How to Make Jewish Rye Bread, Part 1: rye sour and old bread soaker

I’m a rye girl from way back. When I was growing up in Michigan I ate either rye or challah; these breads were the toast I had in the morning and the bread my mother used for our lunchbox sandwiches.

My mother wasn’t a bread baker, but was able to find challah and rye at our local grocery store, loaves brought in from a bakery called “Rosen’s” out of Chicago or Detroit.

The rye was rather white and mild in flavor, with caraway seeds and a chewy crust. It wasn’t bad bread, but it wasn’t anything spectacular either. Yet this was the bread of my childhood, so it still holds a place in my heart.

Later, my view of rye bread, and bread in general, exploded (in a good way) when I became a bread baker at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There I learned to bake rye and challah that far surpassed the bread of my youth. Zingerman’s is known for its bread all over the Midwest and beyond, thanks to their commitment to traditional baking methods (as well as their mail-order business).

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Photo by Joe Vaughn, from the June 2008 edition of Hour Magazine.

Above is a photo of me baking a load of rye bread at Zingerman’s. Rye baking at the Bakehouse was a bit of a marathon sport. The baker, with one or two “loaders,” needed to load two giant deck ovens with a total of 21 doors (each “door” holding about 25 loaves). Once that was done the baker set out on his/her own, racing back and forth between the two ovens to be sure that all 525 or so loaves of Jewish rye, caraway rye, pumpernickel, and onion rye were rotated and baked to perfection.

Baking all that rye at Zingerman’s, and then later helping teach rye bread classes, made me realize that Jewish rye has attained an almost mythic position in the baking world and American culture; it’s bread that conjures up both Eastern European traditions and New World hopes and dreams. Everyone seems to be looking for the perfect Jewish rye, but what that means differs from one person to the next, depending on their own history and bread memories.

One of Zingerman’s founders, Ari Weinzweig, writes in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating about his own search for real Jewish Rye, and what defines it.

Weinzweig points out that American rye has significantly changed from the peasant rye breads our ancestors ate in Eastern Europe. Peasant bread was generally made with whole-grain rye, which was cheap and readily available. It was only as immigrants prospered in America that our rye bread became more and more refined, eventually including only a small percentage of white rye flour. The heavy use of caraway seeds is also an Americanization of rye bread.

For Weinzweig and Zingerman’s Bakehouse (who learned their methods from upstate New York baker Michael London), the components of a good Jewish rye are these:

• A tasty rye sour
• At least 20% medium rye
• Time, not excessive yeast
• Baked on a stone with steam
• No milk, oil, or sugar
• Rye flavor: As Wienzweig says, “Rye has a deep flavor, a flavor of the earth, a flavor full of character that gradually fills your whole month. Good rye has guts.”

These are also the major components of Jewish rye outlined by George Greenstein in his Secrets of a Jewish Baker, although he uses a three-stage rye sour and favors a combination of white rye and first clear flour. Both Zingerman’s and Greenstein also include a small dose of ground caraway seeds and an old bread soaker in their recipes.

An old bread soaker (Zingerman’s calls it “Old” and Greenstein calls it “Altus”) is a traditional European baking practice that involves using up old bread by soaking it, mashing it up, and adding it to the new bread mix. This is not only frugal, but adds a depth of flavor to your rye bread. In Germany this method is still widely used.

My understanding of rye bread further exploded (also in a good way) when I took an advanced bread baking class from Jeffrey Hamelman at King Arthur Flour. It was in this class that I developed the rye sourdough starter that I use today.

Hamelman is a great proponent of rye bread and his book, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes offers a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and also a wide array of rye bread recipes, from the simplest deli rye to a dense and delicious 100% rye vollkornbrot.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

With these three sources of inspiration (Zingerman’s, Greenstein, and Hamelman) spread out before me, I began my own search for the perfect Jewish rye. I wanted something that reminded me of the rye toast I had as a child, but with more of the tang and rich rye flavor that characterize traditional Eastern European rye breads.

Though some bakers scoff at the “over use” of caraway seeds in American rye bread, when I asked my family about their thoughts on Jewish rye, both my cousin and sister said, “Don’t forget the caraway!”

I tested so many Jewish rye recipes that my mind (and taste buds) began to boggle at the choices. I tried adding a cornstarch solution to the crust (Greenstein), and minced onions and ground caraway to the rye sour (also Greenstein). I tried various combinations and percentages of white rye, medium rye, pumpernickel flour, clear flour, bread flour, and all-purpose flour, as well as different concentrations and hydrations of the rye sour.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

One weekend at work I brought in five different versions of Jewish rye and coaxed my coworkers to “bite and write” – a common request in the employee kitchen at King Arthur.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Yes, we King Arthur Flour employees have to endure taste-testing all kinds of delicious recipes and mixes-in-the-making. I know, poor us – although my insistence on bringing in loaf after loaf of Jewish rye for my coworkers to sample did border on abuse by the end of it.

