The Fresh Loaf

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Rye Berries Substitute to make Sourdough

breadmaking's picture

Rye Berries Substitute to make Sourdough

Hi TFL members, am looking for Rye berries substitute to make a sourdough starter and rye bread

Due to the low glycemic index, it was suggested to eat Pumpernickel or rye bread. These breads have suited me fine. But baked in limited quantity and expensive and have many other additions to the store bought bread.

I have tried making the Sourdough Starter using Rye flour but the starter does not show much activity.

I am following Mary's Nest website recipe, and she uses Rye berries.

Is there any substitute for Rye Berries. Will buckwheat groats or Amaranth grains serve the same purpose. Am aware they are GF and may need to add some other form of gluten.

Not sure regarding the Glycemic index

Appreciate any help form the members - thank you for reading my post



alcophile's picture

I started a rye sour culture with organic whole rye flour earlier this year, but initially thought it was a failure. I found some good advice in these posts:

I am certainly no expert, but these posts gave me confidence to continue with my initial rye starter. It has continued to work for me even though I feed it every 1–2 weeks; I store mine in the refrigerator.


breadmaking's picture

alcophile thank you very much for the links and suggesting organic rye flour

i managed to find Rogers dark rye flour, and now i mixed my 3rd day  starter with it

Will keep my fingers crossed. The dark rye is different from light rye. I have been using the light so that the bread will look edible.

But did not realize the dark flour has some outer layer of the rye.

Thank you very much

Stay safe

alcophile's picture

The outer bran layer will have the highest concentration of wild "beasties" (bacteria and yeast). The culture can always be converted to another flour through refreshment with the other flour, but I have found the whole rye culture maintenance to be very forgiving.

Also, when you use the culture in a bread, the other flour does not have to be whole rye, and the quantities of the culture used usually will be a relatively small fraction of the total flour in the loaf.

My culture was volcanic early (overflowed the jar!), then went quiet for a few days, then started rising again. It is a 100% hydration culture. I used the procedure in Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker.

breadmaking's picture

Thank you i will try to see The rye baker on the net if possible. I like the rye as i need to eat only 1 slice to fill me up.

my recipe was according to Mary's nest. i like her procedure as it is easily understandable for people like me - not much of weight measure but cup measures. Also all the other terminology relating to bread making i simply dont understand - except hydration!

Stay safe and thank you


alcophile's picture

I watched the Mary's Nest video for starting a rye sour culture. I can't tell what the hydration is, but it does look more liquid than a 100% hydration culture.

Stanley Ginsberg does not give a recipe for the rye sour culture on It is included in his book, The Rye Baker. It is a 100% hydration culture. He mixes equal weights of whole rye flour and warm water and each day discards half of the mixture and adds the same amount of fresh flour and warm water as Day 1. As I mentioned in a previous post, mine showed little activity for a couple of days after the early volcanic behavior. It took mine about a week before it was ready.

breadmaking's picture

Thank you very much, our library has his book and i put it on hold.

In the meantime my culture is going, not much activity i will use the discard method - very grateful for your help.

The reason i like mary's nest is for the simplicity and just eyeballs the quantity like our grandmothers used to do in the days gone by. Also using cup/spoon measurements.

I hope i get the book soon from the library.

Thank you again - appreciate your kind help

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Just FYI - eyeballing and volume measurements are not good practice if you want reproducible results, or results that can actually be similar to the recipe. I understand it's nice to be relaxed about things, but first better to get experience with precise measurements. There is enough variability in everyone's ingredients to try to reduce the variability where you can, otherwise no one knows what you'll get in the end...

breadmaking's picture

thank you IIya & alcophile yes i agree with you both regarding eyeballing, but sometimes the recipe gets so complicated that it seems impossible to make a dish.

appreciate your input.

alcophile's picture

I'll second Ilya's comment. I find that using weights for baking is actually easier than volume. I can put my bowl on the scale and add items in succession with less mess. It's especially good for honey, molasses, oil, and sticky sourdough culture. I don't have to wash all those tablespoons and measuring cups.

chefcdp's picture

I find rye berries at my local co-op.  However there is no reason that you need berries to start a sourdough culture, flour will do nicely.

For authoritative information on starting a sourdough culture you can read Debra Winks two posts on beginning a sourdough culture;

Existing cultures can be changed from one type of flour to another in a matter of a day or so.  The best way to get a good sourdough culture is to find someone who will give you a start from their own culture.  If it is not being fed the flour that you want to use in our starter it is easy to change it over.

If you don't know anyone who can give you a start, you can buy one. King Arthur and Breadtopia sell reliable starts and 1847 Oregon Trail Start is available from Carlsfriends, some mail delays there recently. 

Beginning a new sourdough culture from flour and water can be interesting and challenging, but for beginning sourdough bakers it is really  best to start with a known to be good strain.  

That way you will have a marker to judge your own creation against as well as taking one possible error of the list.



breadmaking's picture

Thank you Carlos for the links, I have tried with pineapple juice and no results.

I also purchased some starter from Carls friends, but i mixed more of flour and water as i was eager to share the SD with a friend. So not much happened.

I have been discarding so much in the time i have been trying to get the SD going.

Thank you for your help i managed to find Rogers dark rye flour and i am trying my starter with that. I am in day 3.

Hope she will turn out well

Thank you again for the links and explanation

stay safe

hlord's picture

If you're having so much trouble getting a starter culture going, it might be because of your water. Are you using city water that's been treated or has chlorine in it? Chlorine can kill the microorganisms that need to grow in sour cultures. I have a well and it's easy for me to make a new sour culture.

Try getting a little spring water or any water that's not be through a city's water treatment plant.


breadmaking's picture

thank you  hlord for your response, i do use filtered water, will keep trying, from what i understand rye starter is easy to make, but for me it is a new experience


alcophile's picture

I'm lucky that I also have well water. It is some of the best-tasting water I've had.

I agree with hlord—the water needs to be chlorine-free. If you are still having difficulty, you might want to buy a gallon of spring water from the store, as suggested by hlord. Don't use any water that has been processed by distillation or reverse osmosis. You need some minerals in the water.

You might want to place the starter in a warmer environment to see if that might kick-start some activity. I sometimes use the oven light to create a warmer spot.

Good luck!

breadmaking's picture

I was given a new tip by a Kind Jewish bakery to make the rye SD starter.  1 or 2 times during the day to keep the starter without a cover in a closet and let the natural yeast work its way and then cover with a coffee filter...

I managed to do this and in about 2 -3 days my starter was bubbling.

He asked me to come to his bakery and he would give me a starter, and when i got there he had a large pail full of bubbling starter. I was excited, but then he said the rye starter is in another room, and the one he had in the pail was with yeast + sourdough as they have a bakery.

But he was kind to share with me his precious Tip (did not give me any sourdough starter)

And thats what he said above....and to send him pic when my starter is ready.

But then when i left i remembered the quote..

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime"

So very grateful!

Thank you all for your help.