figuring out rye

Hi all,
I am in the unfortunate position of needing to cut down my wheat intake, which seems a great excuse to perfect some 100% rye breads. I have had some sucess with rye before, but wouldn't say that I really understand it. The posts I have read give the odd formula, with mixed results, and some good advice, but I feel there is more to be said.

So I am going to try and chip away at this one, post my results here, and would certainly welcome anyone who wants to chip in!

From what I have been able to put together,
  • Most of the structure in rye comes from starch networks, but enzymes in the grain digest the starches into sugars, which is a bad thing for structure.
  • An acidic environment inhibits these enzymes
  • The enzyme content of rye flours differs greatly depending on when the gain was harvested.
  • A high salt content is good for structure development in rye breads
  • Rye doughs are sticky (because of sugar from hydrolysed starch) and there isn't much you can do about it
  • Rye likes a long slow bake
  • You shouldn't cut your bread till the next day after baking

Re: variation in enzyme activity, really there is only so much you can do about that, so I would like to come to a method that is robust enough to cope with a range of flours.

In terms of fermentation schedules, I am thinking it shouldn't be unnecessarily long (because the starches will break down), but that it should be as acidic as possible from as early as possible. Fermenting a fraction of the dough (maybe in builds/stages) for quite a long time and then adding to the rest of the flour for a shorter proof might be the best way to do this.

In terms of kneading, I don't see any point for starch networks, it is just going to knock out gas and maybe even break the starch networks up. At high hydration and given reasonable time, any gluten development will probably happen without any help.

In terms of hydration, I don't know for sure, but if the starch & gluten networks are not so springy and strong, they probably need a relatively high hydration to form pockets. In any case, I have noticed gluten free breads (mostly relying on starches for structure) are more like a cake batter than a dough. So I will start by trying thick batters in loaf tins. I have no idea where to start, maybe even 90 - 100%.

In terms of additives, of course I want to avoid them, but I think some coarse rye grain is a good idea for structure and texture seeing as rye breads tend towards gumminess.

Finally, I want the simplest method possible. I don't want a needlessly complex formula, or to have any stages without a clear purpose. Some complex traditional forulas no doubt work, but you success will always be hit and miss unless you understand the why.

I have made a start by innoculating 100g rye flour/100g water with a tablespoon or so of wheat flour starter.
I plan to gradually build on that (including some coarse grain so it gets to soak), and finally double my nice sour preferment with fresh flour before a shortish proof and long slow baking. The general idea being that each addition of flour (except the first) is added to an already acidic batter.

Thoughts from wiser heads appreciated!

266 users have voted.


LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 August 13
I'm just now exploring 100% rye, did my first test loaf last night.  I used 90% hydration and though that was ok.  Not much else to add right now.  
davo 2009 August 14

PS for what it's worth, I'd personally leave a 100% rye loaf a good 2 days or so before cutting in, and store it in something fairly sealed in the meantime, to let the moisture equalise. WHen I tried the 100% loaf, it was so hard on the outside to start, it almost couldn't be cut, but eventually softened to a nice state where it could be cut very thin (a few mm only) with a very sharp, thin, non serrated knife...

Also, you don't really knead, its just mixing, but it's like paste, not dough! I found some olive oil (on hands and bench) helped me to shape it into a rough loaf before going in the tin...

jem 2009 August 16
Thanks for the input people,
my oven has just taken the opportune time to run out of gas, and I can't get hold of any more for a few days, so I'm going to have to put this on hold.
Be right back!

Johnny's picture
Johnny 2009 August 16
I just got in some nice Rye Meal and tried Boris's 80% rye. I didn't get the nice lava effect on top this time. I think it was a little under-proved. The crumb was pretty dense but the flavour was nice and sour, particularly after 36hrs. 
I think I will do the 100% next week with the kibbled rye soaker as per this formula
I want to see if I can get that real dark bread.
:) Johnny
LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 August 17
I made a 100% Rye loaf today and it looks okay.  I thought it would rise after I started cooking but looks like it stayed the same.  I'm thinking next time I'll let it rise a little bit longer.
100% Rye
I'm going to slice it in a couple of days.
Johnny's picture
Johnny 2009 August 23
I tried the 100% Dark Sweet & Sour formula posted by Boris (Danubian) with mixed results. I posted my attempt on Danubian thread here.:)Johnny

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