Cari has always wanted me to write on her beloved Talkinggrid. She wanted me to talk about my recipes, my holograms and adventures in building computers.

Hartmuth’s recipes and adventures in building computers and making holograms

Today, I will begin this adventure by sharing with you a recipe for German sourdough wheat rye bread that I have perfected over the past year. I make this bread every single weekend, because I have hungry customers (my kids) at home. Many people think of German bread as being very dense and heavy on rye. This is not the kind of bread that I am talking about. The recipe below will give you an “artisan bread” that is quite soft and flavorful. When you read the description, you may think that this is quite a lot of work. Once you get into the routine, however, it isn’t bad and the reward is a nice loaf of freshly baked bread.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.

Best wishes,

Hartmuth Kolb

Tasty crust, soft interior

First, the sourdough starter…:

This is sourdough bread, so you will need to have a starter. Some people create this from scratch using “wild” yeast from the air. Being a chemist, I like to have a little more control of that process. I tried several commercially available starters and the Breadtopia sourdough starter gave me just wonderful results. You can buy it on Amazon.

It comes as a patch of living sourdough that you will need to dilute and restore to full potency. This process is quite simple and consists basically of adding water/flour (40:60) every 12 hours. By doing so, you will eventually end up with 2 cups of fully functional sourdough sponge, which you will use as your stock for the recipe below. The sourdough can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 week without feeding, so don’t worry, you don’t have to feed it every single day, like you would have to do, if you kept it at room temperature.

Next, you will “expand” your sourdough stock to make fresh sourdough sponge for your bread:

Take the sourdough stock out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature (1-2 hours). Stir it carefully to turn it into a homogeneous mixture.

Take 1 cup of the well-stirred sourdough culture and pour it into a separate container.  You now have 1 cup remaining stock and 1 cup in the new container, which will be used for your bread. In a separate measuring cup, make 2 cups of a homogenous, i.e. well stirred, mixture of water and flour (40 : 60). Add 1 cup of this mixture to the remaining sourdough stock to bring it back up to 2 cups, and the other cup to the second container. So, now you have 2 cups of sourdough sponge each in the original container (to keep for future use) and in the new container (for your bread).

Cover both containers to avoid contamination and evaporation and leave them at room temperature over night.

Next morning, stir both mixtures. You will need to feed your stock (but not the sponge that you will be using for your bread) before returning it back to the refrigerator for the week. To do this, you take out 1 cup, which you discard. Then you add 1 cup of water / flour (40:60) mixture to the remaining 1 cup and stir carefully (now you have 2 cups again). Put on the lid and put the container into the refrigerator for the week.

The 2 cups of well stirred sourdough sponge that’s left will be used for bread making “as is”, see next paragraph.

Now we will make the dough:

In a mixing bowl add the following ingredients:

Salt: 2 flat teaspoons (Don’t add more than that, because it retards the yeast)
Ginger: 1 pinch
Citric acid: 1 pinch (both ginger and citric acid activate the yeast)
Sugar: 2 flat tablespoons
Dry yeast: 3/4th flat teaspoon (this is optional, but it makes the bread a bit more fluffy)
Lecithin powder: 1 flat teaspoon
Water: 1 cup (~80F warm)

Stir this until the mixture is homogenous, cover the bowl with a towel and let it stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.

Then add the following ingredients:

Oil: 2 tablespoons (I usually use sunflower, grape seed or walnut oil).
Bread flour: 3 cups (I usually use King Arthur’s organic bread flour)
Rye flour: 1 cup
Wheat germ: 2 tablespoons (this is optional, but adds to the taste)
Flax seed flour: 2 tablespoons (again optional, but this definitely adds to the taste).
Sourdough sponge: The entire 2 cups.

Stir everything in a dough mixer for 15 minutes. You will notice that the dough is still quite liquid. While mixing, add 1 more cup of bread flour spoon by spoon until you get a nice dough that doesn’t stick too much.

Mixing the dough

Folding the dough and rising:

The dough does tend to stick a bit, so I recommend that you spray a little bit of oil on the surface that you will be using for the dough folding. You will also want to spray your hands with oil. Then, put the dough on the oily surface, pull out one corner and fold it back to the center. Do this in clockwise fashion, i.e. next pull out another corner at the “1 o’clock position” and fold it back to the center, then at the “2 o’clock position” and so forth.

Folding the dough

Once this is done, turn it over and place it in a thinly oiled container for rising. This container should be able to accommodate more than 2x the volume of the dough. You will notice that this folding technique creates a dough bun that has a very smooth surface. Spray a thin layer of oil on the dough surface and loosely cover the container with cling wrap to prevent it from drying. Then let it rise for about 3-4 hours in a warm place until the dough has doubled its volume. The exact rising time depends on the activity of your yeast/sourdough. Be careful that the dough doesn’t “jump” out of the container. This has happened to me on several occasions…

Toward the end of the rise, prepare your 10 inch round Banneton Proofing Basket. Cover it with cheese cloth (or the provided liner), and add a good layer of bread flour. Here is a link for the proofing basket that I use.

Banneton proofing basket

Fold the dough again in clockwise fashion, as described above, and added it to the floured proofing basket. Spray a thin layer of oil on the dough surface and cover the basket loosely with the cling wrap and put the whole basket into a clean plastic bag to prevent it from drying.

Bread proofing

Let the dough rise a bit more at room temperature (~1 hour) and then put it into the refrigerator over night. This dough can be kept in the fridge for at least 2 days, so if you want to have fresh bread in the middle of the week, just keep it in the fridge until you are ready for baking.

Proofing and storing of the dough

Finally, we will bake the bread:

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove it from the plastic bag. Let it warm up for about 1 hour.

While waiting for the dough to warm up, preheat the oven to 330F. I have a pizza stone in the oven, which makes for a nice crust on the bottom. In addition, add a pan with water in the oven in order to generate steam.

When you are ready to bake (the oven is hot, the dough is no longer cold, the water in the oven is generating steam), remove the cling wrap from the dough and quickly turn over the proofing basket onto a baking paper sheet or, better, a Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat. Remove the proofing basket and the cheese cloth gently, so as not to break the dough’s skin. Here is a link to the silicone mat that I use:

Use a sharp knife to carve a cross into the surface and immediately place the dough into the pre-heated oven. Close the oven door and immediately set the heat to 390F. Bake for 20 minutes, which causes the dough to rise and form the beginnings of a nice crust. After 20 minutes, open the oven door, cover the loaf with aluminum foil (to prevent the crust from getting too dark), close the oven door and set the heat to 340F. Bake for another 32 minutes.

Voila, you are done. You now have a beautiful German sourdough rye bread. Enjoy!

Delicious German Sourdough Rye Bread

In my next installments, I will describe recipes for pizza, pretzels, and sourdough French bread. Stay tuned!