Rye Sourdough and Smørrebrød

It’s been cold here in New Mexico, like really, really cold. When it’s ten degrees Fahrenheit outside you only want to do one of a few things: 1) have a cup of hot coffee and light the fireplace, 2) make a big bowl of homemade minestrone with a nice crunchy slice of sourdough bread, or 3) go outside for approximately 2 minutes while the dog runs through the snow, be thankful for a warm home, and promptly return indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I love snowboarding (and we have excellent snowboarding nearby), snowshoeing, and dog walks with 3-plus jackets on, but a day inside with hot coffee and comfort food is a wonderful thing.

The cold weather had me motivated to looks at traditional foods made in colder regions, and thus my recent acquisition of The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (in case you’re wondering, yes, I have more baking and cookbooks than I know what to do with. There’s something amazing about cookbooks: they instantly transport you to the kitchen of another cook and are filled with endless potential for exquisite new food). When they say it’s a tome they are not exaggerating. Upon opening I immediately paged to the section titled smørrebrød, which literally translates to “butter and bread”, but represents the daily ritual of “open sandwiches” in Nordic cultures. Placed on a slice of rugbrød, or sourdough rye bread, these open sandwiches are miniature works of art with delicately placed meats, cheeses, butter, vegetables, pickles and greens. One can easily get lost in the research of smörgås, as the Swedish call them, there are endless variations with a myriad of delicious ingredients.rye sourdough and smorrebrodRye bread is a foreign thing to me. I didn’t grow up eating it, and my parents, being Italian, surely didn’t eat it often or bake it at home. I equate it with a bitter, strong taste that can be overwhelming and yet I find it strangely appealing. While I baked a few of these in the past, they largely went uneaten here in my house — as I read through The Nordic Cookbook I was inspired and wanted to give them another try.

When I think of rye bread I think of hearty slices of dense bread with a dark, almost black, color to the crust and crumb. In my mind I had visions of lightening this bread a little, not so much as to completely obscure the purity of traditional rye but enough to bridge the gap. I was determined to tone down the sour notes and intense rye flavor, to try and transform this bread from something that will keep you alive through Nordic winters to a bread that might get you through a couple light winter days here in the Southwest. I think my results accomplished that — it’s a tasty bread that I’m sure you’ll enjoy on those cold, winter days.rye and the nordic cookbook

In this post I’ve included my rye sourdough recipe, quick pickled red onions, and a couple smørrebrød that were inspired by some I found online, and some found in The Nordic Cookbook.

Flour Selection

In the past my rye bread was composed of 100% dark whole grain rye. The flavor of these loaves were quite intense and, as I mentioned earlier, this go-around I wanted to tone down those flavors and make a more balanced bread. My plan was to mix part dark rye, part medium (or white) rye, and part something else, in this case fresh milled spelt. You could modify this recipe to change the percentages as you see fit, however, know that the more spelt or traditional wheat you add the more rise your bread will have. A traditional rye bread should be a rather dense thing, with a hearty flavor, especially if you want them to stand up to some of the smørrebrød I outline below.central milling rye flourI tacked on a few test bags of Central Milling Dark Rye and Medium Rye to my last bulk order and I’ve found the flour to be really great (big surprise). It’s milled super fine and has a fluffy, smooth texture to it. Any rye flour will work well here, though, and I’ve frequently used Bob’s Red Mill Dark Rye with great success in the past. I’ve been playing with fresh milled spelt for a while now and just love the results when mixed with traditional wheat (I’ll have a future writeup on this) and it works equally well here in this bread while keeping the whole grain percentage rather high.

“Medium Rye” can be made by sifting any dark rye you purchase. I’ve done this previously using a #50 sifting screen to sift out some of the larger particles from dark rye. Alternatively you could just use all dark rye flour with the expectation that your bread will have a slightly more intense rye flavor.

Rye Sourdough Recipe

Vitals

Yield: 1 x loaf to fit a 9” x 4” Pullman pan

I used my 9” x 4” Pullman Pan for this bread. It has a nice lid you slide on to create that flat top and you’d be hard-pressed to get anything to stick to the sides of this thing. If you have a 9×4 pan that doesn’t have a lid I’m sure that will work just as well, you’ll end up with a domed top which would be just fine.rye sourdough

Levain Build

The night before you plan to bake, prepare the levain and soaker (directions to follow). We will let the levain ferment for 12 hours at a cooler temperature, about 70-72ºF, to develop a bit more of a sour flavor.

