100% Fresh-Ground Rye and Spelt Loaves


This is one of my all-time personal favorite breads. Vollkorn is German and simply means Whole (voll) and Grain (korn), so probably this isn’t a correct title, but that’s what I call it to myself. At the market, since I try to avoid foreign names like focaccio and vollkorn, I call it ” 100% fresh-ground rye” which is simply what it is.

Yes, folks, this is a bona fide 100% rye loaf. It is easy to make. It is delicious and nutritious. All you need is a rye starter and a grain mill. If you don’t have a grain mill, then use organic rye flour and it will still work fine, albeit probably you’ll have to change the hydration level somewhat.

Overview:  the only grain is organic rye, fresh-ground on a medium setting. But also there are sunflower seeds and ground flax, 116g of each. (This recipe is for my standard 8 loaves.) Spices are: coriander, fennel seeds, anise seeds and caraway seeds. These are ground together with the rye grains during the mix.

Process:  To make these 8 loaves, you will need to have already prepared 190g whole rye starter at 100% hydration as described earlier on this blog (50% fresh-ground rye, 50% water). For me usually this means that on the morning of Mix Day I begin to build up the starter from my mother in the fridge, and it is ready by 5-7pm when I mix it in with the dough which has been soaking all day. So here goes:

In the morning grind the rye with the spices and then add in the water and salt and seeds and leave to soak all day. Purists might first soak the flour for 20 minutes or so before adding salt. (I don’t because I have such a long soaking time that I don’t think it matters.) Recently I have added 2 tsp 100% chocolate powder per 8 loaf batch to add an exotic element, but also chocolate dries things out and counteracts the highly moist quality of this loaf.

In the evening mix in the starter.

On the morning of Bake Day, spoon/pour the dough into well-oiled metal loaf pans. In this recipe the amount to use is 778 g, which will result in 685 baked weight which is 1.5 pounds. After 6 hours or so it will have risen considerably and then you bake in a low temp oven which for me is 400-450F, or around 200C. You want a slow bake which penetrates into the dense, moist dough which does not have heat-transmitting large bubble pockets like a wheat loaf, otherwise the crust will become far too hard before the interior is ready. In a convection oven I suspect 350F would be better for the same reason, but since radiant heat penetrates the centre of whatever is being cooked, I can do everything hotter (such as my delicious rosemary garlic sisters – focaccia – at 750F, 400C.)

The loaves in this picture are twice the size – using larger loaf pans – in order to get slices with more height that fit better in modern toasters. But it’s the same stuff and, as usual, not very good photographs. I used to be a very good photographer but have been unable to use digital stuff and am too lazy/busy to figure it all out.This picture shows a 100% fresh ground spelt on the left, and a 100% fresh-ground rye on the white. Come to think of it, I’ll put in the spelt recipe too since they are almost identical.

Crumb Shot:

Again, apologies for the poor photo quality – you can’t really see the crumb.

Spelt Menu Panel:

This is the same basic recipe except two small changes:

1. I up the amount of sunflower and ground flax. The rye was having problems of late so I pared them back.

2. Addition of chia seeds with 4 times their weight in water (which is taken away from the water amount in the main recipe, now showing as 1616g). Chia absorb moisture, and since spelt has a tendency to dry out much faster than wheat or rye, I use the chia as a moisture retainer to help the loaf age more slowly. (Smart, eh?!) Apart from that it’s the same. (Oh – I don’t put caraway in this spelt loaf because some of my customers don’t like caraway so this loaf is an option. Personally I think it is better with.)

3. I use a 100% spelt starter which I maintain just for this loaf, mainly for purists who want a spelt-only loaf. But it works well – spelt makes a great starter – so why not?

General Remarks: the key to this loaf, frankly, is using a loaf pan. Without a loaf pan they would resemble un-lift-offable flying saucers. That way I can have a well hydrated dough meaning that the fermentation process is deep and thorough, which you want with whole grains. Now 100% rye is hard to handle since it doesn’t have the gluten of wheat, but in a pan, a well hydrated dough like this will basically be more like a steamed pudding than what we usually think of as ‘bread’, and bubbles will form in it and rye starch gelatinized when it gets to around 90C just like wheat starch. What you will have is a delicious, easy to digest, 100% whole grain bread. And you might find, just like me, that it quickly becomes by far your favorite bread to eat.

That said, the spelt is also excellent, with a sweeter but also cheesier flavor. I once made a similar 100% Red Fife and it was superlative, truly outstanding. I just don’t have a lot of those kernels yet, also am limited in how much can offer at my very small Farmer’s Market in Sydney. Frankly, I suspect that a Spelt-Rye-Red Fife 100% fresh-ground would hit the spot. Next week I’ll make it, take pictures and add to this post!

Background History: The reason I developed this loaf was because I couldn’t get good results with fresh-ground whole grains. The loaves were just too dense and granular. Perhaps they were healthy, but texture-wise they were too crude as hearth loaves. But when I upped the hydration and put them in pan loaves, a whole new level of flavour emerged, and that was that. Since then I haven’t tried at all to make a 100% rye hearth loaf. I gather some bakers do, and do it well, but it is quite a tricky enterprise and I am so satisfied with the current offering that probably I shall never bother trying to master it.

This history relates to how I am trying to share my recipes which is not so much giving away the flour quantities etc. Lord knows there are zillions of fantastic recipes around. Rather I am trying to show how various recipes are designed for various reasons, some of them organoleptic (!), some technical, being due to the exigencies of a small bakery, or having to fit into the cyclical heat of a brick oven. There are reasons which hopefully I am explaining and in so doing the reader gets a better understanding of the baking process and then has an easier time troubleshooting their own recipes, or developing new ones, but now understanding better what’s involved.



One thought on “100% Fresh-Ground Rye and Spelt Loaves

  1. I have since changed this formula slightly by adding in the starter in the evening around 6 pm (about 1/3rd of 1 percent), wait until 9.30 pm and then place into large loaf pans to ferment overnight at around 16-19C. They start to rise around noon the next day, which is Bake Day, and go into the oven around 6 pm-ish. So this is a method which starts with far less starter and has the dough ferment mainly in its own loaf pan. I find the texture of the crumb is a little more airy, no doubt because manhandling the sticky dough into the pans of the morning of Bake Day gives the crumb that much less time to develop the reduced air pocket profile which a fresh-ground 100% rye like this engenders.

    I do the same with the Spelt, from which have long since dropped the Chia and to which now include 10% fresh-ground rye which adds a layer of flavour (and no doubt micro-cultural inputs) and enhances moisture retention after the bake and therefore also keeping quality.

    I have found with both these dense, fresh-ground whole grain loaves, that they keep very well in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or otherwise contained to retain moisture (wax paper, glass containers etc.). They harden, of course, but on being warmed up in the toaster are soft and aromatic and good tasting even three weeks after the bake. This would be a very good bread for sailors to keep well wrapped in cool bilge areas. Frozen, of course, it lasts a very long time, but not all sailors have the on-board power systems to run such machines.

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