Sonderjydske Rye

I love wholemeal rye but I don’t often bake it and I neglect my starter and it develops moulds that have to be scraped off and I have to put the starter through an intensive feeding regime and store it in the fridge until it’s cured. Then it pops out refreshed as though nothing had happened.

Given that I got it over 20 years ago from Andrew Whitley and the story is that he brought it back from Russia when he was working for the BBC from a monastery or an ancient bakery or maybe a monastic bakery where it had been in use for over 100 years I suppose I should treat it with a little more respect. Well I do mean to …

How could you not be in awe of a bread that is built like a tree trunk

Anyway this is a Danish rye from Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Baking. Unlike popular Brit cookery writers she knows what she is talking about when it comes to bread and she’s not worried about scaring the punters with talk of starters and sourdough. Get stuck in there, Boy.

The method is sort of like a sponge but the first stage is much bigger than what you would normally expect – the only thing that goes into the second stage is one quarter of flour. So her first stage is:

Wholemeal Rye Flour 600g (75.0%)
Water 600g (75.0%)
Rye Starter 400g (50.0%)
Salt 20g (2.5%)

This is mixed and left to stand overnight at room temperature. In the morning the remaining quarter of the flour 200g (25.0%) is stired into the dough. No point in kneading wholemeal rye, the gluten doesn’t develop – just mix throroughly.

BUT she assumes this is your first rye bread so you remove 400g to store as a starter for your next bake. This is where it gets quite complicated to say what the precise make up of you dough is, particularly because the salt is included (wouldn’t normally have salt a the starter).

So first, what I did. I continued with the whole dough with nothing removed because I already have a starter. Roughly shaped the dough into a batard and let it prove unsupported on a baking sheet for about 2½ hours. Followed her baking instructions with some misgivings (I worked out my own process a long time ago). She say, bake for 5 minutes at 250C and a further 35 minutes at 200C.

I added another 5 minutes at 250C and, after 35 minutes at 200C, left the loaf in the oven with the door open and the heat turned off for about 20 minutes.

Then (this is as important as the baking) I cooled the bread on a wire rack and, when it was totally cold, put it in a freezer bag for 24 hours before cutting.

I have made a lot of rye bread in my time but this is one of the best. Soft crust, moist crumb, wonderfully sour flavour. And with a spreading of Carrie Rimes’ ewes milk cream cheese …
They were made for each other.

Now then. What if you want to use the recipe keeping the same proportions but omitting the 400g that is removed for later use? My ageing brainbox is not what it was (which was never a lot). At first I thought, just subtract 200g of flour and 200g water but soon realised that wasn’t right. The solution is just as simple. Take the formula for the amounts in the original recipe (including Day 2’s 200g flour)

Wholemeal Rye Flour 800g (100.0%)
Water 600g (75.0%)
Rye Starter 400g (50.0%)
Salt 20g (2.5%)

Total weight: 1820g. Minus 400g = 1420g

The formula remains exactly the same:

Wholemeal Rye Flour 624g (100.0%)
Water 468g (75.0%)
Rye Starter 312g (50.0%)
Salt 16g (2.5%)

Total weight: 1420g

Of course, any sensible baker would have the formula in a spreadsheet so they could opt for any dough weight without brainstrain.

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