Playing With Rye – Giocando Con La Segale Chiara

In the last few weeks I have been experimenting a lot with rye flour. It is exciting as rye is not very common in Italy, so both the making of the bread and the taste of the finished product are kind of new to me.

My interest in rye bread started just a few months ago, after eating some Polish sourdough rye during a short work trip. It was love at first… bite. The crumb was light and open, even if more dense than a typical French white levain.  It was much alike good Italian sourdough bread (which is almost always wheat-based). Only, it was made with rye.

Back home in Sweden, I experimented a little and recently I managed to obtain pretty good results by playing around my usual loaf and including in it quite a lot of rye (30%). The result is a mildly tangy light rye sourdough bread which I am totally fond of (scroll down for the complete method).


You need: 604 g active liquid white rye leaven* (see recipe below), 670 g water, 570 g bread flour, 405 g Swedish white rye flour** (substitute it with: 162 g white rye flour and 243 g all-purpose wheat flour), 180 g whole rye flour, 5 tea-spoon marine salt (I used himalayan salt).

*active liquid white rye leaven: the night before mixing the final dough (see above) take 51 g of active sourdough starter and combine it with 306 g water and 247 g Swedish white rye** (substitute it with: 100 g white rye flour and 146 g all-purpose wheat flour). It can be used 12 to 16 hours afterwards.

**Swedish white rye flour: it is a mix of finely ground rye flour (40%) and all-purpose wheat flour (60%).

Note: all the flour I used is organic and stone-ground.

How to: Dissolve the rye leaven into the water and add the flours, already combined. Mix for 3 minutes at low speed (or knead for 6 minutes by hand). Let rest covered for 20 minutes (autolysis). Add the salt and knead for further 3-4 minutes at slightly higher speed (or for 6 minutes by hand). Transfer in a large plastic bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make folds every 1/2 hour for the first 1 and 1/2 hours. After this interval with folds, let rest for 1 hour without folds and then shape. The dough makes 3-4 loaves (or 3 loaves and 1 focaccia, see my previous post apple and raisins sourdough focaccia with rye, where I used this dough to make a sweet focaccia).

Proofing: Let the shaped loaves rest in proofing baskets lined with semolina floured kitchen towels for a minimum of 2 hours to a maximum of 4 hours (if 4 hours, half of the time must be spent in the refrigerator).

Baking: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (Celsius, 482 Fahrenheit). Lower the temperature immediately to 230 degrees (Celsius, 446 Farhenheit) and bake for 30 minutes with initial steam (I poured a little water in the lower try when putting each loaf in – I baked one loaf at a time). After 30 minutes, further lower the temperature to 200 degrees (Celsius, 392 Farhenheit) and bake until the crust looks golden-brown on all sides and the loaf feels lighter when lifted.

Ti servono: 604 g lievito naturale liquido a base di segale* (vedi ricetta sottostante), 670 g acqua, 570 g farina di forza, 405 g farina di segale bianca (non integrale), 180 g farina di segale integrale, 5 cucchiaini di sale marino (io ho usato il sale Himalayano).

*lievito naturale liquido a base di segale: la notte prima di fare l’impasto finale (vedi sopra) prendi 51 g di lievito madre attivo  e combinalo con 306 g d’acqua e 247 g segale bianca. Puo’ essere usato dalle 12 alle 14 ore successive.

Come fare: Dissolvi il lievito liquido nell’acqua e aggiungi le farine, gia’ mischiate. Impasta a macchina per 3 minuti a velocita’ minima (o per 6 minuti a mano). Fai riposare, coperto, per 20 minuti (autolisi). Aggiungi il sale ed impasta per 3-4 minuti a velocita’ lievemente piu’ elevata (o per 6 minuti a mano). Trasferisci l’impasto in una ciotola di plastica (o di coccio) molto capiente e copri. Fai le pieghe ogni 1/2 ora per la prima ora e 1/2. Fai riposare per 1 altra ora e poi forma i pani. Questo impasto da’ 3-4 pani (oppure 3 pani e 1 focaccia, vedi il mio post apple and raisins sourdough focaccia with rye, dove ho usato questo impasto per fare una focaccia dolce).

Fermentazione finale: Fai riposare i pani in dei cestini di vimini foderati con panno da cucina e cosparsi con abbondante farina di grano duro, per un minimo di 2 ore fino a un massimo di 4 ore (se 4 ore, la meta’ di questo tempo deve essere passata in frigorifero).

Cottura: Riscalda il forno a 250 gradi. Inforna con vapore (io ho versato un mezzo bicchierino d’acqua nella teglia sottostante) e riduci subito  la temperatura a 230 gradi. Dopo 30 minuti abbassa ulteriormente la temperatura a 200 gradi e cuoci finche’ i pani (io ne ho infornato uno alla volta) sono coloriti da tutti i lati e sono leggeri se sollevati (attenti alle bruciature!).