As in all things baking, perfection is a worthy but elusive goal. One loaf looked beautiful, but was a little too dry. The next loaf had great flavor and rise, but the surface tore during baking. Another loaf rose nicely without tearing, then flattened out too much in the oven.

The whole tearing-during-baking drove me crazy for awhile, even though the tears I was seeing were pretty minor and didn’t affect the integrity of the loaf. I tried changing various factors (fermentation time, kneading time, maturity of sour, quantity and duration of steam) and it was only during my very last week of baking that I was able to pin down the problem.

Again, as in all things baking, a number of factors usually contribute to any one problem. But I think the major issue had to do with the hydration of the dough. I kept my final recipe on the stiff side so the dough would be easier to work with and wouldn’t flatten out during baking. But the drawback of a stiff dough is that it isn’t quite as able to expand in the oven (especially rye dough). I did add a bit more water to the recipe, and also adjusted my steaming method, and this seemed to improve the situation enormously.

The moral of the story is that we’re making bread, not works of art. It’s a lesson every perfectionist baker (and aren’t we all perfectionists?) must grapple with at some point. If our loaves of bread are delicious and fulfill their intended role, isn’t that what matters most?

I don’t think it’s wrong to strive for the perfect loaf. This is actually one of the things I love most about baking; everyday there’s the opportunity to do things a little bit better. But it’s equally important to take joy in our less-than-perfect attempts and to feel good about what our efforts are truly for – providing nourishment.

My final recipe resembles most closely Jeffrey Hamelman’s “40% Caraway Rye,” from Bread, although I added a touch of ground caraway and some old bread soaker, as a nod to Zingerman’s and Greenstein. I also reduced the pumpernickel content to 36%.

It’s stronger in rye flavor than your typical Jewish rye because of the pumpernickel flour, and also has quite a hardy tang. I love it for these reasons and I hope you will, too. No, it’s not your typical mild-mannered Jewish rye, but a loaf that carries with it a bit more of the depth and tradition of European rye breads. And this Jewish rye can stand up to the thickest, juiciest deli sandwich you can assemble.

So, let’s get started! Today will be our prep day; we’ll prepare an overnight rye sour (“sour”), an old bread soaker (“old”), and ground caraway seeds. Tomorrow we’ll mix and bake our Jewish Rye Bread.

To make our overnight rye sour we need a very small amount of fed sourdough starter.

Jeffrey Hamelman argues in Bread that sourdough rye breads benefit from a dedicated rye starter, and this recipe allows you to develop one for future loaves; but it isn’t a necessary component if you only make rye bread occasionally.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

The amount of sourdough starter you add to create the rye sour is very small, so you’ll want to be sure it’s very healthy and active. Especially if your starter has been refrigerated for a week, several feedings at room temperature prior to adding it to the rye sour will help give your bread the best flavor and rise.

Mix your rye sour 13 to 16 hours before you plan to mix and bake your bread. Mix together:

1 rounded tablespoon (1/2 ounce, 14g) fed (“ripe”) sourdough starter
2 1/4 cups (8 3/8 ounces, 237g) organic pumpernickel flour
7/8 cup (7ounces, 198g) room temperature water (70°F)

Note that the water temperature for this overnight sour is 70°F, as is the desired rising temperature. Water temperature and room temperature both play a key role in the proper fermentation of your rye sour, so it’s beneficial to try to replicate these conditions as closely as you can.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

This rye sour is very thick, and a bit arduous to stir by hand. This is normal, allowing for a long, slow fermentation. You can also mix the sour in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed, stirring just until all the flour is thoroughly moistened.

If you’re measuring your flour by volume, be sure to follow this method, or you’ll find yourself trying to bring together an impossibly dry mixture. For those of you new to our recipes, this is how we recommend measuring flour by volume in all our recipes.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Place the rye sour in a nonreactive container with room to grow (it won’t quite double, but needs some room for expansion). Smooth it out and sprinkle a small amount of pumpernickel flour on top, to cover the sour.

Why the sprinkling of pumpernickel? This is a traditional practice with rye starters, meant to protect the starter and also to make it easier to tell when the starter is fully ripened.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

At full maturity the sour will dome on top and show islands of rye flour surrounded by small cracks and crevices. It looks a little volcanic in nature. There’ll be small bubbles visible from the side of the container and the sour will have risen up, although not quite doubled in size. This will take about 13 to 16 hours at 70°F.

Our next step is making the old bread soaker. Although you can use any old bread for this soaker, rye bread is preferable. And once you’ve made a loaf of Jewish rye, it’s easy to save a slice or two in the freezer for the old portion of your next rye bread.

When I worked at Zingerman’s we baked so much rye bread that a portion of our bake had to be dedicated to making old bread soaker for future mixes. Slicing buckets and buckets of rye bread was a frequent prep duty.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Making “old” is easy. Simply cube up 1 large slice of rye bread (1 heaping cup, 2 5/8 ounces, 74g). Avoid using the ends of the loaf, as that’s a bit too much crust. Soak the bread in 1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces, 74g) cool water. Store in the refrigerator overnight.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

Next day squeeze out any excess water from the cubes and mash the old bread by hand, or using a mixer with paddle attachment set on the lowest speed.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

When finished, the old should look like very thick cooked oatmeal. Don’t worry about bits of crust as long as they’re broken down.

