Detmolder 90% Rye Bread

I recently received a comment on one of my posts from a reader who desperately wanted to make a bread with 100% rye flour: “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.” So, I went to work trying to find a 100% rye recipe that would not be ‘dense’ and ‘compact’. I re-learned and discovered a lot of interesting things about rye, mainly from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. I’ll share a bit with you … it’s important to understand the unique qualities of rye in order to produce rye breads of high quality.

Detmolder Rye 1

1) Rye flour lacks the high gluten content that wheat flours have. For this reason, dough made with rye flour will not develop a strong gluten web and will have a denser structure.

2) Rye flour has a higher content of bran and fiber than wheat flour. This allows it to absorb more water. The bran and fiber also inhibit the gluten development due to their sharp edges, which cut the gluten network.

3) Rye has more soluble sugars that wheat. Therefore rye doughs will ferment more rapidly than wheat doughs. This quality, as well as rye’s inability to form a gluten network, means that you must keep a careful eye on your rye doughs so that they don’t overferment and collapse.

4) Rye breads have a high content of pentosans (about 8%), a polysaccharide found in plants. Pentosans absorb much moisture and compete with the glutenin and gliadin (the two compounds that form gluten) for moisture, inhibiting gluten development. In addition, these pentosans are quite fragile and will break down if a rye dough is over-mixed. (This should only be problem if you are using a machine to mix. Hand-mixing is gentle enough for rye doughs, but can be tricky due to their sticky nature).

5) Rye flour contains lots of amylase, the enzyme that converts starch into sugar. Starch provides the structure for breads and is essential to form a well-risen loaf. Sugars do not contribute to a good crumb structure, and, if anything, will cause the crumb to be gummy if they exist in too high a quantity. During baking, starches gelatinize between 122º – 140ºF. Amylase activity, however, is accelerated at higher temperatures and will not stop until the amylase is destroyed when the internal temperature of the loaf reaches ~176ºF. This means that the amylase will continue to break down the starches, preventing a well-developed crumb from forming. This is known as “starch attack” and leads to a gummy crumb. Wheat-based doughs do not have this issue as they have less amylase and because wheat starch gelatinizes at a higher temperature (~158 – 194ºF), providing the amylase with less of a “window” to damage the crumb. Bakers, however, have an excellent weapon against “starch attack”: sourdough. The acidity of the sourdough inhibits amylase action and allows for the crumb to stabilize.

I could go on, but I think that is enough to explain the recipe I settled upon. Please do check out Hamelman’s book, though, it is informative, scientific, and very well written. So, at the end of my rye investigation, I decided that due to the inherit qualities of rye flour, a 100% rye bread loaf is destined to have a closed crumb structure. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A dense, moist slice of rye bread is often the perfect partner to a strong cheese, mustard, or fruit preserve. So, instead of trying to find a recipe that attempted to lighten the interior texture of the rye bread, I looked for one that focused on bringing out all the excellent qualities of rye sourdoughs.

Hamelman’s book has a section on the Detmolder method of rye bread baking. The Detmolder Method is a three-stage method that involves a series of rye sourdough builds each designed to bring out a specific quality in the sourdough. Rye sourdough cultures are characterized by yeast, acetic acid, and lactic acid. Each of these components is enhanced under different conditions of hydration, temperature, and duration of the sourdough ripening. The Detmolder Method focuses on developing each of these qualities by controlling the conditions of each build to favor either the formation of yeast, acetic acid, or lactic acid. The first build is called the “freshening,” which encourage the development of yeast activity with a high-hydration paste at ~78 ºF for 5 to 6 hours. The second build is known as the “basic sour.” The “basic sour” enhances the acetic acid in the dough, requiring a stiff (low-hydration) sourdough that ripens in cool conditions for 15 to 24 hours. The last build is the “full sour.” This stage lasts 3 to 4 hours at a high temperature (around 85 ºF), encouraging the development of lactic acid. For the best results, the upmost precision (with regard to temperature control and length of duration) is required at each of the stages.

As a home baker, I do not have a temperature-regulated proofing box or any fancy equipment to do full justice to the Detmolder method. But, I approximated as well as I could. The backdoor hallway in my apartment is always slightly cooler, so I stuck the bread there during the basic sour stage. Placing the proofing container on top of the oven pilot light got the starter up to around 85 ºF during the full sour stage. So I fudged a bit, but I was pleased with the results. The dough rose actively, indicating healthy yeast, and I could taste both the subtle creaminess of the lactic acid and a slight sour bite of the acetic acid in the final loaf.