CONSIDERATIONS: As I said, I am quite satisfied with this formula even if I know I am going to refine it further (and I will let you know about it). This dough is extremely versatile and I already used it for a focaccia and for a berry loaf, together with the loaves showed in this post. By the way, I have just got a scoring blade and here you can also see my very first attempt of using it. Italian bread is often “unscored”, so I did not really miss not having a proper tool before. With this loaves I also learned how to use baker’s percentages. It was very handy when deciding “what to put” in the dough. Before I was just proceeding by trial and error. Which is actually a pretty darn good method too, isn’t it?

CONSIDERAZIONI: Sono piuttosto soddisfatta di questo metodo che ho messo a punto. Anche se so che lo perfezionero’ ulteriormente (e ve lo faro’ sapere). Questo impasto e’ molto versatile e l’ho gia’ usato per una focaccia e un pane con frutti di bosco freschi, oltre, ovviamente per queste pagnotte che vi ho appena mostrato. Ho appena comprato un rasoio per incidere il pane e in questo post potete anche vedere il mio primo tentativo di usarlo. Nella tradizione Italiana il pane spesso non e’ inciso, quindi ho potuto farne a meno anch’io per un po’ (ma mi piace provare nuove tecniche). Con questo impasto ho anche imparato ad usare le percentuali della panificazione (baker’s percentages, ne scrivero’ presto per chi non le conosce). Sono estremamente utili e aiutano a decidere “cosa mettere” nell’impasto. Prima procedevo per prove ed errori. Che non e’ poi cosi’ malaccio, vero?

This bread will participate to the weekly bread collection yeastspotting. Thank you Susan!

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  1. What a beautiful artisan bread! In the U.S., rye bread is very, very dark brown and my mother loves it. I like your version MUCH better, lighter, but still full of flavor! Lovely photos!

    • so glad this version of rye bread appeals you, I also thought I did not like rye until I tasted a lighter version of it. thank you so much for the appreciation.

  2. What a lovely looking loaf of bread…it looks delicious with the slices of butter on top. I have some specialty sourdough rye bread that I bought at the store. It is loaded with caraway seeds which I enjoy.

    • thank you Karen! salted butter was also my favorite spread on this bread. and rye goes good with caraway seeds, last year I tried a Polish loaf like that, it tasted great!

  3. Wow, Barbara! One would never think you are just trying your hand at rye. These loaves look phenomenal and any baker would be proud to display them in his or her store window. As a customer, I would go for them right away too. I love the way the scoring frames the spontaneous fissuring of the top in the first picture but I also love the cragginess of the top in the second one. It makes for a gorgeous abstract design. As for the crumb, it is a winner. Open and airy, yet rustic and a bit dark. Just lovely! Congratulations once again!!! When are you quitting your job and opening your own bakery?

    • MC, you are too nice and you know it! :) I admit I sometimes dream of getting rid of my brainy job and finally work with my hands. what I like of bread baking is that there is a lot of thinking and “brain” in it, so I could really imagine of doing that full time. but as for now I am just an apprentice… by the way, that was my very first try of using a scoring blade. I am still a little confused on how to use it :)

  4. I discovered the rye flour when I lived in Denmark, I like the intense flavor of the bread baked using this type of flour. After my failure with sourdough starters, I have a leftover of 2 kilos of rye flour. I tried to add it to my usual white bread and the result was delicious. Never like your bread, your bread looks good, beautiful and perfectly leavened. Well done Barbara.

  5. I grew up with rye-bread and usually alternate between wheat, spelt ( in german: Dinkel) and rye bread, so yesterday I wanted to bake a sourdough- honey- mixed bread with mostly wheat, a little rye and chestnut flour. And accidently I took the rye flour instead of the wheat- but it turned out nicely anyway.
    Your bread looks very nice, especially the crumb- and I will try to remember when the next bread baking sunday happens (it will take some time)

    • chesnut flour? I am so jealous! totally love it and there are a few Italian specialties that would love to make with it but here is difficult to find (haven’t seen it yet). would love to taste your rye/chestnut bread, the color must have been amazing.

  6. Where did you find white rye flour in Sweden? I have put some effort into trying to find a source but the only thing way I’ve seen it marketed is in a 60% wheat / 40% rye blend labeled “Rågsikt” ( = sifted rye). What’s labeled “Rågmjöl” ( = rye flour) seems always to be whole grain. I would really appreciate knowing where straight sifted rye is sold.

    • Spelton, thank you SO much for pointing this out. I always thought “rågsikt” WAS white rye, but now I reckon there is only 40% of it in what appears like a mix (why do they mix???). I updated the post and, as you, now I wish I knew where to find 100% white rye in Sweden.

      • The closest I’ve ever come to white rye here is by running rågmjöl manually through a fine sieve. Goodness only knows why rågsikt is more wheat than rye. It would be great if this discussion results in somebody providing a pointer to what we apparently are both looking for.

        • I guess the best thing to do is to write to a few small producers and ask directly if they make 100% white rye and how to get it. if I succeed I will let you know. meanwhile I will try your method of sifting whole rye.

