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Help with rye bread recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice

Lunapequenita's picture

Help with rye bread recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice

I hope this is in the right forum and section! 

I'm still pretty new to bread baking and tried out the dark rye recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice twice. Both times, the loaf seemed to rise very quickly, despite the temperature in my house not being that warm (maybe 70 degrees F). He gives 90 minutes for first rise, but I checked the dough at 60 minutes and it was already very large. So went on to shaping. I was worried my loaf pan was too small, so I shaped it into a batard for baking on a sheet pan. After only about an hour, it rose a lot and I poked it and it seemed not to spring back. So, I deflated it but since I was going to be gone, I left the dough in the fridge for a few hours. When I came back I shaped again and left to rise. Despite having been in the fridge, the dough rose  pretty fast again; I think I only left it for half an hour and it was already large. I baked it but it split massively (I'm pretty sure I didn't shape it correctly) and was pretty dense. 

Second time, the dough rose fast on both the first rise (about 60 minutes for the first) and after shaping (again about 60 minutes, maybe less) (I did the batard again but thought I did a better job this time around). I poked it and even this time, it seemed not to spring back but I wasn't sure how that could be possible in so short a time, so I baked it to see what would happen. It didn't rise much, if at all, in the oven and was pretty dense. 

Were the loaves overproofed? If so, why is the dough rising so quickly in an environment that's not even that warm? Here's the recipe:

6 oz white rye flour (I used medium rye)

13.5 oz bread flour

1.5 tsp salt

1.75 tsp instant yeast

1 tbsp molasses

2 tbsp shortening

11 oz water 

1 oz water w/ coffee powder

Stir together flours, salt, yeast. Add in molasses, shortening, and water. Mix and add in 1-2 add tablespoons water only if needed. I mixed the first with the paddle attachment and the second time with just a spoon and my hands. Both times I kneaded by hand about 4-6 minutes per the directions. Then put in a bowl coated with oil for first proof. 

idaveindy's picture

Welcome back.

Bran in the flour causes faster fermentation than white (low or no bran) flour.  Medium rye has bran, whereas "white rye" has little to no bran. Therefore, using medium rye in place of white rye would accelerate fermentation.

Lunapequenita's picture

Thank you, I should have known something would be affected. So it's likely that they were over-proofed? Should I just shorten the fermentation time?

idaveindy's picture

Yes to over-proofed.  You can reduce the amount of yeast or the time, or both.

I have no idea how much to reduce. Maybe one of the rye experts might chime in.

mariana's picture

Hi Lunapequenita, 

it's supposed to be rather dense, like a bagel, it's a 56% hydration dough, although it depends on how dry your flour is. My flour would take at least 1/2 cup more water, for a total of 15 oz water, for this amount of flour (20oz flour), because my flour is very dry. 

And if you substitute medium rye flour it would become even denser, because with darker flour you introduce rye bran which absorbs more water. 

So, for your flour you could add a bit more water to adjust the dough consistency, to make it softer. 

With Peter's recipes he always gives choices, either ferment by using kitchen timer or ferment by using a measuring cup. In this case he says ferment until it doubles in volume twice: once when it ferments in a measuring cup, second time when it ferments in a pan or as a free form loaf on a baking sheet. It rises quickly because it has a large amount of yeast and sugar in the recipe. 

So, when you fermented it twice until it rose to the max it was way too much. Since it rose to the max during proofing it could not rise any more in the oven. 

Use a large measuring cup and watch it double in volume, like so


As for shaping, the ball of dough should be divided into 4 portions each rolled out until thin and then stacked together and shaped by rolling this stack up into a batard and sealing the bottom. Each step is well illustrated here:

Lunapequenita's picture

Thank you for the help-I guess I missed the “by cup” fermentation option in the book but I’m going to try that next time. 

