Carusel Tours
14 July 2020

Authentic Northern Rye Bread Recipe with Rye Flour, Salt and Water only

rye bread
With this recipe, you will make authentic rye bread that smells delicious with only three ingredients – rye flour, salt and water – and a bit of patience! If you master this recipe, your rye bread will be incredibly tasty and of beautiful dark colour that will not require any additional colorants, like honey, corn syrup, tea and so on, and so forth, from you.

The Internet is filled with recipes of Russian Rye Bread that consist of dozens of ingredients and include the yeast from a shop, that in the end will leave you with a bread that will neither smell of real rye bread nor taste like bread at all.

Here you will learn how authentic rye bread has been cooked for generations in the households of Finland, Estonia and the Northern Regions of Russia, where the common wheat would not ripen and so, wheat bread or mixed wheat-and-rye bread were not available.

On the other hand, mid-Russian rye breads that include wheat flour and even wheat breads can also be baked with the use of an authentic rye starter that you will make for this recipe. Rye starters do not only fill any bread with a delicious aroma and tasty sourness, they are easier to produce and maintain than starters made from wheat flour. So many benefits I described already, let us now try out the recipe!

Most photos in this post are from my iPhone and I did not plan to use them this way, so in reality your bread might look even better than in these pictures!
authentic rye bread
Step 1. Make a Starter

A starter is what all our ancestors made bread and other pastry from, at the times when no ready yeast was available in shops. It is a live culture that is produced from fermented flour. Despite what you may think, it is easy to make and maintain it. All breads prepared from a traditional starter are much more delicious and they have that incredible flavour that often makes you eat the whole loaf straight away.

Another good news is that a starter made of rye flower gets ready quicker than that of wheat flour and it is easier to keep it in the right condition.

Ingredients for a rye starter

Whole or coarse ground rye flour
Water
300-500 ml glass jar with a lid

Day 1. In a glass jar you mix 3 tablespoons of whole grinded rye flour with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water of around 20-35°C, close the lid and put in a warm place in your kitchen. Ideally the temperature there should be between 22-30°C. The mixture should resemble thick cream in texture, if it is too liquid, add more flour.
Do not use boiled water, as boiled water is dead and it will not make your bread tasty.
rye starter
Day 2. Add 3 tablespoons of whole grinded rye and 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water in the jar, mix the content well. Some bubbles will start to appear on the surface and it will not smell nice.

Days 3 and 4. Repeat the same steps every day (3 tablespoons of rye and 3 tablespoons of water). The smell will continue to be not very pleasant, which is great, because it indicates that the process goes in the right direction. However, no mould should appear on the surface of your mixture. Use only clean tablespoons to prevent that!

Day 5. Feed your starter with the same amount of water and rye flour (3 tablespoons of each). It should become bubbly and get a sour smell. It will grow in size too.

Day 6. You will see that it will double in size. The texture should be creamy and it will smell nice, the scent will be a bit similar to that of a yogurt or kefir, because now you will have a lot of lactic acid bacteria and the right type of ferments in it. It means that it is ready to use!

In the summertime, the starter will get ready quicker and you might use it in Day 5 already, whereas in the wintertime, particularly if it is cool inside your house, it might need more time. Do not forget to feed it with 3 tablespoons of rye flour and water every day! When you feed it, you mix it and thus ventilate the starter, saturating it with oxygen.

