The Fresh Loaf

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Working with rye dough

obrien1984's picture

Working with rye dough

Last night was my first attempt at a rye loaf. The texture of the dough was completely different than anything I had worked with before (usually I bake 100% whole wheat), and I was wondering if perhaps I did something wrong.

I used the recipe for 65% sourdough rye in Reinhardt's WGB. I used Hodgson Mills All Natural Stone Ground Rye Flour and King Arthur Whole Wheat.

Rather than a soft, slightly sticky, homogenous, dough, the rye dough was more like modeling clay. For example, when I tried to shape it into a ball (by tucking the sides underneath), it just split on the top. Instead of stretching, it just broke apart. I tried adding more water, but it became gooey and sticky. I don't see how it would be possible to shape this in the traditional method of stretching and folding, as it lacked both elasticity and extensibility.

Is this the correct texture?

The resulting 32 oz loaf was quite dense and chewy, but very good. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste, which was much milder than the caraway-laden rye bread I remember from the fried fish sandwiches of my childhood.

 Thanks so much for reading! I look forward to your responses, oh wise Internet!



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Welcome to Ryeland.  Everything sounds about right... playdough, or cookie dough, folding but no stretching, better just to be careful with it once it starts to rise.  Cracks and fissures?  yes!  It is easy to get it too dry and full of flour but working in water to get back to "sticky" is good!  Overproofing can happen very fast. 

I'd say you're on the right track, keep up the good work!  The bread will taste even better tomorrow. 

Mini O

dmsnyder's picture

with your entry into Ryeland, you get Mini O's (w)ry humor! Welcome! 

I don't disagree with any of Mini's supportive comments. They certainly hold for doughs that are mostly rye. Doughs that have 15-20% rye and the rest wheat flour are not as sticky. And rye flours get less sticky as they ferment. 

There are some techniques that are helpful with rye doughs and with more highly hydrated (and therefor stickier) wheat doughs as well. Mini and other rye mavens may want to comment or add to my thoughts. 

  1. Lightly dusting your hands or the dough with flour very frequently while kneading helps. But, be mindful of not adding too much flour in total to the dough. 
  2. With very sticky doughs, oiling or wetting your hands is an alternative.
  3.  While kneading or handling the dough, make all contacts with it as brief as possible. I'm talking about fractions of seconds. Fast, short kneading strokes cut down on the dough that sticks to your hands.
  4. Use your bench knife liberally when you move the dough around and to free dough from the bench. Fast, brief strokes are preferred here, too.
  5. I have the impression that using a rye sour or, at least, a rye soaker to add all the rye flour makes for dough that is less sticky when you knead it.
  6. Don't over-knead rye doughs. You want to develop the gluten in your wheat flour, but over-kneaded rye breaks down at some point and gets stickier. This cannot be "fixed" once it has happened. (This is more of a problem with machine mixing than hand kneading.) 
  7. Use high-gluten flour for the wheat flour when you make rye breads.

Other suggestions for Joseph, anyone?  


sphealey's picture

Ditto the above comments: doughs above 25% rye flour are a different world, more like modeling clay (as described) than wheat dough. I love Reinhart's description of his volkornbrot dough: "knead until smooth; will be slightly sticky". Yeah, and glue is "slightly sticky" too! But I tasted Reinhart's dough at his class and mine is more or less the same, so I know I am on the right track.

My suggestion for higher-fraction ryes is try "kneading" it in the bowl with a plastic dough scraper rather than turning it out on the counter. I put kneading in quotes because it is more of a wet fold than a knead, and making those folds in my large ceramic bowl seems to work quite well. It is easy to get the sticky dough off the sides of the bowl with the plastic scraper too.

Also, for my first year of baking I made RLB's Real Jewish Rye almost every week with yeast. It was quite good and drew me into breadbaking. But now that I have a good sourdough routine going I am not as excited by yeasted rye breads - the sour starter does many good things to rye.


audra36274's picture

I didn't know that. I had followed instructions and everything turnied out well. But a lot of my other doughs "need to be kneaded" a lot! If something had gone wrong I would have had no idea why. Thank you. Like a lot of other Alton Brown junkies I LOVE to know why. Only then can I really understand something and be comfortable with it. That is why this website is so valuable to every one. There is a ton of knowledge here. It's a cool place to be!