Russian Rye Bread Using Excess Sourdough Starter

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Photo by Nassima Rothacker
This dark, moist bread is filled with distinctive flavors that really start to develop after a few days.


  • 750g leaven or leftover discard from your starter
  • 750g water for the dough at 170 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 1kg whole-wheat rye
  • 24g fine sea salt


  • 10g charcoal powder, optional
  • 3 tablespoons lightly toasted coriander OR caraway seeds
  • 50g molasses


  • The method used to make it differs from the classic method of sourdough in several ways and is actually much simpler:
    • The leaven is made up of leftover sourdough starter, so there is no need to make leaven.
    • There is no need to stretch and fold the dough, because rye flour lacks gluten to develop, and the technique relies on gelatinization.
    • The shaping involves literally just squashing the dough together, and putting it in a well-floured banneton. You just need to use a generous dusting of flour to stop your hands from sticking to the dough.
    • The flour is scalded using hot water.

    Why scald the flour?

    Amylase enzymes naturally present in the dough peak at 170 degrees Fahrenheit, so scalding milled whole-wheat rye, which is rich in natural amylase, kills off any naturally present yeast and bacteria. This creates a sweeter bread, because the amylases are not killed, so as the dough cools, they are free to convert the starches to simple sugars. When 3-5 hours later, the leaven is added, there is more sugar available. This increases the contrast of sweet and sour flavor, and is very typical of Russian-style rye breads.


    • Instead of making a leaven, use 700g of starter that is between 1 day and 1 week old, made up of accumulated starter discard. If older than this, it can become too sour to use. We keep the leftover starter in a separate pot in the fridge ready to make this bread.
    • Occasionally, depending on the flour you use, the dough may need a little more water. If this is the case, first mix what you have, and then add just 10g more at a time, giving the dough time to absorb it. I have used some rye flours that can take up to another 200–250g.
    • This is a very thick, sticky dough. I advise using a dough hook on a sturdy stand mixer to mix.
    • There are two significant adjustments to the timings and schedule: Firstly, the initial autolyze is WITHOUT leaven for 4 hours. Maintain the dough temperature at 82 degrees. Another tip is to remove the leaven from the fridge when you scald the flour to allow it to come up to room temperature.
    • Add the salt and any inclusions at the same time as the leaven.
    • Once the leaven is added, the bulk ferment temperature should be allowed to drop to 72-75 degrees — this is just a matter of leaving the dough aside at room temperature.
    • To further intensify the flavors, you can smoke this bread by using a tablespoon or two of coriander seeds.

    More from The Sourdough School:

    Excerpted from The Sourdough School, by Vanessa Kimble © 2018. Published by Kyle Books, and photographs © Nassima Rothacker. No images may be used, in print or electronically, without permission from the publisher.

    In The Sourdough School: The Ground-Breaking Guide to Making Gut-Friendly Bread by Vanessa Kimble, readers will learn to master the art of sourdough from the expert herself. Kimble uses the teachings from her renowned Sourdough School in a brilliant compilation of easy-to-follow instructions and stunning photography. Readers of all experience levels can try their hand at the timeless craft of artisan baking with this indispensable guide. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8, “Formulas.”

    This dark, moist, treacly bread has a distinctively Russian character, and is best left for two days before eating to really develop the flavors. We serve it toasted, topped with thick slices of beet-cured salmon and sour cream, sprinkled with dill.