Baking plain rye bread.

It took me some time to get it right. Maybe that is because I didn't grow up with rye bread. I come from a country that only has wheat bread, and that mostly white. In comparison, rye bread is really demanding on the taste buds, but now I learned to love it!

After many baking disappointments I finally got the hang of it, and now can make the "Perfect Rye Bread" ;-). The crust is very nice, thick and crunshy, but not too hard. The inside on the other hand is tender, it does not fall apart and is just airy like I want it. When the bread is cut it does not crumble at all. And of course: the taste is heaven.

Most of the problems I had, stemmed from a too wet dough. When the dough is too wet it is difficult to bake the breads really through, and the insides of the bread falls together. I still make my dough very wet, but just at the border of what is possible. Because I like that the result is juicy. I guess that is also the reason why may breads look very square.

At every baking session I make two largish breads at once, each weighing over 1kg (after drying). And that lasts us nearly two weeks. The breads hold very well, and I just put them in the fridge. I do not bother with freezing them.

Although the time to make a rye bread is about 24 hours, the actually work of making the breads is very limited. Wheat bread takes more work to do.

With this recipe you use 2kg of sourdough. And this sourdough you will use to make the dough for the bread. After the dough stood to ferment, you have to take away the same amount again. This amount will serve as sourdough for the next baking. Here is an overview of the process:

1. The Sourdough

I have the least experience in making sourdough. I only needed to do it once until now. But here it goes:

1kg of rye
1.5 tablespoons of sea salt without jodium
1liters of buttermilk

Blend it all together, until the consistency should be something like porridge. And put it in the fridge for more then 8 days.

Anyway, this is the "official" version, but I had a little problem with it, so I had to put it a few days outside the fridge too, then I could see that the dough became more alive.

2 The evening before baking

1.5kg of rye (or a mixture with wheat
2 largisch tablespoons of sea salt without jodium
1.2liters of water at about 50C maximum
2-3kgs of sourdough

The evening before baking I mill about 1.5kg of rye mixed with wheat. At the moment I am at 50-50, but it varies at my whim. I could also do 100% rye, but I don't out of practical considerations (I happen to have two 25kg sacks of grains, and they both have to be used).

The mill has the posibility to change the granularity, and this I vary during the milling process. So the result is a mixture of fine flower and broken grains. I used to put whole grains in it too, but that proved to be a too hard a strain for my fillings.. ouch! :-(

Take the sourdough and transfer it in a largish plastic bucket.

Take 1.2liters of water warmed to about 50C, and two large spoons of salt. I have heard that the salt should not contain any jodium, because the acid bacteria can't take that. I use good quality sea salt instead.

On the picture the water is milky white, thats just because I use it at the same time to clean out the sourdough container a bit.

Mix the water/salt together and pour it in with the sourdough and mix that together with a wooden spoon until all the sourdough is disolved.

Take the flower and pour it into the bucket. Mix it well. You should end with something that has the consistency of porridge. The measurements above work for me, but it could be that you need to adjust. That is where a little "art" comes in.

So. the hardest work is over: put a piece of wood over the bucket and let it stand. On Eriks webpage I read you should not use aluminium foil -it probably reacts with the acidness of the sourdough.

3 Baking day

The next morning the dough should be about double in size. Pour it over into two bread forms and the rest pour back into the box where the sourdough was before and place it in the fridge again. It will be the sourdough for the next baking.

The forms I use are "slip easy" forms, I am quite happy with them because I do not have to butter them up. Note, using baking paper doesn't work well, because the paper gets soaked by the dough.

The forms should not be filled up, because it will rise again, and the the dough will run over the forms --it is very fluid compared to wheat dough. I had to accept that rye bread simply does not get the mushroom look of wheat bread.

Furthermore, you should smooth out the surface, so no piece of grain stick out. Your fillings will thank you for this.

Let it stand again for a few hours, so it gets the chance to rise again.

The baking:

Baking process
1.5 hours on 150C
1.5 hours on 225C with aluminium foil

There are many ways to bake the bread, but what works for me is to have a total baking time of 3 hours. I place the two breads parallel to the sides of the oven and in a first phase they get 1.5hours at a tempurature of 150C.

In the second phase put a large sheet aluminium foil loosely over the two forms and increase the tempurature to 225C. Note don't be lazy and go put the aluminium foil on it from the beginning. It will stick to the breads.

After another 1.5 hours time, take out the breads and take them out of the forms (important). And let them cool down (and damp out) on a roster.

I always but them upside down on the roster to cool them. If the bottom sinks in, it will be time to feel miserable: the baking time was to little, or the oven heat was to small, or the dough was too wet. While learning, I got a whole row of these breads. Only when I started baking 2 instead 3 breads and make the dough less wet things turned out better. I believe the oven was a little overwelmed by the amount of bread it had to bake.

Always wait to cut up the breads until they completely are cooled down. When they are still warm, they do not posses the right consistency to allow a clean cut. And anyway you don't miss much: while wheat bread is delicious when warm, rye bread does not share this experience...

Bon apptit!

Thanks to Eriks website, which got me started baking rye bread. Lots of good tips there.