Jeffrey Hamelman’s Rye and Flaxseed Bread

Rye and Flaxseed Sourdough Bread copyright Zeb Bakes

Flax or linseed is a wonderful and healthy addition to a good loaf of bread. In the UK we get both golden and brown linseed, I have used golden linseed here as I like the colour. If you soak the seeds overnight before working them into the dough then they release a sticky mucilage that I believe improves the cohesive quality of a high content rye dough and for those of you who are struggling with shaping and slashing it also helps in that department. All the loaves I have ever made using a flaxseed soaker open and spring well.

linseed old bread bread dough copyright zeb bakes

This bread is made following a recipe of Jeffrey Hamelman in the updated edition of Bread. It is made with fermented whole rye flour, strong white (bread flour) linseeds and an old bread soaker. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of an old bread soaker, who are wrinkling your nose and going ewww, an old bread soaker is not made with a green and furry piece of ancient crust, not with a three day old slice of supermarket pap but with a drying piece of a good bread. In this case I used a slice of the sourdough I was currently eating which was about two days old. As I routinely eat my sourdoughs for up to a week after they have been baked, there was nothing scary about this at all.

Like most things you might choose to add to your bread, the secret is not to add too much that it alters the character of the loaf in an undesirable way.

proving loaves in cloth copyright Zeb Bakes

The recipe is given in full on Modern Baking’s website here (it looks like a legal site not one of those horrible rip off places) together with his notes on the bread and his comments on using an old bread soaker for those of you don’t have a copy of the book yet. I scale the recipe down by dividing the metric column numbers by 10 as I do with nearly all his recipes for my use at home. I followed the recipe very closely as I tend to do when I make Hamelman’s breads. I might add a little more or less liquid depending on the absorbency of my particular flours that is the only difference.

If you are trying an old bread soaker you may need to experiment with how you prepare it though. I suggest making sure the bread is a sort of porridgy slurry before you mix it into the dough, so you may need to process it a bit in some way first.

Rye and Linseed sourdough copyright Zeb Bakes

This is a strong and fully flavoured bread which reminds me vividly of German breads. I adore it. It is not one for people who don’t like rye however. I return to bake it ( and variations on this theme )  again and again. It has a lovely mouth feel and bite and a rich complex set of flavours.

I made three easily shapable loaves and put them in between folds of cloth to prove before baking in a hot oven with steam on a baking stone.

Give it a go if you fancy something different, you never know you might like it! There are lots more of Jeffrey Hamelman’s breads buried in the old posts of my blog if you want to get an idea of the range and breadth of what he offers the aspiring bread baker.  I have added a menu page which gives links to these breads  which I baked with the Mellow Bakers project for ease of reference here.   I might revisit baguettes this weekend …. what are you baking?

Related Posts :

Multi seeded bread with an old bread soaker with recipe

49 thoughts on “Jeffrey Hamelman’s Rye and Flaxseed Bread

  1. Cas

    I’m making a lovely rustic loaf with whole grain, white and oatmeal, looking good so far.

    I love the look of the loaves you have made and I never heard of old bread soaker before, I shall have to put that on my to do list. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Liz

    Beautiful bread, especially with 40% whole rye! I’m looking forward to trying it. We’ve just finished eating a mixed flour miche from the first Hamelman book, although I must confess I had to drop the hydration somewhat form the original 83%. My latest baking adventure is crackers–the last lot was rye with sourdough, sesame, sunflower, linseed and almonds. I ground half the seeds. My ‘unbiased tasters’ approved!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Liz, thank you! Was the miche the pointe-a-calliere one? I remember that as being a very loose and sticky dough. I love the sound of those crackers! how do you do the almonds?

      1. Liz

        Cheated on the almonds–had some whole almond meal and added some flaked almonds. Next time I’ll use whole almonds and toast them, then chop some fairly finely and grind the rest.

  3. Alicia (foodycat)

    Beautiful looking loaf! Flax seed is wonderful stuff – I’ve used it a couple of times to replace eggwhites when cooking for vegans – but I’ve never added it to bread.

    1. Joanna Post author

      In German it is called Leinsambrot and it is quite common. I love it! There is a nice Dan Lepard recipe which uses linseed and soya milk that gives you a lovely soft sandwich bread which is well worth checking out too :)

  4. Misky

    I can’t wait to start baking again. A new oven with new characteristics to learn, too. Good times ahead.

  5. sallybr

    As usual, another great baking adventure for Joanna! I have some flaxseed in the freezer, but I think it is the brown kind, gotta check. What am I baking? Today I am going simple. It’s been ages since I baked with commercial yeast, and I wanted to try a recipe from the book Flour Water Salt Yeast that I bought not too long ago. It uses a biga that is incorporated in the dough, but the interesting thing is that most of the dough is the fermented biga. A small amount of flour and water is added, plus some extra yeast. Will see how it goes… :-)

    have a great weekend!

