How to make rye sourdough bread

I have been baking (wheat) sourdough for many years and learned to make rye sourdough only recently. It was quite a challenge for me but combing different methods, I finally succeeded. It's not the most common nor easy method for making rye sourdough but for me it has worked the best. The result is a naturally sweet bread with only a little sugar added (though you can also skip the sugar but I think it gives a good balance to the flavour) and the bread keeps fresh really long (1-1.5 weeks). Because the fermentation time is really long it is more stomach-friendly. To my mind it is more easier to bake (wheat) sourdough but rye bread is a nice change to bake and (to eat).

About the starter
Please note that I am using 100% rye starter to make this bread. I got the starter from my Mum but you can grow it yourself the same method as wheat starter (it only takes a little longer to grow a strong starter plus remember that it needs more water).

About different flours
There are three main types of rye flours in Estonia. I like to combine whole rye with semi-whole rye. I think using only whole rye is too rustic. If I add semi-whole rye to the whole rye, it gives a more airy and light bread. Fine rye has too less flavour for me. We are lucky in Estonia to have local mills to produce fresh rye flour - so naturally I prefer small mills' production which is more fresh.

Day 1 - wake up your starter
Around noon mix 3 tbsp of rye starter with 1 litre of water, add approximately 400 g whole rye flour. The mixture should have a consistency of sour cream. Leave it to a warm place (around 22 C) and put a slightly loose cover on top so that you let some air circulate.

Day 2 - initial dough mixing
In 24-30 hours the starter mixture should have lots of bubbles and is really alive!

Around noon heat 850 ml water until boiling. Put 500 g semi-whole rye flour into mixer bowl, add boiling water and start to mix. The mixture is hot and very sticky. Let the Kitchen Aid do its work until the mixture is fully incorporated and smooth. Let it cool down (it takes about 2 hrs).

Now take 3 tbsp of the starter and put it aside to the fridge for next baking.
Add the rest of the starter mixture to the previous. Mix it really well to get rid of all lumps. I let the mixer do its work about 10 minutes and then continue a bit with hands.
Put the dough into really large bowl as it will start to expand - at least doubling in its size. Cover with a loose cover and let it stand in the room temperature.
In 5 hours it should have doubled in size, mix it with spoon so that it will have original quantity.

Day 3 - fermentation
Mix it with spoon every 5-8 hours (or 3 times a day).

Day 4 - fermentation
You can start dough mixing or you can let the dough ferment one-two days more (the taste will be more sour and mature).

Day 5 - Final dough mixing + baking
Add 3 tsp salt, 3 tsp sugar, 1000 g semi-whole rye flour. Knead really well (this part I like to do with hands), about 8-10 minutes. The dough is ready when you start to hear air bubbles break apart.
Cover the bottom of the metallic tin forms with baking paper (this is important, otherwise it is almost impossible to get the bread out - unless you have some real quality tins though).
Put the dough into forms so that they are filled now more than 2/3.
Make your hands wet and smooth the top of the breads (it will not stick then).
Sprinkle top of the bread with whole flour, cover loosely with cling film. Let it raise for about 5 hours (in a warm place, 22 degrees is just fine), the forms should be full with a slight belly on top of them.

Bake 20 minutes in 240 degrees, then 1 hours 30 minutes in 200 degrees. If you see that the top gets too burnt, cover with foil.
Take out from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, then remove from tins. Wrap them in wet cloth so that the crust gets softened.
I start to eat bread the next day only - then it is not too moist inside and has a better texture.

Happy baking!

The recipe is for 2 loaves.


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