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.
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 – it’s simple and perfectly fits around my working day – 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, 7pm
- In a bowl, mix 50g of rye sourdough starter, 150g wholemeal rye flour and 300g lukewarm water.
Day 2 before work, circa 7am
- In a large bowl, add 440g of yesterday’s sourdough mixture (keep the remaining sourdough for your next bake), 330g rye flour, 200g lukewarm water and 5g 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 loosely with cling film.
- Place in the fridge.
Day 2 after work, circa 6pm
- Take the tin out of the fridge and keep at room temperature for approx. 3 hours.
- Check the dough after 2.5 hours 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.
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!