You’ll only need 1/3 cup (3 ounces, 85g) old for this recipe, so you’ll likely have a little extra that can either be discarded or refrigerated for up to a week. When I was testing all those loaves of Jewish rye I’d make a large batch of old to get me through a week of baking.

Be sure that the old you add to the recipe is room temperature, rather than straight out of the refrigerator. Your old can also be frozen if you make a really big batch.

The final ingredient to prepare for tomorrow’s mix is ground caraway seeds. Although an optional ingredient, it adds a lovely note of caraway. Those who don’t enjoy seeds in their bread can add more ground caraway and leave out the seeds completely, though don’t go crazy; a little caraway goes a long way and you don’t want to overpower the rye flavor. One to two teaspoons of ground caraway should be plenty, if you plan to omit the seeds.

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

I grind my caraway seeds in an old coffee grinder that’s become a dedicated spice grinder. Just buzz the seeds until they’re a powdery consistency. Be careful if you use your regular coffee grinder, as you may have caraway-flavored coffee for awhile!

How to make Jewish Rye Bread via @kingarthurflour

You can grind a batch of caraway seeds and store them in your freezer in an airtight container, since you’ll only need a small amount for this recipe.

Well, we’ve gotten a lot done today! Stay tuned tomorrow as we learn a little more about the unique characteristics of rye flour, then mix and bake our Jewish Rye Bread

How to make Jewish Rye Bread32

Here’s a shot of the delicious Jewish rye we’ll be baking tomorrow. It makes amazing toast! For the recipe and complete preparation techniques, see How to Make Jewish Rye Bread, Part 2.

Please read, bake, and review our Jewish Rye Bread recipe; and our Rye Sourdough Starter recipe.

Print just the bread recipe; or the starter recipe.

And share your own Jewish rye memories and tips below.

Barbara Alpern
About

Long time professional artisan bread baker, caramel maker and member of our Baker Specialist team, Barb grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has four grown sons. She has baked in Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Texas (if you count baking cookies for her son's wedding!).

comments

    1. Becky

      Thanks for posting your adventure (and techniques!). Hamelman’s book was my textbook for the bread segment of my pastry degree. As a side project I tackled the Horst Bandel Black Pumpernickel, mainly because I was completely intrigued after reading the story that came with the formula. I had to mail order rye chops and berries. I drove all over town looking for a suitable rye for “old bread”. I didn’t want to use just any old American rye bread. Once I had obtained all the ingredients, the production was another two days and an overnight bake. I left the loaf at school for the recommended 24 rest before slicing, forgetting that it was a long weekend and school was closed. The loaf, that was wrapped in cheesecloth, was a brick upon return. All that work! All that love… I intend to make it again and your story has inspired to revisit the world of rye.

    2. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Becky, your Horst Bandel Black Pumpernickel bread baking adventure made me so sad! All that work and love, indeed! I hope your next attempt allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Welcome back to the world of rye–one of my favorite places!
      Barb

  1. Merelafille

    What a lovely, informative post!

    I’m afraid I have to take issue with one thing, though: I say every lovingly-prepared, “imperfect” loaf *is* a work of art. So-called perfection is boring. If we want perfectly uniform, perfectly boring loaves of bread, well, there’s always the grocery store.

    Can’t wait to see how this comes together…and one day I’ll work up the courage to try making it myself!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments! I think you’re right–every loaf you put your heart into is a work of art, and perfection can be boring. I really appreciate you adding this perspective to the post. Don’t be too intimidated by this recipe; it really comes together pretty easily after the overnight rye sour is ready for action.
      Barb

  2. Cindy

    I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to Part 2. I do have one question: when making this recipe for the first time, what can be substituted for the “old?” Is “commercial” bread ok or should we skip this part the first time through? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Cindy, the first time you make this recipe it’s fine to use store bought bread for the “old” portion. I wouldn’t leave it out because this makes up a significant portion of the dough. After that you can always have a large slice of rye bread stashed in your freezer for future bakes. Barb

  3. Pamela

    Wow, I find this blog so interesting. I have a question, why not scale all the ingredients? 7/8 cup of water has thrown me.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Pamela, as bakers at King Arthur we always prefer to measure our ingredients by weight because it’s easier and far more accurate, but we know that not everyone has a scale at home and want to make our recipes available to everyone. Note that the recipe page allows you to view the recipe in either volume measurements, ounces or grams, so the 7/8 cup of water need not throw you too much. Barb

  4. Nikki Pals

    This may be sacrilegious but is there any way this can be done without the use of a sourdough starter. It is just one thing that I can not keep at this point. (I just can not be caregiver to one more thing at this point)
    The bread looks wonderful, I can just smell it now.
    And a good rye bread is a must with a bowl of Split Pea soup.
    also I happen to love….and this may sound a bit yukky to some…a smear of peanut butter on a slice of rye fresh from the toaster so the peanut butter begins to melt into the toast.
    Looking forward to part 2