On the shaping, I only made the dark loaf, not the light one, so I just tried to shape it into a batard without dividing it up into balls. The forming into balls isn’t necessary, is it? I would also prefer to use a loaf pan but thought mine might be too small-it’s a 8.5x4.5x2.5. Will that size fit just the dark loaf or is it better to it as free-form?

mariana's picture

Good morning Lunapequenita!

The balls are a must for this specific bread, regardless of it being all white, all dark, or a marble rye. The reason being that dividing it into balls and rolling them out thinly and then stacking them and rolling again allows you to deflate the bubbles thoroughly, develop gluten and create an even crumb texture, picture perfect, as in the book. Most importantly, this technique makes a better tasting bread that stays fresh longer. 

The size of the pan is your choice. You can make a heavy little loaf from a dense heavy dough and a small 8x4" pan would be just fine. Or you can add a bit more water and make a softer dough and a taller, fluffier loaf, soft as a slice of Wonderbread, and use a 9x5 loaf pan. 

Peter says that the entire recipe from 1.1kg (40oz altogether) flour 'makes two to four marbled rye breads', meaning that from 1 dark dough recipe you can make 1-2 loaves. 2 loaves if in 8x4" pans, because 1 dark bread recipe is from 550g flour (12lb 3 oz flour). In my books it's for two 8x4" pans, or one larger batard or a braided loaf baked on the baking sheet.

On page 186 Peter says "you can bake the loaves freestanding (recommended) or in oiled 8.5x4.5" pans". He also describes how you would divide 1 recipe of dark dough into 4 pieces for a freestanding loaf, or into 12 even sized pieces for 2 loaves in 8x4" pans. 

As you see, using a loaf pan or baking it free-form is a personal choice. I like breads made in pans more both for eating and as a baker, it's my preference, I love working with different pans and have a collection of them. Free-form breads are made, sliced and eaten differently. There is nothing wrong with them and I bake them as well, but it's a different process and a different experience when you eat them. 

Good luck! Peter's recipes never disappoint, I adore him as an author, his breads and pizzas are very tasty, but I rarely succeed from the first try. I guess my attention span is too short, there are details that escape me on the first try, and I also find that watching the dough rise instead of doing it by using kitchen timer works for his recipes better. If I use the timer then it's invariably a fail, an overfermented and overproofed dough and a mediocre bread. If I watch the volume then it's a prize winner. Really good bread.

It mostly has to do with the fact that my room temperature is rather warm, and his is only 67-71F, he uses cool water, cool flour, makes rather cold dough and ferments it slower, so his dough doubling takes much more time than mine at 80-90F in my kitchen. 💖

Lunapequenita's picture

This is all very helpful. I’m going to try the recipe again and use the ball shaping method outlined as well as the fermentation in the cup. I felt like I read the directions but I definitely missed quite a bit. Also going to use my loaf pans.  Crossing my fingers I’ll make a really good loaf (beautiful and tasty) eventually! 

Lunapequenita's picture

I felt compelled to try baking another loaf today and tried following all the tips you provided: I checked the dough earlier, used a measuring cup for the first rise, and shaped using one of the methods recommended in the book. I used my loaf pan and below is the difference. I'm still getting the hang of bread and neither would win any awards, but I'm pleased that this third loaf is a vast improvement. Thank you for the suggestions and if you have any others, I'd appreciate them. 


mariana's picture

Very nice, Lunapequenita! I am happy to see your improvements. The bread has good size, nice shape and looks soft and fluffy. 

What kind of flour did you use for that bread?  Did you use the rolling pin and the stacking method?

I wanted to bake that bread today but got distracted and did not want to bake late at night. I will see if I have more luck tomorrow and will show you my results. I have never tried this bread before and I am curious. I wanted to bake one purely white loaf with white rye flour and white bread four, and one loaf with medium rye and first clear flour for a dark rye bread.

Lunapequenita's picture

Thank you. I used the same medium rye flour I used the other two times; it's KAF brand. For the shaping I did the rolling pin with stacking. I think I need still need to work on pinching the dough closed.

