100% Sourdough Rye Bread

by Janice on March 2, 2010

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I really didn’t want to make this Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread.  In fact, I stalled on my baking schedule for a long time when we arrived at this sourdough rye section.  I mean, truly, how many people do you know who rhapsodize about sour rye?  But a challenge is a challenge, and I wasn’t about to let one bread get in the way of completing it.

And then there were my fellow bakers – many reported disasters with this bread.  Didn’t make me want to jump in and try it, knowing my family wouldn’t touch it – rye haters all.  But did you know that the flavors of caraway and rye are two different things altogether?  I’ve had them co-mingled in my mind, and I’m only up for caraway once in a while.  However, if you leave out the caraway seeds, rye has a subtle taste I’ve yet to accurately describe – especially when it’s mixed with sourdough.  Luckily, the tangy chew of this bread was worth pushing through my hesitation.

Being 100% rye, this dough is no exception to the gummy problem I mentioned in my last bread post.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure this dough would turn into bread.  It all starts when you take your sourdough starter and turn it into a firm rye starter by adding white rye flour and water (on day 1).  It rises for several hours and then you refrigerate it overnight.  At this point, I would already describe the starter as gummy!  On the same day (day 1), you make a soaker with pumpernickel-grind rye and water.  That sits at room temperature overnight.

Day 2 begins with the now-familiar process of cutting the refrigerated starter into smaller pieces and letting it come to room temperature.  Then you add the soaker, more white rye flour, salt, and water and mix it all up.  The kneading starts, and the gummy games begin, while the dough takes on the texture of sticky play-doh mixed with clay.  Strangest dough ever.  It doesn’t even hold together well, as rye doesn’t have enough gluten to make stretchy strands.

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After a 4-hour rise, you gently ease it out of the bowl and onto the counter.  I cut and shaped the dough into one small and one large bâtard before letting it go through its second rise on the baking sheet.

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Given that the surface had an odd dimpled texture, I crossed my fingers and prayed to the bread gods.  Would this even be edible after baking?

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Peter says that the dough will spread sideways as well (in other words, it flattens a lot).  And it did.  After the loaves were baked (which filled the house with an amazing sourdough aroma), and the requisite cooling period, I cut a slice, certain that it would be awful.  I was pleasantly startled!  Reinhart talks of a “sweet, creamy, yet chewy texture.”  He’s right.  I couldn’t describe it better.  Except my loaves were a mixture of sweet and tangy, depending upon where the bites hit my tongue.  While they wouldn’t win a beauty contest, their flavor was surprisingly nuanced and the texture was a springy dream!


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