an internal temperature
         of 205-208 deg. F, remove the pans from the oven and transfer the loaves onto
         wire racks to cool.  Allow loaves to
         cool at least 3 hours before cutting them. 



dmsnyder's picture

It's been great seeing you back among us, and that's delicious-looking bread.


holds99's picture

I appreciate your kind words.  It's good to finally be back.  I was thinking of you the other day.  Charlene and I were talking about the "old TFL days" during the "baguette quest" and how persistent you were and how hard you worked to perfect your version of the Anis baguette, which, by the way, is terrific, along with everything else you bake. 


dmsnyder's picture

The "old TFL days," eh?  I wonder if Floyd thinks of any of the TFL days as "old." Whatever, I didn't see my efforts back then as "work." I get a thrill being on the steep part of a learning curve that others get on a roller coaster.


holds99's picture

Mea culpa.  I should have said "good old" or "past" days/times, etc.  Like Gladys Knight says in her lead-in to the song Memories: "Good old days---these are the good old days." 


varda's picture

and massive as well.   Just curious where you got your rye and pumpernickel flours.   -Varda

holds99's picture

Actually, they're approximately the same size as a miche, 4.4 lbs or 2 kilo.  As for the light rye, first clear and pumpernickel flour, I order them from King Arthur.  I try to order when K.A. offers free shipping.  The problem with K.A., at least for me, is they've begun packaging most of their flour in 3 lb boutique bags.  In the past I have used Bob's Red Mill, which I think is really great flour, but the shipping price to Florida seems to be higher than K.A.  At least it was the last time I checked.  I'm thinking next time I order I'll check Bob's Red Mill website. 

One thing that really amazed me, last week when I was in Winn Dixie Supermarket, here in St. Augustine, FL, I noticed the price of both K.A. Bread and A.P. flour was up to $4.29 per 5 lb bag.  Walmart had the same flours for $3.47.  I'm going to start keeping my flour in a safe.    :-)



varda's picture

One of my goals a year and a half ago, when I started baking bread, was to save a bit of money by not spending $5 for a loaf of just ok bread.   Now, with my closetful of specialty flours and equipment and so forth I'm not sure I came out ahead.   Fortunately I haven't done the accounting.   But as I've been reminded, we should consider ourselves lucky that we have access to such high quality flour.  -Varda

Anjali's picture

and a very detailed recipe. This is very helpful for new bakers like me!



holds99's picture

So glad you mentioned the detail in the recipe.  Having been around TFL for a long time, I was hoping that the detailed description would be helpful to new bakers, thus encouraging them to stretch, so to speak.  As I mentioned in the recipe, if you try this bread you can reduce the ingredients, including the double-levain build, to half (1/2) to get two each 2.2 lb (1 kilo) loaves or reduce the ingredients to one-quarter to get one (1) each 2.2 lb loaf or two (2) each 1.1 lb loaf which you can shape into batards and use a couche for your final proof.  Lots of options. 

Also, I sometimes bake these size loaves on parchment in two large Dutch ovens (D.O.) which I place on a stone in the oven, side by side (lid on until the final 10 minutes of the baking cycle), turning the the D.O.s a half-turn midway through the baking cycle to even the browning of the loaves.  The D.O. is the way to go until you get confortable handling high-hydration dough.  You have to shape them round for the D.O.s.  The benefit to using the D.O is  the inside wall of the D.O. contains the spread of the dough which results in a higher rise and more open crumb (larger holes in the crumb). 

Best of luck in your baking endeavors,


SylviaH's picture

What wonderful large loaves.  You have written out everything, very nicely, with such easy to understand detail.   The crumb looks so perfect and I'm always in favor of a rye with caraway...just delicious!  I think the Mrs. also did some very nice photography :-)

I know what you mean about those 3lbs. bags of flour..they do come with the price. KA is over $5 at my local store.  I'm hoping they offer some free shipping at KA.

Happy Baking!



holds99's picture

I appreciate your kind words.  My reason for the detail was to encourage new bakers to try a recipe that includes some of the techniques that help a loaf turn out reasonably well e.g.; scaling, double-levain build, stretch and fold, etc.

You're right, Charlene took the photos.  She also edited the recipe (and corrected lots of mistakes).  I've been doing everything in ounces but I think I got the math right on the grams, but I included the factor for ounce-to-gram conversion (23.349231 or simply 28.35) in case there's a question about the gram weight of an ingredient.

Yeah, don't you just hate those 3 lb bags that K.A. does?  They're also really marketing their mixes.  Seems like I get an e-mail daily from K.A. about some mix they're promoting---and they're howlingly expensive.  Speaking of the cost of flour, I was reading Kaplan's very interesting book Good Bread Is Back, where he takes you through the history of French baking and the reason the French Government was forced to put regulations in place re: ingredients that can be put into French bread.  Incidentally, they're still in effect.  Four ingredients are allowed; water, flour, salt and leavening, boulangers can add a very small amount of ascorbic acid to baguettes.  The regs. were the result of the "old days" pre and post French revolution, where the French boulangers were getting creative in the area of cost cutting, putting sawdust (and other "stuff") into their loaves to increase product volume and keep profit margins up.  Seems sawdust was less expensive and more plentiful than flour in those days.  Still is.  When the cost of flour hits $10 per 5 lb bag guess I'll have to start looking for a sawmill in the area. (smile)

Ring the alert when and if you find out K.A. is offering free shipping, because I don't think they do it very often.

