Heidelberg Rye bread–my idea of a real rye

 I know my biga is a wodge of fungus, but look what pretty bread it makes!
Breads from starter are fascinating, and I missed them after 10 years away.
Last time I used some “Herman” from a friend. Herman made good bread with a fermented flavor and an open, spongy texture.

The idea of wild yeast was so intriguing, and I got really wrapped up in cultivating wild yeast starters, to the point that I bored people with it.

Friend: I haven’t seen you in ages! What have you been doing?

Me: Today I have to transfer an Italian sourdough culture that’s not doing well in the fridge. It’s kind of languishing I think because it doesn’t like the plastic container it’s in.

Friend (edging away): Oh. That sounds…interesting.

The bread above is based on a yogurt-rye culture that’s slightly sour. I adapted the Heidelberg Rye recipe Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Whole Grain Breads, a masterpiece of baking wonders. It’s been in and out of print three times since 1984–it keeps being revived. Buy it if you can find it.

Heidelberg Rye
Yields 2
A lush-textured rye bread with lots of caraway flavor.
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Prep Time
10 hr 40 min
Prep Time
10 hr 40 min
  1. 1 cup sourdough or other starter
  2. 3 cups bread flour
  3. 1 3/4 cups water
  4. 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or unsweetened cocoa
  5. 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  6. 1/3 cup molasses
  7. 2 tablespoons butter
  8. 1 teaspoon sugar
  9. 2 teaspoons salt
  10. 3 cups rye flour (more as needed)
  1. Put the starter and bread flour into a large bowl. Heat the water, coffee, caraway seeds, molasses, butter, sugar and salt to warm, about 90 to 100 degrees. Add to the flour. Beat for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl.
  2. Add enough rye flour to make a stiff dough. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Transfer the bread to a greased bowl and turn the bread to coat it with oil. (This bread takes a long time to rise, and if the skin isn't oiled, it becomes tough.)
  3. Go shopping or take a nap or both for 5 hours while the rises until it looks puffy (this dough doesn't double in volume, unlike dough made with commercial yeast).
  4. Form into round loaves on baking sheets, or use greased loaf pans. Brush the loaves with water. Cut a lengthwise slash in the bread. Go to bed, or take a walk, or both for 5 to 8 hours until the bread is puffy. Bake for about 35 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  1. This bread keeps well for several days.
Adapted from Great Whole Grain Breads
Adapted from Great Whole Grain Breads
The Project Kitchen