I’ve been working on figuring out how to make a sourdough rye bread. I like rye bread, and I love sourdough bread, so I figured a sourdough rye would be pretty awesome. I have some experience making bread, both sourdough and traditional, but I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert. I knew that making this sourdough would probably take some experimentation and involve several failures.
The first loaf I tried to make in my bread maker. I have this bread maker and expected I would use it a bunch, but as I guess is kind of the stereotype with bread makers, I don’t. I know sourdough can be difficult to rise and bake in a bread maker due to it’s wetter consistency, but I figured I could at least utilize the kneading function of it. I looked up several rye bread recipes and formulated an action plan. Long story short, the resultant bread was awful. Not even edible! It went straight in the compost and I tried to troubleshoot what went wrong. After a little bit of reading I’m pretty sure I over kneaded the dough.
This made me start thinking about a book I owned, and had successfully made bread from before. It’s called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you are interested in bread making I highly recommend you read this book, and their other book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s where I began learning about bread baking. Their method of making bread involved no kneading, but also called for store bought yeast and not quite suited for using a sour dough starter. I looked at their recipe for rye bread in the book, and thought about how it could be adapted to work with a sourdough starter instead of store bought yeast. It only took a couple more experiments before I got a loaf of bread I was pretty happy with.
A good, fluffy rise is important to me in a bread. I guess it’s my years of conditioning to store bought bread. I’ve honestly never achieved the kind of light, fluffy, bread crumb I like, and this bread is no exception. But it’s still pretty good, even if it is a little denser than my dream bread is. To get a good light rise out of a rye bread, most people seem to recommend mixing the rye flour with some wheat flour. I ended up mixing mine with equal parts whole wheat flour and all purpose white flour. I also added some vital wheat gluten to make sure the dough would have enough elasticity to hold air bubbles as it rises. That’s what gives you that fluffy crumb in bread. Also, we generally keep our house too cool in winter to rise bread dough, so I’ve found a little trick. I turn my oven to it’s lowest setting, which is “Warm”. Once it preheats, I turn my oven off, and stick my bread dough in there to rise. It keeps it nice and warm to maximize the yeast activity.
I imagine I could still improve upon this recipe a great deal, and maybe I will over time and I’ll make sure to update you. For now, though, this is a pretty good bread for me to share with you. I hope you like it!
Sourdough Rye Bread
- 1 cup rye flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 cups of sourdough starter
- 1-2 cups warm water
- Extra rye flour for dusting
- Place all of your dry ingredients, your flours, vital wheat gluten, sugar, and salt into a bowl and stir it all together.
- Add your sourdough starter and start to stir it in
- At this point you’re probably going to need to add water. How much you add will depend on how much sourdough starter you used. Add water about 1/4 a cup at a time, and mix it all together, until your dough can be molded into a sticky ball. It should be a little wet, but not soupy. It will stick to your hands, and will hold a shape, but not firmly. I used about 3/4 a cup of water in this batch.
- DON’T KNEAD IT! Once it’s thoroughly mixed, you’re done. Sprinkle some extra rye flour on it to make it easier to work with and put it back in the bowl. Cover with a warm, moist towel or paper towel and put it in a warm place (like I do with my oven).
- Let it rise until it doubles right in the bowl. It might collapse back in on it’s self, and that’s okay. I let mine rise about 2 hours.
- While you are waiting for it to rise, sprinkle some rye flour on your baking pan of choice. I use a stoneware pizza pan.
- This is important. DO NOT PUNCH IT DOWN!! I know with most breads you want to punch it down at this point and re knead it, but don’t do it here. Instead, decide if you want the dough to be one giant loaf of bread, or two smaller loaves. If you want two smaller loaves, tear the dough in half and leave one half in your bowl. Cover it, and put it in your fridge, it will last 2-3 weeks.
- Take the dough volume of your choice out of the bowl, trying your best not to smash it as much as possible. You want to retain as many of the air pockets in there as possible. Sprinkle four on the dough as needed to keep it from sticking to you and make it easier to work with. Shape the dough into a round shape by folding the edges underneath the bottom until its round. If that’s hard to understand, you can watch this youtube video of the authors of the Bread in Five Minutes a Day books making a loaf of bread to get a better idea.
- Put the shaped loaf on the pan with the flour sprinkled on it to rise again. I let it rise for one to two hours. It will spread wide more than rise up. You can gently shape it again if you want to make it taller, I usually do. Then sprinkle it with flour one more time, and use a serrated knife to slash the top. I usually just do two slashes, but in the video I linked to above, you can see their fancy scallop slash method.
- Preheat your oven to 350, then pop the bread in. Let it cook for 45 minutes for the small loaf. I haven’t made the big loaf yet, so I’m not sure how long to let that cook, honestly. Start with 45 and see how it goes. Let us know in the comments if you try it before I do!
- Let your bread cool before cutting into it. This is the hardest part.
- Store it in a plastic bag.
I have not tried doing the water in the oven like in the video, but will get around to it one day and update this post when I do to tell you how it goes. Of course, if you try it before I do, post a comment and let me know how it works for you!
The directions look complicated, but really, this is a super simple bread to make. There are pictures of all the steps below! I hope that you like it as much as I do!
I’m off to pop a loaf of this into my oven! If you give this a try, let us know how it turns out in the comments!
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