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My Standard: Ten-Percent Rye Sourdough Boules


When this sourdough adventure of mine began, at the beginning of the coronoavirus pandemic, I was determined to master a sourdough recipe and, then, begin to experiment with variations. As the weeks turned into months, I have settled on a standard. I usually make and shape four at a time, then bake them at various stages of ferment throughout the next several days.


So, even though these are all different boules - the batches are clearly different in the photos - they are all the same recipe. Some bear the floured stripes of my banneton, others are simply placed in a bowl with a floured tea towel.

Ten-Percent Rye Sourdough Boules

For years - I mean years! - I have avoided making sourdough bread. Something about the whole harvesting native bacteria from the air to create the starter just made me start twitching with anxiety. Then a friend gifted me some starter. So, if this shelter-in-place has taught me anything, it's that I can bake sourdough bread. Don't get me wrong: the first six loaves were bricks. Like doorstop kinda bricks. You can read more about this sourdough journey: my so-called Adventures of Dough-Ba Fett.

Now, I have achieved delicious and beautiful consistency. Once I felt confident with my initial recipe, I started to play. I've substituted rye flour for the whole wheat, reduced my hydration even more, started preheating the oven for longer. This certainly isn't a wholly rye bread, but I think that there are some rye characteristics that come through.

You can view the video on this process that I posted to our #CulinaryCam YouTube channel: here.

Ingredients makes 2 loaves
I know there are 4 loaves in the photo. I always make four at a time these days.

  • 200 grams sourdough starter (recently fed)
  • 600 grams warm water + 50 grams warm water
  • 900 grams all-purpose flour + more as needed
  • 100 g rye flour
  • 20 g salt
  • rice flour for sprinkling in Dutch oven
  • Also needed: banneton proofing baskets or bowls lined with floured tea towels, Dutch ovens

Procedure

Place 200 grams starter in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Pour in 600 grams warm water. Add in the flours. Use your hands to blend everything together so that all of the flour is moistened. Let stand for 40 minutes.

At the end of 40 minutes, pour in another 50 grams of warm water. Add in the 20 grams of salt and gently knead the dough until the water is completely absorbed.

Now I start the folds: rotating 90 degrees four times every thirty minutes for 4 hours.

I run my hand under warm water, grab one side of the dough and pull from underneath, folding it over the top of the ball. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Rotate. Repeat. And a fourth time so that the bowl has completed a full circle.

By the end of the 4 hours, the dough should be billowy and increased in volume.

Lightly flour a workspace and use a dough scraper to divide the dough ball in half. Transfer the dough balls to the work surface. Lightly flour the banneton or towel-lined bowl. I used a combination of all-purpose and rye for this loaf.


Now I repeat the folds, but with dry hands to shape the boules while creating tension in the top. Or, my lovely kitchen assistant does it so I can take photos of the process.


Keep the floured side of the ball down and fold from top to bottom four times while rotating the dough. This keeps the sticky side inside. 


Flip the ball over and work the dough into a tight round. Let stand for 15 minutes. Repeat three times.


After the third shaping, place the dough ball, rounded side down, in the floured banneton.


Now you proof. I typically put the dough in the fridge and leave it there till I'm ready to bake. For these boules, I left them in the fridge for 24 to 72 hours, depending on how quickly they are eating the bread.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the empty Dutch ovens (bottoms only) into the oven. When the oven reaches temperature - an in-oven thermometer is very, very helpful - let the oven stay at 500 degrees for 30  to 40 minutes.

After the preheating, remove the Dutch ovens and reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Lightly flour the inside of the ovens with a sprinkling of rice flour. Gently pull the dough away from the sides of the banneton and invert into the Dutch oven.

Score the top with a knife or razor blades. I have even just snipped a few vents into the top with my kitchen shears. 

Place the lid on the Dutch oven and return the pots carefully to the hot oven. Bake for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, carefully remove the lid and return the pots to the oven again. Bake for an additional 35 minutes.


The loaves should be firm and crunchy on the top, golden brown, and feel hollow when the bottom is tapped.  Move the loaves to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before slicing! Enjoy.

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