This is a combination bread, using the rising-power of two forms of fermentation: lactic, from the spontaneous fermentation of flour and water with help from wild yeasts - this gives the sour flavour; and alcoholic, from the compressed yeast that we use every day to raise conventional yeasted doughs.
The sourness complements the flavour of rye: one reason for using a sour culture when making rye breads. Rye does not have as much gluten as wheat, hence it benefits from being combined with wheat to make a lighter loaf. There are certain pentosans in rye which make it seem sticky or gluey when being worked. One solution is to knead the dough with wetted hands. The cleaner you keep hands and work surface, the easier kneading will be.
The natural composition of rye flour also means that rye bread is best a day or two old. If you slice it too fresh, the knife glues up and drags across the cut surface. It is wrong to expect rye to make a very airy, light loaf, so slices should be as thin as possible to enhance the bread’s tenderness. ‘Doorsteps’ of rye are all wrong.
I have always followed the advice of my friend Rolf Peter Weichhold, who grinds his own flour in a windmill built on the medieval town walls of Xanten in northern Germany and then bakes it in an oven deep in the fortifications below, that you should start from scratch with this recipe. There is no need to carry over starters or ferments from one batch to the next, although you can set up a routine to do this if you want. This is a three-day recipe, starting from scratch.
© 2005 Tom Jaine. All rights reserved.