This artisanal-style sourdough rye bread has a dense, chewy crumb that’s touched by the lightest swirl of molasses and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. It’s made from both light and dark rye flours. Toast it and slather it with butter or chicken liver pâté.
What is it?
Sourdough rye bread is a traditional, artisan-style bread made from a blend of light and dark rye flours and sourdough starter. Rye flour contains a weaker gluten matrix than wheat flour (gluten is the protein that gives bread structure as they rise). For this reason, it tends to produce a denser bread than wheat and performs poorly with bakers yeast.
While traditional bakers yeast doesn’t work well for rye flours, sourdough starter does. That’s because sourdough starter contains both yeast and lactobacillus bacteria. The lactobacillus bacteria increase the acidity of the dough as the bread rises, which strengthens the starches and produces better bread.
You’ll find rustic, artisan-style sourdough rye breads in European baking traditions throughout northern, central, and eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the Ukraine and Russia. This style of bread formed a staple of traditional medieval European cookery.
What’s in it?
At its simplest, sourdough rye includes sourdough starter, rye flour, and salt. To this basic blend, you can mix in caraway seeds and other spices as well as sweeteners such as honey or molasses. Molasses gives the bread a darker color, depending on the amount you use.
- Light rye flour is made from the endosperm (or white part) of the rye berry, without any of the bran or germ. It has a light flavor and texture, and makes the bread softer and less dense.
- Dark rye flour gives the bread flavor, as well as a boost of nutrition since it includes the bran and the germ. These parts of the rye berry contain fiber and various micronutrients.
- Sourdough starter helps leaven the bread. This bread uses 100% hydration starter, which means that it has been fed with equal amounts of flour and water. You can use a rye flour or wheat flour starter to make this bread.
- Minimally processed salt gives the bread flavor and helps to strengthen the dough.
- Molasses sweetens the loaf and gives the crumb a darker color.
Sourdough Rye Bread Recipe
- 50 grams sourdough starter (proofed)
- 100 grams warm water
- 150 grams light rye flour
- 150 grams dark rye flour
- 150 grams light rye flour
- 170 grams warm water
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely ground real salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
Make the levain.
- Measure the sourdough starter into a large bowl, and then whisk in 100 grams warm water. Stir in 150 grams light rye flour, to form a shaggy, loose dough. Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or square of plastic wrap, and then let it sit at room temperature at least 12 and up to 16 hours, or until proofed and bubbly.
Make the dough.
- Scrape the levain into the basin of a stand mixer, and then dump in 150 grams dark rye flour and 150 grams light rye flour. Add the water, molasses, salt, and caraway seeds. Using the dough hook, knead the dough about 5 minutes, and then cover the bowl and let the dough rise about 3 hours, or until puffy.
- Generously dust your banneton with flour.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and then form it into a boule. Place it seam-side up into the floured banneton, and then cover it lightly with a tea towel. Allow it to rise about an hour. Then transfer it to the fridge.
Baking the bread.
- Place a Dutch oven into the oven, and then preheat the oven to 500 F.
- Once the oven reaches temperature, turn down the heat to 450 F. Then turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, and score the loaf.
- Remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven, and then carefully lift its top. Gently lower the dough into the Dutch oven, cover it, and then return the pot to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, and then uncover the Dutch oven and continue baking a further 15 minutes.
- Transfer the bread to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing and serving.