There is one caveat about this bread. If you are planning on making it without a mixer, be warned, it is very sticky due to the high rye content. I didn’t use a mixer and ended up doing a version of “kneading,” which involved me slapping the dough around on my countertop, attempting not to make too much of a mess. (A bench knife was very useful in this process.) The stickiness also makes shaping the loaves much more difficult. I suggest using plenty of flour on your work surface, being careful to brush off any excess that clings to the loaves. Hamelman offers two other versions of the Detmolder rye with 80% and 70% rye content as well. These loaves will be lighter in texture for those wanting a slightly loftier, but still richly rye-flavored loaf.

Detmolder Rye 2

Detmolder 90% Sourdough Rye
Yield: ~1500 (two medium sized loaves)


3 g mature 100% hydration rye sourdough starter
11 g water
9 g whole-rye flour

Disperse the mature sourdough starter in the water. Add the whole-rye flour and mix thoroughly. Ripen this paste for 5 to 6 hours at 77 to 79 ºF.

Basic Sour:

freshening sour (all of above)
70 g water
90 g whole-rye flour

Disperse the freshening paste in the water. Add the whole-rye flour and mix thoroughly. Allow the basic sour to ripen for 15 to 24 hours at 73 – 80 ºF (with cooler temperatures use longer ripening times and with warmer temperatures use shorter ripening times).

Full Sour:

basic sour (all of the above)
245 g water
245 g whole-rye flour

Disperse the basic sour in the water. Add the whole-rye flour and mix thoroughly. Ripen the full sour for 3 to 4 hours at ~85 ºF.

Final Dough:

full sour (all of the above)
388 g water
473 g rye flour (I used whole-rye, but you can use medium rye for a lighter loaf)
91 g high-gluten flour (such as King Arthur’s bread flour)
17 g salt

Disperse the full sour in the water. Add the flours and salt. “Knead” by hand for ~10 minutes or, if you have a spiral mixer, mix for 4 minutes on full speed and 1 to 1.5 minutes on second. (This is what Hamelman calls for. I don’t have a mixer so I don’t fully understand the various speeds, but I hope those of you out there with them can follow this). There will be only a minimal amount of gluten development. You may not even notice it.

Ferment the dough for 10 to 20 minutes. (Due to the high percentage of ripening that occurred during the three stages, a very short bulk fermentation time is required.)

Divide the dough into two pieces and shape either round or in long batards. Score the loaves and place seam-side down on a proofing cloth. Proof at ~82 ºF for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 480 – 490 ºF with a steam pan. (The high oven temperature will help to get the internal temperature of the loaves quickly above the point where amylase activity ceases.) When the loaves are ready, place them in the oven and bake for 5 minutes with steam and another 5 without. Then turn down the oven temperature to 410 ºF and bake for 40-50 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store the loaves for at least 24 hours before slicing into in order to stabilize the crumb.

Detmolder Rye 3

I’m pleased to submit this post to YeastSpotting this week!

12 Responses to “Detmolder 90% Rye Bread”

  1. Wow, that’s enough science that now I’m scared to do rye! Actually, it is an amazing amount of rye info – are you pulling it out of Hamelman, or is this your own head knowledge? Either way, it’s impressive – but I’ll forget it tomorrow.

    A suggestion to try – I recently starting using a proofing tray/tub (almost like a bus pan in a restaurant) for those wet doughs that require turns, folds and stretches – if oiled, it makes working with wet, sticky doughs almost easy. I haven’t tried it with rye yet, but I can’t think of why it wouldn’t work.

    I’m making a sprouted wheat, sourdough on Friday per MC’s sprouting instructions and your recipe – I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • cbucholz Says:

      All of the information is from Hamelman. (Definitely not out of my head!) I really love how scientific his book is as I’m a scientist by training.

      Thanks for the suggestion about the proofing tray/tub and good luck with the sprouted wheat!

  2. Very interesting post! I admire your scientific bend. I’ll try the recipe whenI come back from my trip and will keep the 3 stages of starter development firmly in mind.

    • cbucholz Says:

      Thanks! This was a really fun one to try. I want to try out the 80% and 70% rye version, as well, to see if there are noticeable changes to the crumb.

  3. Wow Claire, I have always known you as a smart and fearless baker, and this is ultimate proof. You give such great information on rye and the Detmolder process, and your loaf is amazing!

    • cbucholz Says:


      Thanks. I always love trying the rye bread recipes you post on your site. I hope you have a chance to try this one!

  4. Looks like your on the same path as I am on, good rye!
    Loaf looks great, bet it was good tasting too!

  5. Great writeup about rye – very informative post! You’ve got me jonesing for a slice now….I might have to work it into the weekend plans!

  6. I’ve been meaning to make rye bread for quite sometimes. Still never had a chance to do so.
    Let me just be happy to stare at yours instead. May I?

  7. my husband fell in love with this bread, during the weekend we ate most of it

  8. Superb bread, great information! Thank you for such an interesting post.

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