Sourdough Rye Bread

This is the baseline recipe for our weekly family bread. It’s pure dark rye wild-yeast rustic bread. Long fermentation, thick hard crust, dense crumb, really sour. I don’t think I’ve ever followed this recipe exactly. The most important ingredient is time and that is always different.

Ripley the Mother Starter

They say that every wild-yeast stater should have a name and the ultimate mother to me was always Ripley. Assuming that you already have a rye starter from somewhere then follow this feeding cycle every 12 hours. Take 30 g from the old starter, add 100 g of Roger’s Dark Rye flour and 100 ml of room-temperature water. Mix it, put into a jar, loosely cover it with a lid and let it sit somewhere.

Starter before fermentation

That’s it, no magic. Depending on room temperature it should look like this after 12 hours:

Fermented starter

Room temperature

I put the starter next to boiler and fermentation depends a lot on how much we use hot water. It happened a few times that it overflew this jar. BTW I use Weck jars numbers 742 and 740. Temperature matters a lot so experiment. The higher temperature the more intensive is fermentation which causes the starter to be more sour. General rule is that the starter is perfect just before it starts to collapse. Observe and adapt. If it takes too long to reach its maximal height then increase proportion of starter during feeding and vice versa. Feeding formula I wrote work for me quite well. Let’s see how it goes in summer.

Minimize waste

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I told you to use 30 g of the old starter. But what to do with the rest? You can throw it away which isn’t nice. Or you can make some kind of pancake from it. Basically mix it with something and fry it on pan. Or you can try to experiment with other feeding formulas just like I am doing right now to minimize waste. The rule is to at least double the starter during feeding. Otherwise your ZOO will starve. You do the math.


If you don’t bake too much then it’s annoying to feed it every 12 hours. After making dough I feed the starter using the same formula and I put it to refrigerator immediately. Then take it out 1-2 days before baking and start feeding it again. They say you can keep the starter in fridge for weeks (and perhaps months). Who knows.

Bread Recipe

It takes a couple of days to make this bread. Let’s say that we start on Tuesday. So on Tuesday evening you take the starter out from the fridge and without feeding it you let it ferment for 12 hours. Then feed it 3 times – Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. On Friday morning you feed the starter once again but this time you put the fed part it back to fridge and you use the rest of old starter to finally start making the bread.

Mix the rest of the old starter (about 187 g for me) with 260 g of Roger’s Dark Rye flour and 165 ml water. You should be able to mix it using table spoon getting a thick paste. Put it to a bigger jar, cover it with plastic wrap and put it to warmer place.

You’ll also make a soaker which is just a wet mixture of 120 g Roger’s Dark Rye flour and 176 ml water. Put it to a separate small glass jar, cover it and let it sit at room temperature. The goal of soaker is to initiate some enzymes in flour.

If I explained everything clearly then you should have three jars one of which goes to fridge and the other two you keep out:


After 12 hours on Saturday morning the starter (or how it’s called) that you let outside to ferment should be like this:


Now is the time to make final dough. Take 686 g of Roger’s Dark Rye flour and 3 teaspoons of sea salt. Mix it before you add water. Add 324 ml of water, the fermented starter, soaker and mix everything together. The dough feels like something between mud at West Coast Trail and manure from Okanagan. It’s sticky, not elastic, not springy. I definitely recommend to soak your hands regularly in water while mixing. That prevents the dough from sticking. You don’t have to mix it 12 minutes just like regular wheat flour. There’s not much gluten to be built up. When done, put it to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it to fridge again.


On Saturday evening take it out from the fridge, punch it (degas) and let it outside at a warmer place for the night. Form loaves on Sunday morning. This very depends on what size if bread you want to bake and what proofing baskets you have. I use one long and short oval proofing basket. The bigger one also has a cotton sheet on it which is quite convenient as it prevents the dough from sticking to sides the basket.


Let it ferment for a couple of hours. This very depends on our family plans for Sunday. Today I managed to keep it in baskets for 4 hours. The longer you let it out the more it rises but also the more sour it gets.

Preheat oven at maximum temperature for about 45 minutes with baking stone at lower position. Take loaves out from proofing baskets and score them. Scoring helps the bread to spring in the oven even though rye bread doesn’t rise too much in general. Transfer loaves directly onto the baking stone and bake it at highest temperature setting for 5 minutes.


Decrease temperature to 200°C after that. Here I intentionally don’t want to say how long (55 minutes) you should bake it. The goal is that the inner part reaches 96°C. Use food thermometer to find out when this happens. General rule is that slightly burned bread is always better than underbaked one.

IMG_3450 IMG_3449

That’s all folks!

Be observant. Your flour, your water, your room temperature, your oven and your daily schedule is different. This recipe cannot work for you. Well, it can but the bread will not be the same. Start somehow. Bake, improve and repeat.