Three-Stage 90 Percent Sourdough Rye


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Dough Yield: About


    loaves at 1.5 lb each

Appears in


By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Baker’s Yeast is not an Absolutely Necessary Addition to this dough. If your rye culture is well maintained, and the three steps in the building process follow the time and temperature needs of each individual phase, the existing yeast population within the culture should be sufficient to leaven the bread without the inclusion of commercial yeast. Final fermentation may take a bit longer if the bread is leavened only by the sourdough, and the baked loaves may be slightly denser. Nevertheless, the bread will be a tribute to the health and vigor of the sourdough culture that engendered such delicious results. Another variation to consider is the addition of 3 percent malt syrup to the final dough. The result is a subtle “bottom note” of sweetness, which enhances the natural sweetness that characterizes this bread when it is skillfully made, and is a nice counterpart to the bread’s gentle sour tang. If you try this, no change in dough hydration is necessary.

Pre-Fermented Flour: 37.8%


Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Whole-Rye Flour 7.56 lb 3.78 kg 12.1 oz 37.8 %
Medium Rye Flour 10.44 lb 5.22 kg 1 lb, .7 oz 52.2 %
High-Gluten Flour 2 lb 1 kg 3.2 oz 10 %
Water 15.78 lb 7.89 kg 1 lb, 9.2 oz 78.9 %
Salt .36 lb .18 kg .6 oz 1.8 %
Yeast (optional; see headnote) .16 lb, fresh .08 kg, fresh .1 oz, instant dry .8%
Total Yield 36.3 lb 18.15 kg 3 lb, 9.9 oz 181.5 %


Whole-Rye Flour .16 lb .08 kg .3 oz ( T) 100 %
Water .24 lb .12 kg .4 oz (1 T) 150 %
Mature Rye Culture .08 lb .04 kg .1 oz (1 tsp) 50 %
Total .48 lb .24 kg .8 oz

Basic Sour

Whole-Rye Flour 2 lb 1 kg 3.2 oz ( cup) 100 %
Water 1.56 lb .78 kg 2.5 oz ( cup) 78 %
Freshening Sour .48 lb .24 kg .8 oz (all of above) 24 %
Total 4.04 lb 2.02 kg 6.5 oz

Full Sour

Whole-Rye Flour 5.4 lb 2.7 kg 8.6 oz ( cups) 100 %
Water 5.4 lb 2.7 kg 8.6 oz (1 cup) 100 %
Basic Sour 4.04 lb 2.02 kg 6.5 oz (all of above) 74.8 %
Total 14.84 lb 7.42 kg 1 lb, 7.7 oz

Final Dough

Medium Rye Flour 10.44 lb 5.22 kg 1 lb, .7 oz (4⅛ cups)
High-Gluten Flour 2 lb 1 kg 3.2 oz (¾ cup)
Water 8.58 lb 4.29 kg 13.7 oz ( cups)
Salt .36 lb .18 kg .6 oz (1 T)
Yeast (optional; see headnote) .16 lb, fresh .08 kg, fresh .1 oz, instant dry (1 tsp)
Full Sour 14.76 lb 7.38 kg 1 lb, 7.6 oz (all of above minus 1 tsp)
Total 36.3 lb 18.15 kg 3 lb, 9.9 oz


  1. FRESHENING SOUR: The mature culture is dispersed in water and the whole-rye flour mixed thoroughly into it. The temperature of this loose paste should be 77° to 79°F. Ripen the paste for 5 to 6 hours. During this phase, the yeast potential of the sourdough is developed.
  2. BASIC SOUR: Mix the freshening paste into the water and then add the flour. The temperature of the basic sour should be 73° to 80°F, and the ripening time will be 15 to 24 hours (the longer the ripening time, the cooler the temperature, and vice versa). Typically, this phase is left to ripen overnight. This is the stiff phase, and if need be, a small portion of water can be added, depending on the absorption rate of the flour. During this stage, the acetic properties of the sourdough are developed.
  3. FULL SOUR: Disperse the basic sour into the water and mix in the flour. The temperature should be about 85°F, and ripening should last 3 to 4 hours. Add more water as needed to obtain a paste of medium looseness. This is a looser build than the preceding one, during which the lactic character of the dough is developed.
  4. MIXING: After removing a small portion of the mature sourdough, put the sourdough and all the final dough ingredients into the mixer (the yeast is optional). In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for approximately 4 minutes, then on second for 1 to 1½ minutes. The dough will be sticky, but avoid any inclination to add flour. There will be no perceptible gluten development. Desired dough temperature: 82° to 84°F.
  5. BULK FERMENTATION: 10 to 20 minutes. Due to the high degree of souring that has occurred during the 3 development phases, very little bulk fermentation time is required before dividing the dough.
  6. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 1.5- or 2.5-pound pieces; shape round.
  7. FINAL FERMENTATION: About 1 hour at 82°F.
  8. BAKING: Score the loaves with a dough docker. Bake with normal steam (open the oven vents after 3 minutes to extract moisture and allow the sides of the breads to begin firming), at 480° to 490°F for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 410°F and bake for 40 to 50 minutes for a 1.5-pound loaf, about 1 hour for a loaf scaled at 2.5 pounds. Once baked, leave the loaves on cooling racks and, when fully cooled, put into tubs or wrap in baker’s linen. Let stand for at least 24 hours before slicing in order to stabilize the crumb.