Overnight 100% Rye Sourdough

This bread was made using a combination of Dan Lepard’s recipe for 100% Sour Rye, and methods from Ken Forkish and Peter Reinhart.

The temperature is still up, and the best time to bake is early in the morning. Early morning baking calls for a bit of a manipulation of the proofing time of bread, and so overnight retarding in the fridge is ideal. Since it is hot in the kitchen by the afternoon, it is also a bonus to have a recipe that does not call for much hard work, and this no-knead rye bread from Dan Lepard is the perfect loaf for the situation.

Despite originating in colder climates – Scandinavia, Russia, Eastern Europe for example – a rye flour sourdough works well here because it does not need a great deal of handling and only requires a single proof; no bulk fermentation is needed. This is partly because the gluten in rye flour is extremely weak, and does not benefit from the extra developing time. Also, rye flour, when mixed with water, becomes extremely sticky. Kneading only exacerbates the problem, quickly turning the dough into an unworkable mess.

The cracks along the bottom are from the loaf’s expansion whilst proofing; rye flour is much less elastic than wheat flour.

Another bonus of this recipe was the opportunity to try something I had never used before – a rye scald. Lepard’s “hot gelatinous rye mix” is 4 parts boiling water to 1 part rye flour, which is mixed an hour prior to beginning the bread and used both in the dough and as a wash before the bread goes into the oven. The scalded rye mix adds an elasticity to the loaf which would otherwise be absent.

The recipe is from Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf and I highly recommend buying it if you’re into a little bit of experimentation with traditional loaves. For the ingredients to this bread, go and buy a copy!

For the method, I followed my own instructions to suit the overnight retardation. It is a mix of Ken Forkish’s method for an overnight sourdough from Flour Water Salt Yeast, and a few techniques I picked up from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

The sliced loaf – the crumb is slightly more open than in a regular rye bread, due to the inclusion of the scalded rye mix


  1. 8pm, 2 days before baking: Refresh 2 tbsp rye starter with 100g rye flour and 150g lukewarm water.
  2. 9am, 1 day before baking: Refresh starter with 100g rye flour and 150g lukewarm water.
  3. 3pm, 1 day before baking: Mix boiling water and rye flour, stand.
  4. 4pm, 1 day before baking: Combine remaining ingredients, reserving 1 tbsp of the rye mix for glazing. Shape the dough as per instructions in the recipe and place into a floured banneton.
  5. Proof for 4 hours.
  6. 8pm, 1 day before baking: Place banneton into a clean plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
  7. 6:30am, day of baking: Preheat oven to 210°C
  8. 7:10am, day of baking: Bake at 210°C for 50 minutes.
  9. Cool on a wire rack, then wrap in baking paper and store for one day before eating.
    The finished rye loaf. The rye flour gives an amazing colour, texture, and flavour to the sourdough.



Baking skills pt. 2: Kneading

In the last post I mentioned that one of the ways to reduce time spent kneading the dough is by autolysing the flour and water, giving the flour time to hydrate and allowing the enzymes to begin converting the protein in the flour into gluten.

You can feel the difference when the flour and water have been mixed and allowed to rest. When you begin kneading the dough, adding the salt and other ingredients, such as yeast or levain, it will already be much easier to work than if you had mixed all of the ingredients and started kneading immediately.

There are several methods of kneading the dough – and also methods of making the bread that require no kneading at all.

This wet spelt dough will be stretched and folded - see below
This wet spelt dough will be stretched and folded – see below

Basic kneading

Kneading develops and aligns the gluten in the dough, allowing it to become elastic enough to stretch and trap air whilst rising. Most recipes will call for kneading for 10-15 minutes, which can be reduced by autolysing.

Using one or two hands, the dough should be pushed and pulled across the work surface in a roughly circular fashion. You are trying to ‘line up’ the gluten strands in the dough, so avoid stretching too much and tearing the dough. At first the dough will probably be sticky, but avoid adding extra flour as it will result in a drier dough.

The dough is fully kneaded when you can stretch a piece thin enough to see light through it, called the ‘window pane test’. It should also be slightly tacky but not sticky, and should spring back when pushed with a fingertip.

