The 60/40 German Rye Bread Revisited

When I first started blogging I wrote a little post with the rather uninformative title of How Much do I love this bread? I learnt how to make this bread originally from Nils who blogs as the Inverse Cook at Ye Olde Bread Blogge.  (pdf of this post if you want to download it and use it at home  → Sourdough Rye 60/40 post )


I looked at that early post the other day and thought I can do a bit better than I did there, so rather than edit an old post I have had another go at making the bread and describing the process for those people who are new to this blog or for those who are looking for a really good rye/wheat sourdough style loaf to make.

One of the challenges of making rye breads is that we are fairly limited as to what rye flour we can get hold of here in England so here is the list of the flours I used.

  • Waitrose Organic Strong Bread Flour
  • Waitrose Canadian Very Strong Bread Flour
  • Shipton Mill Light Rye Flour
  • Shipton Mill Dark Rye Flour

If you cannot get theses two types of rye flour, then sieve some dark rye to remove the bran, or use all whole rye, the loaf will be just fine! One of the best ways to prepare rye flour is to pre-ferment or acidify it when using it as a major component in a dough. Jeffrey Hamelman writes in detail about the requirements of rye flour from pages 43 – 49 in his book, Bread. (1st edition)

I have been re-reading it recently as you know and though there is more detail there than the average person probably wants to hear about,  some of it is quite interesting if you are a bread geek and want to understand,  for example,  why rye flour is more absorbent than wheat flour  (it is higher in bran and usually finer) , is so very sticky (high in pentosans which compete with glutenin and gliadin in the flour for moisture) and without using a sourdough, is prone to the dreaded ‘starch attack’ (due to being a grain higher in amylase enzymes which break starch into sugar and prevent good crumb formation).

Two things I remember even when I forget the science stuff.

Firstly, mix it gently and don’t worry about kneading it, though folding it never hurts.

Secondly, for a good rye loaf the sourdough method nearly always gives better results than yeast.

To make Nils’s lovely bread using English sourced flours this is what I did this week:

For the Sourdough

  • 30 g of mature rye starter or culture.
  • 150 g room temp water
  • 75 g light rye
  • 75 g dark rye


Mature rye starter has a slightly orangey tinge to it.


Mix to a smooth paste and leave for 12 – 16 hours in a glass bowl.

rye sourdough

You will be able to see a network of bubbles through the sour when it is acidified and the top of the sour should curve like a shallow upturned saucer.

rye sourdough

When you put a spoon in the sourdough you should see holes and bubbles in it as above. It won’t look like this wheat starter which is full of gluten and therefore looks quite different at this stage. The rye sourdough is more static in appearance than the wheat which is very lively and mobile. See the next photo:

Wheat starter

For the final dough:-

  • 300 g sourdough (keep a spoonful back for next time, feed and store)
  • 220 g water –  luke warm
  • 100 g strong bread flour
  • 100 g very strong bread flour (you can omit this and use all bakers flour)
  • 75 g light rye
  • 75 g dark rye
  • 2 g dry yeast ( you can omit this, but the resultant bread will take longer on the second prove and be sourer in taste)
  • 9 g seasalt
  • Mix the above together well until all the flour is mixed in and the colour even. Take your time doing this or use a mixer on a slow speed.


  • The dough will seem very sloppy at first but will thicken up and become quite stiff.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and move the dough into it, cover and leave for forty five minutes in a warm room. if your room is cold leave it for another half an hour or so

rye sourdough, oiled bowl

  • Give the dough a turn. You can lightly oil your hands to prevent the dough sticking to it while you do this.
  • Pat it out into a rectangle, and then fold it in by thirds as you would a letter. Turn it over, pat it out a little and repeat the folding.
  • Return to the oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm or a damp teatowel.
  • Leave for another forty five minutes. It should be feeling lighter and more bubbly by this point.
  • Shape the loaf into a baton using fine rye flour on your worktop and your hands.

shaped dough

  • Put on a floured sheet of parchment on a tray, or into a banneton dusted with rye flour.
  • It should hold its shape fairly well free form.
  • Dust the top with flour and cover with a damp tea towel.
  • Leave for an hour in a warm place to prove.
  • Heat oven to 240 – 260 C, if your oven goes that hot.
  • Place a metal  tray on the lower shelf of the oven to heat up. Boil a kettle.
  • Uncover dough, slash the loaf, spray with water or dust with more flour or whatever you feel like doing.
  • Have kettle with just boiled water next to oven.
  • Open door put tray in or slide dough onto stone. Shut door. Grab kettle, open door again and fill little tray with half an inch or so of boiling water. Careful! Steam burns!

rye sourdough

  • Shut door.
  • Bake at 260 C for five minutes then lower oven to 220 C for another 40 – 45 minutes.
  • If the loaf starts to go to dark for your tastes, then reduce the temperature to 200  C at that point but be prepared to bake it for a little longer, until it sounds very hollow when thumped on the bottom and feels light in the hand.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack. Do not cut till cold, rye breads really need to be left for at least twelve hours before cutting to allow the crumb to stabilise and the crust to soften a little. Cutting it early the crumb will be gummy and it really is better left.


