Tag Archives: rye bread

Three-Stage Detmolder 80% Rye Bread for Mellow Bakers

3-stage Detmolder 80% rye sourdoughI nearly titled this post.  “Obsessive  home baker seeks stable temperatures and a weekend where nothing else is going on ” but I didn’t.

I warn you now, I ramble on and on for quite a bit, post some pictures and offer a few half baked thoughts on this process.


Along with the Horst Bandel bread, this set of breads, (imaginatively named 70%, 80% and 90% three stage Rye Breads) are the most likely to make a casual reader of Hamelman’s book, pause, grimace and turn the page. They differ from breads like the 80% rye bread with soaker because they are based on a process of building up the fermented rye component of the loaf in three stages which take anything from 23 – 34 hours, followed by the mixing and proving of the loaf itself.  The aspiring Detmolder process baker has to hold each stage at specific temperatures for specified time periods,  in order to encourage different sorts of activity in the starter at the various stages and to maximise and balance the various acids produced by the yeasts and lactobacilli in the ferment (sourdough).

The geeky bit

Everybody  functions differently at different temperatures and levels of humidity, people, dogs,  yeasts and bacteria.  We tend to assume that the fridge is the best/only place to keep fresh food, but once you are into the realm of fermentation everything changes.  I’ve been reading various studies on the net, some of it goes over my head a bit, but I’m beginning to get the basic idea at last. Here’s one to chew on and there is much more. Trouble is, as a non scientist I have no way of assessing these studies for their level of rigour, so rather than quote a lot of stuff that isn’t actually right,  I would just say google on search terms like’ lactobacillus’ plus  ‘sourdough’ and have a read around….

The Detmolder temperatures are much higher than I want to keep my home. Easy if you are a pro baker with a proofing cabinet with variable controls. But for the home baker, it’s time to get creative and I have seen some wonderful posts where people have rigged up all sorts of kit to make proofing chambers.

There are some baking people who happen to  have a propagator with variable heat controls, or have some other hobby or work that requires a box with accurate temperature controls that could be customised to do this job. Read this great thread on The Fresh Loaf where SteveB and Pablo show off their creations for some inspiration. And visit SteveB’s awesome BreadCetera if you have a moment. He posts infrequently but his work is amazing and he has posted some superb videos too.

I can’t imagine routinely baking these breads and so have opted just to try one of the three versions Mellow Bakers are trying this month. I might return and do the others another day. It’s not that hard to find or create a spot at the right temp, but maintaining it consistently over a long period, especially at night when the heating is almost always off is tricky!

It’s all too easy to fudge about what you actually do in the process of baking. You know what you should be doing, but you do something else. I have read posts where people write they have done one thing and their photos show something else and they seem completely unaware of the discrepancy, I can only surmise that they believe what they have written is the truth. I try not to fudge but there are times when I simply don’t remember what I’ve done and I want to write the post so I make my best guess. We are all inherently unreliable and I am no exception to that. Novelists play with the unreliable narrator as a character and bloggers are no different.

But enough rambling I’ll try and summarise what I got up to in the course of this challenge…..


Spent several happy days putting my science museum thermometer in various locations in the house to see what temperatures I got in what I thought were the ‘hot spots’. You do need at the very least a stick thermometer to take the temperature of the starter build stages. Don’t bother with this recipe if you are not prepared to do this.

Between the boiler cupboard and the oven I managed to sustain the required temperatures but in the summer when the boiler wouldn’t normally be on for such extended periods I am not sure quite what I would do. Paradoxically therefore I am better off making this bread in the middle of a winter cold snap. Edit: I discovered that my Neff oven could go as low as 30 C, but at that temperature the internal temp of the starter either stayed cooler than that without a lid on the container, or went a bit hotter with a lid, so it was a question of monitoring every hour or so…)

Finding a medium rye flour

I interpret this as being not a wholegrain rye flour of the type we get here, in the UK,  full of quite coarse rye bran, nor being the light rye sold by Shipton, which is very pale and light and appears to have no bran in it at all.  Before I have simply used half of one and half of the other but this time I sieved the wholegrain rye and removed a good 90% of the bran. No idea if this is the way to go about it, but the crumb of the final bread shows a smooth look and I also think it made the dough easier to shape for some reason.

