The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

A Latvian-style Sourdough Rye Bread

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

A Latvian-style Sourdough Rye Bread

Greetings from Aotearoa New Zealand. I've been making bread for about six months now. Back in March my cousin gave me a sourdough starter and a recipe for a white wheat sourdough loaf with a bit of rye, and that got me hooked. My mother is from Latvia, and I remember the marvellous "black bread" that the old ladies at the Latvian Society used to make when I was growing up in the 1970s. Wanting to recreate the taste I remembered, I searched for Latvian recipes, and that led me to this site and then to Stanley Ginsberg's blog and book "The Rye Baker." Being a purist, I wanted something that used only the sourdough as the leavening, without commercial yeast. After trying two or three of his recipes, I started experimenting with my own variations, and came up with this formula. To my mind at least, it's a complex and nuanced balance of flavours - a background of malt, a definite but not overwhelming overlay of carraway (that was always a feature of the breads I remember from my childhood), an unmistakable tang of sour, and the sweetness that makes me want to keep going back for more. 

I'd intended this to be the perfect loaf to photograph for this forum, but by mistake I used ordinary greaseproof paper to line the tin instead of baking paper, and it stuck irremovably to the crust - you can see it in the photo. But I decided to post it anyway. The taste is fine - you just have to trim off the crusts.

(SCROLL DOWN to the bottom of the comments for the latest iteration of the recipe)

Recipe page 1

Recipe page 2

Fully proved loaf

Recipe page 3

Floydm's picture

Welcome to the site!

Would you mind if I featured this post in one of the feature blocks on the homepage for a bit? I haven't seen a good formula for a bread like this in a long time.

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

Thanks! It'd be great to have the post on the homepage! Much appreciated.

If you can resist slicing into it as soon as it's cooled, this bread is best left to rest for at least 24 hours after baking. I keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge and it's at its best on days 2 - 4.

Filomatic's picture

That is one nice bread.  This shows you have built a lot of skill in a short time.  Thanks for sharing your recipe. 

Isand66's picture

Welcome to the Fresh Loaf community.  Thanks for sharing your detailed formula.  It's always nice to take a formula from someone else and make it your own and it looks like you had great success.

Once question for you, why line the pan with parchment paper?  I have made this type of bread before and my pan which has a non-stick coating worked fine by just spraying first with some vegetable oil.  Are you using a different type of pan?

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

That's exactly the question my partner asked, and I think you're right - I probably don't need to line the pan. Generally I like to, for all sorts of baking - cakes as well as bread - but it's probably not necessary with a well-greased non-stick pan like the one I use - although the rye flour does make for diabolically sticky doughs. I've got another loaf proving in a parchment-lined pan at the moment, but next time I bake this bread I'll try without the lining.

Isand66's picture

You definitely can skip that step. If the bread is baked the correct amount of time you should not have any issues with the sticking to the pan.  I've never had a loaf stick on me before after baking, so I think you should be good.

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

and the bread is just fine

Barbarat's picture

congratulations to your bread! I am a rye fan, bake quite a few rye breads for my self and to sell. I have a following for this at our farmers market here in NC. I will make your recipe for sure. regarding sticking: oil my pans once in a while and dome the dough when in the pan.Look up MINI Oven posts.


Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

Thanks Barbara - good luck! It makes me a little nervous to think of someone else trying my recipe! The important thing with this formula, as I said in the original post, is not to underprove the final dough. I had two or three blown loaves on the way to working that out. You really do need to be patient and wait until the dough is level with the top of the tin. When you get to that point, then there's very little oven spring. If you're running out of time and need to get the bread in the oven sooner, then slash the crust. The proving time does seem to be longer than similar recipes I've looked at - I wonder if that's related to the degree of hydration, but I'll have to do some more experiments.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

studying your loaf since its posting as to why it worked!  Amazing!   The photo of the surface pinholing is very close to collapsing, gas is escaping through those holes. I don't push my high rye doughs this close to the "point of no return."  When I have, what often happens is that there is no oven spring.  Yes, but any docking, scoring, or movement of the loaf could make it fall before it gets baked.  The risk is high. So why does this recipe work? What is going on?  I love these kinds of puzzles. :). I'm not being a snob just fascinated.  Great job!  Why does it work?