I used medium rye to build my levain, but you could substitute this for whole dark rye.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
50g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 50%
100g Central Milling Medium Rye 100%
100g H2O @ room temperature 100%

Soaker

Prepare this soaker at the same time you prepare your levain — the night before you plan to bake. Soaking the seeds softens them and helps to bring out their oils, which later wonderfully infuses the mixed dough.seedssoaker

Weight Ingredient
80g Sunflower Seeds (unsalted)
80g Pumpkin Seeds (hulled & unsalted)
40g Flaxseeds (raw)

Spread the seed mixture out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (save this when done toasting the seeds to use it later when you bake the bread) or silicone mat and toast at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Toss around once midway through and keep an eye on them towards the end, seeds can go from toasted to burned rather quickly.

Place toasted seeds in a glass bowl, pour enough hot water over them (I used hot water from the tap) to cover. Wait until the mixture cools a bit and then loosely cover the bowl with a lid to rest.

Dough Formula

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78ºF.

If you are not using fresh milled spelt, as I’ve done below, consider reducing the overall hydration of this loaf by 10% to accommodate. A few bakers have reported their crust at the top of this loaf separating slightly from the crumb inside, reducing hydration will definitely help with this issue. As always remember each flour is different and can take on different water! Reduce the water below from 504g to 456g. 
Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
192g Central Milling Medium Rye 40.00%
144g Central Milling Dark Rye 30.00%
144g Fresh Milled Whole Grain Spelt 30.00%
7g Diastatic malt (could use barley malt syrup) 1.50%
504g H2O @ room temp 105.0%
72g Dark beer (stout, black lager, etc.) 15.00%
17g Fine sea salt 3.50%
200g Mature, liquid levain (100% hydration, created above) 60.00%

unitas dark lager beerrye sourdough mixing

Method

The nice thing about rye bread is there’s no pre-shape or shape steps: you just mix, ferment, place into a pan and then bake.

1. Levain & Soaker – 10:00 p.m. (day before baking)

Mix the ingredients for your levain and set somewhere to ferment for 10-12 hours at around 72ºF to 74ºF.

At the same time, toast your seeds and soak them in hot water for the same duration as your levain.

2. Mix – 10:00 a.m. (the next day)

Drain the seed mixture using a fine mesh sieve and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Add the levain to a mixing bowl along with the beer and the room temperature water and stir around to dissolve the levain. Add in all the dry ingredients plus the drained seed mixture. Mix really well with wet hands or a spatula. Make sure you mix thoroughly so there are are no dry bits of flour remaining and the seeds are incorporated well.

5. Bulk Fermentation – 10:10 a.m.

Cover the bowl and let bulk ferment for 1.5 hours at around 74ºF ambient temperature.

No stretch and folds are necessary.

6. Proof – 11:40 a.m.

Lightly grease your Pullman pan (I used a light coating of butter) and scoop out the dough, a.k.a. “wet concrete”, from the bulk container into your greased Pullman pan. Smooth the top with wet hands or a spatula. Let proof, covered with reusable plastic, for 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on ambient temperature. Mine went for 1 hour and 50 minutes at around 75ºF ambient.

The dough should rise to about 1” below the top rim of your pan.

7. Bake – Same Day: Preheat oven at 12:30 p.m., Bake at 1:30 p.m.

Preheat oven for 1 hour at 400ºF.

I baked this bread the entire time with the lid on. Place the Pullman pan on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat (or the recycled parchment paper when you toasted your seeds) and bake for 35 minutes at 400ºF. Turn the heat down to 350ºF and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 208-210ºF. Check the loaf occasionally in the last 20 minutes to check for doneness.

When I baked this bread it rose high enough in the pan to slightly spill out the top of my Pullman, thankfully I had the thought to bake this on a baking sheet. I reduced the ingredients in this to hopefully prevent that from happening to you, but if it does it’s not a big deal just continue with the bake. The spillage will be caught by the baking sheet without any issues.

I think I could have baked the loaf pictured in this post an additional 10-15 minutes or so. The internal temperature read 208ºF, and while it was definitely baked, I would have like a bit more crunch on that crust. Be flexible with your baking duration and check the loaf periodically towards the end.

There is no need to steam your oven for this bread.

8. Rest

You must let this bread rest for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours, after baking to let the interior set. If you slice too soon you’ll end up with a gummy loaf that won’t taste all that great.

Once your bread has finished baking, let sit on a wire rack until cool to the touch. Gently remove the bread from the pan, wrap in a kitchen or tea towel and place in a sealed bag to rest for 48 hours.