I have read that bran in a dough ‘cuts’ the gluten strands, so maybe that is it? After I had made this bread I was kindly given a bag of German rye flour which would  probably have been ideal.  Oh well, never mind.

Time Required

Putting aside the time to do this is also a big demand on the home baker, you do have to be around to check that the temperatures are staying in the specified ranges. Like making panettone with a sourdough starter, it’s all possible, but not really practical for regular baking.

Things to remember

Hold back on the water when mixing the final dough. Leave out the yeast, well I did and I think this particular bread rises better for it. I don’t understand why the yeast  is necessary at all at the final stage of this long bread, may as well carry on being mellow about the time it takes! Use either oil or flour to shape your loaf at the end. It should be possible to shape it;  if it is too soft and porridge like to shape you have made it too wet.

Shaped and into the tin for about three hours. This tin holds about 750 grams of dough, this was the biggest of the three tins I used.

After three hours or so the dough had risen to within about 1/5 cms of the top of the tin, more than doubled, and small air bubbles were appearing on the top, so I put it in the oven. If you make this, follow your eyes and not the recommended time in the book. Rye doughs like this will rise, though they may appear to do nothing at all for the first hour or more. Keep it somewhere warm too.

I recommend doing this in a tin as it is much easier to decide when to bake the bread. I also think it might work well baked in a Dutch oven or closed pot. I have yet to try that though.

What I’m aiming for with this bread.

Ideally you want a thin crust to these breads, a spongy and airy texture and a delicate soft sour taste which doesn’t fight with the wonderful flavour you get from high percentage rye, but complements it. The Detmolder process delivered this, it really did. It was one of the nicest tasting rye loaves I have ever made.

Now I’m thinking maybe I should make the others as well….


Whatever you do, resist the urge to cut them for 24 hours. Wrap them in clingfilm or buttered paper or linen or something for that time. The crust will soften and the crumb stabilise and it will be much, much nicer.

Horst Bandel Crumb rye bread

Hamelman’s Horst Bandel Rye Bread in a Milk Loaf Tin

Horst Bandel black rye pumpernickel Jeffrey Hamelman

Photo by Brian

It’s that bread again!  (the long slow baked rye grain bread with the great back story in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman) which is one of the Mellow Bakers November breads.

I posted my last year’s version of this a little while ago but I have made it again – practice, munch, practice. It’s fun!

A little Swedish Kaviar

I had a long think about how you could manage this bread without a pullman. I think the answer, (and I will make it a third time to test it out by the end of the month I hope)  is to use a regular loaf pan and once the dough is in the tin, grease and flour a sheet of foil, and  place it over the top of the tin and either wrap the whole tin in foil tightly or tie it on with string round the rim of the tin. Alternatively if you don’t mind what shape your bread comes out, use any bake proof container that has a sealable lid, so a pudding basin or a cast iron pot or something like that.

Mise en place

The key thing is to keep the moisture in during the long gentle bake.

My other tips are

Rye grain

Raw and Cooked Rye Grain

  1. Make sure the grains (use wheat if you can’t get hold of rye) are well soaked and really well cooked so they are plump and moist and soft. They act as storage for the water during the bake.
  2. Old Bread Soaker

    Slice the old bread thinly and bake it a bit more in the oven before you soak it. Only use as much water as you need to cover it; you are only going to have to squeeze the water out later after all.

  3. The hardest bit is judging how wet to make the dough, too wet and the bread will never really dry out enough, too dry and it will be a bit chewier than you want.  That’s not very helpful but everyone’s combination of grains and breads is going to vary. I think I would want to go for a dough that I can shape into a baton that I can pick up without it breaking apart the moment I lift it from the bench, so go for firmer rather than wetter.

Another experiment revealed!