Your comment, "When you get to that point, then there's very little oven spring."  (Referring to care taken not underfermenting the dough.)  The comment is very interesting because it is in direct conflict with my observations about when to bake this type of bread yet I agree there is very little oven spring.  Why? Because it would rip the dough apart.  The rye matrix isn't geared to stretch like other flours unless something is done to give more flexibility and strength.  Things like perfect hydration, warmth, addition of flours to form gluten, use of salt, lack of or minimal handling halfway thru the fermentation, 

This dough has the addition of wheat flour in the final dough mix which gives it some stability along with  pre-gelatinized flour with the scald. Salt content seems low under 1.5%.  Nonetheless, what I'm understanding is that the dough matrix is so delicate that any further rise, especially with speed involved like oven spring will knock it down. So all the rise is done before it hits the oven heat.  My mind boggles... Are escaping gasses before the bake  actually desired?  How powerful is the starter?

If I understand correctly, if the dough is not almost fully proven before baking, the dough will collapse into a brick.  Is that correct?



Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

Hello - nice to hear from you. I've read many of your posts and replies with interest, and it's good to have your  considered thoughts. Yes, when this dough is fully proved almost all the rise happens before the oven. As to what happens if it isn't fully proven before baking - the crust tears apart around the edges with the oven spring, like this:

This photo was my second or third attempt at baking with this recipe, and you'll see I tried docking the loaf, which didn't help. Of course, I could slash the crust (and I have done that too), but I wanted to avoid that, partly because I don't remember any of the Latvian breads from my childhood ever having a slashed crust, and partly because the similar recipes I've tried from Stanley Ginsberg's "The Rye Baker" don't require slashing (or docking). The method I'm using is similar to his "GOST Borodinskii", and the instructions there say to prove until the crust shows broken bubbles - but with this formula I found I needed a very much longer proving time. I wonder if this may be related to the different hydration of the two formulae (77% for mine vs. 100% for the Borodinskii). It may also be a question of the activity of my sponge. I think next time I make it I will try increasing the hydration, and also make sure my sponge is very active.

But to answer your final question - No, the dough doesn't seem at any risk of collapsing - I've never had that happen. (I've also made this bread with rice flour instead of wheat flour, for a friend who is wheat intolerant - that didn't seem any less stable. That one I ran out of time for proving and ended up slashing the crust - there was more oven spring and so the total rise was about the same - just a less elegant looking loaf.)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I will have to make this my next rye loaf.  :)  (this may take a few weeks)

I'm sure the long working time is connected to the scald and the boiling temperature. Don't even think having active malt in the scald plays a role other than adding sugars.  Searched: scalding rye  ...and dug up this 10 yr old post:

It has many links to good scalding discussions and info.  

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

Thanks for the link - I'll read it carefully in a minute. My understanding of the purpose of this scald is that the high temperatures activate the amylases in the rye and so add sugars and therefore sweetness to the final bread - contributing to the 'sweet-sour' flavour profile that is characteristic of Baltic rye breads. The 'dark barley malt' I use isn't a diastatic malt - so I don't think it's very high in enzymatic activity - its main purpose is to add flavour - the rich malty flavour that led my 11 year-old-son to say that an earlier version of this bread (with three times as much malt) tasted like some beer he'd tried! The dark malt also adds colour, making the dough a rich chocolatey brown and darkening the bread. (The Maltexo liquid malt extract similarly adds sugars, mainly maltose, and some flavour - I've also used honey or golden syrup.)  Finally, the scald hydrates the wholemeal rye flour.

metropical's picture

that's a beaut!

mikewasinnyc's picture

and *this* is why keep coming back to thefreshloaf with my biggest baking conundrums.

Typed(?) recipe adds a nice touch.

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

yes typed - on an Olympia SG3, manufactured ca. 1990 - spotted on by a friend of mine last year and imported brand-new-unopened-in-the-box for EUR 60 + shipping

AlisonKay's picture

Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to try it this weekend! Why do you refrigerate it in a bag after baking? I'm used to leaving my rye loaves for a day or so before cutting but have never refrigerated in a bag during this time. Thanks.

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

Like you I always leave the bread to rest (at room temperature) for a day or so before slicing. After that I like to keep it in the fridge, in a plastic bag, and it easily stays fresh for a week. You don't need to refrigerate - it'll stay fresh at room temperature for several days - but it does last a bit longer in the fridge. 