Smørrebrød Recipes

The possibilities here are endless. Below are two recipes I found and slightly modified to suit the ingredients I had on hand and found at the market — they both turned out to be so delicious I made another pair the next day for lunch.smorrebrod, smorgas

While these look like two puny pieces of meticulously decorated toast, don’t for a second think they are not filling. I ate two, I mean just two, and I was stuffed for hours. The hearty rye bread, healthy fats, and protein from the salmon will keep you satiated for longer than you might think.

According to Magnus in his cookbook, open-faced sandwiches should be piled high with ingredients, enough to completely cover the rye sourdough below. I came close, but next time I’ll definitely be piling more on top.

… for most Danish open-faced sandwiches there should be enough toppings to completely obscure the bread…Magnus Nilsson

Avocado, Potato and Homemade Pickled Red Onion with Watercress

Avocado and mayonnaise go really well together, so I knew this would be a hit. The hearty rye bread holds up to the fatty, sweet ingredients and the pickled red onion give this a wonderful acid punch. Avocado probably isn’t a traditional ingredient in Scandinavian countries, but out here good quality ones are just about everywhere.avocado smorrebrodMakes two slices.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
  • Handful small potatoes (I used a mix of colored potatoes, but new potatoes would work well here), boiled in salted water for about 15-20 minutes until tender but not mushy, sliced thin
  • A few thin slices of pickled red onion (see recipe below)
  • A few French style gherkin baby pickles
  • 2 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Watercress to top
  • Small pinch flaky sea salt

Method:

  1. Place sliced avocado flat on top of toasted rye sourdough
  2. Scatter sliced potatoes on top of avocados
  3. Make a thick line of mayonnaise down the middle
  4. Top mayonnaise with small watercress
  5. Scatter a few thinly sliced gherkins, pickled red onions and a small pinch of sea salt on top of all

Smoked Norwegian Salmon with Asparagus Spears and Mayonnaise

Smoked salmon isn’t something I eat often. I think the last time I had salmon this way (sushi doesn’t count) was a bagel & lox breakfast in New York City almost 10 years ago (I know, lox is not smoked salmon, but it’s the closest thing I’ve had!). The smoked salmon, mayonnaise and fresh dill all work well together — a natural combination. I boiled the asparagus spears for about 8 minutes, until they were just starting to wilt. While they have no seasoning directly, they impart a subtle, balanced flavor to the rest of the ingredients. And again, the hearty rye bread carries this whole thing wonderfully.rye sourdough and salmon smorrebrodMakes two slices.

Ingredients:

  • Smoked Norwegian Salmon (you can find this in vacuum packs at the market)
  • 6 small asparagus spears — tops left whole, hard bottoms discarded and middle discarded save for a few shavings with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Handful fresh dill
  • Small pinch flaky sea salt

Method:

  1. Boil, or steam, the asparagus spears for 8 minutes until they just start to wilt, don’t overcook. Cut off the bottom half and use a vegetable peeler to make a few thin strands
  2. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on a slice of toasted rye sourdough
  3. Place a layer of smoked salmon on top of the mayonnaise
  4. Place asparagus tips and asparagus shavings on top of salmon
  5. Top with scattered fresh dill and a tiny pinch of flaky sea salt

Homemade Quick-Pickled Red Onion

quick pickled red onionsFor the sandwiches above you could get away with half a red onion, but I used a full onion and saved the rest in the fridge for more sandwiches or potatoes later in the week. The pickled onions will keep refrigerated for about a week covered in the brine.

You could use any combination of vinegar you’d like, I used mostly white vinegar with some red vinegar to give them a bright pink color.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
  • 3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 2-4 sprigs of thyme
  • very small pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp raw sugar
  • small pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients except the onion in a small saucepan and bring to a boil
  2. Once boiling, pour the hot brine over the red onions in a small bowl, or alternatively, directly in their final glass storage jar (make sure the onions are completely submerged)
  3. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using, preferably 1 hour or more

Conclusion

rye sourdough crumbAlthough rye isn’t something I’ve had much experience eating, baking this hybrid rye and using it for smørrebrød has opened my eyes to an endless universe of open sandwiches. A deliberate selection of fresh and pickled ingredients coupled with meticulous placement and design, make them something I wouldn’t mind preparing for an occasional lunch and possibly a weekly winter ritual. Since rye sourdough has excellent keeping qualities, it’s great to have hearty bread like this on hand through the winter when you need something especially nourishing and hefty.

