100% rye bread

25th May 2011

This is not a bread I have made recently, but I am posting the recipe here as I have sent to various people who have asked for it from time to time, as it might be of interest. I was taught to make this by Simon Michaels of the Wild Yeast Bakery on a wonderful day course in the Forest of Dean; highly recommended!

Ideally I make it in the Matfer non stick rectangular loaf/bread tins, the long one is 30 cm by 8 cm deep. They are expensive but very good quality.  that way you get a higher profiled loaf. You can put different seeds on the top; flour looks nice too as it cracks into little rivulets and topping the dough means you can see the development more clearly. Another good tin (pan in US English) to use is what is referred to as a ‘box sided tin’ or loaf pan. If you search the internet using those words you will see various examples, depending on what country you are based in.

Russian style 100% rye sourdough bread from a recipe from the Wild Yeast Bakery School

100g of mature starter
400g of whole rye flour
600 g of water


All of the above 1100 g of rye starter
180 g of luke warm water
30 g of black molasses (this is not as sweet as black treacle but treacle will do)
20 g of salt
460 g of whole rye flour

Total weight: 1790 g
Makes 2 good sized loaves (800 g loaves) (if you have 1lb loaf tins (400 grams) then half the quantities. The cooking time is the same though.


This bread is started the evening before you want to bake ideally. In the morning you can mix the dough and then put it into the tin, leave till you come home later and then cook. Depends on your individual schedule but bread making can fit round you.

This bread is not like other bread dough because you don’t have to knead it at all.

You need to pre-ferment a big quantity of rye.

To the 100 g starter add 600ml of water and mix it up, then stir in another 400 g of whole rye flour. I sprinkle rye flour on the top, then you can see easily if it is working as the flour cracks like a dry river bed and you can see the bubbles. I would do this in the evening and then by the morning you should be able to mix the rest of the dough.

In the morning you should find a bowl of bubble rich starter with a nice tangy or acidic smell.

To this you add (as above)
180 g of luke warm water
30 g of black molasses (this is not as sweet as black treacle but treacle will do)
20 g of salt
460 g of whole rye flour

If you want to add caraway seeds or crushed coriander seeds or orange zest – all optional flavourings – do that now.

Then you need to mix this up. It is a very soft almost cake like batter, it is not like bread dough, there is no elastic wheat-type gluten in the rye (though rye does contain gluten of a different type and is not suitable for anyone who can’t eat gluten at all) so there is no point in kneading it. Just make sure it is mixed well. I suppose you could mix it in a bread machine but then you will need to take it out to plop it in the tins.

Anyway once it is mixed, leave it in a warm place (on top of your food cupboard with the ceiling light on is a good place!) for about 3 hours.  The alternative is to leave the batter in the mixing bowl for a shorter period of time, 30 minutes to an hour and put it directly into the tins as below. I was taught this way, but you can also do an all in one approach if you find it easier.

Then grease and flour your bread tins. Now the messy part. Scoop the dough/batter into the tins, you can use a tablespoon for this or a dough scraper. Try to divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Try to scoop it gently so that you don’t knock the air out of the dough. If you knock the air out it will take even longer to recover.   You can always try putting it all straight in the tins to prove if you prefer, though I do it the way I was taught. Then take one of those little butter knifes and put some water in a bowl and using a little water smooth the tops of the dough down in the tin so they are as flat as you can get them.

Then sprinkle caraway or sunflower or whatever seeds you like on the top, or dredge thickly with rye flour.

Leave to rise again until they are near the top of the tin.  Ideally in a warm environment of around 24 – 26 C. It will take longer if it is cooler.

Be patient, they will not seem to do much for a while and then they will rise quite quickly at some point.  Bake at 210 º C in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. Better longer than too little. The bread will look quite dark but they need a long time as the dough is so wet. If you can put a tray in the bottom of the oven when you turn it on then you can put a little boiling water in which creates steam in the oven which helps the bread to rise.

If the tops darken too quickly then cover them with a loose piece of aluminium foil and turn the oven down by 10 or 20 degrees and bake for a little longer, say another 10 to 15 minutes, the crust might get a little harder but it will soften over the next day or so.

When you take them out of the oven,  leave them to sit for five minutes and they should come out easily. Leave to cool completely and ideally leave for a day at least before you cut them. Wrap in paper for that day.  It is always better to leave high percentage rye breads as they are gummy when cut too early.

Writing this out makes me want to go and make this again – it’s been too long!

You can read Celia at Flg Jam and Lime Cordial’s blog post Baking Bread – 2   from when she made this bread. She is a wonderfully adventurous food explorer :)

September 2013

100% rye bread Zeb Bakes

I edited the original post to make some additional suggestions if you are having difficulties with the method.

