Spiced Rye Sourdough

I love the sweet and spicy bouquet of holiday baking, but after a while, all the butter and sugar that typically go along with it can be hard to take. I made this spiced rye sourdough bread hoping to perfume my kitchen with those heady and nostalgic aromas while producing a gift-worthy bread that is also easy on the calorie count. I think it worked.

It’s sour, yes, but the spiciness of the rye itself compliments the other spices nicely. It could go with either a sweet accompaniment like lingonberry jam (now I don’t know why I thought of that; I haven’t had lingonberry jam in years, but it just seems like it would go well), as well as with meat or cheese. And although, like most ryes, it keeps very well, its life can be extended even further by making some of it into crostini.

The wooden bakers are lovely for gift-giving. The ones I used are  7 x 4 inches and just right for 500-gram loaves. They are available from King Arthur Flour. Or, if you plan on making a lot of gift bread, from Amazon.

This bread calls for a rye starter.  If you have white starter you can convert a portion of it by feeding it with rye flour (equal parts rye flour and water, by weight) for a few feedings. I used King Arthur Pumpernickel, a coarsely-ground whole rye flour, for both the starter and the final dough. If your rye flour is more finely-ground, or if it is not whole rye, you may have to adjust the water in the final dough.

Like all doughs that contain a significant amount of rye flour (this one is 50%), this is one sticky critter. It will become somewhat less sticky as it ferments, but you will still need to handle it with a very light hand, as though it were a hot potato. And you will need to score swiftly to keep your blade from sticking. All of this takes some confidence you might not feel. Fake it.

Unlike most breads, rye loaves are scored before the final proof. This helps to maintain their definition through the bake. Also, scoring across the loaf, or on the diagonal, rather than along the loaf’s long axis as you would do for most other breads, helps the loaf expand upward rather than outward (although this is not an issue if you use pans or the wooden bakers).

Happy holidays and happy baking!

Spiced Rye Sourdough

Yield: 1000 g (2 loaves)

Approximate Times:

  • Mix final dough: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 1.5 hours
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
  • Proof: 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Bake: 45 minutes
  • Cool: 12 hours

Desired dough temperature: 80F


  • 294 g flour
  • 147 g coarsely-ground whole rye flour
  • 280 g water
  • 11 g salt
  • 294 g mature 100%-hydration rye starter
  • 1.7 g finely-grated orange zest (from 1/4 medium orange)
  • 1 g cinnamon (1/2 t.)
  • 1 g cardamom (3/8 t.)
  • 1 g nutmeg (3/8 t.)
  • 1 g whole anise seed (3/8 t.)
  • 1 g allspice (1/2 t.)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients, holding back about 10% of the water. Mix on low speed to incorporate the ingredients, adjusting the water as needed to achieve a medium-stiff consistency. The dough will be very sticky.
  2. Continue mixing on low or medium speed to a medium level of gluten development. How long this takes will depend upon your mixer.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, preferably transparent, container. Cover and ferment for about 1.5 hours at cool room temperature (68 – 70F). When it is properly fermented, you will be able to see gas bubbles permeating the dough when viewed from the bottom or side of the container.
  4. Turn the dough into a floured counter and divide it in half. Preshape it into tight balls and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into short fat batards and place them, seam-side-down, in a bakeable container or on a floured couche.
  6. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with rye flour and score in a close chevron pattern.
  7. Proof, covered, for about an hour and 40 minutes. You should see the floured areas just starting to “break,” and the dough in the cuts is visibly aerated.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  9. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 8 minutes with steam, and another 20 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 15 minutes, with the door ajar.
  10. Cool on a wire rack. Then let stand for 12 hours, if possible, before cutting, to avoid gumminess.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    These rye breads are absolutely impressive. You have great talent, Susan. I adore these baskets. They look so presentable, and the red ribbon just adds to the festive look. Beautifully photographed, too. Merry Christmas!

  2. says

    These sound so delicious! I love that you captured spicy winter aromas in a yeast bread.
    The wooden bakers are really cool – I’ve never seen anything like that before but it’s a great idea. You’ve crafted some beautiful gifts that I’m sure will be very wel received!

  3. says

    These sound so delicious! I love that you captured spicy winter aromas in a yeast bread.
    The wooden bakers are really cool – I’ve never seen anything like that before but it’s a great idea. You’ve crafted some beautiful gifts that I’m sure will be very well received!

  4. says

    Perfect rye bread! I wish I could find one that’s as tempting as this in the bakery… It seems so delicate to create. No wonder rye bread tastes divine and yeah, delicate. Lol.

  5. Richelle says

    Sounds delicious! Just one question: you mention that 50% of the flour is rye, but on the ingredient list the amount of rye is triple that of the normal bread flour (294 and half of the starter, so another 147), or do I read something wrong?

  6. says

    I really like this idea Susan, I am not a “sweets” person. So this would really be nice for my palate. Merry Christmas to you and your family.


  7. says

    Bonjour Susan,
    I hope you are well. My sourdough rye bread is having its second proof and so far it looks good. It will be hard to bake it and leave it for 12 hours before slicing it. Thanks for the recipe.


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