Crust

Provided you let the rye bread rest, wrapped and sealed as I instructed above, the crust will stay moist and cuts very easily. It does not have a detectable crunch to it like most other sourdough I bake, but it’s not needed here.rye sourdough crust

Crumb

The small percentage of fresh milled spelt and medium rye, helped to open up the interior of this bread compared to traditional rye bread I’ve baked in the past or have seen online. I like that. Even though this bread is definitely rugbrød, it has a light texture that I enjoy.rye sourdough

Taste

Given the high amount of rye flour and somewhat long fermentation time (for this much rye and whole grain), it is expected that this bread has a definite sour note to it, but it’s not overwhelming and probably less than “traditional” rye bread. For me this has the perfect amount of tang and heartiness to balance out whatever ingredients it might provide a vehicle for.rye sourdough and smorrebrod ingredients

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and do as Magnus says: “enjoy them for lunch with a beer on the side and a glass of Aquavit”!

Velbekomme! (Buon appetito!)


P.S. Huge thanks go out to Bas in Helsinki whose input helped to guide me in creating and assessing this rye sourdough recipe!

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.

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  • talka

    Wow! Another beauty post! I could eat the pics as well as the bread! I’ve also had an aversion to rye bread, but I’m keen to trying it again.
    Quick tip for ya (if you don’t already know): You may want to add salt to your seed soaker water because it acts to remove or neutralize the phytase in seeds/nuts (which blocks mineral absorption). Our ancestors always soaked and pre-digested their grains and seeds, but with the industrial revolution we lost this knowledge. Anyhow, not that you need another cookbook, but it’s all explained in the book ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon – which is the main reason I got into sourdough to begin with 🙂
    Thanks for your hard, and I’m sure rewarding work Maurizio. Ciao!

    • Thank you! Just like you I’ve been put off by rye in the past, but I really like my recipe above and it tastes extremely good with these little sandwiches. I suggest if you try the bread use one of the sandwich recipes above, or do a search online for others, you’ll see they pair perfectly! This has me wanting to make rye bread more often, especially in the winter.

      It’s funny you should mention phytase and salt, I’ve just started reading At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen by Amy Chaplin and she goes into phytase, phytic acid, etc. into great detail. Safe to say I now soak all my grains / seeds overnight to help remove these compounds. I’ll have to add salt to the soaking mixture next time! When researching rye for this post I did come across some recipes that added salt to the soaker, now I know why 🙂

      Thanks so much for the comments!

  • Sashineb

    Thank you for such a thorough, well-written recipe, and excellent photographs. I have nowhere near your level of skill, but this bread recipe does not sound intimidating. I wonder if you can tell me why recipes often call for the weighing of the water. Why not say say 500ml or 2 cups? Thank you for such interesting postings.

    • Thank you so much! I think this recipe is very approachable for any home baker! Giving volume measurements for the water in a recipe can surely be done, but I think it’s easier to give a weight for them as bakers typically work with just a scale on their bench. I have one scale that reads grams and I can do everything I need there: weigh water, flour, seeds, etc. Additionally, it’s convenient to have the weight of water so you can easily see how it relates to the flour, for calculating “bakers percentages” (as I list in my tables above).

      Thanks for the comments!

  • Fantastic recipe, Maurizio! I found your site a few weeks ago and already baked two of y our breads, in fact one of them will be on my blog (with all the proper credit of course) in a couple of days. This past weekend I made your cranberry-walnut sourdough and WOW! amazing bread…. I also did not grow up enjoying dark rye bread but definitely developed a taste for it, so I’m saving this to bake soon – plus, it gives me an excuse to use my Pullman baking dish, which is feeling neglected….. Nice to “meet”you.

    • Great to meet you as well, Sally! Glad to hear my recipes are working out and happy to hear you sharing your results on your blog, I think that’s awesome. That cranberry/walnut loaf is still one of my favorites after all these years, and one of my most popular here to boot. It tastes incredible! Have fun with the rye bread, it’s really not a hard one to bake and making these little sandwiches is a lot of fun, and they are deceptively filling! Two slices for lunch and you are set 🙂 Thanks for the comments and glad to have you along!

  • Julie

    What a great post! This makes my Swedish heritage very happy (and hungry). I am intent on learning how to grow a starter and start baking a perfect a loaf. What do you recommend for a bread for beginners?

    • Thank you! Glad I struck a chord with your Swedish heritage, it means I’m on to something here! I’d first recommend checking out my post on creating a sourdough starter (which you might have already done), and then I’d start with this sourdough recipe, it’s a good starting point. Let me know how it goes — happy baking Julie!

  • jinal contractor

    Perfect bake Maurizio. Rye brod is like the last step on the ladder in SD baking, in my humble view and you seems to have achieved it to your liking ? The crumb is absolutely gorgeous ? and the topless ? sandwiches are just delicious.

