How to Make a Rye Sourdough Starter

 

This is for all bakers who are looking to work with a rye sourdough starter. Making your own rye flour based starter is the first step in the process of making rye sourdough breads. It’ll take you roughly five days to make the starter but you will be rewarded with wonderfully tasty natural rye bread loaves and will no longer be reliant on bought yeast.

Rye sourdough starter
Rye sourdough starter

The first bit of good news is that you will only have to do this initial work once. Once you have a starter, you will be able to keep it in your fridge for all future sourdough baking.

Secondly, the steps are really easy to follow and each step will only take a few minutes out of your day. So, without further ado, here’s how you make your own rye sourdough starter.

Rye Sourdough Starter Recipe

This is based on Andrew Whitley’s step-by-step guide in the best book on bread baking out there, Bread Matters. Use organic flour and spring water for best results.




Day 1

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g tepid water (35°C/95°F)

A note on water by Andrew Whitley in his book Do Sourdough – Slow Bread For Busy Lives:

“Tap water is treated with chlorine… which isn’t great for the bacteria that we want to nurture. There are two ways to reduce the chlorine threat: leave a jug of water standing overnight and most of the residual chlorine will evaporate; or use still spring water from a bottle. Once a starter is up and running, it will cope with water straight from the tap. Using a little spring water for the first few days will give your starter the best possible chances.”

Using a medium sized plastic bowl with a lid, mix the flour and water, put the lid on and keep at a warm temperature for 24 hours.

There is no need to add anything else to your starter mixture as the wholemeal flour contains all the yeasts and lactobacilli needed for the fermentation process.

The optimal temperature for fermenting rye sourdough is around the 30°C mark. Don’t worry if this is not the temperature in your room (it isn’t in my flat in Edinburgh!). The process will just take slightly longer.

Day 2

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g tepid water (35°C/95°F)

Add the above ingredients into the bowl which contains the 75g starter mixture from Day 1, cover and keep at a warm temperature for 24 hours.

Day 3

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g tepid water (35°C/95°F)

Add the above ingredients into the bowl which now contains 150g starter mixture from Day 1 and 2, cover and keep at a warm temperature for 24 hours. At this point, you may already start to see signs of the starter fermenting (small bubbles).

Day 4

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g tepid water (35°C/95°F)

Add the above ingredients into the bowl which now contains 225g starter mixture from Day 1, 2 and 3, cover and keep at a warm temperature for 24 hours.

Day 5

You should now have an active starter that has bubbled up overnight, slightly subsided again and smells fruity. You are the proud owner of a viable rye sourdough starter – the sourdough baking can begin!

If you have some questions and are in need of a little sourdough troubleshooting, you can come to this Sourdough FAQ page or invest in Andrew Whitley’s sourdough guide book Do Sourdough: Slow Bread for Busy Lives.

Rye sourdough starter recipe
Rye sourdough starter recipe