You will love this easy rye sourdough bread recipe. You can either make a 100% rye bread or add some wheat flour to make it a bit lighter.
Having been baking breads for decades, I have always wanted to make a 100% rye sourdough bread.
Growing up in Germany, rye breads are actually fairly common. However, most “rye breads” are not 100% rye. Most of them contain a certain amount of wheat, sometimes as much as 80%.
Rye is a grain that grows even in very poor soil and colder climates than other grains. It actually used to be mostly for poor people. But don’t be fooled – rye flour is fairly healthy. It contains less gluten than wheat, is high in fiber, and full of minerals and vitamins.
Because of its low gluten content, you can even use it to wash your hair with rye flour!
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Why you’ll love this recipe
With this basic recipe, you will be able to create any kind of rye bread you like. A 100% sourdough rye bread will be a bit denser by nature than if you added some wheat flour to it.
So just go ahead, and feel free to replace any amount of rye flour with wheat flour. That can be white or whole wheat flour. You can then experiment with the texture and taste you like the best.
Sourdough is particularly well-suited for rye flour and brings out the complex flavor much more than using commercial yeast.
What are the ingredients
All you need are some basic ingredients:
- Rye flour: I am using the King Arthur Baking Company’s medium rye flour but you can use dark rye flour, too
- Sourdough starter: if you don’t already have your own sourdough starter, you can easily make one with this simple method
- Salt: this is my favorite sea salt
- Caraway seeds: while these are optional, they are the classic spice for rye breads, especially those in Eastern Europe
Useful tools and equipment
Given that people have been baking breads for thousands of years, you really don’t need any special equipment. But since we live in modern times, I like to use the following:
- Large bowl: my favorite one is an enamel bowl but any bowl works.
- Kitchen scale: weighing your ingredients with a digital scale really helps get the recipe right more than volume measurements
- Big beeswax wrap: I love using beeswax wraps to keep my bread doughs from drying out. Alternatively, you can use plastic wrap.
- Bench scraper: while not strictly necessary, using a bench scraper can help manage your dough.
- Banneton: I like letting my sourdough rye bread dough rise in a well-seasoned proofing basket.
- Parchment paper: this helps to transfer the dough to the dutch oven.
- Cast iron dutch oven: you can bake this rye bread on a cookie sheet or pizza stone but baking it in a cast iron dutch oven keeps it from getting too big and flat.
How to make this bread
Simply follow this step-by-step tutorial for your first rye sourdough bread:
- Make sure you have an active sourdough starter. If you don’t, check out my no measuring, no discard sourdough method. Unless you really want a true 100% rye bread, you can use any sourdough starter you have.
- Add your sourdough starter to a large mixing bowl.
- Then add warm water and mix it well with the sourdough starter.
- Weigh your rye flour and sea salt. Add them to the sourdough mixture and stir really well. You can also do this in a stand mixer, using the dough hook. You might notice that this is a fairly sticky dough and that’s ok!
- Cover your bowl with a beeswax wrap, plastic wrap, or damp towel.
- Let the dough rise in a warm spot. Even at room temperature, you can still make a great rye bread, you might just need to let it ferment longer.
- After about 4-7 hours, check your dough. It has a nice rise if you can poke the dough with your finger and feel some spring.
- Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- With floured hands gently roll the dough into a ball.
- Transfer the dough ball into a floured banneton and cover it with a beeswax wrap, plastic wrap, or moist tea towel.
- For the second rise place it in a warm spot until it has risen by about 50%.
- Place a piece of parchment paper and a big plate over the proofing basket. Carefully, flip the proofing basket so that the dough ball is now on the parchment paper.
- Carefully transfer the dough ball on the parchment paper to a preheated dutch oven and put the lid on.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400˚F for 30 mins.
- Remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 mins.
- Check the internal temperature. Ideally, it should be around 205˚F. When done, remove the bread from the dutch oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
- Ideally, wait 24 hours before cutting the fresh bread.
- Night of day 1: prepare your sourdough starter if you don’t have it on the counter
- Day 2 – 8 am: mix the dough, first rise
- 12 pm: transfer the dough to the proofing basket for the second rise
- 5 pm: bake the bread
- Day 3: cut the bread and enjoy!
Substitutions and variations
Here are some ideas for variations and substitutions:
- Rye flour: I used a medium rye flour. However, you can use a dark rye flour or white rye flour, depending on your preference and availability.
- Whole grains: I used a finely milled flour for this bread recipe. You can always add some whole rye grains as well. If you like them soft, you can boil them before you add them to the dough. Or you mill them very coarsely, almost like a cracked grain.
- Other flours: Replacing any amount of rye flour with white bread flour will create a lighter, fluffier bread due to the wheat’s gluten structure.
- Other seeds: Feel free to omit the caraway seeds completely. Grinding them beforehand you will barely taste them at all. You can also add some fennel seeds or a small amount of sunflower seeds.
- Sourdough starter: Even though I think you can use any sourdough starter that you already have, you can also use a true sourdough rye starter which will give you a 100% rye bread.
How to eat this simple sourdough rye bread
Obviously, you can eat bread any way you want.
However, Europeans eat this popular bread with cheeses and cold cuts that can stand up to the bold flavor.
Also, you can serve slices of rye bread with any hearty soup such as a Russian Borscht, pea soup, potato soup or any other stew.
How long does this rye bread last?
Sourdough breads last longer than yeast-based breads. I have easily kept it for 7 days at room temperature and it was still good. Ideally, you’ll want to keep it in a linen bread bag or in a bread box. There’s a good chance that your bread will last up to 2 weeks if you store it correctly.
And remember that salt makes bread last longer. Therefore you can play with the amount of salt, too.
If you’d like to learn more, you might like to read my post on how to keep your sourdough bread fresh.
Other sourdough recipes you might like
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Easy Sourdough Rye Bread
- 250 g sourdough starter (1 cup)
- 440 g medium rye flour (3 ½ c)
- 225 g warm water (little less than 1 c)
- 12 g sea salt (2 tsp)
- ½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)
- Add sourdough starter and warm water to a large bowl. Mix well.
- Add flour, salt, and caraway seeds. Stir well. Note: This dough will be sticky.
- Cover the bowl with a beeswax wrap, plastic wrap, or damp towel.
- Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about 4 hours or until springy to the touch.
- Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the work surface and form into a ball.
- Transfer the dough ball to a well-floured proofing basket.
- Gently cover the proofing basket and set in a warm spot for the second rise.
- When the dough has risen by about 50%, transfer it to a parchment lined plate.
- Slide the dough ball into a preheated dutch oven and bake covered in a preheated oven at 400F for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and bake for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature has reached about 205˚F.
- Remove the bread from the dutch oven and let cool for about 24 hours on a cooling rack.
- you can make this bread lighter and fluffier by replacing some or most of the rye flour with wheat flour
- you can omit the caraway seeds