If you keep your starter in a jar under a lid for too long, it might get spoiled, therefore if you leave the house for a couple of days, better leave a lid a little bit open. If you are planning to be away from home longer, you can put the starter in the fridge, where it can survive for a couple of weeks. Once you come back, it will become very sour and you will need several days to return it to its normal condition, feeding it every day with the rye flour and lukewarm water. It will also get too liquid, so you will need to add more flour than water during the feeding process.
You will be able to use this starter instead of ready yeast to prepare any type of bread, including wheat bread, dough for pies and Russian kvass, a popular rye bread cold beverage. We like drinking kvass in summertime and it is also one of the ingredients of the okroshka soup.
rye sourdough
photo: sourdough when ready

Step 2. Make Rye Bread

Prepare Sourdough from your Starter

10-20 grams of ready starter
100 grams of rye flour (whole or coarse ground)
100 grams of lukewarm water (not hotter than 35°C)

Mix all the ingredients in a transparent bowl or a jar, cover them with a lid or with a film, leave it aside in a warm place in your kitchen. If a temperature inside the mixture is around 25 °C, it will be ready in 10-12 hours, you can leave it overnight. It will become bubbly when it is ready and it will almost double in size. It will smell sour.

Prepare Dough

All sourdough
400 grams of rye flour
270 ml of water
1 tablespoon of salt
optional – 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds

Put all the all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix them with your hand until the mixture gets homogeneous texture. I advise you to use one hand, because the rye dough is very sticky and it is more convenient to hold the bowl with another hand. It will not get less sticky, the more you work with it. You can add the caraway seeds at that point, as they go perfectly well with rye bread and they will allow your stomach to digest it easier.
rye dough
Prepare a transparent bowl in advance and grease it with vegetable oil (preferably the one that will not get burnt in the oven later). Gently form a ball from your dough and put it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a film. Leave it in a warm place for 2-5 hours. The ideal temperature will be around 30°C inside the bowl.

When it is ready, the dough will double in size and it will be covered with holes in the bottom. Therefore, it is convenient to use a transparent bowl, so that you can see the holes in the dough!
raised rye dough
Choose a baking form that will have enough space for the dough, put a lot of rye flour in its bottom, take out the film and gently turn around your bowl with the dough. Wait until it falls down into the form.
fermented rye dough
photo hlebomoly.ru

Once it is there, carefully take it from the sides to the middle with your hands covered in flour to seal the holes in the upper part of the dough, this way you will form the ball from the dough. Do not press it, it is important to keep its bubbly structure full of holes inside the dough.
cooking rye bread
photo hlebomoly.ru

Generously sprinkle it with rye flour on top. Cover the form with a wet towel or a film and let the dough to get ready for another 2 hours. If your dough increased in size significantly during the previous stage, you can reduce this time to 1 hour.
baking tray rye bread
Heat the oven to 230°C, take out the film or the towel and place the baking form with the dough into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210-220°C and leave it for another 35 minutes. Your kitchen and, probably, the entire neighbourhood will be filled with a wonderful flavour of rye.
authentic rye bread
The bread is ready, when its temperature inside reaches 98°C (in case you have kitchen thermometer) and it should set aside from the baking form easily when you touch it with a knife or a cooking spade. Inside it should not be too sticky. You can pierce it with a toothpick - if too much dough sticks into it and it is quite wet, leave the bread to cook for another 5-10 minutes. If the dough on the toothpick falls apart easily, the bread should be ready!
ready rye bread
If you still have the doubts, you can cut its heel and see the structure inside. It will not be absolutely dry, but is should not be too wet and sticky. Once the bread is ready, put it on a wooden board, cover it with a towel and leave it to cool down for around an hour. It should smell so divine that waiting for an hour might seem a torture, but at least give it half an hour, so that it will dry inside and you will not damage its crusty structure when cutting it.
rye bread with salted salmon, butter and dill
Eat your crusty rye bread with the butter, cream cheese, goat cheese, salted salmon, fish eggs or by itself! I hope that you will master the recipe and enjoy your home-made rye bread, and share it with your friends and the family! If you have any questions about the recipe, ask me, I will be happy to help.

It may seem time consuming to bake your own bread in the beginning, but, in fact, it is not, it only requires your patience, as natural fermenting is quite a lengthy process. No fast-baked bread could rival this one though and I am sure that you will appreciate that!

If you are interested in visiting Russia and discovering its culinary and cultural heritage, take a look at our tours, maybe there will be something for you!

Text Alexandra Lyukina
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