A useful thing to know….

Sending and Storing Starter

I recently sent a Twitter friend some of my rye starter in the post to play with before she went on a bread baking course.  I simply mixed a lot of rye flour in with the starter till it had a consistency like bread crumbs, put it in a jiffy bag and in the post overnight. She revived it by feeding with flour and water and was baking with it within a few days. It’s very easy to send sourdough in the post this way.  The other way to do it is to spread the sourdough starter out thinly on a piece of parchment or greasproof paper, A dough scraper is useful for this, leave it to dry and then crumble it up into flakes.  This is also a useful ‘insurance’ measure against inadvertently using all your starter by mistake one day in a bread.

18 thoughts on “The 60/40 German Rye Bread Revisited

  1. ceciliag

    yes I do want to know how to make rye bread.. how perfectly timed! good description with pictures too thank you Joanna, c

    1. Joanna Post author

      This is a good one, but it is strongly rye flavoured and not to everyone’s taste. My husband will only eat up to about 30% rye, this one is 60% (300 g rye to 200 g wheatflour ) so when I make it, unless it’s for someone who has asked for it, I end up eating it all myself. I’ve tried making the loaves smaller but then the ratio of crust to crumb isn’t right. So much as I love it, I only make it once in a while these days.

  2. Choclette

    There’s so much to learn Jo, it’s all very interesting. I’ve sent a few starters in the post now. I just put my normal runny starter into a plastic tub such as a Philadelphia cheese one with elastic bands around it then put that into a zip lock bag and then a jiffy bag. No reported problems so far.

    1. Joanna Post author

      That’s good to hear Choclette. I am a bit of a worrier, so I worry that the starters might get delayed in the post, or get a bit too hot, so I figure if they have lots of food and are a bit dryer it’s better. If you are sending one to another country then you would definitely want to send it in dehydrated form.

  3. sallybr

    Awesome bread, awesome post!

    I’ve got a few breads I would like to re-make for one reason or another, but new recipes keep tempting me, and I leave them waiting

    loved the scoring you chose for this loaf, I might have to borrow the idea soon

    1. Joanna Post author

      I don’t think this dough will make good rolls, but it is very fine with some smoked ham or cheese or even a good rich cherry jam!

  4. Ruth

    That is one gorgeous loaf of bread. Really. I bet it tasted amazing too. I thought I was OK at bread baking but you are a master. Ever thought of running classes?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Ruth! I appreciate your kindness. I have shown a few friends how sourdough works and made breads with them. I enjoy the process a lot, much more satisfying than trying to coach people via email, as you can see what they are doing of course. Do you teach?

      I think to teach a group you need at least one other person to help out with all the organizing and an appropriate space to do it in. There are a lot of people (relatively speaking) teaching bread skills these days out there. I wouldn’t mind a shot at it one day even so! If you go to Bakery Bits website he has an excellent list of current bread courses and workshops.

      1. Ruth

        I don’t teach, and I’ve never done a course, just used a really good blog and advice from my sister in law (the blog is in Swedish so perhaps not much use to most people in the UK). I’ve shared my starters (I have a wheat one and a rye one) with my family and friends though, and although not many of them stick to it for long because of the regular ritual, it’s really satisfying to pass on a few tips and a bit of a live culture that has been nurtured in my kitchen for a couple of years!

        1. Joanna Post author

          You sound a bit like me! I have done two day courses when I first started, one with Simon Michaels, at the Wild Yeast Bakery and a day with Dan Lepard in London. I would love to do more one day, and then I went to a couple of get together baking weekends where I learnt lots as well. But you’re right it’s a good feeling passing on the starters….

          Is the Swedish blog paindemartin by any chance? My Swedish aunt loves him ! He makes beautiful looking bread :)

  5. heidi

    I love rye- but have to eat it by myself and so can’t make it very often, either.
    This is a beautiful loaf -color, scoring and texture. I imagine it tastes lovely, as well.
    I’ve shared my starter with a few others, but they haven’t kept them going- sourdough is a bit like music or religion- either you practice or you don’t.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It was a good loaf, I am about a third of the way into it. The scoring is pretty much the way Nils does it and this is his loaf so it reminds me of that when I do it.

  6. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Beautiful looking loaf, Jo! We get quite nice rye flours here, but mostly all dark ones. I have a big bag in the freezer, so I must try this recipe – I’ve had quite mixed results with rye, although I have been baking your Russian rye quite a bit of late! :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Celia, you could try putting your whole grain rye through a sieve to remove some of the coarser bran particles, and then you can always use the bran to dress a banneton or maybe the chooks would like it. You can make this bread perfectly happily with all dark flour, Nils uses what he calls a fine dark rye, so if yours is fine then you are all set. Wholegrain rye flour here tends to be full of coarse bran for some reason, at least the sorts I have come across.

      Lovely to hear the Russian rye is going strong :D

  7. ardysez

    I used your suggestion of spreading the starter thinly and freezing it… haven’t time to use it at the moment, but will let you know how it works out for me.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is what my friend Paul calls an insurance policy :) So always worth a try and nice to know that it will be waiting for you to revive when things are a bit calmer :)

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