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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

60% Rye with Soaked Kernels

60% Rye with Soaked Kernels

This is a 60% Rye Bread (40% Whole Wheat), using a whole wheat wild yeast starter at 100% hydration. 

I made a mistake and added 400g of starter instead of the Tartine Bread usual amount of 200g, so I expected this bread to ferment quicker and be more sour.  I didn't expect how much it would change the hydration of my dough.

Grains in a Thermos

After adding the salt, the dough sat for about an hour, and then I added some rye kernels that had been soaked in boiling water overnight.  Recently in my internet browsing or reading about bread, I encountered someone who used a thermos to keep boiling water that is poured onto grains hot overnight.  The grains get substantially softer (I was told).

I've tried that here, and I think it is a pretty good idea.  These rye kernels were still too hot to touch when I checked on them this morning.  They needed about an hour of cooling, out of the thermos, before they could be safely added to the dough.


  • 600g rye flour
  • 400g whole wheat flour
  • 720g water
  • 400g whole wheat starter @100% hydration
  • 20g salt
  • 50g water (when adding salt)
  • 573g boiled, soaked rye kernels
The dough was sloppy.  I figure it to be hydrated at around 77%, and with poor gluten formation, as is usual in rye breads that have a lower wheat content.  I didn't expect this bread to really hold up to baking in a dutch oven, but I went for it anyway.

On Gooey Hands
My mother reports that when I was an infant, I hated to get my hands gooey.  Of course, back then, one has little dexterity with which to feed oneself with a spoon, or indeed, to do much of anything.  Goo makes that even more difficult.

Hands are more than mere appendages, they are our first contact with the world-as-it-is.  They are confirmation that things that we see and hear inside of us, are actual things with physical properties outside of ourselves, things not directly attached to us.  Touch, through the hands, brings the universe into focus.  The 'Thou' of the 'I-Thou' relationship: the object in your hand, which also brings the subject, your consciousness, into focus.  We grasp and we let go, and so we learn about boundaries of skin and self and other.

Things get blurred therefore, when stuff gets stuck to your hand.  Imagine your rage if you are an infant with a newly emerging identity of self and body consciousness, and stewed prunes, or pureed carrots, gets stuck to your hand.  What is this stuff?  Get it off!  Get it off!

As a young child, however, I learned to revel in dirt, and water, and how you could mould these elements to make things.  I loved making sandcastles at the beach.  I would even dig vast holes and mounds in the dirt at home using the hose.  This was a way to manipulate the objects in the universe, to express the self.

There is something of that to be found still in high hydration doughs, especially rye dough, which doesn't build its gluten as a wheaten dough does.  You have to get your hands dirty.  You have to learn how to relax when it sticks to everything.  Moist hands are helpful.  An attitude of playfulness is best.  An appreciation that the division of subject and object, so useful for the child's engagement with the world, and the adult's sanity, are not particularly the predominate consciousness of the baker, who loses himself in his work.

Folding rye dough, I am at one with the Universe.


Big disaster, getting this dough from the basket into the hot dutch ovens.  The first one I did Lahey-style, picking the dough up by the cloth,  The dough was very wet and sticky and stuck to the cloth, and when I pulled the cloth free, at least half of the dough was still on it.  I cursed, as the smoke alarm started going off, and I began tearing off handfuls of dough and tossing it into the pot with a sense of urgency.  The knife I had sitting close at hand to score the loaf still sat there, laughing at me: ha!  You really thought you'd use me today?

The second loaf I was going to do much the same way, but because of this disaster, I elected to upend the basket over the skillet side of the combo cooker in Robertson's Tartine style.  Again, some dough stuck to the cloth, and flopped over the edge, missing the skillet entirely.  The dough that did make it flattened right out like a sourdough pancake. 

So much for being one with the universe.  Realizing how quickly my zen had become spoiled, I became humbled.  I grew quiet and philosophical amidst the noise of the smoke alarm.  Mindfulness.  Be here now.  Breathe deeply.  Awaken the Kundalini.

The dog looked at me as if I had lost my marbles.

I will eat these loaves.  Perhaps I'll consider it my penance, or Karmic retribution.  I'll report back here whenever.

You can see the whole wheat flour that should have been on the outside of the loaf, mixed with the inside crumb: what a disaster

Look closer, you can see the rye kernels in the crumb too: quite plump and moist

These rye kernels do add a lot of moisture to the bread so the knife comes out sticky.
This sort of bread needs baking a lot longer, in which case it would probably resemble a pumpernickel.

Notes to Myself
  • Cut the water back to 65%: 630g (+ 20g when adding salt)
  • Cut the ratio of rye to whole wheat flour to 40:60
  • Use a ton more whole wheat on your basket liners.
  • Get some real bread baskets that won't require lots and lots of flour on them (you never put enough flour on the basket anyway).
  • Grains overnight in boiling water is a great idea, if you use a Thermos, youcan keep the grain hot for a long time, and the grain softens substantially.  It will have water content that will go into the dough, too, so really be careful about the hydration of this loaf.  You should not add too much water.  Keep it about 65% if you can.


  1. Wow, I never thought I would find myself even reading, let alone deciding to follow, a blog dedicated to just bread baking - especially since I am not a bread baker myself. I am so glad I saw a link to your blog on another blog and followed.

    Your list of all the reasons why grains may not be the best diet for us is amazing. A lot of things on there I did not know. And I very much like your approach to life - smoke alarm goes off, time for mindfulness practice (while noticing the dog's reaction to what is going on).