I have finally found a simple, easy and reliable 100% rye sourdough bread recipe. I have been making this recipe once a week for the past 4 weeks; it only takes a few minutes of my time on days one and two. Day three, it's a few minutes at each step, with rising time in between. Since I'm usually working from home on Fridays, this is when I bake. Rye bread like this has a lot of health benefits, and I do enjoy a piece once in a while. My family, on the other hand, goes through the two loaves this recipe yields in less than a week!
This recipe comes from Zeb Bakes who was taught to make this by Simon Michaels of the Wild Yeast Bakery during a day course in the Forest of Dean. Sounds pretty cool.
I was able to write this recipe down on one 3x5 card; I'll try to be a bit more explicit here, but, like I said, this is the easiest bread recipe I've come across. And the results are moist, healthy rye bread!
Feed your starter. I usually take my starter out of the fridge in the morning, add 1/4 cup of rye flour and about 1/4 cup of spring water and mix well. If you have city water, you'll want to boil and cool the water to drive off any chlorine which will interfere with the yeast living in your starter, and you'll have to do this any time you add water to any bread recipe.
Now that spring is here you can easily make a sourdough starter by adding equal parts rye and de-chlorinated water to a bowl. If you have a few organic raisins, add them to the mix; they have yeasts living on them. Let the bowl sit overnight on the counter, covered with a cloth. If you can let some fresh air in, that would also be helpful. Give the starter a stir, then keep it out, until it starts to form bubbles and smells tangy and a bit sour, about 3 days. Mine sometimes smells like apple cider. If it smells like sweaty socks, it's gone off, throw it on your compost and try again. The link above should be very helpful!
Or, you can go to your favorite sourdough bakery, like Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, and ask nicely for a bit of their starter. This is what I did since it's nearly impossible (I tried twice) during the cold winter months to get a new starter going; there's no fresh air and not much living yeast in the air.
Anyhow, once you have an active starter, feed it and let it sit out until the next day in a warm place (70-75 degrees), covered with a tea towel, to reactivate.
In the late afternoon or evening, take out 3 1/2 ounces of your starter and mix it with 2 1/2 cups of spring water. Add to that 14 ounces of rye flour (grind your own rye berries for best flour results). Mix well and let this preferment sitting in a warm place, covered with a tea towel, until the next day.
Add some flour and water to your starter (anywhere from 2 tablespoons to a 1/4 cup each), mix well and let it sit overnight, as well.
Day Three: It's time to mix and bake!
In the morning, put the lid back on your active starter and put it back in the fridge until you bake again next week. I keep my starter in a ball jar.
Your preferment should look like this:
Now you can add the rest of the ingredients:
Mix everything together well; it will be like stiff cake batter:
Cover the bowl with the towel again and let it rise in a warm place for at least 3 hours, until it has risen significantly, like this:
Now you'll need to grease and flour two bread pans; mine are about 4 x 8. I use plenty of butter and a generous dusting of rye flour.
Be gentle as you spoon/pour the sticky dough evenly into the two pans. You want to keep as many of the bubbles as possible! Generously dust the top of the loaves with rye flour.
Cover both loaves with the towel and let them rise for the last time; after a couple of hours they should be significantly taller. Be careful not to bump the pans; you don't want to knock out any of those little bubbles holding your bread up!
I bake my bread in the middle of a pre-heated 410 degree oven with a small pan of water on the bottom rack to help them stay nice and moist. You will probably see steam coming out of your oven during the 50 minute baking process. After 50 minutes, take out one of the loaves and turn it out into a clean tea towel. Knock on the bottom of the loaf; if it sounds hollow, it's done!
Take the loaves out of the oven and let them sit in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool. Once cool, let the loaves rest overnight in a paper bag or for at least 12 hours before cutting into them. Rye bread gets better with each day. You can keep it on the counter in the paper bag, or for a softer crust, in a plastic bag.