Sourdough Rye and the Therapy of Baking Bread by Hand

It’s Monday, the day I like to make bread. I remove the sourdough mother from the fridge and set her aside to warm up a little. Then I get out my bread-making equipment: scales to weigh out my 500 grams of the mother; a large stainless steel bowl to make the bread in; a smaller stainless steel bowl to mix up my 250 grams four and 250 grams water to feed my mother; a wooden spoon; a spatula, all set out on the table.

I measure out the mother and set this aside. I then measure out my organic, wholemeal flour and water and commence mixing them together to feed my mother. I haven’t decided what I am making yet, but this time of going through the motions of measuring ingredients and feeding the mother, something I have done a hundred times before gives me time to think. What will I make this time?

Thoughts come in milliseconds, flashing through my mind.  What a lovely day it has been today and how happy I am to have gotten into the garden this morning; I think I will make rye bread; should I renew my subscription to The Economist?  All of these thoughts seem equally important, but I force myself to focus on the bead as I go to the panty for the rye flour.  Now I am ready to mix my ingredients together then turn out the dough and knead for about 10 minutes.

My advice is to relax into this process. I am asked on a regular basis if you can use a bread machine to make sourdough bread. I have never used one but I imagine it is much the same. For me though, I want to feel the bread-making process; experience the simplicity of this action that has been taking place for thousands of years, in the just same way. I want to empty my head of all my worries and problems, feel the rhythm of my action, the certainty of what I am doing, and the result I will get. I want to revel in its simplicity.     

We are living in some crazy times. Do something slow, methodical, deliberate, and mindful. Let go of the stress of life as you feel the dough under your hands.  Here is the recipe.



To your 500 grams of the mother (starter) add the flour, water, and iodine-free salt.

Mix together until combined and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

Knead until it is smooth and elastic. Under-kneaded bread can collapse so don’t skimp on this step.  

Once your dough is the right texture, place it in a clean, oiled bowl to rise. This is not a quick bead where you add commercial yeast. You are using sourdough mother, so expect this to take some time. Slow proving of the bread allows for the development of flavours and gives the bacteria time to break down the damaging peptide(s) in gluten that humans do not digest well.

Once your bread has risen for the first time, punch it down and then turn it out again and form your loaves. I get two small loaves from this recipe. Place the loaves in the bread pans to rise a second time.

Once your loaves have risen a second time, place them into a 220-degree oven to bake. Two small loaves will take about 45 minutes. Place a roasting pan in the bottom of the oven filled with hot water to increase the humidity in the oven while baking the bread. It does wonders for the crust.

Things To Know About Making Sourdough Rye Bread

Rye flour bread does not rise as well or as fast as wheat flour bread, so I always use a blend of the two flours (rye and wheat) to make sure I get a loaf that everyone is going to enjoy.

Sourdough rye bread likes to prove at a higher temperature, so put it in your warmest spot. It also may take a little longer. My first rise on this bread today took 18 hours (overnight) and went into the tins this morning for their second rise.  

You will note that I have not given times for the first and second rises. That is because it will be different for everybody. It will depend on the temperature of the environment, the protein content of the flour used, and the strength of the mother, just to name a few.

As always, live well.


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One Reply to “Sourdough Rye and the Therapy of Baking Bread by Hand”

  1. Thanks for this. I’m embarking on a sourdough baking life and am overwhelmed by all the information and comments I have read. Your method seems pretty straightforward . You didn’t mention letting the mother rise before making the bread but I guess that’s obviously the first step. My starter is having a few teething issues but I am persevering!
    Looking forward to reading your other articles. I also make soap so on the internet buying some supplies.

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