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Seeded Wholemeal Rye Sourdough with cracked rye and “old bread” flour starter

200 grams mature sourdough starter (100% hydration = 100g each whole rye flour + water)

* Feed this starter with...

100 grams "old bread flour" (a slice or two of dried/ground bread from a previous loaf)

100 grams cracked rye (I hand ground this in a Peugeot coffee grinder)

200 grams water

* Allow this starter/soaker to bubble up. This takes an hour or two, depending on the activity level of the wild yeast.


200 grams whole rye flour

50 grams seeds (20g flax + 30g sunflower)

8 grams salt

* Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate the final dough.

* Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients in which to pour the...

600 grams starter/soaker

* At this point you may also add an optional ingredient, 50 grams black treacle (or molasse) for more richness and color.

50-100 grams water (if needed, depending on dough consistency and humidity)

* Stir all the ingredients into a thick, wet, shaggy dough (my tool of choice is a butter knife).

* Allow the dough to rest and fully hydrate for 30 to 60 minutes while you go off and do something else.

* There's no point in handling this dough like a regular wheat dough, as rye contains very little gluten. So you won't be concerned with developing structure through kneading.

* After the dough has rested, there may have been some expansion. But most of the ingredients have already fermented in the starter and the starter/soaker by this time. So there's no need to wait for the dough to double in bulk before putting into a loaf tin for the final rise.

* Line the bottom of a loaf tin (about 110mm x 170mm x 75mm) with a strip of parchment paper or silicone baking sheet, cut long enough so the ends stick up above the top edges (lengthwise) of the tin. This allows for lifting the loaf out of the tin at the end of baking.

* A spray bottle full of water for misting is a good tool to have on hand. Spray the inside of the lined loaf tin with a fine mist to cover all surfaces. Then dust with brown rice flour, as this provides a good release once the loaf has finished baking.

* With a stiff silicone spatula, remix the dough a final time to ensure even distribution of all ingredients. Then scrape the dough into the loaf tin. Again, this dough will have a thick, gooey consistency, which will require shaping and smoothing in the pan.

* Sprinkle extra rice flour along the edges of the dough in the tin. Then with quick motion, using the silicone spatula or a dough scraper, push the flour down between the dough and the sides of the tin to create a bit more of a nonstick release.

* Allow the dough to proof for as long as it takes to rise up to, or slightly above the top of the tin. This typically takes between one and three hours, depending on how active your wild yeasts are, as well as the ambient temperature.

* Preheat the oven to 250° Celsius (480-500°F) 30 minutes to an hour before putting the risen loaf in to bake. I use a lightweight metal covered baker (or roaster), which I also put into the oven while it's preheating. I bake the loaf in this dish, covered in order to trap humidity for oven spring, as well as to create an even baking environment. Also, I have terra-cotta tiles (you could use a pizza stone), which live permanently on a rack in the bottom of my oven, where I set the baker. This hot surface creates a heat sink and provides immediate heat transfer to the loaf, which is important for oven spring, especially since this happens only in the first ten minutes of cooking.

NOTE: If you don't know if your oven temperatures are accurate, get an oven thermometer.

* Mist the loaf with water. Then carefully score the top of the loaf (for controlled expansion).

* Take the preheated baker out of the oven, put the loaf inside, cover and put back into the oven on top of the tiles.

* Set the timer for 30 minutes so you can check how the bread is coming along. After 30 minutes you may rotate the loaf and set the timer for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how the loaf looks. If you're baking at a lower temperature you might have to bake for longer. In my oven I bake the loaf for an hour. But that may be too long for other ovens.

NOTE: Don't be afraid to overbake, as underbaking is a common mistake. A slightly overdone loaf is far better than an underdone one with a doughy interior.

* Once you feel the loaf has finished baking you may notice little to no oven spring. This is typical for a 100% whole-grain rye bread. The outcome depends on so many factors… How you handle the ingredients, what ingredients you use, the climate you live in and the equipment you use. But the most important thing is the flavor!

* You may have to allow the freshly baked loaf to rest in the tin for about 30 minutes before lifting it out, as it may have stuck to the sides. Then carefully run a sharp knife around the edges of the loaf to loosen it. Grab the ends of the liner sticking up out of the tin and lift the loaf out.

* Put on a cooling rack and allow the loaf to cure, ideally for a day (or two).