The Fresh Loaf

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Rye Levain

WoodenSpoon's picture

Rye Levain

I have been busily working away on my Rye levain formula and the one I just baked off this morning on one of the best yet. Recently I have started to shy away from my standard 100% hydration white or primarily white levain towards much firmer entirely whole grain levain starters. I still keep my chef at 100% hydration and I think that going from a cold wet chef to a warm dry levain to a warm wet final mix is really contributing to the flavor complexity.

Here's how I made it.

Levain build #1

  • 3g 100% hydration rye chef
  • 21g fresh milled whole rye
  • 10g warm water
  • 12 hr ferment at room temp

Levain build #2

  • 5g 50% hydration rye levain
  • 50g fresh milled whole rye
  • 25g warm water
  • 12 hr ferment at room temp

Final dough

  • 480g bread flour 70%
  • 170g fresh milled whole rye 25%
  • 45g levain 7.5% (5%rye, 2.5% water)
  • 55g rye chops 8%
  • 536g quite warm water (hold 36g) 79%
  • 13g salt 2%

First I mixed the flours and rye chops and hydrated them with all but 36g of the warm water and let it sit for 45 minutes. Then I added the salt and in a different bowl I moistened/mashed with a fork the 45 grams of firm levain in the remaining 36 grams of water and added that to the dough. After a quick mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate the salt I mashed the whole dough in my hands and as adding water to already partially developed dough isn't always the easiest thing to do. 

Once the dough came back together I gave it a firm two or so minutes of slap and folds followed by a twenty minute rest, then I gave it another quick set of slap and folds and a ten minute rest then another quick set and a fifteen minute rest then another quick set and an hour rest.

After an hour I have it a good stretching and folding in the bowl followed by a very quick slap and fold half an hour later and one more another half an hour later. 

By now the dough has been fermenting for around 3 hours and forty minutes. I gave it an additional 5 hours and forty minutes of room temp bulk fermentation shaped it and popped it in the fridge for 19 hours.

Around noon today I put the loaf in a 500 degree oven, poured hot water over my preheated lava rock and baked it for 55 minutes turning the oven down to 450 after the first two minutes.

This is one heck of a good loaf with a pretty prime aroma to boot. Earthy, hearty and lactic with that characteristic rye spiciness followed by a light acetic zing. So tasty.


nmygarden's picture

And, as usual, your camera caught all the color and textures. I can touch, even smell it through my eyes.

Beautiful, WS!


WoodenSpoon's picture

as good as touching and smelling through the eyes can be the real deal is always better. I'm sure you could whip up a great version of this yourself and use all your senses to enjoy it.

EmmaFeng's picture

beautiful loaf and nice pictures, may I know your camera model?

happy baking! :)


WoodenSpoon's picture

its a canon 7d

Floydm's picture

Love it.

WoodenSpoon's picture

this was a tasty one for sure

dabrownman's picture

This combination is our favorite kind of JDR.  68% - low hydration, 36% rye and small amount of preferment flour 8.7% - Makes for one fine rye bread.  Don't think I could get near 4 hours gluten development and 5 hours of bulk on the counter and the a 19 hour proof in AZ but might get half of those numbers :-).

Well done and happy baking WS

WoodenSpoon's picture

it figures that this is right up your ally. Whole grain, long fermentations. mmm

knowbake's picture

You really know a lot but we the new ones do not understand what you are doing.  What is chef,  what is the  dif from 100% and  50 % hydration and is levain just sourdough starter ?  Please come down to earth for us.  Thank you.

WoodenSpoon's picture

but the way I use em is as follows

Chef is the un elaborated sourdough culture. It is not something I would add to final dough but something that I will build a small portion of up to use in bread. I keep 20 or so grams of chef, usually in the fridge.