    • Thanks I appreciate that! Rye can definitely be tricky, but I think my recipe and approach here turn out one darn tasty loaf 🙂 I do like the crumb to be a bit open as shown here, don’t get me wrong there is a place for a super dense hearty rye loaf, and I’ll tackle one of those in the future, but for me this is a great recipe. I’m now fully hooked on smørrebrød! There are SO many endless possibilities… Thanks again!

  • Suzanne

    Really spectacular loaf. The sandwiches are wonderful and perfect on that gorgeous bread.

    • Thank you so much Suzanne, I appreciate that! I hope you give it a try 🙂

  • Linda Theung

    Ahhh! I was in Copenhagen last summer and have been wanting to make smørrebrød since and have been on the hunt for a dependable recipe. I’m definitely giving this a go!

    • Copenhagen is on my list of places to visit, in fact I’ve almost gone out there a few times (when I was traveling through Holland) and am sad I never made it. I’m sure their bread and smørrebrød are out of this world!

      Thanks for the comments, let me know how the bake goes. I really like this bread with these sandwich recipes!

  • quitecurious

    These photos are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. This takes me back to Denmark.

    • Have you traveled out there? REALLY jealous. It’s on my must-travel-to list, that’s for sure 🙂 Thanks for the comments!

      • quitecurious

        Copenhagen is amazing! It reminds me a bit of San Francisco in some parts. By the way, I just got that same loaf pan last week and I’m a huge fan of it.

        • Sounds like I’d love it there, then! Might need to bump that up a few spots on my to-travel list. Yes, it’s a fantastic pan! I’ve even made some pretty killer spelt-banana bread in there 🙂

  • Sharon Bennett

    Looks fabulous. I’m actually working on a rye sourdough starter now as well as my other one. But I want to try yours soon. I have a question. I’ve read that grains can be kept up until 8 years so long as they are in an airtight container in a cool place. Do you know if this is too long? I have a 20 pound bucket of 4 year old rye kernels and have a grinder. Do you think this will still be young enough to use?

    • Thanks, Sharon! I’ve never used whole grain that old before, but honestly I think it would still be fine. Just inspect them to see if there are any unwanted critters in there first, and give it a shot. As long as the grain isn’t milled it should still be fine.

  • Thank you, Francesca! Yes, you can definitely use medium rye for the entire loaf, you’ll still get a great rye flavor in there just the same. I still have quite a bit of medium rye myself and I can’t wait to experiment with it some more.

    Those pickles are really proving to be quite versatile! I’ve been using them on top of boiled or baked potatoes, inside of roast beef sandwiches… all over the place. Thanks for the comments!

  • Sharon Bennett

    Thankyou so much Maurizio. I will soon try your recipe here and let you know my results.
    P.S. I finally had success with my starter and levain. My first ball of dough has come out of the fridge from being in there over night. Just waiting for it to rise so I can bake my first loaf of sourdough bread.

    • That’s fantastic! Looking forward to your results, happy baking!

  • Ciao Maurizio. A great read! Have you any other recipes with beer in them? Would you put it in a ‘normal’ sourdough loaf? Really enjoying that tin by the way – does in not give you the urge to make lots and build a really sturdy bread wall? 🙂 a presto. Cristiano

    • Thanks! Yes, I have a recipe for my stout sourdough that uses stout beer as a portion of the hydration — really tasty bread. In fact I mean to revisit that with some new additions I’ve been thinking up. I also have a recipe that uses spent beer grains if you have access to those!

      The tin is really well made and works beautifully! Could definitely construct the Great Wall of Rye with that… and a lot of time 🙂 Ciao!

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  • jonno_r

    Thanks – look forward to trying this when I’ve got some rye in. Beautiful photographs too mate – a real talent with the camera! Best wishes Jon

    • Jon — thanks! Looking forward to your thoughts on the taste, I’m finding I really, really enjoy this bread. As someone who has not had much rye in the past, and when I have was kind of turned off, it’s a revelation for me. These open-faced sandwiches are an awesome discovery.

      Thanks for the comments about the photography! Sure is fun for me 🙂

  • Adam Tenner

    I had a similar experience this winter. In the fall I wasa in SF for work and I went to Tartine on a break fbefore flying home to DC. All they had at the time was their sprouted rye bread so I bought a loaf and carried it home on the plane. It was fantastic. Luckily the recipe for the bread was in the Tartine #3 cookbook. At Tartine they sprout the rye first but otherwise, it’s a similar recipe to what you have here.

