From the archives: Overnight 100% Rye Sourdough

This is a repost from 2014, of one of my favourite rye recipes. 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.

cracked_rye_sourdough
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.

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

Method

  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.

    rye_sourdough
    The finished rye loaf. The rye flour gives an amazing colour, texture, and flavour to the sourdough.
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Dark Ale Sourdough

Two dark ale sourdough loaves
Two dark ale sourdough loaves

Some people rate a perfect sourdough based not only on the flavour but on the irregularity of the crumb – a holey, open-crumbed texture with a well risen and crispy scored edge is the holy grail, achieved by using a high hydration dough, a fierce heat and often judicious use of steam. I can take or leave the big holey dough thing; sometimes a dense and flavourful crumb – like a rye bread or a wholemeal loaf – is just as good. But, every now and again, I like to experiment and try to find that “perfect” sourdough.

ale_crumb
The crumb is springy and full of large, uneven holes.

This recipe was born of a simple idea: I like beer, I like bread, and I’ve never (despite seeing many recipes) combined the two. So I took a pretty standard formula for two loaves – 800g of bread flour with 70% liquid, and swapped out 330ml of the water with a bottle of dark ale. The results were even better than I expected.

This sourdough loaf has the open holes and irregular crumb, the dark and crisp crust, and a fantastic flavour (so good that one loaf barely lasted out the day). The dark ale gave it lift, colour, and flavour, without being overpowering. The best part – slicing some of it up and turning it into the best Welsh rarebit ever… more on that later this week.

Sourdough_ale_crust
Well risen and with a crisp and delicious crust

Dark Ale Sourdough – makes two boules

Firm starter

  • 115g white sourdough starter @ 130% hydration
  • 130g white bread flour
  • 55g water

Dough

  • 240g firm starter
  • 800g strong white flour
  • 230ml warm water
  • 330ml dark ale
  • 16g salt
  1. Two days before baking, make the firm starter. Combine the ingredients, knead for a few minutes, and allow to rise at room temperature for four hours. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning, remove the firm starter one hour prior to making the dough, and break into a dozen pieces.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and knead briefly. Autolyse for 20 minutes. Bulk ferment for 4 hours, with a stretch/fold every half an hour for the first 2.
  4. Divide and shape the loaves into two boules. Rest on the counter for 20 minutes, then quickly and gently reshape and place into well floured bannetons. Proof for 2 hours, then place into plastic bags and retard in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. The day of baking, preheat the oven to max with a lidded cast iron pot (Dutch oven) on the middle shelf. Bake one loaf at a time for 30 minutes with the lid on, then 15 minutes with the lid off and temperature reduced to 230˚C.
  6. Remove to a wire rack and rest for at least an hour before slicing.
dark_ale_boules
Dark ale sourdough loaves shaped into boules

Fig and Raisin Sourdough Two Ways

In a previous post I’ve written about a fig and raisin sourdough, based on an idea from Yoke Madewi’s Wild Sourdough cookbook. This new recipe, however, comes from an entirely different angle.

figandraisin
One of the finished fig and raisin sourdough loaves

Recently I’ve been playing around with temperatures and cooking methods, trying to broaden my understanding of sourdough in particular. Following methods outlined in the Larousse Book of Bread I have experimented with the effect of different temperatures of the water and the room that the dough proofs in. I have also been playing around with the amount of starter, and the effect on the time, quality, and taste of the finished breads.

For this fig and raisin sourdough, I decided to make two batches that were equal in everything except for the amount of starter. The finished breads came out noticeably different.

fig_recipes
Two side by side recipes, same ingredients, different results.

Using the baker’s percentage formula, where the total weight of flour is 100%, I worked out two recipes with the same weight and amount of each ingredient. Putting the total weight at 2288g would result in two loaves from each batch at just under 1kg each. One recipe has a rye starter, and the other has a starter that began as rye, and was refreshed with all purpose flour. The rye starter loaves have extra all purpose flour and water in the final mix. This means that the first recipe has around 40% starter, and the second around 4%. I expected that this would have a fairly dramatic effect on the outcome of the loaves; a higher amount of starter should – in theory – have a number of effects.

figloaves
Different amounts of starter will yield completely different results

Firstly, the higher the amount of starter, the more ‘wild yeast’ is present. This means that the dough will rise more quickly, and that the final dough will be more dense and chewy in texture. In the second recipe, using less starter will both increase the rising time and will result in a more complex flavour from the additional lactic and acetic acids released through fermentation. I decided, rather than retarding either loaf overnight in the fridge, that I would let each batch rise at room temperature. The first took a 4 hour bulk ferment, and a 2 hour proof. The second took 16 hours for the bulk ferment, and 6 hours for the proof. Both were handled in the same way – a couple of stretch/folds during the bulk ferment, and then shaped into bannetons. The only difference here was the shape of the loaves – boules for the first recipe, bâtards for the second.

Fig and raisin sourdough proofing in floured bannetons
Fig and raisin sourdough proofing in floured bannetons

The most important thing, of course, is the outcome. In my opinion, the second loaves were the superior. The extra-long fermentation produced a loaf that was complex in flavour and had a dark, cracked crust when baked. The taste was, in fact, a little overpowering, and so I will increase the amount of starter the next time I bake to a compromise, leaning towards the lesser end of the scale. The first recipe result was also good, with a softer texture, and more delicate flavour, but the gelatinised, shiny crumb and the thick crust of the second takes the prize, and is the recipe that I give here.

figsourdoughs
The finished loaves. In the centre, the “winning” 4% starter loaf. The higher percentage starter loaves are on either side.

Fig and raisin sourdough – makes 2 large bâtards

  • 1175g organic all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 845g water at room temperature
  • 50g rye starter @ 100% hydration
  • 200g figs, sliced
  • 200g sultanas
  • 18g salt
  1. For two days before making the bread (e.g. on Thursday), refresh the starter with equal parts rye flour and water.
  2. The day before baking (e.g. Saturday), combine all of the ingredients except the salt and fruits in a large mixing bowl. Autolyse for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and fruits, and knead in the bowl until combined. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Bulk ferment until risen, giving a couple of stretch/folds during that time. For me, this was an overnight bulk ferment that took 16 hours – I started at 7pm on Saturday, and was ready for the next stage at 11am on Sunday.
  4. After the bulk ferment, divide the dough into two equal portions and shape into balls. Rest for 20 minutes. Shape for bâtards and place into well floured bannetons. Proof until risen – 6 hours for me, so the loaves were ready for the oven at 5pm.
  5. Preheat oven to max, with an empty baking pan on the bottom of the oven. Turn out the loaves onto a floured baking tray and score. Tip a cup of water into the preheated baking tray to create steam, and place loaves into the oven. Bake at max for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 230˚C. Bake for an extra 30 minutes, turning half way through.
  6. Remove to a wire rack and leave until cooled before slicing.
figcrumb
The 4% starter crumb – a little hard to see in the photo, but the crumb is shiny from the extra long rise.
figboule
One of the boules – not the winner this time, but still a very good loaf. Excellent rise, great flavour, more delicate that the other loaf.
sidebysidefig
The larger slices are from the boules, the smaller from the more intensely flavoured bâtards