Cracked Rye – Polenta Sourdough

cracked rye-polenta sourdough

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my sourdough starter? This baby is a trooper. Raising breads day in and day out, especially loaves with a goodly proportion of whole grains, is not easy, but it’s up to the task pretty much every time.

When our children were small we used to tell them, “You’re better than a pet.” Sometimes I want to tell my starter, “You’re better than a kid.”

OK, not really, but when my starter graces me with bread like this, and doesn’t talk back in the bargain, you know, sometimes it’s kind of a toss-up.

cracked rye-polenta sourdough

Cracked Rye – Polenta Sourdough

Yield: 1050 g (2 loaves)


  • Soak soaker: 12 hours
  • Mix final dough: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 2 hours with folds at 40 and 80 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 40 minutes
  • Proof: 2.25 hours
  • Bake: 1 hour

Desired dough temperature: 75F

Soaker Ingredients:

  • 78 g cracked rye
  • 60 g coarse polenta
  • 150 g boiling water

Final Dough Ingredients:


  1. In a bowl, combine the soaker ingredients. Cover and let rest for about 12 hours.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, or by hand, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker and a little of the water. Mix (in low speed) to incorporate the ingredients. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium dough consistency.
  3. Continue mixing (in medium speed or by hand) to a medium level of gluten development.
  4. Add the soaker and mix just until it is completely incorporated into the dough. The dough will seem fairly wet.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 2 hours, with folds at 40 and 80 minutes. If the dough still seems quite loose at the end of the two hours, give it a third fold.
  6. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Preshape the pieces into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into tight balls by rotating it (as usual) on the countertop while using the edges of your hands to tuck the edges of the dough underneath. Most of this is done on an unfloured counter to provide friction needed to get the ball tight, but do the last couple of turns in rye or whole wheat flour. Do not try to pinch the bottom seam closed.
  8. Place the loaves seam-side-down in linen-lined baskets that have been dusted with the same flour. Slip the baskets into a large plastic bag.
  9. Proof for about 2 hours and 15 minutes at warm room temperature, or a little longer if the room is cool. The loaves should increase in volume by about 75%.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 440F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  11. When ready to bake, turn the loaves onto the peel so that the floured side is up. Do not score the loaves.
  12. Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 410F. Bake for 10 minutes with steam, and another 38 minutes or so without steam, until the crust is a deep brown. Then turn the oven off and leave the loaves in, with the door ajar, for another 10 minutes.
  13. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until completely cool, or the bread will be gummy.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    I really need to wake up my sourdough starter – it really is a wonderful friend. Way better than a pet or a kid :) Beautiful bread!

  2. says

    Susan, my sourdough starter is dead completely! I neglected this poor thing. I actually ask my friend to give me some of his, which was originally came from me, ha..ha..
    He’ll bring some tomorrow. We’ll see what happen. If its not good, then I’ll start over again.

    Anyway, bread look fantastic as always. Once I have enough starter, I’ll try to make this.

  3. says

    Yes! Sourdough rules!
    By the way that is an awesome loaf, reminds me of a Walliser brot I saw in Switzerland, rustic and full of flavor!

  4. says

    This is an amazing looking loaf of bread!! I love the floury outside with all of its cracks.
    Can’t wait to try making this bread, though I’ll have to sweet talk the pastry chef at work and see if she’ll let me steal some of her 3 year old :)

  5. says

    Susan, your breads just keep getting better and better. This one is amazing to look at and I imagine it tastes as good as it looks. Have a wonderful weekend.

  6. says

    Wow, your sourdough starter must be darn good. I think I may need to get one for myself. Your bread turned out fabulously! What a great looking recipe.

  7. Paul says


    This loaf looks just fabulous! But your poor kids having to go through life being compared to your sourdough starter. What a cross to bear!

    Where did you find your cracked rye? I see cracked wheat all the time, but not cracked rye.

  8. says

    Thank you to everyone for such nice comments.

    Paul, my kids might take comfort in the fact that I almost never forgot to feed them, whereas the starter takes considerably more abuse.

  9. says

    A truly beautiful loaf and with coarse corn and cracked rye too, two of my very favorite ingredients! I’m putting it on my list of must-do…

  10. says

    Susan, this bread looks so enticing. I also love my starter and am so thankful it is such a hard worker. Even after four years of maintaining mine, I still am amazed how much it produces and takes care of all my bread making, I feel like it’s mother!

  11. says

    Hi Susan, Outstanding bread! Cracked rye and coarse polenta…why didn’t I think of that? Retro rustic, 21st century paesano, who is the gaucho amigo? Why is he standing, in your spangled leather pancho? With the studs that match your eyes…gotta go load a bunch of baguette and ciabatta…L8R

  12. roz says

    Hi Susan, Your site is one I have been turning to on an almost daily basis. Thank you for your willingness to share…I’ve learned a lot.

    I made your bread yesterday with a few substitutions and it turned out delicious! My loaves were not as high, but there were holes. The hardest part has been waiting to eat it! Thanks again!

  13. says

    One of my starters just kicked the bucket. The other one is getting some TLC because even though I’m doing BBA, I love baking with my sourdough starter best of all. It makes me feel like a pioneer woman.

  14. says


    I keep coming back to the picture of this bread. It’s just so… so mesmerizing. That swirl of cracks on the surface, the contrast of pale flour against dark grigne!

  15. Ian Sandman says

    I tried this recipe yesterday with not so good results.
    I had to convert my stiff starter to a 100% hydration starter and I wonder if that screwed it up.
    The dough never set-up correctly and was way too moist.
    I did 4-5 folds and it still never really felt correctly.
    The dough never really increased in size but I baked it anyway. The crumb is very dense and mushy.
    Any suggestions?

  16. says

    Ian, it sounds like a problem of too much water. I usually hold back a portion of the water in the recipe and use it to adjust the hydration of the dough to get the proper consistency.

  17. Ian Sandman says

    Hi Susan,

    I will give it another try at some point and let you know how it comes out.
    It actually tastes okay all things considering!

  18. Ian Sandman says

    My wife brought up a good point to me. In your recipe you call for polenta, but I thought you meant cornmeal since polenta is usually cornmeal mixed with boiling water and other ingredients to form a thick paste.
    Please clarify if don’t mind.


  19. says

    Ian, sorry for any confusion. Yes, I meant dry, coarsely-ground cornmeal, which, like the cooked paste that is made from it, is called polenta in my neck of the woods.

  20. Ian Sandman says

    Thanks. that is what I assumed but my wife thought maybe you used cooked polenta which to me didn’t make any sense.
    I’m on my way to China for a business trip and hopefully when I get back can try it again.

  21. Kate says

    Hi Susan,

    The bread looks delicious! Would it make that much of a difference to sub more whole wheat for the white flour? Thanks!

  22. says

    Thanks so much for this inspiring, yes, inspirational recipe. Sure, my conversion of white SD starter to rye was not quite what I’d hoped, but did not matter. And I ended up with only one big loaf–baked in a #9 cast iron pan. Yet it is delicious and began a new direction for search–cracked rye bread recipes. Thanks so much for sharing.


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