This is one of my personal favorites, and it’s also the most popular rye bread in our bakeries. It’s a light and tender loaf that stays fresh for a long time. Here, the fabulous, intense taste of dark malt and rye is supplemented by the lovely crunchiness of pumpkin seeds. If you can’t get your hands on cut rye berries, which give the bread a chewy bite, you can just as easily use cracked rye berries.
Berries and Seeds
by Claus Meyer
Young Rye Starter
How to Get Your Hands on a Starter
Once you’ve decided you want to bake with a starter, you need to get your hands on an active specimen. There are several ways to do this:
How to Make a Rye Starter from Scratch
Whether you want to make wheat or rye starter, the way you begin is the same. This process only needs to be done once, unless you’re unfortunate enough to have your starter die on you. Please note that, even if you are making a wheat starter, you need to use rye flour to start it (thereafter, you use only wheat flour to refresh a wheat starter). This is due to the fact that rye flour contains more of the microorganisms needed to activate a starter.
You will need:
1. Measure the water and three types of flours.
2. Add the three types of flour to a bowl. Add the water and stir until smooth.
3. Pour the mixture into a plastic container with a lid, but seal the lid loosely to begin with. Let the starter stand at room temperature for 4 days, and whisk it thoroughly once a day. After 4 days, bubbles should appear on the surface and it should taste a little sour. If it does not taste sour, let the starter stand for another day or two.
To rise properly without the addition of baker’s yeast, rye bread needs more active wild yeast cells than a loaf of bread made from wheat flour. Leaving your young rye starter in warm surroundings and refreshing it every day for four to five days will provide the environment that will increase the growth of wild yeast cells to the level needed for baking rye bread.
A New Starter > Refreshing Rye Starter > Refreshing Rye Starter > Refreshing Rye Starter > Stock Rye Starter
The first time you refresh your starter, add 100 g (1/2 cup) of your new starter instead of rye starter, after which you follow the recipe below. Each time you refresh your starter, throw (or give) away what you won’t be using, or you’ll end up with far too much starter.
Ready to bake your dark rye bread? Good!
Publisher's Note: With regards to the three steps in the sequence above (labeled ‘Refreshing Rye Starter’), this refers to needing to refresh the Stock Starter with flour and water before you add it to the dough, to turn it into what Meyer calls a Young Starter. The purpose of this is to increase the production of the yeast cells and ‘dilute’ the acidity for a better taste. The recipe and method for these steps is below under the heading ‘Refresh Your Rye Stock Starter 12-24 hours Before Use’. ‘New starter’ in this context refers to the start-up starter recipe. So, to clarify, the first time you refresh the starter you should discard the quantity you don’t need, make a new starter from scratch and add it (see ‘How To Make a Rye Starter From Scratch’), then follow the method ‘Refresh Your Rye Stock Starter 12-24 hours Before Use’.
Refresh your rye stock starter 12 to 24 hours before use
If young rye starter remains unused for more than a couple of days, it needs to be refreshed before it can be used to bake rye bread. Young rye starter needs to stand for at least 10 hours before being added to rye dough, as it should be more acidic and smell a little vinegary in comparison with young wheat starter.
You will need:
1. Measure the stock rye starter, water, and rye flour.
2. Add the stock rye starter to a bowl and stir in the water. Add the flour and mix well until smooth.
3. Let the bowl stand at room temperature. The starter is ready to use when it starts bubbling slightly on the surface, tastes like a sour dairy product, and smells like a mixture of honey, champagne, and the foam of dark beer. This can take approximately 10 hours, but varies depending on how active your stock starter is and the room temperature. Now you have both your new young starter for baking and your new stock starter for next time you wish to bake.
How to Maintan Your Rye Starter
If you bake regularly, you’ll refresh your stock starter automatically, which will provide it with the nourishment it needs to stay in shape. However, if you keep your stock starter in the fridge, you will need to refresh it even if you are not actually planning to bake.
We recommend that you show your stock starter some loving care and attention by refreshing it once a month, even though it can actually survive longer unattended. Simply discard half of the stock starter before adding water and flour in a 1:1 ratio to yield approximately the same volume and texture. Shortly after, the starter will divide into a clear layer on top and a layer of flour at the bottom, but this is quite normal.
How to Store Stock Starter
Warning: Never store a starter sealed in a glass jar with an airtight lid. On rare occasions, a starter can develop enough carbon dioxide to exert high pressure inside the sealed container. An airtight lid will lock the expanding gas inside, where it may build up enough pressure to explode. It is always safest to store starter in a plastic container with a flexible lid.
The day before you want to actually bake your rye bread, you need to refresh your rye stock starter to make sure it’s completely up and running and able to help your rye dough rise. Take your rye stock starter from the fridge, refresh with rye flour and water, to turn it into young starter. Let stand at room temperature. Once its surface starts bubbling and frothing, after 12 to 24 hours, the starter is “awake” and ready to be put to use. Take out the amount you want to use for baking, and put the rest back in the fridge (or keep it at room temperature, depending on when you next expect to bake rye bread). This will be your new rye stock starter. If you’re not convinced that your rye starter is up to the job, you can always add 1 tablespoon of fresh baker’s yeast to the final dough.
