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What Is Sourdough Rye Bread?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sourdough rye bread is commonly used for sandwiches. It is a dense, slightly spicy bread that uses sourdough starter, as opposed to yeast, for leavening. Using sourdough in combination with rye makes a particularly tasty bread, because the acidity of the sourdough breaks down the rye, creating a chewy texture. Rye is a grain, and is ground into light, medium, or dark rye flour. The darker the flour, the stronger the flavor.

Sandwiches are the most common use for sourdough rye bread, especially those containing pastrami, corned beef, and other flavorful meats. It also makes a good accompaniment for meals, sliced thick and served warm. Sourdough rye bread and rolls have a unique taste and texture that enhances many hearty dishes. Sourdough rye is light gray in color, and is also known as bohemian rye and deli rye.

Sometimes called natural leavening, Sourdough is a mixture of lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeast. Sourdough starter can be started from scratch or purchased. After the starter matures for at least two weeks, it is ready for use in a recipe. The baker simply measures out the amount of starter called for in the recipe, and adds it to the other bread ingredients, typically a combination of rye and bread flour, salt, and caraway seeds. Unlike traditional yeast bread, which can be mixed up and baked in a few hours, sourdough rye bread needs to sit for up to 24 hours after the ingredients are combined.

Aside from the longer preparation time, sourdough rye bread is not more difficult than traditional bread recipes. For someone who has not worked with sourdough starters in the past, the process of making sourdough rye can seem overwhelming, but as long as the starter is healthy, there should not be any problems with the bread. One way to gauge how healthy sourdough rye bread is, is to watch how it multiplies. A healthy starter will roughly double in size each day. If it does not do this, it may not have enough strength to raise the bread.

The sourdough starter needs special care as well. The starter contains living organisms that must be fed. To feed the sourdough starter, add a combination of flour and water to the mix two times a day. This keeps the starter healthy and ready for use. Sourdough starter that is not maintained properly can develop mold, go rancid, or not be strong enough to raise bread dough.

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Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On Jul 25, 2012

@anamur-- I agree with you. I love sourdough rye bread sandwiches. They're the best! I usually have it with corned beef, veggies and mayonnaise. Sometimes I keep it simple and make it with fresh cheese and tomatoes. It really is very filling.

The other great part about sourdough rye bread is that it's so easy to slice.There is a bakery near my home that makes excellent sourdough rye bread. I buy the bread whole from there and do the slicing myself at home. I guess that's why I've noticed it. This bread is really rich and dense but you don't get pieces of bread falling out while slicing sourdough rye as you do while slicing other breads.

By serenesurface — On Jul 25, 2012

@MikeMason-- I've made sourdough rye bread a couple of times and it is harder mainly because there is no yeast involved. The fermentation is really the hardest part. You have to make sure that you feed the starter as needed and allow it to ferment for exactly the right amount of time. Otherwise, it might go rancid like the article said.

If you can get the starter to grow as it should and if you get the fermentation right, you will have a great result. Sourdough rye bread is not just healthy because of the rye, but it's also a very moist, heavy and filling bread. That's why it's perfect for sandwiches because it will fill you up and makes a great meal by itself.

I know you said you don't have much experience with baking bread, but I still think you should give sourdough rye bread a try. Even if the bread doesn't rise as much as it should, I'm sure the result will still be worth your time and effort.

By stoneMason — On Jul 24, 2012

I've never had sourdough rye bread before. I bet it's really good though. I usually eat regular sourdough and I have had rye bread a couple of times. I like both of them, so I think I would like sourdough rye bread too.

I've also tried baking my own bread a couple of times but I'm far from being an expert. I'm not very experienced with starters and I've never baked with rye flour or rye meal either. I know the article said that it's not very hard, but I bet it is.

It's a challenge to get a good sourdough starter. And I've heard that rye is very different than wheat and has to be handled more carefully. If I tried to make my own sourdough rye bread, I don't think it would come out right.

Has anyone made their own sourdough rye bread with success?

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