Would love to see your results!

mariana's picture

Lunapequenita, was it all rye flour? No wheat flour at all? Your crumb looks like 50% rye bread. Mine looks more like wheat bread, I used strong bread flour for the wheat flour portion of the mix, and 30% rye flour was not affecting it at all. 

I baked 1 portion of white rye dough from Peter's marble rye recipe. It's delicious, very soft and tasty, caraway seeds help with its aroma significantly for those who like that sort of flavor. Simply great bread.

I used white rye flour (Melvit type 720), bread flour (RobinHood Best for Bread), and active dry yeast (Fleishmann's, the same 5g as in the recipe). Kneaded everything for 6 min in my bread machine. My flour needed 50g more water than in the recipe. 

Fermentation 1.5hr at 18C/65F, it exactly doubled from 3 cups to 6 cups.

Then I tried to proof loaves at that same temp. as Peter says, but it was not enough time, in 1.5hr they predictably doubled again, but were still too small to bake,

so I brought loaves into my warm kitchen and gave them additional 45min proof at 32C/90F, so they doubled again and finally rose enough to bake them.

I baked them in my bread machine, for 45min. I skipped egg wash, I was resistant for some reason, I don't know why. It turned out just fine, not as dark crusted as in the book, but nice anyways. The oven spring gave another increase in volume, 25-30%. 

Two cute loaves, 400g each (14oz each), baked in 8.5x4.5" pans. 

It's a wonderful bread, indeed. Thank you for the inspiration, Lunapequenita! I will probably bake that again this weekend, only the dark rye this time. 

Best wishes,


Lunapequenita's picture

Yours look lovely! I wish I’d had the caraway seeds…I guess I’ll just have to make it again. And yes, mine was a mix of the medium rye and wheat bread flours-I think it was also about 30% rye (6oz rye and 13 oz wheat). Does the density of my crumb compared to yours have to do with it being medium rye flour?

On the second fermentation, you mentioned yours doubled but were too small to bake. How is that determined? I thought doubling in size was the test.

mariana's picture

Hi Lunapequenita!

I don't think that the density of your crumb has to do with it being medium rye flour. Here's the crumb of mine made not only with medium rye flour but also with whole wheat bread flour. I decided to test the same recipe with dark flours to see it if works (it doesn't). 

The crumb is completely normal, I think: 

But the resulting bread is not tasty. I had to discard it. This recipe is meant to be baked with white rye flour and white bread flour. Changing flours radically worsens the taste of this particular bread.

The dark portion of the recipe in the BBA marble rye is dark only due to coloring, not to different flours. It is white dough made dark with addition of coloring, nothing else. 

The second fermentation, or proof before baking... Well, there are two issues here. One is the words of the author and another is his pictures and our personal experience with that bread. 

Some authors say ferment until it doubles and they mean it, like with mathematical precision, 2x in volume. Others mean 'double' in a loose sense or making the dough or loaf rise until it becomes visibly larger in volume. If by doubles they mean doubles in diameter as in a ball of dough becomes two times wider and two times taller, then it's an eightfold increase in volume! Because, mathematically speaking, twice the diameter of a ball means 8x its volume!

The first fermentation in Peter's recipe is indeed just to double in volume. I confirmed it by making that dough at the temperature indicated by Peter, at the level of 65-70F. It does indeed double in volume in 1.5hrs as he says. 

But proof before baking (second fermentation) is a different matter. He shows his loaf in the picture without any signs of tear and without slashes, yet you can clearly see its top crust rises well above the edges of the 8.5x4.5" pan. That means he let his dough to at least quadruple in volume before he baked it. 

Today I tried proofing breads to a lesser degree before baking, just one centimeter (1/3 of an inch) less tall and after baking them it gave me smaller loaves torn apart everywhere. Simply unacceptable from the aesthetic point of view. 

Initially, the pieces of dough are quite small compared to the volume of the prescribed bread pans:

I let them rise significantly, for 2 full hours in a warm kitchen, but still not as much as yesterday with the white rye loaves. 

