This is the time of year that the seed catalogs come out on our little Texas homestead. We circle various vegetables, order new perennial fruit and nut trees and begin preparing the soil for the upcoming gardening season. Fava beans and garlic and a few hardy herbs are fresh and green, but that’s about all for now.
My hands look a little different, having traded in the ubiquitous under-the-fingernail dirt for bits of dough, from rye sourdough baking and black smudges from stoking and cooking on our wood stove.
I’ve been fond of rye for a long time and given its rich history as a traditional grain for many societies, it seemed like a good fit for our kitchen.For those of us interested in traditional foods, how could we skim past that rye sourdough bread slathered in rich, yellow butter and eaten with raw milk as cited by Weston A. Price himself? Rye is, indeed, a traditional grain.
So I set out to make a host of loaves and treats from that grain – all fermented for at least 12-24 hours and full of traditional fats and sweeteners. The results have been exciting, especially since all of us (even those who do not eat wheat) can gather around these baked goods.
But rye can be tricky to work with when wheat is not in the mix. It took me a couple of years to nail down the idiosyncrasies of this beautiful gray-colored, richly-flavored grain. It all started with a 50 pound sack of rye flour I procured when I found that organic rye cost half the price of spelt and other ancient wheat varieties I prefer to bake with.
Fermenting the loaves for 12-24 hours – sometimes even longer – produced a robust flavor and easy digestibility. After numerous loaves – and experiments with various hydration levels – I found several doughs that worked incredibly well with a moist interior, rich flavor, and no wheat flour in sight.
I quickly found out that rye isn’t just for those stodgy loaves studded with caraway. It plays very well with traditional fats and works a treat with my bubbling, tangy sourdough starter. So I began putting together a repertoire of low or no-knead loaves, simple breakfast, and snack breads, and even sweet treats made from raw honey and traditional fats.
The result is this labor of love, 100% RYE. This book holds a collection of our family’s well-loved recipes for everyday breads like Fluffy Rye Sourdough Pancakes, Rye Sourdough Tortillas, and the Sourdough Rye Boule below. It shares the end to my quest for the perfect honey-sweetened brownie in Rye Sourdough Brownies and our favorite Rye Sourdough Pie Crust.
This has truly transformed our kitchen as even my son and husband – sensitive to modern, processed wheat and many non-fermented grains – can share a loaf or a celebratory dessert with the rest of the family. Because not everyone can or wants to bake with a sourdough starter, I also share instructions for alternatives such as soaking or “quick” baking with conventional leavening agents like yeast and baking powder.
The Rye Sourdough Boule is one of our most beloved loaves. Lightly tangy, moist, and perfect with a slathering of grass-fed butter; this loaf is dead simple to make with a minimal knead time and the skipping of a bulk fermentation. (There are other loaves in 100% RYE, for those of us who enjoy the benefits of a 24-hour fermentation, or you can perform a bulk fermentation before shaping and baking.)
100% Rye Sourdough Boule
- Mix all ingredients together well with a wooden spoon until a sticky but cohesive dough is formed. Generously butter and flour the bottom of a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.
- The dough should now be kneaded for five minutes. This dough is very sticky and you do not want to add more flour to it in the process. The best way to do this is to wet your hands, scrape the dough into one hand and hold it while adding a bit of water to the mixing bowl. Now knead the dough in your hands, stretching and folding it, while using the water in the bowl to moisten your hands every time the dough begins to stick too much. Do this for five minutes.
- Once kneaded, form the dough into a tall round, smoothing out the top and stretching the sticky dough underneath. The dough will spread considerably while rising so be sure to form it as high as is reasonable. Place the round on prepared baking sheet, gently oil the top to prevent drying and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.
- Allow to rise at room temperature for 6-12 hours, or until it has spread and puffed up a bit. This is dependent on the warmth of your space. For a longer fermentation/rise time, keep it cooler. For a shorter fermentation/rise time keep it warmer.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the towel or plastic wrap and ready a bit of extra flour and a very sharp knife. Flour the knife and cut slashes in the top forming an almost tic-tac-toe shape on the loaf. Sprinkle the top with flour and place in preheated oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 350 degrees and allow to bake for approximately 35 minutes or until an internal thermometer reads 200 degrees.
- Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Best eaten within 48 hours of baking, slathered in grass-fed butter.