    1. heidiannie

      Like the look of these loaves!
      I am overloaded with bread at the moment- just finished off a whole wheat made with old dough and starter- turned out very light!
      I have some rye and a strong sourdough recently thawed out of the freezer and I’m the principal bread eater at this point.
      I’m going to bake some brownies for Frank’s sweet tooth later.

      1. Joanna Post author

        Heidi Hi! I think the replies have gone a bit out of order because you replied to Sally’s comment, or else WordPress is having a minor headfit. You sound completely overloaded with bread. It was a bit like that here one day last week, fortunately a lot of my bread was carried off by people so I have an empty freezer. Lucky Frank getting brownies !

    2. Joanna Post author

      More revisiting why I started this blog than anything Sally. You can use the brown kind in these breads, I just like the look of the golden one more for some reason. Hope the FWSY bake goes well. I try to resist buying new bread books, so many still on the shelf I have never baked from xx

    3. ray@garlicbuddha

      I have not baked from that book yet though I am thoroughly enjoying reading it and for the past month have adapted my usual loaves by baking them in a cast iron casserole. I like the results!

  6. lovinghomemade

    I bought some rye flour the other day with the full intention of using it soon and had already forgotten I had it! I made some pitta yesterday which was surprisingly easy and absolutely delicious – I need to make it again before I can post it though as we had eaten the lot before I realised I only had a photo of it cooling on a rack… I will be checking out your other bread recipes, thank you!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I admit that this bake was prompted by a visit to my shelves and the discovery that I had three bags of linseed, I must keep buying it and then, oh who knows what happens. So I put the oldest one out for the little birds who are having a hard time and opened the freshest one. Pitta is such a great bread to make! Yay!

  7. drfugawe

    I’m pleased to see you back at the bread thing – it’s good for the soul. Hamelman is really only a rye baker – he may do other breads, one suspects just to fill out the book, but it really is rye that drives his energy. Thanks for the link, ’cause this one is not in my edition of ‘Bread’ (2004).

    You’ve made it sound like a winner, so I think I may try it – first I’ll have to go round up some flax seeds – I’ll let you know what I think, but I generally like these rustic, whole grain things.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I had never thought of him as driven by rye, just think of him as passionate about bread. He also seems very fond of filling his breads with golden raisins, figs, walnuts and other dried goodies. Those are the ones I probably only make once. He certainly does have a vast enthusiasm for my beloved rye, maybe that is why I am so fond of that book :) He does spend a huge amount of time braiding dough in that book as well, something I haven’t done for a while either. The new edition has a whole section on brioche variations which reminds me a french book I have been given. I am very tempted to try those soon.

  8. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Ah Joanna, I do like your ‘bread nerd’ posts :-) It’s good for my soul! When I saw your title in my inbox, there was a happy flutter.

    The crumb on this one looks lovely. Linseed finds itself in all kinds of things in my kitchen, so I should give this one a go.

    (Also, I was talking with a baker last weekend and he was saying that he mostly uses a desem these days. Have you played with one?)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Aww I am glad I gave you a breadie flutter, you make me smile. Just thought I had strayed from my happy space for a while there :) Linseed is wonderful stuff; makes my tummy happy too.

      (Desem is a wholewheat based starter isn’t it? I don’t think it is a term I have seen used much in English baking circles, I wonder if it is an American term. I have tried but as rye works so well and you can start a loaf with as little as a tsp of rye or wheat levain I have never really bothered with a desem starter, I use wholemeal flours, spelt, and wheat sometimes, but usually only at about 10-15% of the total flours in the bread)

        1. Joanna Post author

          How interesting Brydie! I have a theory that lots of European baking stuff goes out via the US or Australia or South Africa or the other old colonies where Europeans emigrated and doesn’t really turn up here necessarily, depending on the emigrant group. We don’t have a lot of Flemish traditions here. Even waffles are fairly exotic!

          Thinking about it, it’s like those pancake balls, the aebelskiver, which are Danish, almost unknown in England, but popular in the States where you can get the pans and so on. All I can say is I have never come across an English home baker referring to a desem starter, I think they would just call it a wholemeal starter or something like that. I have seen starters made with honey, with fruit skins, all sorts, anything that grows yeast could potentially be used to leaven bread. When I send starter to friends I have often made a very stiff almost dry starter which I put in a bag with flour and send. Very forgiving stuff! There is also something called salt rising dough which is an old American tradition, have you come across that one?

          1. cityhippyfarmgirl

            Oh pfft, my long comment just got swallowed.
            I haven’t come across the salt rising dough but I think I read in one of the descriptions of a desem that may have links to old American breads, so they may be similar?

