Rye Sourdough Bread

January 22, 2018
Savoury Bakes
Family Verdict:


  • Water: 400 grams, 1 3/4 cups
  • Sourdough Starter: 70 grams, 1/3 cup OR
  • Instant Yeast: 1 tsp. (omit if making sourdough leavened version)
  • Rye Flour: 245 grams, 1 3/4 cups
  • Bread Flour: 245 grams, 1 3/4 cups
  • Molasses: 44 grams, 2 Tbs.
  • Fennel Seed: 8 grams, 1 Tbs.
  • Anise Seed: 2 grams, 1 tsp. (I omitted this as I didn't have/couldn't find any)
  • Caraway Seed: 3 grams, 1 tsp.
  • Salt: 12 grams, 1 3/4 tsp.
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • (can be omitted if you don't have one to hand....)

Sourdough Version:

In a mixing bowl, mix the starter into the water.
Add the molasses, all the seeds and orange zest.
In a separate bowl, combine the flours and salt.
Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet using a dough whisk or spoon until the flour is well incorporated.
Cover with plastic and let rest for 15 minutes. After about 15 minutes, mix again for a minute or two. Again let rest for 15 minutes and mix one more time as before.
Now cover the bowl with plastic and let sit at room temperature for roughly 12-14 hours.

Instant Yeast Version:

The only difference is don’t use sourdough starter and instead mix the instant yeast into the dry ingredients before combining with the wet ingredients.

Both Versions:

After the long 12-14 hour proof, stretch and fold the dough and shape into boule or batard (round or oblong) shape for baking.
Cover again with plastic and let rest 15 minutes before putting in a proofing basket for the final rise. If you don’t have a proofing basket, line a bowl with a well floured kitchen towel and put the dough in there for the final rise. The final rise should last somewhere between 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Keep the dough covered with plastic to prevent it from drying out.
Preheat your oven to 230C a half hour before baking. If you want to try the pan method, put an appropriate sized cast iron pan and lid in the oven to heat at the same time - it should have about the same diameter as the bowl you are proving the bread in. If not using the pan, put a large roasting tray in the bottom of the oven and boil the kettle

Turn the dough out of the proving basket onto a heated baking sheet. Score the dough with a razor or sharp serrated knife and bake about 35 mins (open oven) or 35 mins with the lid on (if pot baking) then a further 10 mins with the lid off. If baking "open oven" then fill the roasting tin with boiling water at the same time you put the loa in to bake .Let cool completely before eating.


Trying this recipe was driven by the coming together of to things: The availability of Rye Flour (left over from making Russian black Bread at Christmas time) and the proliferation of a sourdough starter.

I was given the sourdough starter (or its parent anyway) by a friend in a Neighbouring Village many months ago. It had languished in an old jar in the door of my fridge and become increasingly fetid looking. I had not been doing much bread making and have never really gotten into the swing of sourdough. However a recent trip to the Pump Street Bakery over in Suffolk prompted me to give it a go - I love the crumb and crust, the jaw and tooth challenging nature of it. So I dug out the starter and googled )guiltily) for how to revive such a thing, or whether I would need to start again (lol) - which would probably mean I never got started, if you see what I mean.

Anyway the reliable Mr Google pointed me here and I followed the instructions on reviving a neglected starter. To my amazement within a week I had a frothing foaming starter which I was feeding and it was multiplying - time to make some bread.

I found this recipe for rye sourdough online as well. My expectations weren't really that high to be honest as rye based bread tends to be dense and chewy due to the lack of gluten, but this recipe is 50/50 rye to white bread flour so it was worth giving it a try. Also the method was interestingly close to the method for No Knead Bread (or Cheat's Sourdough as I call it) which I have found to yield consistently good crust and crumb. The open crumb I put down to the fact that it is a very wet dough and the steam produced on baking exaggerates the gas pockets produced by the yeast. The recipe also featured flavourings very close to the Russian Black Bread without the complexity.

I decided to adapt the original recipe to bake it in the same way as the no knead bread - in a cast iron pot with the lid on. This worked a treat and produced a loaf with great crust and crumb. The bread itself is absolutely delicious and got great reviews from everyone who tried it. It is nutty and savoury ,a real treat which can carry many flavours from marmalade to gravad lax with equal aplomb. It is a banker of a lof - and as I write I am making it again. This time Ihave scaled the water back by 10% to see if the dough has slightly more self-respect so i can bake it normally rather than in a pot. It will be fascinating to see the difference in result. If you dont happen to have a sourdough starter to hand, then the recipe gives instructions on how to use instant yeast - which makes it even closer to the Cheat's Sourdough.

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