          • Straight white rye is marketed to commercial bakeries in 30kg sacks as “unblended sifted rye” (oblandad rågsikt). Whether or not any mills also make it available on a consumer level, there has been an interesting development on that front since the last entries in this thread. Orga kvarn has begun distributing a 70/30 rye/wheat rågsikt in 2kg bags via its retailers. That’s certainly a lot closer to 100% white rye — quite likely entirely so for most home purposes — than the opposite proportion of the blend normal sold under the same designation. (It may also be worth noting that the unqualified term “rågsikt” does not translate to “white rye”, although “oblandad råsikt” does.)

          • this is good news Spelton! thank you for letting me know. did you already saw this new flour at the supermarket?. I did get a little mill in order to ground flour but it does not produce anything as fine as white whole-wheat flour. do you have any experience of home milling?

          • I’ve never done any home milling but would gear up for it withouthesitation, and pretty much withoutthougt to cost, if I had any expectation of the results being usefully close to the stuff that the larger mills put on store shelves. You’ll find the Orga 70/30 rye blend at Cajsa Warg in Stockholm.

          • funny, I pass by sofo almost every day and never was there. visited the one in Vasastan though and found it quite ok, good to know they have hard to find flours. do you have a blog or anywhere I could have a look at your bread? you sound very knowledgeable.

    • I’m not sure the output of my oven is major league quality, however much time I’ve spent plowing through the literature and tracking ingredients. Taking pics of every successive attempt at putting it all into practice is a part of the adventure and I’ll gladly give you a peek when I’ve got something that I feel worthy of it.

  7. beatifully grown, very professional!

    Blog about life and travelling
    Blog about cooking

  8. i must try it! and beautiful photoes as always

  9. Quella pagnotta è meravigliosa, sembra uscita da un forno a legna. E deve anche essere buonissima. Il pane di segale mi piace un sacco ma non ho mai usato la farina bianca, qui è già tanto riuscire a trovare quella integrale. Sta cominciando a diffondersi un po’ di più adesso. Complimentissimi, sei un portento con i lievitati :) Un bacio, buona settimana

  10. i love your first picture – it’s so stunning! the black background is lovely!

  11. I am in love with all the breads you bake. This rye bread looks amazing!!! Bread is high on the list of things I miss from Germany. And rye bread is very common there. The variety of bread here in this part of California is unfortunately very, very limited. And I haven’t dared yet to make my own sourdough bread yet but you inspire me. I really need to get this started. Thank you!

  12. @ola: thank you!!!
    @idit: hope you try, even if the method includes folds and “all the bullshit” ;)
    @federica: ecco, questi sono i commenti che mi mandano in brodo di giuggiole. grazie! credo che potresti ottenere una segale bianca setacciando quella integrale in modo da rimuovere le “bucce”.
    @amanda: that’s my favorite too, thanks!
    @baltic_maid: California? I thought you were still in Germany. you are so good at everything you put your hands at that I am sure you would become an excellent baker in no time. hope you try!

    • @ Barbara: Yes, I have been living in California for a few years now and I miss all the European food like crazy. Some of it seems more readily available on the East Coast of the US but here on the West Coast especially in this area Mexican food is very popular.
      And thanks!!! I do want want to try and get good at baking breads. Your pictures just make me so hungry for some good European bread… Thanks for having faith in me… :-D

  13. A Firenze ti si direbbe.
    ” Oh Bellina!!! Guarda guarda che pagnottella di segale che tu’ hai fatto!!!!”
    Brava Barbara, brava brava brava! Anche perchè per me il pane è sacro! Bisogna che mi rimetta a panificare anch’io ora che le temperature sono scese!
    vorrei essere un pochino più vicina a te per aver potuto assaggiare questa meraviglia…. bello il metodo con il vapore…. ciao topina!|

    • ahah… oh bellina… ho una persona qui a Stoccolma che mi dice cosi’ a volte. e’ di Grosseto :) grazie grazie grazie. anche per me il pane e’ sacro. e riguardo all’assaggiarlo… mia madre e’ stata talmente insistente che ho finito per spedirle una pagnotta per posta. a dir suo era ancora buonissima quando ha raggiunto l’Italia. bacissimi!

  14. Hai creato un pane che solo un vero panettiere potrebbe fare. Questo e’ pane vero di quello che non trovi neanche piu’ in giro. Brava. Ottimo post! Ciao!

  15. That second to last picture! Just great. How do you get your black photos so dark? Like the photo of the loaf from above. Totally black background. When I try using black, nothing comes out really looking black.

    I’m happy you tried rye! Since I’ve been living in Germany I basically only eat whole rye bread. But I’m sure this part rye bread would be awesome too. :)

  16. My goodness, you must be teasing us saying you’re just starting with ryes – this one has ‘professional’ written all over it. I’m proud, too, to learn that the Polish rye inspired you to experiment. Way to go, Girl! Your talent is immense!

  17. aaahhh! pinning these two too…

    lovely loaves, just lovely!


  18. Your loaves look gorgeous! I also started playing with rye flour recently, since I get some every month as part of my grain CSA share. I agree with you: rye bread tastes really nice. And whole rye is an interesting cereal to eat, quite tasty.

  19. Realy nice RYE BREAD …….some time bread are realy beautiful ……..congratulation
    I’m trying to do a similar one ……please leave me your comment



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