The original recipe as posted on the list (bread-bakers.v102.n059.4) is
below. As usual I tend to tweak things a little. In this one here's the
tweaks I do:
1. I find the sour sponge, when made as described here (or at least as I
understand the description), is way too stiff to handle, and too stiff to
get bubbly (which may depend on the flour I use, or the temp/humidity in my
kitchen). I find it is better if I add a little more water (or a little
less flour) so that I get a thick/gooey/sloppy mess, which can be stirred
and which will bubble.
1a. I'm using the same batch of starter I began with over a year ago. I
made it according to the instructions below. I find that it's character
has changed as time goes by, the aroma and flavor are not the same as they
were at the beginning. But it is still a good starter with good flavor. Not
terribly sour (which is fine by me, I really don't care for breads that are
strongly sour) but you can tell it is in there as you enjoy the bread. if
you like a rye with even more punch to it, KA sells 3 or 4 different kinds
of rye enhancers you can try (I've used 'em, but for this recipe I find
it's lovely without them).
2. I add a little (maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup or so) corn oil to the recipe when
blending all the ingredients. I find I still get a nice chewy loaf with a
good heavy crust, but overall it is less dry and stays fresh a little
longer. I'm sure that olive or canola or your favroite oil instead of corn
would work just as well.
3. I tend to use two different kinds of rye flour. I made (and feed) the
starter with Hodgson's Mill medium rye flour (conveniently available in the
local Shaw's supermarkets), and then the rye that is added during mixing of
the bread is King Arthur's Pumpernickel. There's no particular GOOD reason
for this, it's just that I like the texture I get from using the two
different flours--the Hodgson's Mill is fairly coarse, the KA is fairly fine.
4. Instead of "gluten flour" (which I don't have) I just use some of King
Arthur's "vital wheat gluten" along with either their unbleached
all-purpose white, or their "first clear" flour, if I have any. Follow the
directions on the gluten packet for how much to use (I usually use 3-4 T).
4a. I also use (whenever I have it) King Arthur's "FIrst Clear" flour
instead of white. They claim it gives a more chewy loaf like a good "deli
rye" should have. If I don't have any, I use KA AP unbleached and find it
is an equally good loaf.
5. and I tend not to bother with the cornmeal on the baking sheet, I just
give the sheet a squirt of PAM and bake right on top of that. cornmeal may
be more authentic, but to me it's not worth the trouble.
Rye doughs can be really sticky. the tendency is to keep adding flour to
hold down the stickiness (i use disposable latex gloves when handling dough
to reduce the gooey mess that sticks to me), but you don't want these
loaves to have TOO stiff a dough, or you'll get a hard dry bread. (I now
mix in my Bosch Compact mixer, so the stickiness isn't as big a hassle for
me as it used to be.) It's a juggling act, if not stiff enough it'll
spready out instead of rising up. Practice makes less imperfect!
I've found that "the devil is in the details". Pay close attention to the
small details, measure carefully, use the same procedures every time (make
notes on your printout of the recipe), and given some practice you'll be
able to get a good and consistent loaf of rye bread.
Good luck, enjoy the bread!
This recipe is from Helen Witty's "Better Than Store Bought."
Sour Rye Bread with Caraway Seeds
These tawny-crusted loaves have a crackled surface and the proper rye tang,
enhanced with caraway seeds (which you can omit, if you like, but they lend
much character to the bread). If you keep the bread for a few days (we
think it improves in flavor for at least 24 hours after baking), restore
the crispness of the crust by warming the loaf briefly in the oven before
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (110 F) water
Pinch of sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 cup tepid (80 F) water
2 cups active Rye Sourdough Starter*,
stirred down before measuring, at room temperature (recipe follows)
3 Tablespoons caraway seeds
1 cup medium rye flour, or as needed
1 cup gluten flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
Cornmeal (for sprinkling the baking sheet)
Glaze: 1 teaspoon cornstarch, cooked in 2/3 cup water until translucent (2
to 3 minutes) then cooled.
1. Combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar and let stand until very foamy,
about 10 minutes.
