Navigating a Rye Bread

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By: Henry Hunter

From Cold Starter to Creative Twists

Today, I’m jotting down some notes on a recent rye bread experiment that took an interesting turn. Let’s look at how I managed to make a sourdough rye bread despite having a cold-as-ice starter in my fridge.

The Setup

I was all geared up to make a sourdough rye bread. You know the feeling when you get your mouth fixed for something, right? But there was a small hiccup—my sourdough starter (Vitale) was pretty much hibernating in the fridge. No worries though. I had a plan but I needed to think and work through it.

The Ingenious Shortcut

Cue my “Eureka” moment. I thought, why not warm up my starter a bit? And so, I devised a speedy strategy to bring my starter back to life. I took a portion of the chilled starter and combined it with warm water and flour. A little trick that worked wonders. In about half an hour, it was raring to go.

The Power of Patience

But before I plunged headfirst into the dough-making experiment, I took a moment to consider a few pointers:

  1. Hydration Balance: Since my starter had been through a quick revival, I was mindful of how much water to add to the dough. Keeping things balanced was key.
  2. Time for Starter Activation: I ensured my starter was lively and kicking before I mixed it into the dough. Patience here paid off, and I got that reassuring rise.
  3. Pickling Brilliance: While I lacked pickle juice, a lightbulb went off—I had some pickle relish brine. Voila!An alternative that might work perfectly.
  4. Seed Selection: I decided to go all in with sesame, poppy, and flaxseeds. These little flavor powerhouses were my secret weapons.
  5. Wet Hands Rule: With my dough in the fold stage, I remembered that wet hands were the way to go. It’s all about that right technique after all.

Stretching and Folding

Now, about those three sets of stretch-and-fold sessions. I swapped stretch-an-folds for coil folds because my dough felt a tad too tight. Wet hands were my allies here. I held the dough up, let it slip through my fingers, and gently extended it. A touch that made all the difference.

The Finale

After all the stretches, folds, and a patient rest, my dough was ready for the grand finale. I fired up the oven and preheated my Dutch oven.

The Unveiling

As the warm, nutty aroma filled the air, I knew I was in for a treat. The final result was a masterpiece for me—a golden crust, seeds beautifully adorning the surface, and a crumb that was nothing short of divine.

Lessons Learned

This rye bread journey taught me to think on my feet, adapt, and embrace creativity. Even when a cold starter throws a curveball, there’s always a way to turn it into a victory. The secret? A dash of innovation, a sprinkle of patience, and a whole lot of passion. So there you have it. An adventure that turned into a triumph. And as I savor each slice of my freshly baked rye bread, I’m reminded once again that in the realm of baking, there’s always room for experimentation and endless discoveries.

Emergency Rye Bread Recipe

If the recipe calls for 100g of starter, and you’re using 150g of boosted starter (a mixture of warm water, active starter, and flour), then you’re adding 50g more than what the original recipe specifies. This increase in the starter amount will likely result in a faster and more active fermentation, which can contribute to a more pronounced sourdough flavor and quicker rise. Just be mindful of the dough’s fermentation progress and adjust your timing accordingly to achieve the desired outcome. 🍞👨‍🍳


  • 150g active sourdough starter (revived using the emergency trick)
  • 300g dark rye flour
  • 200g bread flour
  • 300g warm water
  • 10g salt


  1. Start by mixing your revived starter with the dark rye and bread flours. Add warm water and salt. Combine until you have a shaggy dough.
  2. Give your dough a good mix. No kneading required, just make sure everything is well incorporated. Your dough might be a bit sticky due to the revived starter, but that’s totally okay.
  3. Cover your dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes. This will give the flour a chance to absorb the moisture and start its magic.
  4. Now, it’s time for a series of stretch and folds. Every 30 minutes, give your dough a gentle fold. Remember, your dough might be a bit slack, but you’re building strength and structure.
  5. After a few rounds of stretch and folds, cover your dough and let it bulk ferment until it’s visibly expanded. This might take a bit longer than usual due to the starter revival process. Be patient!
  6. Shape your dough into a loaf and place it into a well-floured banneton or bowl for its final rise.
  7. Preheat your oven and baking vessel (Dutch oven, baking stone, or whatever you prefer) to 450°F (232°C).
  8. Carefully transfer your risen dough into the hot vessel. Score your dough if you’d like, and then cover it with a lid or foil.
  9. Bake your bread covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the cover and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes until you achieve that beautiful dark crust.
  10. Once baked, let your rye bread cool on a wire rack before slicing. Trust me, the aroma will be irresistible!

And there you have it, my friends. An emergency rye bread that turned out to be a success! Sometimes our baking journey takes us through unexpected twists, but with a little creativity and determination, we can still enjoy the most delicious rewards.

Happy baking! 🍞🥖

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