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Rye Honey Sourdough Bread

Not everybody follows the Google+ community “The art of bread”, so I will duplicate my post about a great bread I baked last week.

Last year during the christmas holiday, I started my bread baking hobby – basically everything created out of yeasted dough. In the beginning I used the regular “fast-action” yeast – commercial granulated yeast available in small sachets. But then I discovered the health benefits of “wild yeasts” and created several “sourdough starters” to experiment with those. It turns out that the breads I bake from my sourdough starters have so much more depth of flavour than the breads I bake with the fast-action commercial yeast… so that’s what we’ve been eating almost exclusively since spring season.

I felt it was time to create a rye sourdough starter this year’s christmas holiday period, to see how different the breads would be using this new starter compared to the wheat based starters I have used so far.
My first attempt to bake something with that new starter (a buckwheat and dried cherry sourdough bread) failed miserably because the dough collapsed just when I wanted to bake it (was it overproofed? Too much buckwheat?). I still baked the sticky mess in a dutch oven to keep it together somewhat… and the result was a very nicely tasting clump of very dense bread.The second attempt went a lot better:
My wife gave me a book on sourdough by the Swedish baker/writer Martin Johansson. Using his recipe for Rye and Honey sourdough, I ended up with the big loaf in the picture. I never had a sourdough grow so much in volume during its bulk fermentation and proofing stages, it was amazing! This time, the dough kept its strength and structure and gave a perfect result. The added honey creates a beautiful dark and tasty crust, and the crumb is soft, with a delicious blend of the rye and acacia honey.
I never cared much for the rye bread we can buy in the shops here in the Netherlands, but I had been adding 10% rye to my whole-wheat sourdough breads lately and that really improved the flavor of my breads. I am glad I finally tried increasing the rye percentage.Here’s the recipe I followed (slightly adapted from the book).The night before you bake, create a levain – mix the following ingredients and leave them to develop overnight (covered under plastic wrap or a towel):

  • 50 gr rye sourdough (100% hydration)
  • 150 gr water
  • 65 gr rye flour (I used stone-milled whole-grain flour)
  • 35 gr whole wheat flour

The next day (in my case, appr. 10 hours later), mix the following together and leave to autolyse for 30 minutes:

  • yesterday’s levain
  • 30 gr honey
  • 165 gr water (tepid)
  • 325 gr strong white flour (I used  200 gr wholewheat and 100 gr plain flour instead)
  • 75 gr rye flour

After the 30 minutes autolyse, mix into the dough:

  • 8 gr salt

Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes, then leave it in a covered bowl for its bulk fermentation stage. The recipe estimates this to be 3 to 5 hours, but after 3 hours my dough had expanded to more than double the original volume so at that point I decided to continue with the recipe.

Gently press the air out of the dough and fold it into a ball: stretch a bit of the dough to the side and fold it back to the center. Repeat this while rotating the mass of dough. This brings some tension into the skin of the dough ball you are forming.

Dust a round proofing basket with flour (or use any kind of bowl lined with a tea towel and sprinkle the towel generously with flour), and place the dough in the basket with the seam down (the seam-side will be facing upward in the oven, thus creating opportunity for the bread to crack open while baking). Cover the basket (or place it inside a big plastic shopping bag) to prevent draught from messing with it and leave it alone in your kitchen for a further 1.5 hours of proofing.

In the meantime, place an oven stone or pizza stone roughly in the middle of your oven (if you have one of course… the srone adds heat mass which is beneficial for common household ovens), and a metal tray on the oven floor. Pre-heat the oven to 240 C,

When the dough has proofed sufficiently (and roughly doubled in volume again), turn over the basket onto a silicone mat or a sheet of baking parchment, and shove that onto the baking stone in the oven.
Pour a cup of cold water into the metal tray on the oven floor – that will produce steam and develop a great crust.

Bake for 20 minutes on 240 C with the steam, then lower the temp to 210 C, open the oven door slightly to let the steam escape, close the door again and bake for a further 20 minutes.

The smell! The flavor! One of my best.


  1. Jen

    Looks awesome. I was going to bake this year (cookies, panettone), but just ran out of steam. Still Christmas until Epiphany, as I look at it. Happy holidays!

  2. fabio

    Congrats!! and happy holidays!

  3. Barry

    Hi Erc, that’s a god looking loaf. I recently moved to the Netherlands but not sure where to get good bread flour. Anywhere you can recommend? Thanks, Barry

  4. alienbob

    Hi Barry

    All around the Netherlands you should be able to find flour (wind-)mills where the flour is sold to consumers.
    Here are a few places where you can find addresses:
    I get mine here:

    Flour can be ordered online too:

  5. Barry

    Thanks Eric! We’re in the middle of Amsterdam without a car so the broodbakshop looks perfect. Much appreciated. Must get out to a mill at some point though.

  6. Jamie

    You absolutely need to include more recipes in your blog here. I love them. I live in the United States in Washington DC and will have to go in search of the flour you use however I look forward to trying this recipes. It looks amazing.

  7. alienbob

    Jamie, I bought my whole wheat and rye flour at the nearest (wind-)mill, it’s nothing special except for the fact that it is stone-milled (unlike factory produced flour). Stone milling preserves nutrients and flavors in the grain.
    Looks like the nearest place where you would be able to buy stone-milled flour is Spring Mill Bread:

  8. Jamie

    Thank you

  9. r_stew

    Kapusniak made with home made sauerkraut is another easy, tasty dish.
    I make it in winter, especially at Christmas time. Adding croutons or stale
    bread chopped into cubes adds great flavor to it.

    By itself, kapusniak has amazing “umami” for such simple ingredients. I use my own sauerkraut
    made from red cabbage. Crispy, not mushy. No idea how it would go using store
    bought kraut. Stuff from the store tends to be soft as if it has been boiled- better
    suited to other kinds of dishes (*wurst..). Make a large pot of kapusniak in a cast iron
    “dutch oven” (as we call it in the USA) and watch it disappear at a party. It’s
    one of those dishes that tastes even better the day after you make it than it does
    on the day you cook it. The flavors mix over time. Cooking it warms the house and
    fills it with the delicious smell of bay leaf and other things. Use butter to brown the
    potatoes, onion & (clove) garlic, not vegetable oil. Butter will add another layer of
    “umami” and complexity. The only other ingredients are bay leaf, salt, pepper, sauerkraut,
    and beef,chicken, or veg. broth. I don’t use paprika but some versions call for it. Poles,
    Ukrainians, Russians and Byelorussians all have their take on it. My preferences tend towards
    the Polish style.

    Paella is also a great dish. Very easy to make, despite what some people say. It has a reputation for
    being tricky, but if you can make bread that looks that good, then paella should be easy. Proper paella pan optional, but nice if you have one. Authentic Spanish pans are dirt cheap in the USA. You can typically buy
    3-4 pans for what the seafood alone costs. Another simple dish with amazing “umami”.

    Keep on slackin’ 🙂


  10. alienbob

    Kapusniak looks quite tasteful r_stew, I looked up some recipes out there.

  11. r_stew

    Good bread compliments it nicely. You have that part covered, it seems.

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