I baked a further batch (crumb shot above) and put it all in the tins once mixed, skipping the stage where I leave it to ferment before putting it in the tins. I can’t really see much difference, so that is an option to consider.

44 thoughts on “100% rye bread

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      It is very strong in flavour, this is the whole rye bread and is not to everyone’s taste by any means – Mr Pullman Toast won’t go near it. It is very good with all those strong cheeses, pickled herrings, smoked fish. I eat it with good butter very happily, but usually only want a slice or two at a time. Celia, if you do try it, have faith and let it rise and rise in the tin in a warm spot till the surface is beginning to break with bubbles. It won’t rise at all (or barely) in the oven, so what you have before it goes in, is what you will get.

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    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      Yours look as beautiful as ever Andrew :D The lucky people of Crich getting your bread every day. I’ve edited the comment to put a link back to you and the pic visible.

  2. gina

    thx for providing us also with food for thought aka Leo Babauta & Vol de Nuit links & even much more! i’m grateful! :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      This loaf is more like making a cake, the ‘dough’ is wet and sludgey and you treat it almost like a slightly odd cake batter. As I said to Celia very strong in flavour!

  3. drfugawe

    Very beautiful loaves, Jo! And great crumb, especially for rye. I’ve made Hamelman’s Russian Rye, and I wanted very much to love it, but I think 100% rye is a taste you need to grow up with (although, if I had some lox with it each morning for a year, I bet I’d love it then.). The rye I grew up with was an American Jewish rye – and I do love that – but it’s nowhere near a 100% rye, maybe more like 40%, or even less.

  4. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

    The top pic is some loaves I made in another kitchen, and it was very cool there and they took a long, long time to rise. The lower pair were made at home and were quicker. I don’t think I’ve done Hamleman’s Russian rye, similar to this I guess. I will look it up later. It’s always sad when you want to love a bread and just don’t, but so it goes sometimes ;)

  5. heidiannie

    I’ve had 100% rye bread and although I didn’t love it- I didn’t hate it either
    Like the Dr. I’m used to Jewish Rye and it is my go- to for rye bread.
    I would like a mini-loaf of this one, please!

  6. Joanne Jones

    Oh, wow, I love how the tops of the loaves look! How pretty! This sounds like a loaf I would really like to try soon. Right now I have so many on my to do list and no time to do much baking at all.

    Oh, btw, I posted that recipe for Rye Crisps online if you wanted it. I also have the one my Bestemor (grandmother) used, it was actually printed in a cookbook in the Seattle area.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      That was kind of you. One day I would love to see your Bestemor’s recipe too! I will have a look at it in the morning. I popped this on for a Twitter friend who was looking for 100% rye, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea as we say here… so many recipes to try, so little time. Thanks for popping in Joanne!

  7. cityhippyfarmgirl

    I love rye bread, but am yet to make anything other than a half/half mix of flours. For some reason I’m a little nervous of the whole 100% rye process. This recipe seems achievable though….fingers crossed. I’ve been thinking of an orange and cardamom bread the last few days so maybe this is the vessel to hold it…

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      Maybe try 80 % rye 20% bakers flour, as I think you call it and see if you like the taste of it, make it in the same way as above and add the wheat flour at the dough mixing stage, make it a little dryer if you want to hand form it rather than use a tin. Orange and cardamon sounds like a wonderfully fragrant mixture of flavours.

      Anything over about 40% rye and the dough/final bread shifts in character and texture towards the closer textured rye breads that one associates with mainland European baking, rather than the rye flavoured style of open, gluten rich crumb that Americans are used to with their rye breads.

      1. cityhippyfarmgirl

        I made the 100% sour rye yesterday but using Dan Lepard’s recipe. Was all going fine until I realised Mr C had ‘cleaned’ my bowl with the topping I was to be using on the loaf. So I don’t think it looks as it should. (actually it looks very ordinary.) I’m yet to cut into it though.
        Have you made this one?

  8. Jan Trounce

    I do like heavy rye bread (himself doesn’t) – Mr Pullman’s toast made me giggle – that’s rather more Peter’s taste too I think. I particularly like your photo of the baguette and apricot jam – so luxurious. I enjoyed listening to the reading of vol de nuit – I remember you posting about this poem some time ago and I liked it then. Something about the little 4gm scrap of magical life being rescued from a supermarket rubbish bin resonated with me – don’t know why.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

      To each his or her own taste Jan! lovely to hear you found your way to Dad’s reading. He wrote that poem with such love, I think that’s why I find it special, and the mystery and triumph of the life we share with every living thing, no matter how small, whoops, waxing philosophical again, must get a grip. :)

  9. Choclette

    Ah ha. now a bread I know something about as this is what I make every week. I like your tip on sprinkling flour over the top, it does make for a better looking loaf. I haven’t used molasses in mine either, though I do keep meaning to try it. I do put my dough straight into the tins before proving though – a much easier process. Difficult to say exactly (without actually working it out, which I’m too lazy to do) but I think my hydration is a quite a bit higher than yours. All very interesting.