            As for the other Flemish traditions. I have a gorgeous friend from Belgium who I am more than happy to sample all of her baking treats. Waffles are a must at any get togethers.

            Do you ever slash hours before baking? This was another method used by the same baker which so far has had mixed results for me.

            1. Joanna Post author

              No I don’t slash hours before, they just close up. Not sure what the point of that is to be honest but maybe I am missing something :)

  9. Hotly Spiced

    It’s breakfast time and I’m getting hungry and your bread looks so delicious. I’m imagining it sliced and toasted with some crispy bacon, sauteed spinach a few mushrooms and some poached eggs! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      That sounds like a serious setting you up for the day breakfast. This one makes grand toast and has a wonderful colour and aroma, perfect with your savouries :)

  10. Ann

    Breakfast time for me too! Just going to consume some home made muesli which contains linseed meal so I am getting my flax fix that way. That loaf looks so beautiful – pass me a slice please!
    I am still recovering from a hot cross bun frenzy – promised to make them for a couple of people and it sort of escalated …….. but I am just about ready to bake again and something ryeish seems like a good way to go.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Linseed meal is that like ground linseed? I find it goes rancid ever so quickly so I tend only to buy whole seed. I was just lying in bed Ann, thinking about whether one could soak the seeds as here and then strain and use the mucilage on its own. Hot cross bun frenzy sounds like a splendid endeavour, I didn’t make any this year at all. We bought some HCBs and then I made a batch of Dan Lepard’s panettone tea cake/buns which I baked too long and they came out a bit dry. Good toasted even so :)

  11. Jan

    Oh, I do hope I am becoming a breddy nerd! The first thing I thought when I saw your loaf was, ” ooh, look at that oven spring”! You see, I can now casually use some of the lingo. At present in my kitchen I have young Patsy hefting her shoulder against figs, walnuts, craisins, apricots, hazelnuts and cinnamon and I’m hoping she will rise to the occasion :). (Sorry). And your post reminded me that I wanted to include some flaxseeds too. However the tip re soaking is interesting because oven spring makes me so ridiculously happy.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Goodness that sounds like a big bread you are making there. I think, it is only from my limited experience, that certain things make doughs easier to hold a slash than others, one is linseed, another is being chilled, another is semolina rimacinata flour, the very fine semolina durum wheat. Oven spring is usually best when you have dough on the side of underproved and the yeast or levain hasn’t exhausted its food source and the gluten still has elasticity. I wonder if I would love baking so much if I didn’t have a glass oven door :)

  12. Jan

    Ps: I have cloth envy – I just know I would be a better baker if I got me some of those!

    1. Joanna Post author

      The rye loaves like sitting in linen and you are free then to shape the breads as you want and still give them a little gentle support which you don’t get if you prove on a tray, you are right there, dear bread nerd.

      Do you have a department store that sells window scrim? Or an old linen teatowel? That would be fine too. That is the looser version of this and in fact, I use one piece of it in the photo, it has a looser weave than the French cloth, but still does the job – there are two different cloths there. The other place to try is an art supply shop, ask for unbleached artist’s linen. Or failing that order one from somewhere like Bakery Bits, but that could get expensive with overseas postage.

      If you search using the term ‘couche cloth baking australia’ you will find them xx

      Found them here too

      and here

      Ah! Just had a peek on the internet and an enterprising person is selling them on Australian ebay

      1. Jan

        Thank you for the couche cloth leads Joanna. I imagine the cloth has to be sturdy enough to stop the dough spreading out of shape? When you say that a chilled dough holds a slash well – do you mean proving it in the fridge? Sometimes my timing is a bit off and being able to push poor Patsy’s dough into the fridge overnight would be really useful. The fruit and nut loaf works quite well, I have a slice for breakfast; it’s nice just as it is and can be eaten on my way to work. I notice that your weather is still pretty awful, summer here seems to be very reluctantly relinquishing its hold.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Wierdly it doesn’t have to be that sturdy, the window scrim is quite an open weave, I don’t think this works for very wet doughs though. Usually you rub the couche cloth heavily with flour, traditionally rye flour and, the long linen fibres are quite flat so the dough tends not to stick, as it often does with a cotton cloth, which has fluffier fibres. Retarding dough (or putting it in the fridge) is a very useful technique to explore. You can either do it fairly soon after you have mixed it and then shape and carry on the next day, or you can shape and fridge it. A cold dough doesn’t spread as fast when you tip it out of the banneton or cloth and often has a slightly firmer ‘skin’ or top surface, so it holds the cuts more cleanly if you like. Depends a lot on the dough type, and how mature it is too. I was helping a friend a while ago and the dough was very warm and ‘wet’ and it wouldn’t make shapes nicely or hold slashes or anything and it occurred to me afterwards that it was in fact a bit too warm to work with easily.