Stretching and folding

This method works very well with wet (high hydration) doughs like ciabatta or sourdough.  It can be used in combination with, or instead of, the basic knead method.
In a large mixing bowl, take a handful of the dough with wet hands, stretch it, and food it back on itself. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat, rewetting your hands every so often. Do this about 10 times, then cover the dough and rest for an hour. Repeat every half an hour to  hour for the first few hours of the bulk ferment (the first rise).

The stretch and fold method develops the gluten and adds structure to very slack doughs. It is great for making breads with large, irregular holes.

No knead methods

There are a few of these out there (search for no-knead bread), and they all work on the principle of a long, slow ferment of all the ingredients. The principle is the same as the autolyse: you mix the ingredients and let the dough do its own thing, and the gluten aligns itself, albeit in a much longer period of time.

A well kneaded dough should look smooth and springy
A well kneaded dough should look smooth and springy

Getting the dough to the point where it is elastic and able to trap the carbon dioxide released by the yeast during fermentation is crucial to a good loaf. Whichever method you use, this step cannot be skipped. I have not mentioned machine mixers, because I don’t have one, but the only advice I can give is not to overknead or overheat the dough.

Timing is everything

It’s hot, and getting hotter. One thing that really takes some getting used to moving from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern is a hot Christmas. Firing up the oven when it is heading for 40°C isn’t an appealing idea; but bread still needs to be baked! So, the trick is to juggle the timing of the bread so that it can be baked in the morning, whilst it is still relatively cool indoors and out. The best way to manage time with bread is to control the temperature of the dough, and the best way to do that is to refrigerate it. In technical terms, this is called retarding the dough, and it usually happens after the loaves have been shaped, following the first rise. I decided to make a spelt sourdough so I fed my sourdough starter straight from the fridge on Sunday night with 100g of flour and 100g of water. The rest of the timings are included in the recipe.

Overnight Spelt, fresh from the oven this morning

A couple of things worth noting from this recipe: I have made my starter a little stiffer than usual on the second feeding by using half as much water as flour. The autolyse mixes only flour and water, and the rest of the ingredients are added later. This is a “no knead” bread. The sourdough is ‘spiked’ with a little commercial (instant) yeast to give it a little extra rise – purists can leave the room at this point. I am loosely following a recipe from Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. Overnight Spelt Sourdough

  • 200g rye flour
  • 100g lukewarm water
  • 100g sourdough starter
  • 540g white spelt flour
  • 260g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 620g lukewarm water
  • 20g salt
  • 2g instant yeast
  1. 8am – Mix the 100g of rye starter with 200g rye flour and 100g lukewarm water. Leave in a tupperware at room temperature.

    A stiff rye starter ready to go
  2. 3.30pm – Mix the 540g white spelt, 260g wholemeal spelt, and 620g lukewarm water in a large bowl by hand until combined. Rest (autolyse) for half an hour.

    The autolyse – a premix of flour and water
  3. 4pm – Add 360g of the rye starter. Put the rest back into the original jar in the fridge. Add the salt and the yeast, and mix all of the ingredients by hand for about 5 minutes. This is not a vigorous as kneading the bread: I mix by wetting my (right) hand, dipping into the dough and folding it over itself, whilst rotating the bowl with my left hand.
  4. Rest until just over doubled in size. On a warm day like today, between four and five hours.
  5. 8pm – Flour half of the workbench, flour hands, and tip a little flour onto the dough. Work hands around the side of the bowl and lift dough out. Be careful not to knock too much air out of the dough. Refer to the bread shaping guide here – I divide and shape into two rounds, then place into well floured round bannetons and place each in a plastic bag in the fridge. Proof in the fridge overnight.

    Divided, shaped, and placed into bannetons ready for the fridge
  6. 7.15am the next day – Preheat the oven to 245°C with a Dutch oven (I use a cast iron Le Creuset) on the middle shelf.
  7. 8am – Remove the Dutch oven from the oven (it will be extremely hot); remove the lid. Carefully tip the dough out of the banneton onto a floured surface, and using floured hands lift the dough into the Dutch oven. Place the lid back on and put into the oven. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, and then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.
  8. 8.45am – Cool the bread on a wire rack.

    A nice split along the top of the bread, and a dark crust