March 06, 2009

A Sourdough Rye Boule

For the initial post in this blog devoted to baking I thought I'd tell about a nice sourdough rye bread that a baked a while ago. Not sure why I never posted about it on my other blog, Feeding My Enthusiasms, but it never happened.

So you may be wondering why I don't post it there now. Why is another blog needed? Well, I kept getting comments that I should rename my blog Feeding My Bread Enthusiasms and that I was doing a lot of bread posts, so it seemed like a good idea.

I'll still post to Feeding My Enthusiasms, but will concentrate on baking here, especially bread baking.

Last fall I created a local wild yeast sourdough starter using the yeast collected on the skins of some grapes grown down the hill where I live here in Northern California.

Some more yeasts from the air were collected as the starter became more and more sour over time. It is a very specific, local, delicious starter. At some point I used some of the original starter which I named Sukey, to start a whole wheat starter called Polly. They are both still going strong months later and have opened up a whole new world for me of freshly baked bread.

Becoming familiar with different flours has been part of the fun. Rye has a distinctive and fairly strong taste, especially if you use dark rye flour as I did for this bread.

For some reason, the cool, rainy weather inspired me to make some rye bread. A slice with a steamy bowl of soup is so comforting. I started by looking at recipes online and by spreading out at least half a dozen cookbooks that had rye bread recipes so that I could explore the world of rye breads.

I wanted to try making a bread with a sponge and since rye goes so well with a sour taste, this seemed like the one to try a sponge with. I guessed on the proportions…no actual recipe to credit here, but I had looked at about a dozen different rye bread recipes before starting…amazing how different they are, too. Some had more salt, some had more rye flour, some had cocoa or molasses, some had a larger proportion of bread flour, some had oil, butter, and/or milk added.

The Swedish versions had orange zest, too. Obviously rye bread is a delightful canvas for creativity. The sourdough starter added it’s own flavor. It also kept it fresh longer. If you don’t have a starter, make it anyway…the recipe has directions for making it with dry yeast from the store. You’ll still get a nice, sour rye flavor from the sponge.

This bread benefits from a number of risings. The sour flavor becomes stronger and the crumb becomes fine. If you like caraway seeds in your rye bread, by all means knead some in during the shaping, or sprinkle some on the egg wash. If you are still undecided about making rye bread, be assured that this one makes excellent toast, too. Isn’t that reason enough?

Rye and Whole Wheat Round

½ cup each: rye flour, whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter (I used Polly)
1 cup spring water or filtered water, not tap water

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (molasses can be used instead)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup each: rye flour, whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour
additional bread flour, by tablespoon, if needed, to make dough firm
and some for flouring the kneading surface

Sponge: In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Add the sourdough starter and the water and stir to completely combine. (If not sourdough starter is available, sprinkle 2 teaspoons active dry yeast over ½ cup warm (100 – 110 degrees F) water. Stir and let sit 10 minutes, then add to the flours. Adjust the water to an additional 1 ½ cups.) Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a vent, and set in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Dough: In a stand mixer bowl (KA with dough hook if possible), put the sponge. Add the barley malt. Mix the three flours together with the salt, then add to the mixer. Mix on low or medium low speed until combined. If mixer has dough hook, continue to knead with mixer until smooth and elastic. If no dough hook, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Place kneaded dough into an oiled bowl that is large enough to hold twice the amount. Turn dough over to coat both sides with oil. Place plastic wrap over dough, leaving a vent, and set in a warm place to rise until double in bulk, about another 2 hours.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes to release any large gas bubbles. Shape into a ball, pulling dough under as you shape. Place on parchment paper, smooth side up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about an hour.

With a single edge razor or very sharp knife, cut a few slashed in the loaf. Paint loaf with a mixture of one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon milk.

Place in preheated 350 degree F. oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and paint again with the egg wash. Return to the oven and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is deep golden brown and loaf sound hollow when tapped.

Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing…longer is better if you can resist the wonderful aroma of fresh bread.

Makes one large loaf.


  1. Yay Elle! Congratulations on your new blog! I wish I was able to bake (and eat) all this bread - without a stand mixer or a bread machine it takes a bit more time and effort on my part, but your postings have made the thought of doing so enter my mind more often lately. This rye/wheat round might just push me over the edge!

  2. Wow! Just look at the crumb on that loaf... Love your new blog Elle!

  3. Well how very perfect! both the bread and the blog! What a radical idea to separate the bread!

    Rye toast is of course the very best!

  4. Anonymous3/08/2009

    I am as crazy about bread as you are, so I'm glad you've started this blog! I'll be subscribing here, too. Looking forward to what comes!

  5. Separate the dogs from the bread or what was the expression? Anyhoo, I love the idea!

  6. Nice blog and what a great bread.
    I think I need to get a bit more experience before I start using sourdough. But as I live close to a wine producing region, I now know where to go when the time comes.

  7. Amy, Do try some bread without a machine. It takes a little more muscle, but is well worth it and probably less expensive that store bought.Thanks for the encouragement on the new blog.

    Dharm, Thanks! Glad to see you.

    Tanna, Well I guess I could have just inundated Feeding My Enthusiasms with bread, bread, bread until only bread fiends visited :)

    Ginny, Another bread fiend! Yay! Hope to see you here often.

    Baking Soda,Thanks! We'll see if it's one blog too many.

    Andreas, Sourdough isn't at all difficult once you get going. I could e-mail you how it works. You really don't need to do it with grapes, but you could once local grapes are ripe.

  8. Hi,
    I like this type of bread,Thanks Again. Will read on…


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