    The recipe is also here: http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2014/08/tartine-recipe-renes-rye/

    My first try (for Thanksgiving) came out a little too cooked on the sides and top. My second try (for New Year’s trip with friends) I reduced the oven temp a little and it came out beautifully. I made about 4 different breads for our trip and they were all consumed, but the sprouted Danish rye was a hands-down favorite. I used a Porter for the dark beer and the sweetness of the beer definitely helped to balance out the bread.

    Thanks for sharing. And thanks for the great blog.

    • Adam, thanks for the comments! I’ve not had Tartine’s Rene’s Rye, but that recipe has always caught my eye in Tartine No. 3 — I’d love to make it sometime soon. I bet the taste was quite intense, in a good way. It looks packed to the brim with hearty ingredients and quite a dense crumb.

      I had some porter on hand for this recipe and decided to go with the dark lager. Next time I’ll try out the porter! You’ve now got me wanting to bake this recipe next…

      Thanks again!

  • Cecilia

    Your pictures look great! This recipe reminds me of Swedish (Christmas) dark rye bread and I have been wanting to try to make it. Thanks!

    • Thank you, Cecilia! I’d love to hear how this loaf turns out for you 🙂

  • Thanks for that info Loretta! The mill was probably just trying to be overly cautious… It’s easier to say “use within a year” than “it depends”. I’ve had grain now for 6 months and am still using it just fine.

  • Sharon Bennett

    I’m glad they worked for you. Whole grain is known to survive a very long time so I decided to risk using the rye kernels myself. Its doing great as a starter and over the weekend I’m attempting to make Maurizio’s Rye bread.

  • B Buza

    Thank you for another amazing recipe. I love the photos as well. What are you shooting with? A fixed
    50mm?

  • Sharon Bennett

    Im not sure if this will reach you in time but here is my question. I do not have any spelt and want to do a complete rye bread. I see your 100% rye had too strong a flavor for your liking. Is it possible for me to add a small amount of wheat instead of the spelt and if so how much do you recommend?Or should I do straight rye? My rye is dark rye with a bit of light added. Its 9pm here and my levain has started and I plan to make this first thing in the morning. Thankyou

    • Sharon, so sorry for the extremely late reply to this! By now you’ve probably already baked this bread (if so what did you end up doing?). I’d suggest go with wheat instead of spelt, it will still turn out great. If you’re ever adventurous you can certainly go with 100% rye flour, even though it has a stronger taste, it’s really great bread! Many people prefer it this way in fact. Hope this recipe works out for you with wheat (I know it will)!

  • Mike Smedes

    I’ve tried this recipe twice now and both times the loaf has collapsed in the center, earthquake/fault zone style. Any idea why this would happen?

    • Wow, very interesting — this hasn’t happened to me. My first guess here will be that your dough has overproofed and thus the collapse in the middle. Of course there are other reasons this could happen, this is generally the cause for something like this. You could try cutting your bulk fermentation by 30 minutes or an hour, use cooler water during your mix, or cut your proof time back by 2 hours or so. Rye flour ferments at a rapid pace and it sounds like your dough probably went over.

      I want to also say this behavior can happen if your dough is over-hydrated. I don’t think this is the case, but it’s possible. If none of the suggestions above work I’d recommend reducing hydration by 10% and see how things perform.

      Let me know how it works out, sorry for the failures (they probably still tasted good)!

      • Mike Smedes

        Unfortunately the first loaf was very gummy and was more like a pate or something, so we just tossed it 🙁 During the 35 minute bake at 400 the loaf rose really well (we removed the lid for this one because the first time it overflowed and I couldn’t get the lid off without a lot of force), above the pan a bit, but when it went I turned it down to 350 for the second part it collapsed, and then continued to shrink a bit, kinda raisin like. I’m guessing that the flour is over hydrated, as there was nothing alarming during bulk or proof, and both times it has risen as expected.

        Thanks for the insight!

        • Sounds like the first was under baked some? This will also happen if you slice into it too soon, 48 hours really is a good time to let it rest!

          Please keep me posted on how this works out for you with reduced hydration!

        • Mike, did you try this one again with any changes? Curious if anything helped prevent the center from collapsing.

          • Mike Smedes

            I tried this out one more time with a 10% decrease in hydration and it helped quite a bit. There was still some fault-lining but it was a great improvement over the other two loaves, as we actually ate the thing instead of just tossing it. I’m sure another decrease of 5 -10% would probably work out well, or I could just stop being lazy/cheap and get some proper rye instead of using the bob’s dark rye which just sits on a shelf in a clear bag for who knows how long before finding its way to me.