And it was clearly not enough rise before baking. Why? Because there were tears all over the loaves, on the top crust and on the sides:

The crumb was fine: even textured and soft with crispy crunchy crust. It's just not tasty. Miles apart from the bread made with white rye flour and white bread flour as it should be. 


Lunapequenita's picture

I love that you tested this recipe in a few different ways, although the taste of the rye/whole wheat mix sounds disappointing. The taste of mine was okay; not as good as it probably would have been with the white rye flour but not bad. I still ate a bunch of it. 😀 The King Arthur Flour package has a rye bread recipe that used the medium rye flour and half as much bread flour as the BBA recipe. I. Curious about how that would turn out. It also has butter. 

How do I get a better crumb? Should I let mine rise more?

mariana's picture

Lunapequenita, the trick with a better crumb is in understanding the original recipe.

Peter uses first clear flour (14%protein, i.e. 14 g protein in 100g wheat flour) and you are probably using some bread or all-purpose flour with about 11% protein.

When he diluted his wheat flour with 30% rye, his final flour blend still behaves as bread flour with about 10% wheat protein, so his crumb looks like wheat bread.

But when you blended your flour with rye flour, the entire mix behaves more like cake and pastry flour with about 7.5% wheat protein in 100g of flour blend. Which is why your bread crumb behaves and looks cake-like (or like a muffin), not yeasted bread-like. 

In such circumstances all you can do is to give your wheat flour a head start, i.e. blend it with cold water from the recipe and let this undiluted wheat dough rest in a cold place for about an hour and then add everything else to it and make bread dough. Even 10 minutes of such a head start would affect the crumb making it look better, overnight refrigerated even better. 

I took pictures of how I did it, just in case, because in my second bake I used a really delicate and tender whole wheat flour (fairly low in protein to begin with) heavily diluted with coarse medium rye, so it was important for me to do this if I wanted my bread to still look like bread and not like 'rye cake' or rye muffin. 

1) Blend 350g of your wheat flour (bread or all-purpose) with 300g cold water from the recipe. Let it rest for a minimum of 10 min, better for an hour or even overnight refrigerated. 

 There is no kneading, just blend to moisten your wheat flour (1-2 min stirring on low speed). And let it rest for its gluten to form. 

2) Add everything else, except rye flour, and blend to homogeneity. Again, no kneading, just stir it for 1-2 min on low speed. 

Here I added 5g yeast, 20g molasses, coloring, 25g shortening, and 10g salt. 

stirred it a bit

3) Add 155g rye flour and knead it for 6 min adjusting for water if necessary.

In my bread machine it means stirring on a very low speed for 2 min to moisten flour, and only then kneading it (medium speed if in a stand mixer) for 6 min. This is how the dough looks like, ready to begin fermenting. 

That's it. Let it ferment in a cold place until it doubles. Then shape as described in the book and let it rise again inside your loaf pans until its top is about 1/2 inch to 1 inch above the edges of the pan. When touching its surface with finger, it still feels springy, not too tight but not too flabby either. Don't try to leave an indentation, simply touch it gently to see if it feels 'alive' like soft baby bottom, I guess. 

Then bake in a 350F oven for about 30-35 min if it's two small breads in 8.5x4.5"pans. They will rise quite a bit more in the oven, but they won't tear. 

Write down the time needed for proofing to that height, so that you can rely on that number of hours or minutes of second fermentation in the future, when you'll proof a freestanding loaf as well. 

best wishes, 


Lunapequenita's picture

I’m going to have to try all of this or get some first clear flour. The recipe said “bread flour or clear flour” and I’ve never used the latter so I went with bread flour (and yes it’s 12% protein). I had thought since it said “or” that they would be equivalent. Now I know better. I’m thinking I’ll buy the white rye and try again. I’d love to get this recipe right. 

And thank you again for taking the time to provide such detailed instructions and photos of your own baking-it’s really helpful. 




rouncer's picture

top quality posts, really nice bread! thanks for every-one sharin the advice.