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Rye Bread

Mark Ferri

Yield: Yields two loaves.

I’ve developed this recipe using a finely ground organic rye flour. If you use a different rye flour, use the same amount by weight and adjust the liquid in your starter. In most cases, you will have a coarser flour and will need to add less water. Start with about 1 cup of water and then go by feel: you want a mixture that holds its shape yet squishes easily between your fingers when you make a fist. You’re looking for a consistency similar to papier-mâché or the soft, silty sand at the edge of a lake when you mix the starter.


For the rye starter:

  • 1 to 2 cups lukewarm water, depending on your flour
  • 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 8 oz. finely ground whole-rye flour (see tip, right)

For the wheat starter:

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 8 oz. unbleached bread flour

For the dough:

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 7-1/2 oz. rye starter
  • 5 oz. wheat starter
  • 2-1/4 tsp. salt
  • 19 oz. unbleached bread flour

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size per slice; based on 16 slices
  • Calories (kcal) : 80
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 5
  • Fat (g): 0.5
  • Saturated Fat (g): 0
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Cholesterol (mg): 0
  • Sodium (mg): 170
  • Carbohydrates (g): 16
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 3


Preparing the dough

  • Begin by preparing the rye starter and the wheat starter. Both must rest, covered at room temperature, for 12 to 20 hours; the rye starter will have the texture of very soft clay.
  • Portion the starters by weight—7-1/2 ounces of the rye and 5 ounces of the wheat. Put the weighed starters in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Dissolve the yeast in the water in a measuring cup, add that to the starters, and use your hands to combine well. Add the starters to the flour and salt, and mix by hand until the mixture comes together in a sticky, shaggy mass.

Kneading and rising

  • Turn the dough out onto a clean surface that has not been floured. Knead by pushing the dough away from you, folding it back toward you, turning it a quarter turn, and pushing it away from you again. The dough will be very sticky, but resist the urge to add flour; instead, use a pastry scraper to bring up any dough that sticks. Continue kneading for about 8 minutes. To get the smoothest, best-developed dough, let it rest for about 10 minutes, covered with a damp towel, and then resume kneading for another few minutes. The dough has been sufficiently kneaded if it springs back when you poke it with your finger.
  • Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm (but not hot), draft-free area until not quite doubled, about 1 hour. When the dough reaches this size, gently deflate it and give it a quick knead or two. Return the dough to the bowl and let it rest another 1/2 hour.
  • Now cut the dough in half and gently flatten each piece into a disk. Fold an edge up, overlapping the disk by two-thirds. Rotate the disk slightly and fold again; repeat, overlapping the folds (there will be about five) until you reach the original fold. As you fold, gently stretch the underside of the disk. Roll the dough over so the smooth side is up.
  • Stretch the surface taut by gently pressing the dough against the work surface with cupped hands, tucking any excess dough underneath. Take care not to rip the surface. Cover the balls with a damp cloth and let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Forming the loaves

  • Set the dough balls, seam side up, on a lightly floured surface. Flatten one ball into a rectangle about 7 inches across and 8-1/2 inches long. Fold the top toward you about two-thirds of the way down and press the dough with the heel of your palms to seal. Pick the dough up and turn it around 180 degrees; the fold will be nearest you and the single edge farthest from you. Fold the top toward you to about two-thirds of the way down (like a business letter) and press the seam again to seal. Now fold the dough again, this time in half, bringing the top edge all the way to the bottom edge. Seal the edge with the heel of your hand, flattening the tight cylinder somewhat. Roll the somewhat flattened dough into a cyllinder about 11 inches long, tucking in the ends and pinching them lightly. Repeat with the other ball of dough.
  • Put the loaves on the back of a well-floured baking sheet or pizza peel. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.


  • While the loaves rise, get your oven ready: put a baking stone on the middle shelf and a heavy, ovenproof, rimmed pan on the bottom shelf or oven floor, and set the oven for 450ºF.
  • Slash the tops of the risen loaves perpendicularly with a razor blade, making 4 or 5 shallow cuts. Carrefully pour a small amount of water into the hot pan in the oven and quickly close the door to create some steam.
  • Place the baking sheet or the peel on top of the stone and quickly pull it away from under the loaves so that they drop onto the stone. Spray the loaves with water from a spray bottle and add a little more water to the pan. Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400ºF and bake for another 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves and bake until they’re an even brown color and have a slightly hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, another 15 to 18 minutes.
  • Cool the bread on a wire rack. For the best flavor, don’t slice the bread until it has cooled almost completely.

Make Ahead Tips

The leftover starters will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.


Rate or Review

Reviews (6 reviews)

  • carolfriends | 10/15/2021

    This is the most extraordinary rye bread recipe. The flavor wonderful, the texture is perfect and the recipe well written and easy to follow.

    I've tried other rye bread recipes, and this is the very best. Would give it a 10 if possible.

  • bubbie | 10/06/2021

    I have a rye recipe that I have made for years, but for some reason I just kept looking. Then I tried this recipe. It takes more time and is more fussy, but it did not disappoint at all. Two questions.......would using a mixer to knead spoil the beautiful open texture, and could you bake it in a cloche? If so would you have to heat the cloche ahead of time, as you do the stone? By the way I am a fan of caraway so used it.

  • OrchidSlayer | 08/25/2020

    The recipe makes nice, light loaves of rye that rises well thanks to so much yeast. But it really bothers me when they call for so much starter to be made. I make several breads a week, but like a variety. This makes at least enough for four loaves because there is so much starter. I don't really want to make two more loaves of rye this week, but will to get rid of the starters.

    I made it as written, but stirred in an ounce or so of my ripe sourdough starter into each new starter. I used my steam oven and probably had the steam on for too long as the crust was soft, not crunchy. That made it difficult to cut with a normal knife, but an electric one made beautiful slices.

    I will make it again, but make a half batch of the rye starter (enough for two loaves) and just use my normal sourdough starter with the added yeast.

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