            The weather in NYC hasn’t been particularly Nordic the past month so this recipe never really crossed my mind, but apparently yet another polar vortex is headed our way this weekend so maybe it’s time I take another crack(or not! ba-dum-tss) at it.

            • Thanks for getting back to me! I’m continuing to “debug” this loaf a bit because a few others have reported the same type of collapse. I really believe it’s the hydration, as you pointed out, but some others might have issue with overproofing. I’m going to try this recipe again with standard whole wheat instead of fresh milled spelt — what type of flour did you use besides the rye?

              I’d be happy to hear if it works out better or not with another drop in hydration! One other thought is the seed soaker might be adding a lot more water from an unexpected source (even if they are drained).

              It sounds like the upcoming polar vortex is the perfect impetus for you to get that Nordic bake on! Sans cracks 🙂 Please keep me posted if you try again!

  • Max

    Hi! I sometimes like to bake my normal sourdough in a loaf tin and I have been using the ‘foil tent’ method to steam the bread but I’ve always felt like that’s really wasteful. Do you think the lid on the Pullman tin is tight enough to trap the steam to get a nice result for a normal wheat/spelt loaf?

    • For this type of rye bread you don’t need much steam (if any) as there isn’t a whole lot of rise. For spelt/wheat loaves then I think the lid should work well enough. You might want to spritz the top of the dough with a water spray bottle, put on the Pullman lid, and then bake. I think it’d work just fine!

  • Jason Martens

    This inspired me to do a loaf in a pan. I’ve got 20% t-85, 40# spelt, 40% rye, about 500g soaked seeds going in too.
    My loaf pans are open, not Pullmans, I’m expecting some rise but dough is well over 100% hydration. Do you think I should steam for that top crust?
    Cheers!

    • You’ll definitely get some rise with that flour combination. I would definitely steam the top, you can do either or both of the following: before you load your tin spritz the top of the loaf with water (just a light coating to help it expand in the oven). Make a tinfoil “tent” that lightly drapes over the top of your pan — this will help trap some of the escaping steam and also stand up a bit so the top of your bread doesnt touch the foil. Remove the tent after about 20 minutes or so.
      Hope that helps!

      • Nathan

        FWIW, I have a large metal mixing bowl that I invert and place over a loaf for the first 20 minutes of baking time. I find that it works well for steaming, and don’t need to throw away foil afterward.

        Also, this is my first visit to your blog, and I wanted to say thanks for sharing, this is terrific!

        • Yes, a large metal bowl works wonderfully and no waste! Definitely a good option.

          Thanks for the kind words, Nathan — happy baking!

  • Federica Norreri

    Mine was a total failure … collapsed in the center and when I cut it, 36h later, was still very wet and doughy. I have pictures, but I don’t know how to lead them: it may be easier to show the results than to explain them.

    I also have a question: I added the beer to the water in step 2: was that the correct thing to do? The resulting dough was very wet.

    • Oh no! Sorry to hear that, let’s see if we can figure out what is happening. Feel free to email me the pictures: maurizio (at) theperfectloaf.com

      Yes, mix the beer in Step 2 (I failed to mention that above, will add that in now, thanks). A collapsed top like this, plus the fact that you say your dough is very wet and doughy means it’s probably too much hydration for your flour to take on. Let’s try dropping your hydration and see if that helps. It might be worth going down all the way to 95% water during the mix, almost a 10% drop, and see how the dough feels. This would mean instead of 504g water in Step 2 you’d add 460g water.

      The dough should feel wet, kind of like “wet concrete” and it’s not really shapeable in any way except for mixing in a bowl. But the top should not collapse, a little indentation is fine, but not a total collapse. Usually that’s a sign of over-hydration (which is probably your case) or over-proof.

      Let’s try that and let me know how it goes. Sorry about that!

      • Federica Norreri

        I tried again this weekend and still nothing 🙁 I decreased the hydration level by 15% and while it did not collapsed as bad as the last time, it still did and it was still very wet inside. I’m going to try one more time, reducing by 25% and let’s see what happened. Even in this occasion I used freshly milled rye flour, without sifting part of it, so I guess it would be all dark rye.

        • Ugh! Sorry, really sad to hear this. Is there any chance you could use store-bought rye flour just as a test? I’m wondering if it’s the fresh milled flour you’re using that just can’t take the hydration. Or alternatively, lower the hydration even further. I’m frankly quite surprised the rye flour isn’t able to handle this.

          Also please make sure you bake the bread out fully, to around 210ºF!

