Eastern European Rye Bread

Today is one of those days when spring seems just able to keep winter at bay; when a chill wind blows a cold rain into your face and drives you to the warmth of the kitchen. In other words: a perfect day for hearty pork goulash and chewy rye bread.

As one might imagine, there are hundreds of rye bread recipes on the Internet. Rather than following any one, I read several and set out to design my own. Intending a moderately heavy loaf, I chose a 60/40 ratio of rye to wheat flour and a hydration level of 68%. To make a 500 gram loaf I needed the following ingredients and baker’s percentages:

Rye flour

176 grams


Bread flour

118 grams



200 grams



6 grams



6 grams


Had I the time I would have made an authentic rye starter, but I did not so I simply replaced half of the yeast with sourdough starter from the crock that lives on my kitchen counter, using the rule of thumb that 240 grams of starter is equivalent to 6 grams of yeast. Adjusting the quantities for the water and flour in the starter, I developed my ingredient list.

Note: I designed and tested the recipe using metric units. The customary units are approximate equivalents. Do not mix units.



100% hydration sourdough starter

120 grams

4 ounces

Warm water

140 grams

5 ounces

Active dry yeast

3 grams

½ envelope


6 grams

1 teaspoon

Rye flour

174 grams

6 ounces

Unbleached white bread flour

56 grams

2 ounces

Caraway seeds (optional)

8 grams

1 Tablespoon


While I usually use my KitchenAid stand mixer to make bread, I find that it does not work very well with this small quantity of dough so I kneaded it by hand.

Weigh the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and, with floured hands, knead for a few minutes. Put the dough into a floured proofing basket or an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside to rise. Allow three or four hours for it to double in size.

If you have a pizza stone put it in the oven, otherwise put the loaf on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). (I use the convect pastry setting on my convection oven.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 200°F and 210°F (93°C and 99°C).


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