This mixed wheat and rye sourdough bread is the perfect gateway to rye breads. It is easier to work with than sourdough bread made with only rye flour whilst having a wonderful aroma and earthy flavour. It has a tighter crumb with a delicious crust. It is slightly tangy but not super sour, making it the perfect everyday sandwich bread.
After baking sourdough bread for a few months experimenting with rye flour seemed like the next obvious step. Very stupidly I just picked a random 100% rye sourdough bread recipe from the internet and made what looked and felt like a brick. It was also inedible. I was basically ready to give up at that point because it had not only been sticky and messy but also a waste. Unfortunately there was still some rye flour left, which I had to use up before. So I decided to do some research and apply this information to a recipe I know works. This loaf was my first and supposedly last mixed rye loaf. I never liked rye bread because it always seemed to have too much flavour, but this bread is super delicious. It is a little more dense than a basic sourdough loaf with a tight crumb and a delicious crust. It is very aromatic with an earthy flavour, that is not overly sour. You can eat this bread with anything.
The Science of Rye Bread Baking
Disclaimer: I am not a food scientist and this is purely based on personal research from the internet.
Baking rye bread can be a messy and sticky affair, that is due to the rye flour’s chemical properties. Rye flour contains less gluten than wheat flour. Gluten will give the dough strength (elasticity) and helps with keeping the bread’s shape during fermentation and baking. This is also why a dough containing rye feels completely different from other bread dough, more like modelling clay. On top of that rye flour contains an enzyme called amylases, which breaks starch down into sugar and remains active at high temperature. Both of these baking properties of rye flour combined make it impossible to bake proper loaf of bread without either
a. lowering the pH level of the dough by fermenting it with a sourdough starter as acidification impedes function of the rye enzyme
b. adding a portion of wheat flour to the rye flour as the additional wheat gluten compensates the amylase activity in the rye flour.
This is why for baking pure rye bread the rye flour is fermented about a day before making the dough as this process inhibits the enzyme from breaking down all the starches in the flour, which gives the bread its structural integrity. When mixing flours, the rye flour doesn’t have to ferment in advance when there is enough wheat gluten present.
Nutrition: Rye versus Wheat
Disclaimer: I am not a dietician/nutritionist, all of this is purely research based.
Both rye and wheat are grass crops which are closely related. This is reflected in their nutritional values. Both contain high levels of all essential amino acids. Cereal grains are also a great source of both B and other complex vitamins. Wheat contains B1,B3, B6 and the folate form of B9 vitamins whereas rye contains B2, B6, A, K and E vitamins. Neither contain vitamin C, D or B12. They are also a great source of minerals. Wheat is richer in iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium and manganese whereas rye is richer in potassium and choline. Even though they are both high in calories you should clearly not demonize bread as it has a lot of nutritional value and would do well eating a balanced mix of the two. The fermentation process in sourdough bread also makes it easier to absorb all of these essential micro nutrients. Both have a relatively low glycemic index with rye being a little lower at 53 in comparison to 58 in whole wheat bread, therefore having a positive effect on the blood glucose levels (depending on the individual). They are also a great source of fiber, which will keep you fuller longer.
Mixed Rye Sourdough Bread
Yield: 1 loaf* Difficulty: 3/5 Time: 1 hour working time + proof time + 1 hour baking time
- sourdough starter (10%=75 gr or 15%=113 gr)**
- 450 gr luke-warm water (60% hydration)***
- 500 gr wheat or spelt bread flour
- 250 gr rye flour
- 13 gr kosher salt (1.8%)
- Making the Dough: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl until well combined. In the bottom of the mixing bowl dissolve the sourdough starter in 350 gr luke-warm water and add the flour mixture. Begin kneading the sourdough with the dough hook attachment as little as possible, adding the rest of the water as needed until everything has come together. The dough will be rather sticky, keep kneading the dough for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough roughly into a ball with wet hands. The dough has an almost modelling clay or play doh like texture.
- Bulk Rise: Leave the dough to prove until it has visibly grown in volume. Don’t rely on it doubling in size but rather test whether the dough springs back when being poked. Well proven dough will spring back about halfway, if it bounces back fully it is under-proofed. If the indentation fully remains it is over-proofed.
- Shaping of the Dough: Preshape the loaf by lightly flattening out the dough and rolling it over itself. Let the dough relax for 30 minutes. Prepare a proving basket (or bowl) with a lined dish towel and flour it well. Shape the sourdough loaf on a lightly floured surface by stretching the dough out and folding in the sides and before folding in top and bottom. Stitch the seams together before flipping the dough over. Either with a bench scraper or your hands shape the dough into a round (boule) or oval (batard) shape. Flip the dough over and place it with the bottom up in the proving basket, sprinkle the top with some flour and fold the tea towel over. Let it prove for its final rise until it has grown in volume and it passes the proving test above.
- Baking the Sourdough: Preheat the oven to 250°C with a Dutch oven (if you don’t have one you can bake it in a preheated baking dish or on a baking sheet) inside for 30-45 minutes. Flip the sourdough onto a piece of baking parchment and slash the top with a sharp knife. Transfer the dough into the Dutch oven with the help of the baking paper and put the lid back on. Bake it for 10 minutes at maximum heat before reducing the heat to 200°C. After 20 minutes remove the lid and keep baking for another 40 minutes until the crust has achieved the desired colour. Turn the oven off and open the oven door, let the sourdough bread cool inside the oven. Don’t slice the bread before it has fully cooled.
*By baking two oval loaves or one round and one oval loaf you can fit two loaves of bread into the oven at once.
**Make sure to use your starter at peak after feeding. To check you can make the float test by putting one teaspoon starter into a bowl of water. If it floats your starter is ready to be used. You can use more or less starter depending on how much time you have, less starter equals a longer rise. The kitchen temperature also influences how fast or slow it will rise.
***You can add more hydration for sourdough loaf with a looser crum. Different types of flour have different hydration rates, so it is easier to hold some water back and add more as needed while kneading.
Well, there you have an easy and delicious recipe for a mixed rye sourdough bread as well as a small introduction into the science of rye bread baking. I hope you found this as interesting and educational as I did. Sometimes it is just helpful to know why we have to do things a certain way, maybe this could have prevented me from baking a brick to begin with. Looking at that nutrition battle has also convinced me to add this mixed rye bread to my sourdough rotation as it contains the best of both worlds as far as vitamins and minerals are concerned. Once you get the hang of this it is not more difficult than any other sourdough bread. I hope you enjoyed this post and have a great day. Stay safe and wear a mask!