          1. Jan

            Thank you Joanna – there are a couple of ah ha things for me there. I was trying to think of anything I had that was linen which I could make use of and thought of a pair of white linen pants that I’ll never be able to squeeze into again – could be useful for baguettes:)

            1. Joanna Post author

              John Lewis’s Haberdashery Department (now there’s a phrase!) had the ‘scrim’ by the metre. Anyone else could try searching for ‘linen window scrim’ and will find it that way. It is much cheaper than imported French couche cloth. You want a piece that is quite long as you ruck the fabric up and between the doughs… it takes more than you think, maybe a trouser leg opened up would be perfect!

  13. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

    I just love your bread making.. especially the photo where they’re proofing in their little fabric beds.. just quintessential bread baking at it’s finest:) I hadn’t heard of using a bread soaker, but it kind of makes sense. It must act similar to a sourdough starter? I have one to try, but I’m waiting til after our holiday next month because they require a bit more attention than my kids would give it! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Barbara, thank you! The bread soaker acts to add ‘umami’ flavours to the new dough, it doesn’t have any leavening qualities that I know of. It is particularly good if you incorporate material with crust in there which is where a lot of those flavours reside and it holds water in the dough in a different way to new flour I think so the final bread has a certain unctous quality, not sure how to describe it. Hope you have a lovely holiday!

  14. ray@garlicbuddha

    Great looking loaf! I am planning a barley and rye sourdough adapted from The Handmade Loaf (I don’t keep a rye starter so I have played around with the proportions a bit). I was feeling pleased with myself this morning having thrown together an ordinary whole meal and white flour bread last night with commercial yeast, so we would have breakfast this morning. nice! Now off for a run….. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      You should be able to feed your wheat starter with rye for a couple of feeds and ‘convert’ it. Or so the theory goes. In my limited experience of doing this, the starter sulks a bit when given different flour. Hope you had a good run :)

  15. Melanie

    I love linseed or flax too. I also prefer the golden flax because it looks prettier to me. I just made two loaves on Friday, one was a 5-Grain loaf from Hamelman’s book and I made a Multigrain loaf from Reinhart’s BBA. But, the next bake, I have the goal of making all sourdough loaves. I just get lazy most of the time, and neglectfully let my starter languish in the fridge. I’m a bad Mom:(
    I love the picture of your 3 loaves between the folds of cloth. It looks like they’re sleeping peacefully. Your finished loaves are gorgeous as usual!! I wish I could sample them. (I don’t think I made that Hamelman bread yet.)

    1. Joanna Post author

      You sound like you are having a busy baking time! Do you have favourite grains for your multi grain loaves ? I like using the cloths, but there is always a lot if dust afterwards. Sometimes I shake them in the garden and it blows everywhere. I wish I could share bread with you Mel xx

      1. Melanie

        Hi Joanna,
        I’ve just started to bake multiple loaves on the same day, since my time is short to do baking, between so many doctor’s appts and teaching myself to sew.
        Unsalted roasted sunflower seeds and flax are at the top of our list. I almost always put rye flakes in my loaves too (since I can’t find the rye chops in the local store).

        1. Joanna Post author

          I bake mulitiple loaves too, to try and be a bit economic about my oven use and also I make a mess so it is better to do it all in one session. I love sunflower seeds and sometimes I use pumpkin seeds as well, can you get those? We can’t get rye chops easily here, only one place I know has them and I have to order them. Soaked grain is good sometimes too, especially if you soak in fruit juice or beer, but I confess I haven’t done that for a long time now. Hope you are surviviing all these appointments x Jo

          1. Melanie

            Oh, yes, I love pepitas! I use them mostly in savory dinner dishes. Its such fun to toast them in the skillet, cause they pop and go flying everywhere when they get too heated. I’ll have to put some in bread! Yes, it seems to make more sense to make one big mess in one day and get it all done. I always soak my grains in water. It never occurred to me to try other liquids. I’ll try that soon. Hope your weather is better now and the doggies are getting good walks in :)
            xx Mel
            PS All appts are tolerable except the ones where I get 10 shots in the back, head, & neck:(

  16. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    I’ve never used an old bread soaker. What an intriguing idea, and a nice way to use up leftovers. Pete quite likes linseed, so I must have another go at making a linseed loaf – thanks for the prompt, Jo! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s good stuff, very healthy for the digestion and all that. You can freeze bread ends for this purpose if the climate is hot like yours is Celia. I have asked English bakers if they use old bread, but I think it is mainly a German tradition as I have never found anyone here who does this and only reference to it is in Hamelman’s book that I know of.

      This is a seedy version here that I do sometimes. I am very fond of this one too. You might remember it when you see it :)

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