I have a milk loaf tin which has a clip on lid so I thought I would try it out in that. In my mind the bread would rise, slowly into the top half and I would have incredibly sophisticated round slices of bread, perfect for canapes.  The drawback, pretty major, of these tins is that you can’t open them to check on progress. There is a tiny peep hole in the top of the tin – once the dough is at the top you can see it. This dough didn’t get that far. I stuck a toothpick in the hole every so often to see if I could judge where it had got to, but it never got right to the top. In fact I overproved this one by about 6 hours (!) and you can see the results here. I don’t think it made any difference to the bread though, in fact it might have improved the flavour a bit.

What do you reckon to this one?

So I ended up with a half round loaf. This time it was completely cooked through and very even in texture. Still not as dark as I would like it to be to justify being called ‘black rye’.  I like the taste, much milder than I thought it was going to be; sweet and nutty and very fragrant.

Horst Bandel rye bread

Zeb's windowpane test!

Summertime and the Desired Dough Temperature

Here is a ‘quick’ hybrid sourdough/yeast bread that I made today, suffering from low bread baking pressure as I was. It was suddenly hot today, (hotter than Athens)  27°C  degrees outside, 24°C in my kitchen which as people who read too many bread books know is a  ‘desired dough temperature’ for many breads.

Mixed sourdough starters light rye bread by Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

50 g mature rye starter at about 100 per cent hydration
100 g mature white starter ditto
320 g water at 22 C
50 g dark rye flour
200g strong white flour
250g very strong white flour (high gluten)
a squeeze of agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon instant active yeast

Autolyse for 30 minutes


10 g salt

This bread marked a small turning point for me.  No book, no recipe, just what I have finally managed to get stuck in my brain as to numbers, it has taken a while….

To print this recipe with suggested timings and oven temperatures click here

I had been feeding my starters for a couple of days and they were never quite ready at the point when I was ready, so this morning I took what I had as above. Mixed them with water, mixed up some flour to match, a squeeze of agave syrup for luck, which we all need, a pinch of yeast because I wanted to bake them before midnight, nearly forgot the salt. I think the autolyse process was designed by someone who forgot the salt, don’t you?

Method once mixed: Leave, neglect, forget, remember, fold, leave, neglect, forget, do the garden, entertain the dogs by throwing squeaky balls into the paddling pool, I do enjoy listening to Zeb blowing bubbles under water and I  finally dug out the tulip pots. Brownie point there.  Remember the bread again,  get it into a square ended 1 kg  banneton, leave, neglect, forget. Hastily put oven on, tip dough onto peel, slash, steam oven, put flattened out dough into oven. Sit down in front of oven and stare. And then the miracle of oven spring! Yay! Even this bread came through for me.  I love bread so much,  a cake wouldn’t have tolerated being treated the way I treated this poor dough today.  A nice substantial white loaf  with a hint of rye,  sourdough tangy, a good crust, not as airy as a full blown nursed, timed and cosseted  mulitpli -folded sourdough, but quite frankly I don’t give a damn!

Flush with success, I dashed out into the garden and savaged the rainbow chard which had miraculously survived the winter snow and ice; chopped it up, steamed it lightly and mixed it up with two eggs, a packet of feta cheese, some freshly brewed yoghurt, some chopped garden mint, a twist of black pepper and then wrapped it up in the remainder of the  filo pastry which I found in the fridge today, brushed with melted butter, into the oven at 170 ° C till done!

Yum delish with some salad and a  chilled glass of organic white – biobon sauvignon blanc from Riverford of which they say

Biobon Sauvigon Blanc, Pays d’Oc, Gérard Bertrand

Next to Sauvignons from more northerly climbs, this is soft, almost creamy but it still has that lively, slightly aromatic quality. Most importantly is that it’s pure and easy to drink, with you instinctively reaching for another glass.

My broadband provider, Virgin Media, and my TV are out of order as I write, so I think it is time for another glass of wine, don’t you?  And here four hours later I am connected again. Cheers!

Downstairs meanwhile, the TV and the set top box and the DVD player have decided to stop talking to each other following a visit from a Virgin Media ‘engineer’ the other day. Fortunately they never get their hands on my Mac!  Hope you are all having a lovely weekend!