          • Federica Norreri

            This recipe is really not working out for me. It’s the 4th time I make it and still a failure. This time I bought the flours, i checked the internal temperature when taken out of the oven, and I peaked inside the closed pan and when I took it out, it was looking good. While I let it cool down before taking it out of the pan, it collapsed. I’m supposed to leave it covered while baking, right? And when it cools down, it is still covered, right? Is there a video of you making this recipe? Thanks again.

            • Yes, definitely leave it covered while baking. If you are still up for trying again, I think I have another idea that will help. It’s very possible the amount of leaven in the recipe is too much, and it’s fermenting too fast before you get it into the oven. You could try reducing the leaven from 60% to 30%, so instead of mixing in 200g leaven into the dough mix use 100g. This will not only reduce the hydration more but also slow fermentation.

              I’m going to try this recipe yet again today (I’ve made it several times now) and ensure I don’t get a collapsed top. You can see in my photos the top (it was the top but when I turned the bread out I turned it over so now it’s on the bottom) is slightly dipped downward as well, but definitely not a full collapse.

              Also, once the bread is done baking let it cool uncovered in the pan on a wire rack, just until it’s cool to handle. Then take it out of the pan gently, wrap it in a towel and let it rest in a sealed bag for 24-48 hours to set.

              Really sorry about the issues with this recipe! It’s definitely more complex (at least I think so) than my normal hearth loaves. If you want to try again I’d love to hear how it works out!

              • Federica Norreri

                I will try again! I want the same bread as you have in your pic 😉

                • Awesome! I haven’t had any issues with this recipe, but I’m going to try it a few more times to make sure. I might use wheat instead of spelt if I can’t get any milled in time. A few others have said they have had a collapse also so I want to get to the bottom of this!

                  Please let me know how it goes!

                • Federica Norreri

                  Can you take a few more pic of what it supposed to look like while proofing? Right after allthe ingredients are mixed in and before you put it in the oven? thanks!

  • Muna Saif

    Hi Maurizio , love your site 🙂 I am looking to make this formula but need to substitute 2 ingerients: spelt flour and beer. What can I use instead please?

    • Hello! You could use traditional wheat instead of flour, or more rye as well. Instead of beer you could use more water, or leave it out entirely.

  • Bartolo

    Hi Maurizio, congratulations for this fantastic bread.
    I replaced medium rye with dark rye and used a pan with no lid; otherwise I followed the recipe very closely and, as you anticipated, got a moderately domed loaf. The crust was thin but crisp and the crumb as airy as expected, but the domed top had separated from the crumb. It tasted really great. Any hint to prevent disruptive doming? Autolyse? Water roux? Thanks!

    Bartolo

    • Bartolo — thanks! I’ve never had this happen but there are several reasons why it could occur, but most notably: 1) the dough is too wet (too high of a hydration), and 2) the dough overproofed.

      1) Was the rest of the crumb of good texture? Was it overly gummy or really wet? If so you could try reducing your hydration 5-10% next attempt and see if that solves the issue.

      2) If the dough overproofs the top crust will rise up but the interior will lack the strength to follow suit. You could try reducing your bulk and/or proof times a little bit to solve this issue.

      I hope that helps — it’s hard to diagnose but those are the first places I’d start (maybe try #1 first, then #2).

      Happy baking, Bartolo!

      • Bartolo

        Thanks Maurizio for your suggestions. I will tell you why I will try a different course before reducing hydration and/or fermentation times.

        1. Texture was airy and would have much resembled that of your own bread had a fair amount of gas been evenly distributed instead of being trapped right under the dome. Having done rye breads with 85-90% hydration before, the humidity and stickiness I was so familiar with were
        notably absent. That was probably due to the longer oven (2 hrs) and bench resting (40 hrs) times. And despite 117% hydration, all ingredients considered but the seeds: having been drained as carefully as possible they increased their dry weight by 70 g, bringing hydration to 129%.

        2. Bulk fermentation and proofing times were 1.5 hrs each. Growth was so limited I thought I might have waited a bit longer.

        3. Therefore I hope to improve extensibility by autolyse and by adding the water roux (done only once before, dubious effect). Also, I will mix by hand. And wonder about reducing oven temperature to 350°C throughout: my loaf reached 216°F following your protocol 35’+90’. Might I have overcooked? Actually, doming occurred early but it is impossible to say when dome separation occurred.

        Thanks a lot for sharing your “secrets”!

        • Bartolo — thanks for all the information.

          Have you tried this bread again? I’m wondering how it turned out. Good point on the hydration, it is definitely higher due to the seed soaker.