  10. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

    I’m a big fan of toppings on loaves Choclette, do try the flour dredging trick :D

    Being a nerd I will try and work out the hydration for you ;) Starter fed in same proportion of 4:6 flour to water….

    Excluding the molasses which will affect it but I’m not sure of the exact figures for liquid sugars… including the weight of the flour and water in the original 100 g starter…

    Total water weight 840 grams
    Total flour weight 900 grams

    840/900 x 100 = 93.3 % hydration. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!

    1. Choclette

      Thanks Joanna – there is indeed a bit of a difference then. Mine comes from Andrew Whitely and is:

      960g flour
      1000g water

      So over 100% hydration

      My hand aches at the end of the process and I find the mixing quite hard. Do you find it difficult to mix as yours is a bit dryer than mine?

      1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

        You’re welcome. I don’t do as much handmixing as I did when I started out I freely confess. I bought a Kenwood last year (my first ever food processor) and I would probably use that now. Having said that, I also am the proud owner of a collection of ‘Danish’ dough whisks, and they are not very expensive. you can either order from Breadtopia in the States, or from Bakery Bits here, and do a wonderful job of helping you mix dough in the early stages. My wrists are not very strong these days, remember the shennanigans with my new spade? So anything that helps me is a good thing! Andrew Whitley is for some reason not represented on my bookshelf, something I will have to remedy one of these days :)

        1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

          Jo, thanks for the linky! I meant to mention two things – I used date molasses in mine, and the Danish dough whisk did a sterling job of mixing. First time I’ve made bread and not got my hands dirty at all! :)

  11. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

    Date molasses I am sure are just delicious! I seem to remember Nils making a bread with dates in and Dan then making one and saying that it added extra moisture and keeping qualities to the loaf. I will have a look and see if I can find the piece and add a link here. (I have no problems remembering things like that, strange brain I have). I’m glad the DDW has come in handy ;)

  12. Choclette

    I’ve used your flour tip on today’s batch of loaves and they do look much better for it. Was going to add a picture but doesn’t look as though I can do that – not that they are that pretty to look at ;-)

  13. BeeKaye

    I tried the 100% sourdough rye using a new and vigorous all rye starter. I fed the starter at the same time as I put some of it into bread and the starter bubbled right up (but of course the proportion of flour is much less).

    I made two half-recipe loaves in 1 lb loaf pans. The loaves started rising pretty nicely but after about 2 1/2 hours seemed to stop; they didn’t ever appear to be rounding on top. I decided to be patient as you suggested so I went out for a while and when I returned, after a total of about 4 1/2 hours rising, one had risen a little more, the other appeared to fall very slightly; the one that rose more didn’t reach the top of the pan.

    I’m baking them now and they are getting quite dark on top but I’m going to wait the full 50 min.

    Heavy rye bread is OK with me, I just want it to be the best it can be.

    Please, is here something else I might need to think about doing?

    1. Joanna

      Hello Beekaye! I am very pleased that you are trying this out and letting me know.

      I am not quite sure what you mean about rounding on top. They don’t round at all or maybe a little on baking. The rounding you are expecting is something that happens with a wheat based dough and it happens because of the elastic like gluten in a wheat dough. I think you are baking them at the right time. If they get too dark, turn the temperature down or put a piece of baking paper or foil over the top. But rye is a dark dark bread usually and the sugar from the molasses will make it look darker. Another time you could dredge the tops in rye flour or with seeds and that would protect it a bit. But it all sounds fine what you’re doing! I hope it turns out well for you :)

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    1. Joanna

      Hi Sandy
      This refers to the sourdough culture which is perpetuated by feeding with fresh flour and water. ‘Mature’ means it has been refreshed or fed with new flour and water prior to being used to mix a dough. In this case probably 8-12 hours before baking. Starter, culture, levain, chef, mother, are all different eays of referring to the sourdough culture which is a live mix or community of yeasts and lactobacilli. If you don’t have one, then try making Misky’s Danish rye bread which uses yeast, though it doesn’t taste like this one.

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  16. Sarah

    Can a person make the sourdough culture before making this 100% Rye Bread? the 100g of “starter”… can I make this or do I have to buy it?

  17. cathy

    I’ve been searching for a 100% rye bread recipe for my dad, the bakery he bought it from for years is no longer, and this recipe is dead on! I couldn’t resist and cut a slice too early but man it was like eating a little bit of heaven. I cut it in half and made 1 loaf but tonight I will start enough for 2 for the morning.

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