I love dense, chewy rye bread, but wanted something lighter for sandwiches and rolls. With yeast in short supply in many places right now, I was pleased to find that using sourdough starter and just 1/4 teaspoon of yeast created two wonderful loaves of bread. I tried a batch without any yeast, and it was really good, but it took a little longer to rise and was slightly denser.
You probably know by now that I don’t always play by the rules. Experimenting is half the fun! Purists will hiss through their teeth when they see I’ve added yeast to my sourdough sponge, but it made lovely, light loaves of bread. I just used it as insurance, but if you have a robust sourdough starter and don’t mind a little more rise time, by all means skip the commercial yeast!
If you aren’t familiar with using a sponge when making bread, I really urge you to give it a try. It isn’t complicated or difficult. In a few minutes you can mix it up, tuck it in, and go to bed. When you wake up in the morning it will be ready to go to work.
A sponge creates a lighter loaf of bread, with more flavor, and is worth the extra bit of effort.
Still not sold? You may want to try my Resolution Rye Bread instead.
For this recipe you will need sourdough starter, rye flour, and bread flour. Bread flour makes a big difference. Rye flour is very low in gluten, and between that and the minimal amount of yeast in the recipe, the dough needs the extra ‘oompf’ bread flour offers.
Actual hands-on time for this bread is maybe 30 minutes, (a few more if you knead by hand) but it takes a long time to rise, so start your sponge the night before and just hang out the next day so you can let your dough set the pace.
|Sourdough Rye Bread
- 1 cup sourdough starter (approximate; if you have a little less, that's fine)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon active-dry yeast
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1 cup warm water
- Sourdough sponge
- ¾ cup warm water
- ½ cup very strong coffee
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 cups rye flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3½ cups bread flour
- 1 heaping tablespoon caraway seed (optional)
- SPONGE: Start this the night before. Combine sourdough starter, sugar, yeast, bread flour, and warm water in a medium bowl. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.
- DOUGH: In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer with dough hook is recommended) combine the sponge, warm water, coffee, molasses, and cooking oil.
- Add rye flour and beat for 1 minute.
- Add salt, bread flour, and caraway seeds. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on a floured surface for 7 to 8 minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky. If kneading with the mixer, dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl. If not, add more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If kneading by hand, use a lightly floured surface and add a little flour at a time, just enough to make it easy to handle. A dough scraper will help.
- Move dough into a large greased bowl. Use slightly damp hands to form it into a ball and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise until double. Depending on many factors this may take two to three hours.
- Prepare a large baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal, then punch down the dough and form into two long loaves. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until double . . . 2 to 3 hours.
- Heat oven to 375 F.
- Slash across each loaf several times with a razor blade or a very sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes, or until dark brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with your knuckles.
- Slide loaves onto cooling rack, brush with butter if desired, and allow to cool before cutting.
My dough doesn’t look very smooth, partly because of the caraway seeds (I love them and tend to get carried away) and partly because I grind my own rye berries. This time I left them a little coarse. I’m pretty sure you’ll buy your rye flour at the store, which will be a little less . . . rustic.
You do YOU, of course, but here is how I form my loaves:
Before you dig in, you may want to sacrifice part of a loaf for absolutely killer croutons! What a treat. I had to hide some for salads because The Man was eating them hand over fist.