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Nikki, I’m trying to think what might work in place of the sourdough starter, which not only gives you a tangy flavor, but also helps slow down the amylase enzyme activity during baking. You might try using pickle juice in place of half the water content, and reducing the salt to one teaspoon. In this case the rye sour may not be necessary, but I’d have to do another recipe test or two to be sure. Maybe you could borrow a little fed sourdough starter from a friend? I also have peanut butter on rye toast memories from my childhood, so it doesn’t sound yucky to me at all! Thanks for your comments! Barb

  5. Judith

    I cannot wait to try this. I have tried so many rye bread recipes including making my own flour. None of the “trials” required old bread or a starter. So hoping “this is the one”. Thank you for posting all of the info. I am printing it as I type.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Thank you for your comments, Judith! I hope this one turns out to be “the one” for you. Barb

  6. Kate

    My mom was an avid bread baker, as am I. We never had “store bought” bread in our home. It was verboten 🙂 She made a Jewish Rye from her great grandmother’s recipe that would knock your socks off. I haven’t yet read part two, but so far this is practically identical to her recipe. She ground caraway in a mortar and pestle, and always added quite a bit whole seeds to her bread, which I was told made her grandmother wring her hands, because as you mention, caraway wasn’t used in European homes for bread baking back in the day, and my mother was from a long line of Jewish women that followed tradition like it was a lifeline. My mother was born in 1915 in Upstate Eastern NY, and even then “her” mother still followed the traditional baking methods.

    I make two loaves of some kind of sourdough bread at least twice a week for my family. I love that KAF helps keep traditional methods alive, while teaching old dogs like me and young pups alike, new ways and recipes to start more family traditions. I thank you.

    Bread baking for me is a peaceful and lovely time of my day. I hope I’m like the past women in my family that live long lives and keep baking right up to the last minute 🙂

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Kate, thanks so much for sharing your family’s remarkable rye baking history with us! What a wonderful legacy the generations of baking women in your family have left you. I feel so honored that your shared your story here, and hope you enjoy baking for many years to come. Like you, I hope to go out baking! Barb

  7. Judith H umphrys

    Wow! I rmember my mother making bread using the exact same method. She didn’t bake bread often as we lived in Montreal and could get good European rye at the time. But homemade was always great! We are Hungarian, Jewish and bread lovers. Thank you so much for this. I will try this in the very near future. I make practically all the bread we eat, this shall be my next challange. We live in Canada, and we can not buy King Arthur products here, but we will be visiting family in Colorado and will attempt to buy some while we are here.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Judith, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with rye bread growing up in Montreal! I love hearing these stories and picturing the mothers and grandmothers making their own versions of Jewish Rye. For me, it’s like filling in the colors in a black and white photo; thanks for making this a more vivid post! And don’t forget, we are always here to offer support and answer questions as you tackle this or any recipe! Barb

  8. Sondra Hodgkinson

    Just love the King Arthur website and all the great tips and recipes. I am forever sorry that I cannot access so many of your products (eg first clear flour) which I could never find down here. However, living in Australia, and being metricated most of my life, (I did grow up with the old imperial measuring system), the US measurements, eg 7/8 cup, are a complete mystery to me (I calculate this as 218.75g working on a 250ml cup but am not sure what the US conversion would be, and I am sure many others over here and elsewhere would be. Also US cup sizes are different to our metric system, which makes it doubly difficult. It would be great if you included metric conversions in your measurements. You do I know have a conversion capability in lots of your recipes, but this one on rye (my favourite bread) does not. I also have a dedicated rye sour for making sourdough bread.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Sondra, I’ve updated the recipe in both posts to include ounce and gram measurements, and the recipe page does allow you to toggle through and choose to view this recipe in either volume, ounce or gram measurements. The place to make this choice is right below the word “Ingredients” on the recipe page. I hope this helps make this recipe clearer and more accessible to all those bakers out there who are “metricated.” We’re big fans of using weigh measurements here at King Arthur, but know that not everyone has a home scale. Thanks for your comments, and I hope you’ll be putting your rye sourdough starter to work in this recipe very soon!
      Barb

  9. lucy trabulus

    I just came across your interesting blog. I’ve been successfully baking 80% rye flour bread for a while using my sour dough starter but not adding old rye bread. I do put the whole caraway seeds in the batter. for my next loaf i will try your methods. one question is how do you keep a loaf baked on a stone from spreading? every time i try, the loaf ends up looking like a fat pita.
    thank you.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Lucy! this recipe is on the stiff side, so it doesn’t spread very much, but if you’re working with a wetter dough you might try allowing your shaped loaf to rise in a floured basket or a bowl lined with a floured cloth. Place the dough in the bowl or basket upside down to rise, and then gently turn it out onto parchment paper before baking. This supported rise will help minimize spreading during baking.
      Barb

