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WGB - 68% Rye Hearth Bread

Steve H's picture
Steve H

WGB - 68% Rye Hearth Bread

I just got done making Reinhart's 68% Rye Hearth Bread, and I wanted to ask if anyone else has tried this and whether they had similar results. The bread is pretty dense, and has a great flavor. However, the description of the dough is very different from what he describes in his book, and I am wondering if I am doing something wrong:

- The starter is described as "tacky" after  5 minutes of hydration and some light kneading. I found the starter to be more of a paste and the only way I could reasonably handle it was using a plastic spatula, kneading by repeated folding and squishing.

- The final dough is described as "coming together in a ball," "cohesive,"  "soft and slightly sticky," and "passing the windowpane test." This was definitely not true of my final dough. The dough was more paste-like in consistency, for the most part impossible to shape, and I basically had to use gravity to do all of my shaping work (I let it proof in a parchment-lined bowl and then plopped it onto my hot stone for baking.

I used the optional vital wheat gluten for this recipe and I was very surprised at how little it did for the consistency of the dough. The dough did not stick to itself and is not like any dough I have experienced.  That said, the loaf I made came out pretty nicely, if a bit flat (about 4" tall) with a dense crumb. So I am not dissatisfied with the recipe, but do feel like my dough in no way resembled what he describes in his book. I am using Hodgson Mill stone ground rye flour and Arrowhead Mill stone ground whole wheat flour for this recipe.

Here are the amounts in the recipe for anyone who doesn't happen to have this particular recipe but may have experience with rye breads. One thing I will note is that I used all rye in the final dough (he gives an option to add rye or wheat) which puts the percentage up around 80%. It looks like if you use all wheat in this step you get somewhere around 65%.


- 113 g whole wheat flour
- 113 g whole rye flour
- 4 g salt
- 170 g water
- 7 g vital wheat gluten


- 71 g rye mother starter
- 213 g whole rye flour
- 170 g water

Final Dough

- 408 g Soaker / 454 g Starter
- 85 g whole rye flour
- 5 g salt
- 7 g instant yeast
- 14 g honey
- 14 g unsalted butter


wally's picture


I'm not familiar with that particular Reinhart recipe, but I can tell you this: no 68% or 80% rye mix is EVER going to pass a windowpane test. Rye is gluten deficient.  Typically a rye in that percentage range is going to resemble a thick paste more than a dough, and it must be handled accordingly.  There will be no "cohesive" or "soft and sticky."  There will be LOTS of sticky, however.

Again, I haven't seen the recipe, so I can't really address it.  But I bake a lot of high percentage ryes and they are a very different beast than your typical bread dough .


Steve H's picture
Steve H

I am curious-- how do you handle them? Is my spatula method close to the correct way? How much do you knead, if at all?

wally's picture

I use a mixer - Hamilton Beach - to mix my ryes.  Usually about 10 minutes on speed 1.  If you do this by hand I can't be a lot of help here, though I think the main objective would be to see that the ingredients are well incorporated.  Since there is very little gluten development, there is no need to knead the paste/dough beyond what is required to assure all ingredients are well incorporated.

I wet my hands and counter top to handle/shape the dough.  I don't know what the hydration is in Reinhart's recipe, so it may be possible to shape it into a boule, batard or for a loaf dish.  I would NOT heavily flour the surface when doing this. It isn't going to make things better and will usually make them worse.  If Reinhart's recipe is a fairly high percentage of water, then a good strategy is to "air shape" (acknowledgements to Mini for the phrase) the dough in your hands and then place it where it's going to undergo final proofing.

Again, this type of high perccentage rye is typically very wet, and you cannot expect to treat it like a normal bread dough.

Good luck!


Steve H's picture
Steve H


I calculated the hydration and other percentages assuming a 100% hydration starter as follows:

Soaker: 50% Rye, 75% Hydration.
Starter: 100% Rye, 83% Hydration.
Final Dough: 80% Rye, 67% Hydration.

hanseata's picture

I haven't made this particular bread from WGB, but most of the others, and I bake Vollkornbrot, Schwarzbrot and other rye breads often. Since you chose the higher rye variations (rye mother starter, rye in the final dough) this dough will be even stickier than if you had opted for the whole wheat variations.

Larry is right, higher percent rye dough handles very different from wheat dough. I mix it only with the paddle attachment, and on lower speed, or switch between low and middle-low (4 minutes, 5 minutes rest, 1 minute for final dough, no hand kneading). Whereas Reinhart's descriptions of the feel and consistency are usually helpful, here you can't really use them.

I retard almost all my doughs overnight in the fridge, usually even those high percent rye doughs are a bit more manageable the next morning.

A rye bread like that will always have a dense crumb, and rise very little, vital wheat gluten doesn't change the nature of rye, unless you use so much that you end up with a nasty, metallic taste.