AlisonKay's picture

Thanks. I had a go at you bread this past weekend. Mine didn't rise as much as yours - probably at least partly due to the fact I used 'tipo 2' rye flour (I'm in Italy) which is around 85% wholemeal. I used freshly ground coriander instead of caraway and freshly ground barley malt instead of syrup too. It has a lovely flavour and is much softer than my other ryes, I'm guessing because of the scald. I think I'll be playing around with the formula a bit. Thank you for sharing it.

MonkeyDaddy's picture

the "standard" 4 1/2 x 8 1/2, or 9 x 5 inch loaf.  It looks longer and narrower, like many of the deli-style ryes I've run across.  What size is your pan?


Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

The pan is 25 x 10 x 7 cm - about 9.8 x 4 x 2.8 inches - so longer and narrower than 9 x 5 inches.

bikeprof's picture

100% whole grain rye sourdoughs have become my latest obsession, and with the help of a few other obsessed professional bakers, I have been revising my own understanding and practices...including proofing that mini asks about.

I now push my final proofing farther, largely in the interest of proper acidification (combined with using higher percentages of prefermented flour (~45%) in a levain that is allowed to get quite ripe).  When I get to the bubbles popping on the surface stage in my 95% hydration vollkornbrots, it goes in a 500F oven with steam and expands a fair amount in the first 5-10 minutes...and then shrinks back to less than the level at which it was when I put it in.  I can get very slight tears around the top perimeter, but no blowouts or tears in the top (and no collapses!).

I used to need to pretty aggressively score mine to handle the expansion because I was underproofing...which I am coming to better understand, is a major cause of interior collapsing (yes, UNDERproofing).

For a very brief and very helpful guide...see Sophie Williams' "Up-Rye-Zine" at Ravenbreads:

Other tidbits from some of the best wholegrain rye bakers I am aware of (in N. America at least), for these types of breads:

- Proper acidification is really important (not just for flavor, but for enzyme dynamics...controlling amylazes and activating pentosanases)...don't be afraid to push it a bit (using time and higher temps that favor LAB's - upper 80's into the low 90's even).

- LONG slow mixes are helpful in creating the kind of viscous dough matrix that produces softer texture breads. I don't have time for the cereal chemistry talk...but try it (I do 20 min on low speed in a planetary mixer with paddle attachment).

- If ONLY we had access to good rye flour with all the qualities that make good rye bread easier (see James MacGuire's "Real Rye Bread" in The Art of Eating for more...and/or read cereal chemistry journals!).

That's it for now...



awlgolf's picture

Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe. I really like it. I should try it in my kitchen.

dabrownman's picture

It should remind you if your youth!  There are so many kinds of Latvian Rye.  Yippee did one here if you haven't seen it and the one from the Rye Baker and one of mine

I think your recipe would really take to a baked scald for 3 hours at 150 F with the door ajar to keep it under 140 F and diastatic- I use a Mini Oven...since your bread has rye and wheat, sprouting both and using whole and some ground with some Barley Malt Syrup, red and white rye malt and some water would really get the flavor punched up another notch without changing the ingredients  I usually put some dehydraded Onion in there too but that wouldchange the flavor of your recipe.  Here is a picture of what it looks like when ready


Your bread looks delicious and delicious rye bread can't be beat!

Happy Baking A A!

Alchemist Aotearoa's picture
Alchemist Aotearoa

It's quite a while since I've been on here ... I've been quietly baking, once or twice a week, and have gradually tweaked this formula. I've adjusted the quantities to make 2 loaves, 7 x 10 x 20 cm, and as would be expected with the summer temperatures (our kitchen/living/dining room stays in the mid-twenties [Celsius]) the fermentation and proving times came down dramatically. The bread seems to lose some of its sourness but the rest of the family (who weren't brought up on Latvian breads) don't mind that and some even prefer it. The crumb and texture seem to be just as good, though. I quite like the idea of bread varying with the seasons - winter bread, sour; summer bread, not so much - it's one little way of being anchored with the rhythms of the earth.  Thanks to everyone for their comments and suggestions.


Here are some pictures of the process:

Ready to mix the sponge (on top) and scald (underneath):

Sponge/scald mixed and ready to ferment:

Sponge/scald after fermentation (very very bubbly):

Loaves ready to prove (I need to get better at shaping them elegantly):

Proved loaves, with the Tupperware cake container I use as an incubating chamber (note the bubbles on the surface):

Loaves out of the oven: (I'll post a crumb shot in the morning when they've cooled)