  10. Frank Martinez

    I just made some rye bread with the rye flour blend and baked it in my Staub dutch oven and it came out great with good spring and flavor. I will use a peace of this bread for my bread soaker.
    I am about to make this Jewish Rye bread with the rye sour and the old rye bread soaker. I want to know if I can add some organic rye chops to this recipe. Can you tell me if it’s a good idea to add rye chops and if so, how much would be a good amount (in Ounces or cups) and do I add more water or leave the water amount the same. Do the other ingredients also stay the same or does their measurements change. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Frank, I haven’t tried adding rye chops to this recipe, so I would recommend starting with a small amount and perhaps sprinkling some on top of the loaf instead of caraway seeds. I would suggest replacing one ounce of the old bread soaker with rye chops and soaking the chops for an hour before adding them to the mix. Be sure to drain off any extra water before adding the chops. In future you could add the chops to the old bread soaker and let them soak overnight. Please let me know how your bread turns out!
      Barb

  11. Frank Martinez

    Hi Barbara, I just made my Jewish Rye Bread with the rye sour and the Rye Chops added to the old rye bread soaker and let it soak in the fridge for two days. The Rye chops gave it good substance but not much of a crunch and great flavor to the bread. It came out with really good crumb and had a good rise. The only thing I would change is adding more rye chops since I only added 1 oz., to the bread soaker. I would add 2-3 oz. instead. The only question i have about this recipe is, why is only one 1/3 cup of the rye bread soaker/rye chops only used and not more? Would adding more give this bread too much moister and not bake right? What role does the bread soaker play to this recipe? is it just flavor?
    Where can i post a picture of my bread? Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Frank, thanks so much for reporting back about your Jewish Rye Bread! I think it would be fine to add more rye chops, the only issue for me is that both the rye chops and the old bread soaker are more flavor enhancements, and at some point the structure of the bread isn’t going to be able to handle a lot of extra ingredients. The rye chops differ from the old bread soaker in the sense that they will soak up moisture from the loaf rather than contribute moisture. That’s why I though it might be good to soak them beforehand. If you wanted more crunch you could experiment with adding a tablespoon or so extra liquid along with rye chops that haven’t been soaked. You’ll have to play around a bit with how much soaker/chops you can add without causing the structure of the loaf to be compromised. I’m guessing you could go a bit higher without experiencing difficulties. I’d love to see a picture of your loaf! If you’re able to post a picture on our Facebook page, that would be a great spot, or possibly tag us on Instagram? Unfortunately, we aren’t able to post photos through this venue. I really appreciate you following up with your experiences baking this bread! Keep in touch and let me know how your future rye baking adventures go.
      Barb

  12. sandy

    Barbara is the best. I follow the conversations on most of the KAF posts, especially the ones on bread, and cannot help but notice the attention and care she gives to those who respond to her posts. She is very engaged and I always feel like she is personally reading my responses and ready to help with my questions. When I send in a comment to a KAF post, I always look forward to some sort of interaction with the person who posts. She never lets me down. That is very special. She clearly loves her baking and is willing to share so much. Just review the care and thought to each of her responses above. Thanks Barbara.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Sandy, I can’t tell you how touched I am by your incredibly kind words! I feel so lucky to be working at a company like King Arthur that allows me to reach out and share my love of baking in this way, and even more lucky to be able to have conversations like this with bakers like you. It really is an honor and a pleasure. Thank you for being such a devoted reader and for reaching out in this way. You made my year!
      Barb

  13. Frank Martinez

    Hi Barbara,
    I’ve had my rye sour in the fridge for a week now and ready to feed it again. Do I feed it once (57g each-old sour, water, pumpernickel flour) and let it sit for 2 hours at room temperature then put it back in the fridge, or do I feed it twice and let it sit for 12 hours each time then put it back in the fridge.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Frank, it depends on if you want to bake with it or not. If you just want to maintain your rye starter and have no plans to bake with it this week, then it’s fine to feed 57g of your starter with 57g water and 57g pumpernickel flour, let it sit for 2 hours, and then return it to the refrigerator. If you plan to bake with your starter it’s helpful to give it a few “revival” feedings at room temperature (every 12 hours) until it is nice and active before you use it in a recipe. Barb

  14. Jerry

    Hi Barbara,

    Growing up in Chicagoland I’m very familiar with Rosen’s rye bread – an absolutely acceptable product! But how much better and more satisfying if you can make your own? Over the years I’ve tried making rye bread using various recipes – and have a hybrid I’ve come up with that I’m fairly satisfied with. I came across a recipe about a year ago that said you could make your own sourdough starter using an organic cabbage leaf in four days. I had to try it. Lo and behold it worked! I now have two starters. One with all KA bread flour and one with half KA white wheat and half KA pumpernickel flour. I call the white starter Gertrude and the rye Heathcliff. I find Heathcliff much easier to manage – don’t know if there’s any gender significance there or not… Anyway, I’ve always wanted to take the rye bread class at Zingerman’s but haven’t made it yet. They only offer it so often and its never fit my schedule. So when I came across your blog I was totally excited to try it. I really enjoyed the technical details and explanations you give. I’m going to give Heathcliff a really good feeding and try your recipe this weekend. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I love that you personalized your starters by assigning names. Funny! Barb will love to read this, Jerry. I will be sure she sees it and please report back on how Heathcliff does this weekend! Elisabeth@KAF

