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100% sourdough rye - what do I do wrong?

Eagle123's picture

100% sourdough rye - what do I do wrong?

Hi guys,

I am trying to make a 100% rye for quite some time but all attempts fail miserably. The crumb is always very soft, almost doughy - as if it didn't fully bake (see picture). When I cut a slice it is super sticky (see the knife) and I can play with the crumb as if it were putty. 

As flour I use this one:

I tried the following recipe:

The flour I have seems to absorb a lot more water compared to what is shown in the video in the above recipe. So I ended up using more water (520 ml overall) to get the same dough consistency as shown in the video.

In terms of proofing-time I stayed more or less with the recipe. The dough was nice and active and rose as expected.

I baked it at 430degF first for 30 min in a dutch oven and then outside for another about 45 min. 

The video in the recipe shows an amazing result:

I am wondering if this can really be achieved with a 100% rye sourdough? I have not seen another photo of a 100% rye sourdough bread with such a crumb.


What am I doing wrong in my attempt? Did I use too much water to achieve the same dough consistency? Is something wrong with my flower (it is quite old, but I didn't get better results when it was super fresh either).


TopBun's picture

The gumminess could be from not baking long enough or not waiting long enough to slice. Possibly too much water for the dough, but I'd start with the other factors first. 

But I suspect the biggest issue is that the model recipe is using a different type of rye flour than what you are working with. I make a lot of 100% whole grain rye breads and none of them achieve the kind of lighter crumb shown in the photo and video. They look more like yours. I'd guess that the baker in the video is using a lighter rye flour with much of the bran sifted off.

Your dark rye seems to be more or less whole grain rye, which will produce the kind of crumb you're baking. Whole grain rye bread is characteristically a dense thing, like the Danish rugbrød or German vollkornbrot -- dense, dark, savory and sliced thin. I make a lot of it, and it's glorious - but a very different beast than breads with a lighter crumb. 

A longer bake can help with the gumminess. You also need to wait at least 24 hours for the crumb to stabilize before slicing with a dense bread. 

But if you want something much lighter in crumb, you may need to use a sifted rye flour instead of the whole-grain. One of the most frustrating things about rye baking is the lack of standardization in rye flour labeling, but "medium" or "light" rye (or a blend) might give you something closer to the video. 

If I"m wrong, and anyone else can get a loaf looking like this from 100% whole grain rye, I hope they post it here!


Yippee's picture

Yes, it can be done. Follow this rye expert and you will succeed.

idaveindy's picture

I concur with TopBun.  

The collapse under the top crust is a sign of over fermentation.  Over fermentation can be caused by excess bran. (Bran has enzymes that turn starch to sugar. More bran, more enzymes, more sugar, means faster fermenting.)

Your Ardent rye is a whole/dark _meal_, according to the specifications tab.  1.7% ash indicates whole grain for rye.

The recipe you used was likely for a "medium" flour, not a whole/dark.  And was likely a _flour_ not a _meal_.   That alone explains all your symptoms. Plus needing to wait 24 hrs before slicing.

The  Baker's Authority  page is also misleading and confusing... It says "flour" in fhe title, but says "meal" in the specs. Maybe they attached the wrong spec sheet to the product page.

So... you could email/phone them (BA) and ask for clarification, or use Ardent's product number from the package and go to the source and ask Ardent or check Ardent's web site.

Know this: the word "medium" has different meanings when applied to flour as opposed to meal.  

With rye flour, medium means how much bran. As in light/medium/dark.

With rye meal, medium means the coarseness of the grind.  All rye _meal_ is 100% whole grain (all the bran), regardless of whether the grind is  fine/medium/coarse.


Possible adjustments: 

Mix your dark/whole rye with regular  white bread flour (2 parts rye to 1 part white/bread) in order to continue with this recipe.  That 2:1 ratio is not exact -- you'll need to experiment.

Or, find a recipe that calls for 100% whole grain rye , not light/medium rye flour.


The linked web site recipe (and video) also does a disservice by not specificying what kind of rye flour they are calling for.


On your next rye flour purchase, you will be better informed as to how to match the rye product to what your recipe (formula) calls for.


Also be advised that Bay State Milling, and NY Bakers, have yet another meaning for "dark" rye, which means an even higher concentration of bran, because they remove the endosperm, not the bran, when making it.

albacore's picture

I agree with Yippee - the recipe you are using lacks a properly developed sour rye starter. In fact there appears to be no detail on levain development.

Follow Yippee's suggested Rus Brot recipe, or look at my favourite site for rye breads - The link opens at a 100% rye bread, to show the kind of crumb you can "really" expect. Open in Chrome for a seamless translation experience.

Note that most proper rye recipes will require a warm place for levain development, bulk fermentation and final proof.

