Bread from Alice - question about rye crumb


This was a question that Isabelle asked in response to one of my experiments. I thought that others here (Nina, Mick) might have more knowledge than I of the answer to her problem

Dear Dom,

Thanks for your experiments, however I am very new to sourdough bread making and am using a starter given to me with a no - knead recipe. This starter and recipe was handed to me by a FREE BREAD INITIATIVE - ?Love Heart Bakery ?- a truly generous and anonymous bread maker in Alice Springs, NT, Australia.
I am making 2 rye loaves a week and have been having lots of luck until I got a new oven recently. The old one had no temperature gauge! and the loaves were tasty with a ciabatta like texture and even if a little undersized they were always gobbled up! Now the loaves seem to be rising too fast, I think, having almost as much airspace beneath the lovely crust as bread below! I put a stone in the bottom of the oven and sprinkle it with water after 20 minutes of baking. I am determined to succeed in the no-knead way. Can you give me some tips please???

Bread recipe?
The night before?
200ml starter
500ml flour
700ml water
mix together and cover away from drafts. Feed stater at this time with 200ml rye flour and enough water to make a thick batter.

The next morning?
Great spongy, gloopy stretchy consistency.
Add another 500ml rye flour
2 teaspoons salt
(herbs/seeds, if you want)

Stir around: should be very wet dough (you couldn?t knead it)?elasticy, stretchy. Add more water if needeed and lump into (2 or 3) well oiled and floured baking tins ; cover and let stand.
Needs to double in size? depending on temp. can take 1.5 - 8hrs.

Pre-heat oven to 230 celcius
Gently place tins in oven and DO NOT DISTURB for at least 15 mins.
Rotate at 20 mins if you have to.
At 30 mins, pop out of the oven and put them straight on the racks to finish off another 10mins.
Total time: 40 mins. Loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place on cooling rack for 1 hr, then enjoy,


Isabelle I don't have much experience with pure rye sourdough, and I haven't tried a recipe like the one that you are using. It sounds a bit like one that Mick posted recently
The big air bubble under the crust sounds like what is called a 'flying top'.
It can result from overproving and an oven that is too hot (I wonder if that is why the change of oven has caused problems).
I also wonder whether you need to wrap the loaf up for 24 hours in waxed paper - that is often the case for 100% rye loaves.



279 users have voted.


carla's picture
carla 2006 July 18

This was a question that Isabelle asked.
...the loaves were tasty with a ciabatta like texture...
Now the loaves seem to be rising too fast, I think, having almost as much airspace beneath the lovely crust as bread below!
Can you give me some tips please???

Hi lovely forum people,

I am baking wholemeal rye bread since about 30 years with sourdough of course. Since English is my second language I sometimes have problems with the right expressions. However we usually get there in the end. And I am sure you will teach me lots in that respect

To bake a consistently nice loaf you need to put the sourdough through some stages of feeding and keeping it warm. There has been quite a lot of research done in Germany to find the optimum way of feeding a rye sourdough.

The recipe above has to my opinion what you call "a high hydration", in short it must be a quite sloppy dough looking at the amount of water that goes in under the heading "The night before?".
This in turn means that the yeasts will multiply much more than the acids and there is no second stage to rectify that and that is one reason why the bread rises so fast.

The other reason why the top crust comes off is that the amount of acids is too low. What you call a "flying top" is a characteristic of not enough acid in the dough.

You need to adhere to a proper sourdough feeding program (what is the right english expression for that??), best is the "Detmold 3 Stages" to keep your sourdough in good shape.

That the rye bread has a "ciabatta-like texture" also shows that there is too much yeast in the dough, a normal rye bread has never such a texture!

I would also think that the baking time is quite short. I would bake at about 220 for 10 minutes then go down to 200 and then to 180 and bake for a good hour all up depending on size of loaves.

Hope that helps - good luck Isabelle

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2006 July 18

Before I re-read your post to digest it properly (I can see a lot of meat there), I'd like to extend a warm welcome to you, Carla! croc too! It's really great to see members from different ethnic/country backgrounds here. Now, who was it who said this wasn't an 'international' forum?

bethesdabakers's picture
bethesdabakers 2006 July 18

The other reason why the top crust comes off is that the amount of acids is too low. What you call a "flying top" is a characteristic of not enough acid in the dough.

That would explain why Paul Merry in his class said that rye starter should stand for 48 hours before mixing the dough. He called "flying top" the "handbag fault".

Best wishes,


nina 2006 July 19

Lots of good info here, I'm taking notes!

Carla, can you explain the "Detmold 3 Stages"? I'm also baking wholemeal rye and very eager to learn more.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 July 19

Hi Nina,
Here you go as requested, TP you know you got to get this book!