Best of luck with your baking,




trailrunner's picture

Just a couple questions. Do you crack your rye berries ? If so what do you use ? I was looking at the whole berries at the health food store and didn't buy them as I have never cracked my own or used them in breads.  Also what size/brand mixer do you have that will contain this volume of dough? I have the 6qt KA with bowl lift. 

I too appreciate the detail ...Caroline

holds99's picture

Yes, I purchase 10 lb. bags of whole rye from Bob's Red Mill via mail order and crack the whole rye using the grain mill attachment that fits my Electolux DLX Attendent (Swedish spelling) mixer.  For more than twenty years I used my Kitchen Aid (K.A.), employing two mixing bowls and mixing seperate batches to accomodate large batches of dough.  It sounds like you have the same K.A. that I have.  Mine is an old Kitchen Aid (model K-5A) made by Hobart and is still in great working order.   A couple of years ago I decided that I wanted a mixer with larger capacity.  After looking at the options I chose the Electrolux DLX and have never regretted it.  At the same time I purchased the mixer I also bought the grain mill, which is adjustable and works great.

As to volume, the DLX manual says it will mix up to 10 quarts at a time.  I haven't actually measured the volume but I'm  sure it will accomdate 10 quarts.  This batch of dough was approximately nine pounds (8 lbs 15 3/4 oz) and I mixed it in one batch in the DLX without a problem.  One thing I should tell you is that when you're mixing large, near capaicity batches in the DLX you have to stay with the mixer and use a wet wooden spoon or spatula to periodically push the dough off the hook to keep the dough from climbing up the rod that is the equivalent of the dough hook on a spiral mixer.  This is not a big deal, because I never mix dough longer than 4-8 minutes and always on low speed.  With the DLX the dough hook/rod remains fixed and the bowl turns during the mixing process.  I love it because on low speed it's so gentle with the dough, and unlike the K.A. the motor never heats up.  Don't know why, but I still use the K.A. for mixing bagel dough, which is very stiff dough.  Must be that old habits die hard.  Below is a photo of my DLX.  As you can see from the photo it's an entirely different concept than K.A.  Besides the dough hook (curved rod running into the center of the bowl) there is a bowl scraper located on the inside edge of the bowl that cleans the inside sides of the bowl as it rotates.  Hope this helps.




trailrunner's picture

answered all as I expected :)  I have looked longingly at the Electrolux and the grain mill for a number of years. Can't really justify for just the 2 of us. I am doing an internship with Mark in MT in Aug. Will get my fun using the " big boys" at that time. If I decide to sell locally at the farmer's market then I can indulge with out guilt. Thanks again and I will try your formula and crack the grain roughly in my blender....c

subfuscpersona's picture

In the original post, we have


Soaker Ingredients:

    7 oz (200g) cracked rye (1 1/2 cups)
    12 oz (500g) boiling water (1 1/2 cups)

However, 500 gm water = 17.6 oz, not 12 oz. (Cracked rye weights are OK; 200 gm ~= 7 oz)

If one goes by the oz weight measurement, there is a ratio of water:cracked rye of 1.7

if one goes by the gm weight measurement, there is a ratio of water:cracked rye of 2.5

The discrepancy is large enough to affect the overall hydration of the bread, depending on whether one choses to weigh in ounces or grams.

Just sayin - don't know if anyone had an issue with this.
holds99's picture

Thanks for bringing the error to my attention.  It must have been a long day. Don't know what happened with my calculation, but the 2.5 ratio of water to cracked rye is definitely wrong.  The bottom line is---use equal amounts of volume measurements for the cracked rye and water (1 1/2 cups cracked rye and 1 1/2 cups water) for the soaker.   :) 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hi Howard.

Very nice loaves.  The crumb you achieved is perfect.  Even some hairline cracks in the crust!  I haven't been able to get that out of my rye loaves for some time now.

Great job.


holds99's picture

Hello John,

Thank you for your kind words.  After years of doing the 68% hyration and the french fold (3 folds at 20 minute intervals during bulk fermentation), I have gone over to 75% hydration and have been using Chad Robertson's method of turns every half hour during bulk fermentation for three hours along with his shaping technique.  It really does allign those gluten strands and firms up the high-hydration dough and produces a really good tasting and good looking loaf of bread,

Don't know if you have seen this YouTube video of Chad Robertson teaching a Masters Class during one of his trips to Germany.  He shows how he mixes and shapes his dough.  It's pretty amazing.  As for bread baking, Robertson has to be one of the best , if not the best, in the U.S.:


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Howard.  You wouldn't believe how many times I have watched and studied that short video before.  My wife actually laughed at me once when she saw me watching it for like the 30th time.  I really do wish someone would post the uncut and original video.  It is sadly too short and edited.  I have actually adapted that stretch-in-bowl method with my pizza doughs, except I perform the stretches every 5 minutes as opposed to every 30 mins.  Has really helped develop the gluten in my pizza doughs.

I am a big fan of his method for sourdough as well, but unfortunately, rarely have the time to dedicate to the method.  It's one of those all day processes.  Here are links to the last few times I used his methods:

Take care and happy baking.