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The Sourdough Rye Loaf

Ah the rye loaf. This has been my nemesis for some time but I've finally figured it out. Now I think part of the problem was that I was trying to make this loaf when I still didn't know enough about bread to really know what I was doing. So the first couple of loaves were more like curling stones than bread. But as my bread skills have improved, this loaf has improved. So here is what I've learned about the sourdough rye loaf.

I am using the loaf recipe from the The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I love this book, the author has a great section on ingredients and tools that's super helpful.


bread flour - about 1 1/2 cups

rye flour - 3/4 cups

water (at room temp) - 1 cup

Stiff starter - 1 1/2 cups

caraway seeds - 2 tablespoons

salt - 1/2 tablespoon


  1. Make sure your starter has been feed and is happy. You will want to feed it twice the amount of flour to the amount of water. This will give you the the good stiff starter needed for the bread. I usually feed my starter 24 hours ahead of when I plan on starting the loaf.

  2. In a kitchen aid mixer place your flours and the water and mix with the dough hook. Once it comes together continue to knead it on low for several more minutes. This will start the gluten development that's so important for this bread. Let it rest, covered, for 20 minutes. You can do all of this by hand. I normally do it in my mixer which is why I include it.

  3. Add the starter and mix it in. This will take several minutes to get all mixed in. Once its mixed in add the salt and the caraway seeds. Mix them in well. Now we start an important step. Increase the speed of the mixer and knead the dough. The dough will need to be elastic and tacky but not sticky. I judge this with my spatula. If it is sticks and when its pulled away and it leaves some on the spatula it needs a bit more flour. If it sticks and when the spatula is pulled away and the dough releases its good to go. To know the dough is right level of elasticity it will pass the window test. To do the window test, gently pull a small chunk off the rest. Now take the small chunk and gently pull from four points. It should stretch out and be translucent. If the gluten hasn't developed enough it will tare rather than become translucent. If it tares, continue to knead the dough and then test again. Once the dough has passed both tests. Place the dough in an oiled container and cover it.

  4. After an hour take the dough out and place on a floured surface. It would have only risen a little bit. Flatten it out and fold it like a business letter, Give it a quarter turn and fold it again. Place it back in the bowl to rise again.

  5. Pull the dough out when its doubled in size. This could take any where from 2 to 5 hours depending on the temperature of the room its in. Its better to error on the side of it being a bit cool than too warm. You will get a better flavor and consistency if you let rise slowly. If it rises fast due to the heat you risk the yeast dying and loosing all of the air. Roll the dough in to as tight a ball as you can and place in your bantam to rise. At this point I place my dough in the fridge or in a cold garage to rise. This makes it extra slow and gives that lovely sour flavor.

  6. The next morning preheat the oven to 450 F. I place my dutch oven in at this point too to get it hot. After its preheated for an hour its time to get your dough out of the fridge.

  7. Turn your dough out on to a piece of making parchment and score it. This help direct the oven spring. Pull the dutch oven out of heated oven (Careful! its really hot) and place the loaf, still on the paper inside and cover. Bake for 5 minutes then turn the oven down to 400 F.

  8. Bake for another 35 to 40 minutes. In the last couple of minutes remove the lid to let the loaf get a nice brown crust. It will be done when the internal temp is 190F. When done pull it out and set on the rack to cool. This is one of the reasons why I use the parchment. Its so much easier to get it out of the pot that way.

And TA DA! you should have a lovely yummy rye loaf. If you find that it has flattened, look at step 3 again. That's what I had to do. And if its a little flat, eat it anyway. It will still take yummy.

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