    2. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Jerry, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m sure Heathcliff won’t let you down! I can’t wait to hear how your Jewish rye turns out this weekend. I’ll be working Saturday and Sunday, so if you have any questions just give me a call on the Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253). And the classes at Zingerman’s are great; if you ever have a chance to take that rye class, I think you’ll really enjoy it. We have some great classes here at King Arthur too, if you can ever make it out this way. Have you ever thought about feeding Gertrude unbleached all-purpose flour? There’s a little more starch in AP flour than bread flour, as the protein content is inversely related to the starch content (the more protein, the less starch). Enzyme activity converts the starch to sugar that can be consumed by the wild yeast. So, by feeding Gertrude AP flour you’ll be giving her a better meal! Happy rye baking this weekend! Barb

  15. Jerry

    Hi Barb,

    Thank you for all the tips! I uploaded a couple of photo’s to the Sift Facebook page if you’d like to see how the Rye turned out. I’ll be making this again – as soon as I get some pumpernickel flour ordered. I’ve got just enough to keep Heathcliff happy until it comes in. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Jerry, thanks so much for calling and reporting back about your rye bread! I found your photos on Facebook and your bread looks awesome! Heathcliff did you proud. Barb@KAF

    2. Jerry

      Hi Barb,

      My pumpernickel came in so I baked another loaf this weekend. It’s cool here in the Midwest and it smelled soooo good in the house! I love this recipe. I feed Heathcliff Friday night and Saturday morning then make the sour in the afternoon. Sunday morning mix it up and viola, bread before noon! I followed the recipe exactly again and the loaf cracked just like the first one. I used my Romertopf baker and I think it’s too small for this loaf. Next time I’m going to try free form. I also want to thank you for suggesting feeding Gertrude with AP flour. She is so happy! I was starving the poor thing. I also tried baking my usual white sourdough recipe using AP flour instead of blue bag bread flour and was very pleased with the results. Until I started playing with sourdough we used our Zojirushi and the results with bread flour were amazing so I guess I just thought it was good for sourdough too. For anyone out there who’s a rye bread fan – do yourself a favor and try this recipe. There is a natural sweetness and complexity to this bread that is so satisfying. Great by itself but try it with some liver sausage, onion and mayo – or good summer sausage – or – you get the idea. Thanks for the recipe Barb!

    3. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Jerry, thanks so much for the update on Heathcliff and the gang! As you know, I was a little worried about my loaves cracking too. You might try adding a tiny bit more water if you can stand the stickiness (say a tablespoon more water), and make sure the time the loaf is exposed to steam during baking is only 10 minutes. The other thing that might help is mixing the dough at a lower speed for a longer time. Let’s say speed 1 for 3 minutes to mix the ingredients, and then speed 1 1/2 for 4 minutes on a KitchenAid mixer. I find speed 2 on the KitchenAid a little too aggressive for kneading this dough. Let me know if you solve the crack dilemma, but I’m glad you can still enjoy the flavor and don’t fret too much about the cracking! Barb

    4. Jerry

      Hi Barb,

      I know it’s not traditional but do you think scoring lengthwise instead of crosswise might help? It really doesn’t bother me that much – gives it kind of a rustic look; and I’m baking it to eat – not put in a competition. 🙂

    5. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Jerry, do you mean one long angled cut lengthwise? I think that might work. More than one cut lengthwise would likely cause the loaf to flatten out too much. Rye loaves are also often “docked,” which is poking the loaf numerous times to allow the CO2 that the yeast gives off to escape. An ice pick-type tool works well for this. Professional bakers have “dockers” that are rollers with pegs sticking out of them to poke holes in the top of the loaf. Between the two of us I think we can figure this cracking out. Say hi to Heathcliff for me!
      Barb

  16. Isabel

    Hello Barbara

    This blog is simply fantastic.

