A few months ago I tasted my first bite of a super dense and dark 100% rye sourdough bread and fell totally in love. For very many years, included all the ones I have lived in Germany, a place that certainly has a culture for dark breads, I have refused to even have a taste of these “carboard-lookalikes”, to quote my old self: the kid in me was was sure I would have hated them, and that my carbs allowance for the day would have been better spent on a baguette.
But all of a sudden I was converted. And ironically, it happened in a place where I would normally only go hunting for pita and challah breads, Tel Aviv: my discovery of rye bread happened at Lehamim Bakery, founded by Uri Scheft (author of the impossibly beautiful book “Breaking breads“, which comes with my highest praise and recommendation).
All of a sudden, I craved this bread. After a week spent eating it at every lunch break, I felt I would not want to eat any alternative: all the white flour stuff tasted unhealthy and sugary and somehow artificial.
Unfortunately though, holidays were over and I found myself back home, burning with desire for a bread that’s found on the other side of the Mediterranean sea.
So I started researching how I could produce a 100% rye sourdough bread myself and stumbled across the recipe I’m sharing with you today. This is the bread that motivated me to maintain a sourdough starter again and got me super excited about it. Now I proudly bake my 100% rye sourdough bread once a week and – confession – even take it with me when I’m travelling: I seriously can’t do without it!
So, the closest thing to what I tried in Tel Aviv turned out to be Swedish Rågsurdegsbröd; after a bit of googling, I found the excellent, simple recipe published by SweedishFood.com and sticked to it ever since.
I was a bit skeptical that anything good could come out of rye flour only, but surprisingly, a simple, all-rye bread can easily be made using a sourdough starter; it will not rise as high as a wheat bread, but it will be more moist and have a substantially longer keeping time (I bake it once a week and eat it all week long).
The recipe is particularly simple because rye is so low in gluten that it doesn’t require kneading: all you need to do before baking the loaf is to mix the ingredients thoroughly, toss the dough in a pan and give it a single, long rise.
100% rye sourdough bread
- 75 g rye starter for day 1
- 140 g tap water at room temperature for day 1
- 100 g rye flour for day 1
- 175 g rye flour for day 2
- 7 g sea salt for day 2
- 125 g tap water at room temperature for day 2
- 1 tsp of molasses or honey if you like for day 2
- seeds to taste also in no way necessary for day 2
- oil for coating the tin
- In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients for day 1 with a spoon until the mixture looks like porridge. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave at room temperature for 12 hrs, until it doubles in volume. I do the mixing in the evening around 8 p.m. so the next morning I can proceed with the next steps.
- Once the 12 hours have passed, add to the bowl all the ingredients for day two and mix everything for a good 5 minutes. Forget about the normal consistency of bread dough, this will look like a muddy mess, and that's ok.
- Lightly oil a 500 g loaf tin, transfer the dough in it by spoonfuls and smooth the surface. Sprinkle a little flour or oatmeal (I love the way the bread looks with a bit of oatmeal to coat it!) on to the top of the loaf.
- Leave to rise again, but this time uncovered, until nearly doubled in size: it will take more or less 5 hours at room temperature, of if you prefer slow rising, 8 hours in the fridge: the time will depend on the strength of your starter and the temperature, so try and see how it works for you.
- Preheat your oven to 450ºF.
- Place the loaf in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes; when you are roughly halfway through, open the oven to turn the loaf around and let the steam escape, which will benefit the crust.
- Once the bread is perfectly cooked, let it come back to room temperature and - if you can resist - allow it to sit for 12 hours, wrapped in parchment paper, before you slice it.