Excerpt from Jeffery Hamelman's book: Bread, page 200m 2004 Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-16857-2:

[b]The Detmolder Method of Rye Bread Production[/b]

The Detmolder method of making sourdough rye bread, developed in Germany, is a fascinating and highly effective technique that represents the highest expression of baker's skill. It develops the latent potential of a mature rye culture through a series of builds before the mixing of the final dough. Rye sourdough cultures possess three distinct characteristics - yeast, acetic acid, and lactic acid - and each aspect thrives under different conditions of moistness (hydration), temperature, and duration of ripening. In the Detmolder system, the sourdough is built up in three phases, each favoring the development of one aspect of the sourdough. Paying careful attention to the time and temperature requirements of each phase is necessary in order to obtain the highest-quality results.

The first, or "freshening", phase encourages the development of the yeast cells of the sourdough. The yeast microorganisms present in sourdough thrive under moist conditions at an average temperature, and these conditions are supplied with a high-hydration paste (150 percent hydration) that matures for 5 to 6 hours at about 78 F.

Once the yeast phase has been properly developed, more rye flour and water are added to it. This second build is called the "basic sour" phase. Proper development requires a rather stiff-textured phase (60 to 65 percent hydration) that ripens in comparatively cool conditions for 15 to 24 hours. This phase develops the acetic acid potential of the culture, which eventually imparts the sour tang associated with sourdough bread.

After full ripening of the basic sour, more rye flour and water are added to make the "full sour". This phase develops the lactic acid, which will provide a smooth and mild acidity to the finished bread. Lactic acid development is favored by moist and warm conditions, and in this phase we have mixed a paste of 100 percent hydration and a ripening temperature of about 85 F. Note that ripening is accomplished in a relatively short period of time, 3 to 4 hours. Once the lactic development is complete, the full potential of the sourdough has been developed, and the final dough is ready to mix. Before mixing together the ingredients of the final dough, the baker removes a portion of the ripe sourdough in order to perpetuate the culture.

The building process began with less than 50 grams of culture more than 24 hours earlier, and has been expanded to produce a final dough of more than 18 kilograms. That represents an expansion factor of 360, and the finished loafs are indeed a testament to the wonder of nature, the health of the culture, and - not least - the expertise of the baker.

The precision required for the three-phase method is unlike anything else in bread production. It is also very labor-intensive, and other Detmolder methods simplify the process: For example, there is one-phase method, as well as a two-phase. Although these breads don't have quite the ultimate flavor complexity of breads made with the three-phase technique, they are of excellent quality and fit more easily into many production schedules.

(This section is published on this web site under the fair use Copyright)

nina 2006 July 20

Thanks a lot Jeremy for taking the time to write that out for me.
Very interesting read, I've never heard of that method before. I suspect the danish ryebread tradition is fairly close to the german one, but the craft and tradition of baking rye bread has almost vanished

Infact I managed to find this horrible horrible ryebread recipe on several danish cooking websites. I'm sure even those of you without experience in danish type ryebreads can appreciate the horror![quote]
50 g fresh yeast
1/4 l buttermilk
2 dl yoghurt.
1 tbsp salt.
1 tbsp honey
2-3 drops dark food coloring (danish: "kulør", used for sauces)
325 g rye flour
225 g white flour
1 tbsp margarine
1 hour bulk fermentation, 30 min proofing.
... I'm speachless!

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 July 20

Hej Nina,
Actually I googled that so it was just cut and paste! I think German rye breads have a lot shorter fermentation times, one in part because of the rye having more kick, as well the amount of levain or yeast in the recipe. and the other reason I learned was that during industrialization and modern times. labor cost is a prohibitive factor in bakeries, don't quote me I may be wrong, I'm sure someone will

bethesdabakers's picture
bethesdabakers 2006 July 4

As usual I am confused on most counts.

What's a "no knead recipe"?

Bread recipe?
The night before?
200ml starter
500ml flour
700ml water
mix together and cover away from drafts. Feed stater at this time with 200ml rye flour and enough water to make a thick batter.

I don't understand this. Is the 500ml flour (I assume this should be grams) white bread flour? Is the rye flour and water in the last sentence in addition to the 500ml flour and 700ml water? Just seems a strange way of expressing it.

In my Russian rye thread I said that Paul Merry reckoned that a rye starter should stand for 48 hours before use. The reason for this he said was to avoid the "handbag fault" i.e. flying crust.

I wondered if the starter a genuine starter or a chemical concoction? But the only difference between the successful loaves and the current situation seems to be the new oven. Try reducing the temperature first and see if that makes any difference.

Are you slashing the tops before baking?

Sorry this is not more helpful,


nina 2006 July 4

Hm, my own rye bread is a 'no knead' recipe (meaning the dough is very wet and you don't knead it at all). However, the no knead is also due to rye flour not having the gluten content of white flour. (Some recipes do call for extensive mixing though.)
The way you describe your dough my guess is you have quite a lot of white flour in it. My rye dough is never elastic, strechy or gloopy and the finished bread is as far from ciabatta as you can get. It's also baked longer at lower temperatures.

So I'm afraid I can't offer any other advice than Dom and Mick.
230C does sound like a lot for a wet dough in a tin... Maybe try 200C. If your bread ends up too wet in the middle I'd try lowering the temperature (say to 175C) after 20 min and baking longer.
Best of luck

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