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September 2012
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Lorrie [userpic]
Adventures in Bread Making: Finnish Rye!

Having studied the sourdough methods of both the Exploratorium and that of Rose Levy Beranbaum (who graciously allowed Epicurious to use her methods in their bread primer), I wondered:

How could this be rye? I mean, a strong rye flavor. I'm talking "plowman of the Polish prairies" kind of thing.

In digging around Beranbaum's web site, I found her explanation of how to make a rye sourdough starter--actually, not that as such, I caught her answering a question with "just use a rye starter", but I'm happy to see that I came to the same conclusion she happens to instruct. ;)

At the beginning of November, I started an all-wheat starter. In order to develop its flavor quickly, I haven't had it in the refrigerator, but have been feeding it daily (well, I skipped a day once or twice, but ONLY once or twice). Instead of "dump half and feed half", one of those days, I split the starter instead: one would continue to be wheat, and the other would be converted to rye by halves (and halves, and halves).

I admit, from the "whee math!" and "whee philosophy!" perspective, Zeno sternly informs me that it will never be an all-rye starter. Zeno also argues that nobody ever actually goes anywhere, which I can believe when stuck in rush hour traffic, but the odometer on my car is a convincing argument in support of furtherance of the illusion of movement. Beranbaum suggests that nine feedings is enough, and over and above giggling about the number nine (obscure heathen humor ftw!), 0.001953125 (i.e., 0.19%) is close enough.

Unless you're Zeno.

Dionysus would like a word with Zeno, as Apollon has clearly had far too many.

But I digress. We want rye bread! Strong like ox! Plow Polish prairies!

So, I have converted my wheat starter to rye by successively feeding only rye to it. I now wanted an all-rye bread recipe. Somewhere, eventually, I'll make a black bread that's all this and more, with molasses and a pinch of coffee, but that day is not this day.

After digging about, I found this recipe, which is a modified and cut-down version of this one, which is actually what I'm using.

NB: a wheat sourdough starter is liquid at one part flour to one part water, a rye one, I have now found out, wants two parts flour to three parts water to reach the same consistency. Those parts are by weight, by the by: flour's volume is a tricksy, tricksy thing.

However, it was a couple hours after mixing up a starter that I realized that I had somehow signed up for three loaves of bread.

With a low-carb husband.


Good thing this bread likes sitting out! If all works according to my nefarious plan, some of this will be on the table at Hrafnar's Yule.

-- Lorrie

Current Mood: curiouscurious
(no subject) - (Anonymous)


I admit that my rye bread is about 1/3 rye to 2/3 AP. It's good that way for just about any use I need. It never occurred to me to try to make bread that was 100% rye.

The whole weighing flour thing mystifies me. Obviously fluffed flour weighs less by volume. Rye flour and whole wheat flour don't fluff like AP flour. Normally I can just tell though. You might think that a multi-year hiatus would mean a loss of knack, but apparently not.

How much of a hassle is it to maintain the starter? I'm recently returned to bread making and am still using yeast from a jar. That works well enough if I'm willing to use a tiny amount of yeast then let it bloom and grow for a couple hours. Bread making mornings are good mornings because I share my freshly made limeade with the yeast.

The flexibility to make bread when we need more is important while we're still adapting to how much bread we're going to eat. Plus I opened the jar of yeast, so I have time to decide whether I want to buy more or "grow my own".

Sourdough starter wants love about once a week once it's established--before that, it'll want fussing over once a day for anywhere from 5-10 days.

While you'll find a lot of recipes for rolling your own, all that's really, truly required is flour and (preferably dechlorinated) water--the yeast you'll need are already in the air, the flour, and all around, as well as the symbiotic bacteria that give it that special tang.

Would you know more?

-- Lorrie

Thanks for the timeframes on the starter handling. I've only read things about starting the starter where it wants daily efforts, but no one mentioned that it tapers off once established. It seemed like too much work to have to fuss with it every day if one makes bread only weekly.

Right now I'm making 2 loaves of half-white bread from 1/2t of yeast granules per batch. I figured a couple months of bread making will re-seed my kitchen with ambient yeasts.

I'm wondering if your rye starter will get better as your yeast culture adapts.... I know that my bread comes out better if I've been making bread regularly, and some of that has to be environmental not just technique.

And to drag this even further off your topic... I found coconut flour... I'm going to use that in a sweetened bread as my next experiment.