A few weeks ago, Deanna sent an email to B., Janelle and me.  The email said,

Anyone ever tried this?


This sparked a flurry of emails between us (none of us had), but especially between Janelle and me.  I’ve been off work this past week (Olympic madness) and decided now would be a great time to experiment with bread.  We had some technical difficulties with National Chocolate Mint Day, so I decided to share my progress so far.

The contenders are Jim Lahey’s bread, and a sourdough “rye”.

I started the starter for the sourdough rye on Monday.  My selection of bread cookbooks seemed to include only 1 sourdough rye recipe, Beth Hensperger’s “Sour Poppy Seed Rye” from Bread for All Seasons (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995) at p. 80.  Much as I love Hensperger’s recipes, I wanted a truly sour sourdough.  Hers, start to finish, was at best a 3-day recipe.  I turned to The Joy of Cooking but failed to locate the “Sourdough Rye Bread” recipe printed on p. 605 (75th Anniversary printing).  Sigh.  I really don’t need any more cookbooks.

Undaunted and with little experience, I decided to make it up.

Day 1
Mixed 1 C dark rye flour with ¼ tsp yeast (Fermipan) and 1 C room-temperature milk.  Mixture was less runny than I thought it would be, more like a paste.

Day 2
Hmm the “starter” doesn’t seem to have started.  Still paste-like, no bubbles.  Turn to Joy of Cooking and decide to help starter along by stirring in 1 C unbleached flour, 1 C lukewarm water, and 2 tsp yeast.  No “sour” smell yet but rye gloop is quite lumpy.  Stir vigorously.

Day 3


Whee!  Bubbles and a sour smell!  Can’t decide whether to cover (Hensperger’s advice) or leave uncovered (Joy of Cooking) so opt for a tinfoil cover that I variously remove and replace throughout the day, depending on the whim that strikes me at the time.  A crust forms, which, following JOC advice, I stir down.

Also, I start Lahey’s bread.  It sits, soft and doughy, in the bottom of the bowl. Am sceptical that a good bread can be made from ¼ tsp of yeast and a whopping 1 ¼ tsp of salt, but I don’t modify the recipe.

Day 4
Add ½ C each unbleached and rye flour, plus 1 C tepid water to sourdough starter.  Notice the JOC recipe and that it says not to let the dough rise for too long, because it will be heavy because yeast eats rye very quickly.  Am now quite nervous.  Decide to plough on ahead.

Lahey’s dough has risen the entire 18 hours and has bubbled up beautifully!  Very sticky and therefore a bit difficult to get out of the bowl.

Lahey's bread, all bubbled up.

He says, “When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.”

When I poke my dough after 2 hours, it readily springs back.  2 ½ seems to be the trick. I turn it into my ceramic slow cooker insert (the only thing I own that’s both heavy enough and large enough) and bake for a total of 60 minutes.

It’s beautiful:

coming out of the oven

And it tastes divine!  A perfect crust, the kind I thought only bakeries in Europe could accomplish.  A nice, elastic snap to the interior.  The entire loaf is devoured in a matter of minutes by the men watching hockey in my living room.  Immediately start another batch.

Day 5
Feed the sourdough starter with 1 C unbleached flour and 1 C tepid water.  JOC says I should make bread between 4-8 hours after feeding the starter. Have not yet decided on the rye ratio.  Will keep you posted.

Janelle was going to try her own Lahey bread experiment (after much harassing from me).  I can’t wait to hear about it.  🙂

xx Eva