Rye Sourdough with Sunflower Seeds

Upon completion of my undergraduate studies, I set about accomplishing several important tasks that had been delayed for too long. Firstly, I went to a local coffee shop that also sells used books. There, I bought myself an au lait and perused the shelves of worn novels, poetry collections, biographies, and short story anthologies for my summer reading … that is, reading material chosen by me and for my own pleasure. It felt sinfully indulgent and positively exquisite. Next, I gave my best friend from high school a call and caught up with her. I found out that she is moving nearby next year and am eagerly anticipating her good company once again. Lastly, I made a comprehensive list of all the breads that I would like to be able to make consistently at a high level of quality. This list turned out to be rather long, varying from the simple classics of baguettes or enormous miches to the more complex fruit and nut loaves or those with beer and wine in the ingredients. I gathered ideas from blog entries that I had read, my library of bread books, and my backlog of bread fantasies that I occasionally daydream about.

After completing my bread catalog, I then attempted to pick which one I wanted to work on first. I settled upon a recipe for a rye sourdough with sunflower seeds from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread for no real particular reason other than the fact that I had just bought a large quantity of sunflower seeds that were taking up space in my already tiny pantry. Upon reading the recipe, however, I realized that I did not have all the ingredients. I lacked rye chops. I solved that dilemma, though, deciding I would use rye flakes instead, altering the water content appropriately when the time came. Then I saw that Hamelman used instant yeast in his recipe. I did not want to use yeast. I’m not a yeast snob; there is a place for instant yeast in bread baking, but not in this sunflower sourdough. The last few weeks have been too rushed for me, racing to meet deadlines and ignoring personal relaxation. Finally, time constraints are not an issue. I wanted to let this bread have all the time it needed to develop a true sourdough flavor. So, out went the yeast and in went a few more hours of me lounging on the sofa with a good novel waiting for the dough to rise.

So, the recipe below is inspired by the Hammelman’s recipe, but as usual, a bit tweaked to my own preferences. I will warn you now that the high rye content makes it quite sticky and that the dough feels heavy initially. I thought that it would be dense and, while not unpalatable, not one of the better breads I’ve baked. Yet, if you give it adequate time to rise fully both during the bulk fermentation and final proof, you will get splendid results. The dough becomes lighter, resulting in a pleasantly light crumb, and the flavor of the dough develops a creaminess that compliments the dark nuttiness of the toasted sunflower seeds.

I’m not claiming perfection on this one yet, but it tastes pretty damn good. I think I am going to play around with it a bit more, but will soon check it off the ‘Bread List’ and start thinking about my next endeavor.

I am also delighted to be part of this week’s YeastSpotting. Make sure to check out the other delicious baked goods there!


Rye Sourdough with Sunflower Seeds
Yield: ~2050 g (2 large loaves)

182 g whole rye flour
145 g water
20 g mature soudough starter

150 g rye flakes
225 g water

Final Dough:
All of the sourdough
All of the soaker
14 g malt syrup
430 g water
675 g white flour (~11% protein content)
20 g salt
182 g toasted sunflower seeds + extra for topping

Place the sourdough, soaker, malt syrup, and water in a large bowl. Stir the mixture to roughly combine. Add the flour and stir until all the flour is hydrated. Cover and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.

Add the salt to the dough and knead until the dough has the strength to pass the window pane test. This will take a while (~15 minutes by hand) as this dough is quite sticky and has a high percentage of rye. Next, add the sunflower seeds and knead until they are evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to a well oiled container and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours, folding the dough at 1, 2, and 3 hours.

Remove the dough from the container and divide into 2 pieces (or 4, if desired). Shape into loose balls and let rest for 15 minutes. Shape the dough into tight boules and place upside dough in a floured proofing basket in which you have sprinkled a good quantity of untoasted sunflower seeds.

Let the dough proof until it has risen to a little less than twice its original volume and feels light and springy to the touch (~1.5-2 hours). (You can also retard the proofing, if desired. Just make sure that the loaves have risen sufficiently before baking them or else they will be too dense.)

About 1 hour before baking, preheat the oven to 475 ºF with a baking stone and steam pan. When the loaves have risen, invert them onto a peel, score them, and place them in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 450ºF and bake the loaves for 20 minutes with steam and another 25-30 minutes without steam. Turn the oven off, crack the door, and leave the loaves in for another 5-10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.


13 Responses to “Rye Sourdough with Sunflower Seeds”

  1. Loved the aroma of the toasted seeds inside the bread when I made this. The untoasted seeds on the crust burned a bit for me though. Looking forward to the rest of the loaves in your bread list.

    • cbucholz Says:


      I could see how the burned seeds on the top would be unappetizing. I find burnt seeds strangely appetizing, though. I’m the kind of person that likes to scorch their marshmallow to a black gooey mass. The sunflower seeds could be easily left off the top though. I’m glad you enjoyed this one as well! Did you make it with rye chops?

  2. The bread looks splendid. The part for my broken Kitchen Aid came yesterday, so today I’m pulling out the starter and waking it up—we are so hungry for fresh sourdough!

    Ps. What novel were you reading while the bread was rising?

    • cbucholz Says:

      Susan & Mama JJ,

      I was just finishing Pride and Prejudice while making this bread. I had never read any of Austen’s works(!) and thought this would be a fun one. I then started Jacques Pepin’s autobiography. It was a wonderful read! His writing is just as animated and fun as he is on TV. He also has delicious recipes at the end of each chapter. I would highly recommend it!

  3. Lovely as always! As one who is a big fan of lounging with a novel while waiting for my dough, I’m curious what your read was? And congratulations on finishing up your studies!

  4. It’s so satisfying to make lists like that and that start checking things off as you start getting motivated. You loaf looks diving- everything a good rye should be. I’ve never heard of the bread book you mentioned- is it something you’d recommend to someone like me?


    • cbucholz Says:

      Siri- Yes, Jeffrey Hamelman’s book is wonderful. He is the head baker up at King Arthur Flour and provides a wonderful explanation of all the steps involved in making bread. This is one of the books that I go to if I have any technical questions about baking.

  5. […] Rye Sourdough with Sunflower Seeds […]

  6. Congratulations on finishing your studies and producing one terrific looking bread! I hope you’ll be sharing the others from your personal catalogue.

  7. Congratulations to finishing your studies.
    The bread looks gorgeous. I am always changing recipes to my taste, too.

  8. Love the fact that you’ve made a list, and that you’re working through t. Love the way your bread looks and sounds, too. Thanks for your comment; I wondered if the rice bread would be good with brown rice. I baked it the second time with fresh yeast and 1/3 whole wheat flour in a regular bread pan, and it’s a beautiful loaf.

  9. Oh, how I wish that I could bake rye. Rye, true 100% rye, just eludes me and always comes out with a dense, compact (but not rock-hard) crumb. Almost muffin-like rather than having big, airy holes! Yours looks wonderful!

    • cbucholz Says:

      Yes. 100% true rye is tricky. Rye will never have big airy holes without the help of some white or wheat flour. It just has too low of a gluten content. Some tricks are giving the dough a shorter final rise and starting off in a hotter oven than usual to achieve the greatest oven spring. You can also use vital wheat gluten, but then it wouldn’t be a 100% rye and, if used in excess, vital wheat gluten can give the bread an off-flavor.

      Hmmm… attempting a 100% rye might be a good project to take on!

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