    My husband has asked me to bake rye bread for his birthday barbecue. He has a new smoker and has decided on a Montreal smoked brisket. Seeing that it’s a special dinner, I am thinking of adapting this recipe to make marbled batards, for their visual impact. Is this do-able to you think?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Isabel, thanks so much for your kind words! I think you could try a marbled rye, but the issue may be that this rye is fairly dark on its own when you use the pumpernickel rye, so the contrast between the two doughs may not be very significant, say you divided the dough in half and used caramel coloring to deepen the color of half the dough. If you chose another recipe (say a dark pumpernickel loaf) to marble with this loaf, they may not rise and bake at quite the same pace, which could cause issues. I think this loaf is challenging and impressive enough without adding the complexity of marbling, but if you’d really like to try this, probably the easiest way would be to color half the dough with the caramel color. Tell your husband happy birthday from King Arthur and I really hope he enjoys this bread!
      Barb

  17. Joyce

    Hi Barbara,
    This recipe sounds great. I have a mature 100% rye starter (whose name is Catcher) in my fridge, can I use this as a base and feed it with pumpernickel flour to make it ready for the recipe or do you recommend that I build one from my white Starter(whose name is Mooshe)? Thanks for all your help. Joyce

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Joyce, Catcher can certainly be utilized in this recipe! You’ll still want him to be nice and active and recently fed when you add him to the starter portion of this recipe. Use the same amount of Catcher as recommended for “fed sourdough starter.” Let me know how your bread turns out!
      Barb

  18. J M Cornwell

    My favorite Jewish rye is made with dill (Jewish dill rye). I like caraway seeds in my rye, but prefer the dill in my rye as well. Any tips about adding dill to the rye and in what amounts?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      To get a tangy, dill flavor in your rye bread, use dill pickle juice instead of the water in your favorite recipe. It sounds like you might like our recipe for Caraway Rye Bread. Check out the full blog post for more details on how to tweak it to your liking, including using pickle juice. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Barbara Alpern, post author

      J M, you can also substitute or add dill weed and dill seed to the caraway seeds called for in this recipe. I would recommend adding about a teaspoon and a half each of dill seed and caraway seed, and an additional teaspoon and a half of dill weed if you’d like more dill flavor. I would leave out the ground caraway if you choose to add the dill weed. If you’re not getting enough dill flavor with this combination, feel free to add more dill weed and seed to taste. I think you could add up to a tablespoon of dill seed to the tablespoon of caraway seeds, if you really enjoy seeds in your rye bread. This is your rye bread–make it the way you like it!
      Barb

  19. Jay

    I have made this recipe a half dozen times now. It is great. The first time I made it I used old homemade wheat bread for the old bread starter. Why, I wonder, does the old bread starter matter? What does it add?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you’re enjoying it, Jay! Adding an old bread soaker is a tradition that bakers have appreciated for years for both economic and flavor reasons – why throw out old bread when you can use it? It also adds a depth and complexity of flavor and can contribute to the staying power of your loaf. Any kind of bread an be used, but the more flavorful the old bread, the deeper the flavor it will add. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  20. Barbara Karr

    My father was born and raised in New York City.We would travel there at least once a year. Part of the pleasure in seeing family was we would be able to have all the Jewish Rye we wanted.Sadly it was never baked at home.Why would you go through all this work when the bakery is a block away? But now I no longer have that option. I have been trying to recreate that taste and I never had any luck. A friend any fellow baker told me about the KA site. I am so excited I can’t tell you in words.I am going to order supplies as soon as I finish Part 2. I will be following you on Facebook from now on!!! Thank you so much for the info. If I make it through the metrics I will be in Rye Heaven.You just may have made a dream come true. P.S. The family always called it Corn Rye. Do you have any idea why? Best wishes and Happy Baking! Barb

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Barb, I certainly hope your dreams will come true with this recipe, and if you have any questions along the way I will be very happy to answer them! We need to get you into Rye Heaven! As far as the Corn Rye question goes, I did notice that George Greenstein has a recipe for “Jewish Corn Bread,” which he explains by saying that in Europe the word “corn” means grains or staples and “maize” is used to refer to corn. So, it’s not really a corn bread, but a bread made with rye and wheat flour. You might find his book, “Secrets of a Jewish Baker,” very interesting. I’m eager to hear how your quest for the Jewish Rye of your youth goes, and will be happy to help in any way I can.
      Barb

  21. Jillian

    Can I make this sourdough Jewish rye bread without yeast? I’m not supposed to eat it.
    Thanks for all your wonderful hints and sharing your experiences with us!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Jillian, I haven’t tried making this recipe without yeast, but I think it would work. Try allowing the loaf to rise for 1 hour for the first rise and 75-90 minutes for the second rise. If the loaf looks ready to bake before then, by all means go ahead and bake it. Because rye flour ferments more quickly than white flour, it can be tricky to extend the rise time too long, but you want to give it enough time to show some rising in the shaped form. Try to keep the dough temperature around 80°F after mixing and while rising. Let me know how it turns out!
      Barb

  22. Craig Whitley

    WOW! What a fantastic step by step blog with so many instructional photos and even details as to why things are done this way.

    I had just been to the KAF Rye Bread class in VT a few weeks ago and this blog contains ALMOST the same amount of detail as the class minus meeting the nice people at KAF and of course the actual “hands on” experience which is invaluable.

