100% rye bread recipe (sourdough)

Rye flour is by far my favourite flour for bread baking. It produces breads with a rich hearty taste, complex nutty flavours and a moist, dense and chewy texture. Rye breads are higher in fibre and lower in fat than wheat loaves and therefore have added health benefits. From a practical viewpoint, I also love their longevity.

100% rye bread with cheese and vine tomatoes

100% Russian rye bread with cheese and vine tomatoes

There is however one thing in all-rye bread baking I don’t enjoy – the sticky dough. Rye gluten isn’t particularly strong and kneading is therefore not feasible/required (I like kneading…).

For purist reasons, I prefer not to add colouring agents such as molasses, malt, treacle, caramel, coffee or cocoa to achieve that rich, dark colour associated with rye breads.

Having experimented with quite a few 100% rye bread recipes, my favourite loaves use sourdough and do without baker’s yeast.

Andrew Whitley’s Russian Rye Bread

The recipe I love most requires only four ingredients: rye sourdough starter, rye flour, water and salt. I usually add a bit of Brotgewürz as an optional addition as it enhances the flavour of the loaf.

The recipe has been taken from the book Bread Matters: Why and How to Make Your Own by Andrew Whitley. Here is how it’s done –

Day 1

  • In a bowl, mix 50g of rye sourdough starter, 220g wholemeal rye flour and 220g lukewarm water.

Day 2

  • In a large bowl, add 440g of yesterday’s sourdough mixture (keep the remaining sourdough for your next bake), 260g rye flour, 280g lukewarm water and 7g salt (plus 1 large tbsp of Brotgewürz if you like).
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Grease a large bread tin (I use vegetable oil and a kitchen brush to do this).
  • Transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. This is best done with wet hands.
  • Sprinkle a little rye flour on top, then cover the tin with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Keep at room temperature for approx. 3 – 4 hours.
  • Check the dough and preheat the oven to 240°C.
  • The dough should have grown considerably – if the dough half-filled the tin in the morning, it should now be close to the top.
  • Bake at 240°C for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 220°C and bake for another 45 minutes or so. If in any doubt, give it a little longer in the oven – rye loaves hold a lot of water.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Once completely cooled, wrap in cling film and leave to rest for a day. The flavour of the loaf will develop further in that time and the crumb will improve.

Dan Lepard’s Sour 100% Rye Bread Another one of my all-time favourite all-rye bread recipes uses a rye sourdough starter, fine rye flour and a clever gelatinised rye mix (made by mixing boiling water and rye flour) to aid the elasticity of the crumb. It’s a recipe from the book The Handmade Loaf: The Best European and Artisan Recipes for Homemade Bread by Dan Lepard and I’ve just slightly adapted it by adding caraway seeds for extra flavour and not using the gelatinised rye mix for the crumb.

100% rye bread in the proofing basket

100% rye bread in the proving basket

Rye bread wrapped in parchment  for a day after baking

Rye bread wrapped in parchment maturing for a day after baking

Pure rye bread - best sliced thinly

Pure rye bread – best sliced thinly

All-rye bread with homemade marmalade

With dark homemade marmalade

The bread also tastes great with smoked fish, smoked meats with horseradish, root vegetable soups or this amazing Reuben-ish sandwich. Happy rye bread baking!