Levain is what the elaborated (fed with flour and water) sourdough culture is commonly called. It is also often used to describe a finished loaf of sourdough bread,

The difference between 100% and 50% hydration is the relation of flour weight to water weight. An example being if you had 24 grams of 100% hydration dough that dough would consist of 12g flour 12g water. 24 grams of 50% hydration dough would consist of 16g water and 8 g water

I'm always happy to explain as much I can but  these terms are pretty widely excepted and I feel as though I'v got my feet firmly on the ground.

dmsnyder's picture

That looks like a delicious bread. Nice job!


WoodenSpoon's picture

it was delicious.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I am SO going to bake this loaf soon.  I have been looking for a formula for a loaf such as this for a while now.  Thank you so much for posting.  It's a beaut.

Happy baking.


utahcpalady's picture

Excuse my ignorance...but what the heck are rye chops?

pmccool's picture

Also know as cracked rye or kibbled rye.  The mill is set so that each kernel is broken into 2-4 fragments, rather than being reduced to a flour or a meal.


WoodenSpoon's picture

If you don't mill your own I'm very sure Bob's Red Mill sells a great one.

utahcpalady's picture

Interesting...maybe a mortar and pestle would do the same thing?

pmccool's picture

For small amounts, you can do portions in a coffee grinder.  Just don't get carried away and turn the grain to flour.

For larger amounts, I find that the Kitchenaid grain mill attachment works very well.  Or, if you have a grain mill that isn't an impact type, you can use that at whatever setting breaks the grains instead of grinding them.


_vk's picture

Amazing loaf. And beautiful shallow focus.



Are Levain #2 ingredients added to ready Levain #1?


  • 45g levain 7.5% (5%rye, 2.5% water)

Means only 45 g  of the Levain obtained at Levain #2 step (it yields 114g, right?) added to dough?


And yet: why bread flour accounts for 70%. Is it added to 25% whole rye plus the rye in the LEVAIN (5%) to add up to 100%? If so, the chops does not account?




ph_kosel's picture

I baked tonight for the first time this year.  This lovely loaf is an inspiration to bake more often!

Ogi the Yogi's picture
Ogi the Yogi

bread that a one part levain doesn't?

complexity of flavor would be my guess...anything else?

dauden's picture

I'm an experienced baker but this formula stumped me.  Are the flours and chops during hydration (autolyse) supposed to feel like a brick?  I multiplied this X5 and got to the hydration point having to add more water and leave out some bread flour.  I repeated the calculations numerous times to be sure I followed this formula as stated.  I'm half way into the autolyse before adding the salt, levain and remaining water.  I am certainly not used to stiff doughs but I'll continue with this one hoping to see results like that pictured above.  I'll bake it off in a wood-burning oven tomorrow.  --Wimberley, TX,

pmccool's picture

the original recipe amounts were:

Bread flour 480g

Rye flour 170g

Rye chops 55g

Water 536g - 36g = 500g

Using your x5, the amounts should be:

Bread flour 2400g

Rye flour 850g

Rye chops 275g

Water 2680g - 180g = 2500g

Is that what you used?  In each case the hydration of the autolyse is 70.9%.  That shouldn't produce a brick texture, even allowing for whole rye flour in the mix.  I would expect it to become somewhat tighter by the end of the autolyze, as the bran in the rye flour and the rye chops both absorb some moisture.  Just guessing, other than the stickiness from the rye, I'd expect this to have approximately the same firmness as a 65% hydration all bread flour dough.


dauden's picture

I believe I did use those proportions but I cannot replay them from my mind as I did not write them down.  Alas, I continued on with the dough after I corrected the hydration as needed.  As it was somewhat dry, I gave it a bulk rise at 58deg (outside temp) overnight and it responded well.  Overall bulk dough time, 17 hours.  Indoor proofing w/ 95% humidity at 85deg, 3 hrs (approximate).  Bread baked as well as the picture in this subject.  Very pleased.....and thank you for the reply.  I will try again. 

SaraBClever's picture

This is beautiful!