    This should be the Gold Standard for a baking blog.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Craig, thanks so much for your kind words! We’re very happy you chose us to be part of your rye team, and hope that this blog and our Rye Bread class will contribute to many successful and happy rye baking experiences!
      Barb

  23. Jim Averill

    I love to bake bread; and I turn out four or five loaves a week- always using KA White Whole Wheat and KA bread flours. So I decided to try this loaf.
    I invested a lot of flour in this and it was an epic failure-a runny mess after the first rise (any second rise-if any-will take place in my trash can). No more “sourdoughs” for me. what a waste of time and flour!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Jim, I’m very sorry to hear that this recipe turned out so badly for you. I would be happy to discuss what went wrong if you’re inclined to troubleshoot. Give us a call at the Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253).
      Barb

  24. Mike Ryan

    Hi Barbara,

    While I like to think of myself as a pretty good cook, I am certainly a novice baker. Growing up in southeastern Massachusetts, we enjoyed Sissel (sp?) bread, which was a Polish seeded rye with a fantastic thick and chewy crust. My mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, tells me that when we were babies, they would give us the heel of the loaf to chew while we were teething. It was also something we looked forward to during the holiday season. The bakery that made that bread has long been closed and we never found a truly comparable substitute in the local area. before Christmas, I set out on a quest to find a recipe that would closely replicate the sissel that we all loved. I started experimenting with a regular white sourdough recipe and after a couple of loaves, tried my first rye. The recipe contained milk and molasses. It was very good, but it wasn’t sissel. I baked about 4 loaves of that leading up to Christmas, tweaking the recipe a bit each time and everyone loved them all, but we all agreed that they were not “it”. The week before Christmas, I found this recipe and decided to give it a try. I baked two loaves of the molasses and milk recipe and one of yours just to try. I baked it in a dutch oven and it came out beautifully. When my family tried this one, they were almost speechless. All my mother could say was “That’s it!” with a huge smile on her face. Since that first loaf, I have baked about 10 more. I sent two loaves home with family traveling from California and I even shipped one to a cousin in Chicago who wasn’t able to come home for Christmas. I will continue to bake them and learn from each one. Right now, I am trying to learn how to keep the loaf from cracking in the oven and to make the crust as thick and chewy as possible. They look perfect when I take the cover of the dutch oven, but then some time after, they crack. Not a big deal, they still taste great, but I tend to be a perfectionist and want them to look as good as they taste. Thank you for the detailed recipe and blog! This loaf is fantastic and really brought back great memories.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Mike, funny thing, but I remember making “Tsitsel” rye back when I worked at Zingerman’s. Tsitsel, at least according to Zingerman’s, means “breast” and consists of a round rye bread dusted with rye flour and containing no added caraway. I’d be curious to hear what your mother thinks of that definition. Anyway, I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying this loaf and that it brings back memories for you and your family! As you know, I also struggled with the cracking. I think it may be helpful to add a bit more water to the recipe and perhaps knead on a lower speed (1 1/2 rather than 2). Rye can benefit from a gentler kneading process, and sometimes speed 2 just seems a little too aggressive to me. Also, when baking in the Dutch oven, try removing the lid after 15 minutes instead of 20. Let me know if any of these measures allow you to achieve a perfect loaf of rye bread!
      Barb

  25. Ron Larose

    Hi Barbara,

    I’ve been baking artesan bread in my Dutch Oven. Is this a good option for this rye? I usually preheat the Dutch oven to 450 degrees for 30 minutes, bake covered for 30 minutes and remove the lid for another 7 minutes to form a good crust.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Ron- Use the Dutch oven for rye breads as well- they color well in a steamy environment. Following the blog directions, we would recommend turning the oven down a few minutes into the bake. Laurie@KAF

    2. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hey Ron, your method will work fine for this bread, although I would recommend removing the lid after 15 minutes and reducing the baking temperature to 430°F at that point. This is because rye breads (especially those with more than 50% rye) are more fragile, and prolonged steam may cause the surface of the loaf to crack and deteriorate.
      Barb

  26. Liz Farley

    My Swedish rye bread (3.5 cups flour and raisins) does not develop a crisp crust and seems very moist inside. How can I get a crisper crust? What is the baking time. I baked it at 350.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Liz, Our Limpa recipe calls for a baking temperature of 350°F for 35 minutes, but you could also try baking your Swedish Rye bread in a 3-4 quart Dutch oven, and bake at a little higher temperature. This should give you a crisper crust. Prepare your Dutch oven by greasing it and placing parchment paper on the bottom (to prevent sticking), and allow the shaped loaf to rise in the pot. Bake the loaf in a preheated 400°F oven for 25 minutes, remove the cover of the Dutch oven, and continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the top crust is a deep golden brown.
      Barb

  27. Pamela Peyton

    I looked at several recipes before making this one. At one point I must have read the words *sour salt optional, but great for added tang*. I acquired some sour salt (from of all places, a craft beer supply store…which is another story altogether)..and now that I am about to start another loaf, I realize the sour salt must be for another recipe. So my question is…if it is good for improved “tang”, would it be good/authentic to add a bit to the rye dough? And if so, how much? Do you then add less salt? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Pamela,this bread has plenty of tang, so I would save your sour salt for another recipe. Also, I’m afraid more acidity might be harmful to the structure of this bread. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Barb

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