Also, as implied by TopBun & idaveindy, consider sifting your dark rye flour - a fine kitchen sieve will do well enough. Once you've got a decent loaf under your belt, you can try the pure dark rye again if you want.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and this is done by letting the rye starter get really sour and ripe before using. It should also be well fed before letting it get good and ripe.  It will also be more liquid in this ripe stage and you will not need to add so much extra water.  Try not to knead the dough but work in a bowl with a strong sturdy spoon and when using hands, dampen them first to prevent sticking.  When using a counter top, I smear a super thin coating of olive oil (hands too) and then lightly mist the oiled surface before turning out dough.  Makes for easy clean up.  

If you decide to sift out some of the bran, use it to feed the starter/levain (the beasties love the stuff) and/or use to dust the pans, banetton or loaf after shaping to prevent sticking to baking surfaces.

When shaping, don't overwork the paste.  Folding the dough in half one time or maybe twice is more than enough, smoothing out any cracks and seams.  

The baking temp.  Many opinions on this but I've  had more volume when putting the loaf in early before the oven reached full temperature letting the loaf heat up with the oven after it reaches. 325°F. 

TopBun's picture

Mini, do you think the desired lighter crumb here can be accomplished with the unsifted whole-grain rye the baker is using, if the dough is sufficiently acidified? 

I didn't think about insufficient acidity in the dough as a culprit. Stanley Ginsburg calls this "starch attack" (I think the technical term is amylase degradation?). That can certainly break down a rye bread's structure, but never having experienced it myself I can't tell from the photo if that's what is going on. But Mini and the others are right that you should ensure your rye starter is very sour.

Eagle123's picture

Thanks all for the great tips!

I think you are right that the flour used in the video must be different from what I have.
And looking at the other linked recipes: non of them uses only dark rye flour.
It also makes sense that I need to use a larger percentage of the rye flour in the starter to increase the acidity.

So I made a few modifications to the recipe: I let more of the rye flour ferment and add in some bread flour.

This is what I did:

1) some starter + 120g dark rye flour + 240g water (50degC); ferment for 12 hours
2) above levain + 200g dark rye flour + 400g water (50degC); let rest for 2.5 hours
3) above dough + 120g dark rye flour + 200g bread flour + 12g salt; let rest for 30 min
4) shape - > proofing basket for ~50 min
5) bake at 430degF for about 80 min
6) wait 24 hours (that's the most difficult part)

The final result is much better. I really like the taste, but the crumb is still a bit wet. Next time I will use a bit less water. And I will try a medium or light rye flour next time I go shopping.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(freeze them) for use in the next loaf.  You can crumble a slice into the levain feeding or  break apart in the main liquids before mixing up the main dough.  No need to compensate anything as the slices are already balanced.  They will also give the dough more "body."  ( Sort of like the straw to a clay brick.)

Big improvements on this loaf!    Way to go!    :)

Eagle123's picture

Hi all,

I tried this recipe again with a different flour.
Previously I used this dark rye flour:

Now I bought these flours:
Medium rye flour:
White rye flour:

I baked the original recipe again (

In a first try I used the medium rye flour for the starter, and I used 100% white rye flour when mixing the dough.

1st try - white rye flour used for main dough


In a second try I used the medium rye flour for the starter, and I used a mix of 50% white rye flour and 50% medium rye flour when mixing the dough.

2nd try - white and medium rye flour used for main dough

I liked the crumb of the 1st try (using 100% white rye flour for the main dough) a bit more - but both breads turned out really good.

TopBun's picture

I'm glad you experimented with different flours.  All-rye breads ares still, sadly, not in the mainstream of most home or even professional bakers, at least in North America where I live. There is a lamentable lack of standardization of rye flour types  outside of Europe, and many recipes don't specify what to use.

Eagle123's picture

Thanks TopBun for suggesting to try a different four in the first place! It just took me a while to use up the 40lbs of the dark rye flour that I bought before :-).


Benito's picture

Beautiful all rye crumb, really impressive.  How is the flavour of the white rye loaf compared to the whole rye loaf?


Eagle123's picture

Hi Benito, the flavor of the white rye bread is actually very good. It reminds me of the bread I'm used to from Germany.

The flavor of the whole rye loaf was good as well, but the consistency of the crumb (it was doughy/sticky/gummy) was really a turn off.

Next time I'll make the white rye bread I want to achieve a thicker and darker crust - I'll try to bake it at a higher oven temperature (I used 450degF yesterday - so I may try 480degF).

happycat's picture

Nice crumb there.

I've baked with dark rye and sprouted fresh milled rye that I sifted. I think your results are inspiring me to mill more sprouted rye and sift it to create my own medium and light flours. 

JonJ's picture

Beautiful looking breads and crumb. 

Abe's picture

There's some degree in separation from the crust to crumb indicating over fermentation or final proofing. Your latest bake looks really lovely. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You've come a long way.  The eagle has landed!