Note: The gluten in rye flour is different from that in wheat flour, and it doesn’t bind as well, which is something you should remember when mixing your rye dough.
Berries and Seeds
At the same time that you refresh your natural stock starter, 12 to 24 hours before baking, mix the cut rye berries and pumpkin seeds in a bowl and add the water. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Mix together all the dough ingredients. Drain the soaked berries and seeds and mix them into the dough.
Mix your dough and pour it into a baking pan
As mentioned, rye flour doesn’t contain gluten strands, so when you make rye dough, the aim is to mix all the ingredients and make the dough as homogeneous as possible. And as you also want your rye dough to be as hydrated as possible to ensure a tender crumb, baking rye bread in pans is usually the best option.
Tip: You can put a piece of nonstick parchment paper in the baking pan if you want to make sure you’ll be able to get the finished loaf out in one piece rather than in bits and pieces, which are then impossible to slice. Grease the baking pan with a little butter and then line the pan with nonstick parchment paper. The butter will help the paper adhere to the inside of the pan. Once the rye bread is done, the loaf can be removed from the pan by lifting out the paper.
How to mix Rye Dough
1. Put the young rye starter and water into a bowl and stir.
2. Add the flour and salt.
3. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients for 4 to 5 minutes, or until you have a homogenous, wet dough. If you are using a stand mixer it will require less mixing time.
4. Grease the baking pan well with butter, reaching into all the corners and leaving no bare spots (this will make it easier to remove the finished loaf from the pan). Fill the baking pan two-thirds full of dough, leaving enough room for it to rise. Smooth the top with a wet rubber spatula or your wet palm.
5. Cover the pan with a plastic food bag cut open and attached with a rubber band. Let the rye bread rise until it’s increased by 30 to 50 percent.
Tip: Keep an eye on the dough as it rises. It’s ready to be baked when there are six or seven pin-sized holes in the surface.
Bake the bread following the below instructions for approximately 50 to 60 minutes.
Proofing your Rye Dough
When baking rye bread it’s important to use your eyes and not just rely on your watch to decide when the rising time is over. As mentioned, rye dough must increase in size by 30 to 50 percent in the pan before baking and this can take anything from 2 to 6 hours. The timing will depend on how active your natural starter is, how warm the room is, and the texture of the dough. Once the surface begins to crack and five or six tiny pin-sized holes appear, immediately slide the baking pan into the oven.
The key to success is to let the dough rise for the right amount of time—neither too long nor too short—before sliding it into the hot oven. If your bread hasn’t risen sufficiently before going into the oven it will crack, and if it’s been left for too long it can collapse once it’s in the oven, and there will be a hollow just underneath the crust. Resist the temptation to let your rye dough rise just that little bit longer in the hope that your finished bread will be that bit bigger and more beautiful.
Baking Your Rye Bread
Preheat your oven to its maximum temperature, giving it plenty of time to reach the required heat. You can use your oven’s convection function, if available, to speed up the heating process.
Place the rye bread in the hot oven and leave the convection function on for the initial 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until finished.
Giving exact baking times for rye bread can be a bit of challenge but expect it to take between 50 to 60 minutes. Ovens vary greatly in terms of heat distribution and you can’t necessarily trust the thermostat. Rye bread sizes and shapes also vary, which is why a digital kitchen thermometer is so useful for checking if your bread is done. After the loaf has been baking for 40 to 45 minutes insert the thermometer’s probe into the center of the bread. When the temperature reaches 206°F, the bread is done. Leaving the bread in the oven too long will make the crumb dry.
Let Your Rye Bread Cool
There are two different ways to let your rye bread cool, depending on whether you want a crisp or a soft crust. If you want a crisp crust, carefully tip the bread out of the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. For a soft crust, take the bread out of the pan and set it aside but after about 10 minutes return it to the pan it was baked in. The bread will generate steam, which turns into moisture that softens the crust. It’s easier to slice rye bread with a soft crust, and children seem to prefer this version as well.
If you can, wait until the following day before you slice the bread. If not, leave it for at least 6 to 8 hours, even if it is difficult to resist the temptation to tuck right in. Freshly baked rye bread needs time to settle before it can be nicely sliced, and you won’t be able to assess whether your crumb is too damp, too dry, or just perfect until some time has passed.
Storing Rye Bread
Rye bread stays moist and soft at room temperature or a little below. It does not like being kept in the fridge, because at 41°F the crumb begins to crystallize, and this will make the bread seem dry when eating it. But on the other hand, your bread will last longer if it’s kept in the fridge. So, if you bake two loaves, you could keep one at room temperature and store the other in the fridge until the first one is finished. And it’s worth keeping in mind that toasting a slice of rye bread will neutralize the crystallization.
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