2. Dissolve the salt in the tepid water and stir the mixture into the
sourdough starter. Beat in the yeast mixture, then the caraway seeds. Beat
in the rye flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, then beat in the gluten flour.
3. Spread 2 cups of the all-purpose flour in a ring on kneading surface and
pour the dough into the center of the ring. (I do this in the mixer). Mix
just until thoroughly mixed, adding as much of the remaining white flour as
necessary to make a medium-stiff dough, not too heavy.
4. Dust the kneading surface with rye flour and knead the dough very
thoroughly until it is elastic and smooth-surfaced. Don't overflour the
board; keep the dough as close as possible to medium-stiff.
5. Form the dough into a ball and place in an ungreased bowl; cover with
plastic and let rise until doubled in bulk, at least 1 hour.
6. Turn the dough out onto your kneading surface, dusted lightly with rye
flour, then expel the air from it and form it into two smooth balls. Cover
with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes, meanwhile sprinkling cornmeal on
a large (11x17-inch) baking sheet.
7. Flatten each ball of dough into an oval about 12 inches long and 1 inch
think. Beginning at a long edge, roll the dough up and pinch the seam
closed. Make a slightly pointed oval loaf about 12 inches long and higher
than it is wide. Place, seam down, on the cornmeal-covered baking sheet.
Repeat with the second half of the dough, leaving ample space between the
8. Cover the loaves with a towel and let them rise until they have reached
"three-quarters proof" (not quite doubled). When they have reached this
point, the light pressure of a finger should barely dent the side of the loaf.
9. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425 F, and put a large,
shallow pan on the bottom (or on the lowest shelf, if yours is an electric
10. Brush the loaves with the cornstarch glaze. With a single-edged razor
blade or a very sharp knife, held almost parallel to the surface, cut three
diagonal slashes 1/4 inch deep in the top of each. Put the bread in the
oven & imediately pour an inch of boiling water into the preheated on the
bottom. Close the door quickly.
11. Bake 15 minutes in the center of oven, then lower the heat to 350 F,
remove pan of water and bake the bread for 30 minutes longer. Brush the
loaves again with the glaze. Set them directly on the oven shelves for 10
to 15 minutes, or until there is a hollow sound when you rap on the bottom.
12. Cool on a rack, uncovered. Wrap in plastic and store at room
temperature. The bread may be frozen.
From: Louise Hyson Date: Monday, November 19, 2001
Rye Sourdough Starter
The 4-cup batch made by this recipe is enough to bake any of our rye breads
requiring a rye starter, with enough left over to serve as the nucleus for
When you "feed" leftover starter-which should be done every 2 weeks or
so-add a little rye flour and water, using 3 parts flour to 2 of water. To
build up a small amount of starter to a quantity large enough for baking,
do the job in several steps, never adding a larger measure of flour than
the amount of starter on hand. Let the starter stand at room temperature
overnight or for up to 24 hours, until it is bubbly and no longer smells
floury. To increase further, add more flour and water in the same
proportions and again let the starter ferment until it is bubbly enough to
use. Store leftover starter in the refrigerator between bakings and
"feedings," and for indefinite storage freeze it. Thaw, then feed the
starter and let it ferment at room temperature until it is again bubbly
enough to use.
1 package dry yeast
3 cups tepid (80 F) water
3 1/2 cups medium rye flour
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1. Dissolve the yeast in 2 cups of the tepid water, then beat in two cups
of the rye flour, beating until no lumps remain. Add the onion, cover
loosely with a cloth, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
2. Remove the onion. Beat in 1 cup tepid water, then 1 1/2 cups rye flour.
Cover with the cloth and let stand for 24 hours longer. The starter should
now be pleasantly sour-smelling, almost beery, and bubbly. (Depending upon
the temperature of the room, a slightly longer or shorter period of
fermentation may produce this result.
To use: The starter is now ready for use and can be refrigerated for up to
24 hours before use, without further feeding. If you must hold the starter
longer before use, the night before it is wanted add 1/2 cup tepid water
and 3/4 cup rye flour and let it stand at room temperature overnight.