whole Rye sourdough bread

This Russian style whole rye sourdough bread is the best bread I have ever tasted, and so I wanted to share it with you.

This bread is not for everybody. It has a strong distinctive taste  and is heavier and denser then most breads. Rye sourdough bread has existed in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe since the early 1500's, where it continues to be popular to this day.

Sliced whole rye sourdough bread

Rye is similar in nutritional value to wheat but has a higher amount of fiber, vitamin E, riboflavin, folacin and pantothenic acid.  It's beneficial if you're watching your weight because it has what is called a high water binding capacity, which makes you feel fuller than wheat breads. It's great food for the heart because it contains nutrients that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Rye sourdough bread is also known for its low glycemic index.  This is especially important for diabetics because the glycemic index measures how carbohydrates affect blood sugar level.  Eating foods with a low glycemic index allows the pancreas to function more efficiently releasing less insulin and balancing blood sugar levels.

The rye bread you buy at the supermarket is not really rye bread.  It might have some rye flour in it, but it probably contains mostly white flour and all sorts of raising agents, food coloring, and preservatives. 

Unlike most breads that get devoured as they come out of the oven, this bread is at its best after 2 or 3 days.  Although its aroma is heavenly, it is very sticky and needs to wait at least 24 hours before being sliced.

I began baking rye bread 2 years ago and haven't looked back since.  I bake 3 large loaves every 2 weeks I slice them 2 days after they come out of the oven and freeze them with parchment paper between each slice. Because this is a stickier bread than conventional breads, if the slices aren't separated, they are impossible to pull apart.  I take out as many slices as I need and put them in the toaster. We like our slices cut thick, you may prefer them thinner. 

I found the recipe for this outstanding 100% rye sourdough bread at ZebBakes.com and have made a few changes over the years .  The recipe below is for one medium loaf.  You can double or triple the ingredients depending on how many loaves you want to make.

Making any sourdough bread is a 2 day process.  Once you get the hang of it, like anything else, it's really quite simple. The night before, prepare the starter and after about 12-14 hours it should be bubbly and you're ready to make the dough. You can make your own sourdough starter or you can purchase it online, or get some from a friend. In any case you will need some mature starter to make this bread. A kitchen scale is also essential.  When making bread you will usually be more successful if you use recipes that measure ingredients by weight instead of volume.  The same goes for cakes.

Whole Rye Sourdough Bread

Step 1:  the starter

  • 50 gr mature sourdough starter
  • 300 gr water
  • 200 gr whole rye flour

Begin in the evening.  Mix above ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or bag and place in a warm place for 12-14 hours.  Depending on the season and the area you live, the time could vary. The next morning the starter mixture should have doubled and be fluffy and bubbly.

Bubbly rye starter

Step 2: prepare the Dough

  • Bowl with rye sourdough starter
  • 115 ml water
  • 10 gr salt
  • 5 gr honey, agave or other sweetener of your choice
  • 230 gr whole rye flour

Preheat oven to 200˚C (390˚F) 

Into the bowl with the starter add water salt and sweetener and stir.  Add flour and mix ingredients well.  The dough will be very sticky, similar to cake dough.  Don't bother kneading, it will not improve the dough. 

stirring rye dough 1
Stirring rye dough 2
Stirring rye dough 3
stirred rye dough

Grease and flour a 1pound bread pan. Spoon in mixture.  Even out the top by dipping a spoon in water and smoothing over the top. Drizzle a generous amount of flour over the top and cover with plastic wrap or bag. Place the pan in a warm place until dough doubles. This could take 1 to 3 hours depending on room temperature and quality of the starter.

When the dough has doubled, place pan on lowest rack of oven and bake for 60 minutes.

When bread is ready,  remove from oven and wait 5 minutes before removing from pan.  When cooled completely, place the loaf in paper bag and wait at least 24 hours before slicing. 

For beginners especially, this bread can be a little tricky to make well.  Here are 2 tips that could help.

  1. If after 90 minutes, your bread isn't rising, turn the oven on to 100˚C (200˚F) and place the bread in.  Do not preheat.  Let the bread bake for 10 minutes.  Increase temperature to 200˚C (390˚F) and continue baking for an additional 55 minutes.  If it doesn't rise, you might have a problem with your starter.
  2. The starter and the dough need a warm place to rise.  23-25˚C (73-77°F) is ideal. Remember, heat rises, so the higher the warmer. On top of the cabinets or the refrigerator might work. If I've got clothes in the dryer, I place my dough in the utility room next to the dryer during the winter months.
bread dough rising in a warm place next to the dryerDough rising in a warm place next to the dryer

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