How to make rye sourdough (or wild yeast) bread.


Making sourdough bread is easy. People have been making it for thousands of years without bread machines or visiting a supermarket for a packet of yeast. Rye flour, and many other types of flour, contain all the natural yeasts, bacteria, carbohydrate and enzymes needed to make truly delicious bread. The rich flavour of the bread comes from the acid developed by the various bacteria in the flour. The same acidity enables sourdough bread to keep so well. You will find it stays fresh for about a week and continues to develop its flavour.


It takes five or six days to develop a sourdough starter. The natural wild yeasts in the wholemeal rye flour develop best at around 30C. Thatís not the easiest temperature to maintain, but donít worry because the yeast will ferment at lower temperatures, it just takes longer. Itís not critically important to keep the sourdough at the same temperature all the time.

The natural yeasts in the flour will grow given time but you can start a sourdough with fresh bakerís yeast if you like. The acids that develop in the sourdough will eventually kill the bakerís yeast leaving the more acid robust wild yeasts to do their job. If you use bakerís yeast itís referred to as spiking the dough. In the UK bakerís yeast is usually available from the in-house bakers of supermarkets. Just ask for a small amount of fresh yeast. In other countries like Norway itís available on the chilled shelves near the dairy products.


Prepare a sourdough starter.

On day 1 take 50g of warm, not hot, water and 25g of wholemeal rye flour. Mix the water and flour and put the mixture in a container, a large jam jar, with lid, is ideal. DON'T keep the mixture in an air-tight container and ideally not in a plastic container. On days 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 add about 50g of warm water and 25g of wholemeal rye flour to the previous dayís sourdough. Stir the ingredients in to the starter, mixing in any water that might have separated during fermentation. After a while you wonít need to weigh the amounts. Itís not critical. What matters is gradually adding fresh flour containing fresh wild yeasts, carbohydrates and enzymes to feed the starter and develop the acids that give the bread its distinctive taste.

By day 7 you should have about 450g of sloppy, foaming starter that tastes slightly acidic and smells fruity. Natural wild yeasts, which survive the acids, are much slower acting than the more concentrated bakerís yeasts; as such the bread dough, once youíve made it, takes longer to rise.

After you have baked your rye loaf add a further 50g of warm water with 25g of wholemeal rye flour to the remaining starter and follow the day to day additions for the next loaf of bread.


Making Rye Bread with Seeds

The trick to good rye bread is a soft moist dough. This dough is entirely different to the non-sticky kneaded dough of other breads. You do not knead sourdough. The texture of the dough you are looking for is something thatís about the consistency of mashed potato. The dough will take 2-6 hours to rise and will rise by about 40-60%.

480g flour (50% rye, 25% wholemeal stoneground wheat, 25% strong white wheat)
320g sourdough starter (leaving about 130g of starter for the next loaf)
10g sea salt
50g pumpkin 50g sunflower and a few teaspoons of dried oregano
280g warm water

Food value: Follow links to details about the individual ingredients. Rye is rich in pentosans which have a blood
cholesterol lowering effect.

Most of the minerals and vitamins in grains are in the outer layers. These are retained in the flour when the grain is stone ground. Since 1870 steel roller milling has removed the outer layers of the grain to increase the shelf life of the flour. This method of milling is good for the manufacturer, distributor and retailer but itís not good for you the consumer stripping the flour of its essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc.


Mix all the ingredients and then spoon in to a buttered bread tin about 21 x 11 x 6 cm in size, pressing it down in to the tin. This weight of dough will almost fill the tin leaving enough space for the dough to rise about 3cm above the rim of the tin.

Leave the dough to rise. In the sunlight on a warm spring day this will take about 2-4 hours but you can just as well leave it to rise overnight indoors. Slow rising is good, forming a structure in the bread that cuts well and is strong enough to be sliced thinly when cool.

Cook the bread at 200C for 15 minutes and turn down the heat to 160C for 10 more minutes turning the oven off and leaving the bread to cook in the remaining heat for another 5 minutes. Remove the bread from the tin. The bread will feel damp so allow air to circulate around it while it cools. This bread keeps beautifully for at least a week.