October 19, 2009

No-Knead Sourdough Rye Bread

If I had known that 100% rye bread doesn't require kneading, I would have made it a long time ago. Not that kneading can't be fun; but I have approximately 3 square feet of counter space in my New York City "kitchen" (which is really one wall of my living room). And it just doesn't inspire me to knead. Lucky for me, rye dough does not rely on the development of gluten in order to rise, like wheat dough does. Rye contains a different type of protein that, without kneading, is able to trap the gases produced by yeasts.

Last weekend I was reading the bread section of Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation (I can't say enough good things about this book!), and decided to try a sourdough starter (for more on that, read this). Miraculously, the starter thrived (must have been the 7 grapes!). After 7 days of fermentation and souring, it was ready to be transformed into my first loaf of bread. I made a half recipe of Sandor's onion caraway rye, minus the onions and with the addition of a little blackstrap molasses - so it was sort of a cross between rye and pumpernickel. Brookley, my sourdough starter (I've heard starters must be named), is now hibernating in the fridge. I will continue feeding him a little flour every day or two to keep him alive, and next time I plan to bake will take him out, feed him, and let him sit in a warm spot for a few hours till he is bubbling and ready to go.

Caraway Rye Sourdough Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

1 cup rye sourdough starter
4 cups rye flour (divided)
1-2 Tbsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
1/2 tsp fine-grained sea salt
1-2 tsp olive, coconut, or sesame oil (NOT toasted sesame oil), for pan

1. Make the sponge:

-Combine sourdough starter, 2 cups of rye flour, 1-1/2 cups warm filtered water, 2 Tbsp of caraway seeds, and 2 Tbsp of blackstrap molasses in a large bowl. Mix well.
-Cover and leave in a warm place for 8 to 12 hours (or more) until very bubbly. Stir every couple of hours. The sponge, bubbling away after a few hours...

2. Make the dough:

-Add salt and another 2 cups of rye flour to the sponge (I added about 1/4 cup of flour at a time; it might require less than 2 cups, or a bit more).
-When the dough becomes quite difficult to stir with a spoon, it's rising time. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and leave in a warm place for 8 to 12 hours, until it has risen noticeably (it will approximately double in size).

3. Proof the dough:

-Rye dough is moist and sticky. Rather than turning it out of the bowl and trying to form a loaf, I found it easiest to spoon the dough it into a lightly oiled loaf pan and then smooth the top with wet hands to even it out. Leave in a warm place to proof for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has risen somewhat.

4. Bake the loaf:
-Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The loaf is done when it sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.
-Allow to cool on a rack for 30 to 45 minutes before slicing.

The final loaf: a crunchy, hearty crust with a dense yet moist interior. Excellent sour and tangy flavor with a wonderful richness from the rye. Terrific sliced thinly, toasted, and spread with butter.


  1. The bread sounds delicious. I would love a toasted, buttery slice right now! :)

  2. This is awesome! This is quite a neat process!

  3. Thanks! Making this sourdough was so much fun. Lots of starter left in the fridge so there will be more variations on this theme soon.

    In his book Sandor says the bread will keep for several weeks (one of the benefits of wild fermentation!). And now on post-baking day 3 I can attest to the fact that the flavor keeps getting better, more complex, and more sour (in a very good way).

  4. The bread looks great! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is inspiration to start (and name!) a starter - something I've been meaning to do! Thanks.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Foodie with Little Thyme!

    Kristen - good to hear! Let me know how it goes. I would check out Wild Fermentation since the recipes for the starter and bread are simple and well explained, and they actually work. I'm addicted to sourdough now; made my second loaf this weekend and it turned out great.

  7. I'm making this at the moment, the starter i made was an experiment in laziness. I used water kefir to innoculate the starter, it smells awesome and tastes quite sour and also a bit fruity.

  8. Hi LostMinty,

    Let me know how your starter works out. I've never thought of using kefir to get it started - great idea! Did you purchase your kefir grains? I want to start making my own kefir with milk but can't decide where to get the grains....Might order from GEM Cultures.

  9. Great directions/recipe. What kind of rye flour are you using? Do you use stone ground? This would work?: http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=387854&storeId=10052&langId=-1

  10. hi anonymous,

    i use a stone-ground rye flour from a farm in upstate ny called cayuga pure organics (they sell at a farmers market in the area).

    the wegmans flour might work, though i would try to get an organic variety if possible (i suspect that any pesticides remaining in the flour might slow the souring process). but it's worth a try with whatever rye flour you can find. let me know how it works out!

    thanks for your comment.

  11. I am making this right now!!!! I have great hopes..

  12. It was perfect and I just started the second loaf!