100% Rye Wholegrain Loaf

This classic loaf manages to be both incredibly simple to make and very difficult to get perfect. The challenge lies in not over-cooking the grains; that way they absorb moisture during the final bake and then release it again during the few days the loaf is left to sit wrapped before selling. Use fine rye flour for the dough, available from Shipton Mills and other millers, as most of the sticky gluten in rye flour is contained in the husk rather than the endosperm, and rye flour that has been bolted to remove the bran will bake to a 100% rye loaf with a less sticky crumb.

makes 5 pieces at appx 575 raw weight, to bake to 5 small 400g tin loaves

1.370 kg cooked rye grains (see below)

0.450 kg rye sponge or leaven (see below)

0.400 kg water

0.700 kg light rye flour

0.020 kg salt

0.090 kg honey

For the cooked grains: cover the grains with water and simmer for 15 minutes then drain and cover with water, beer, cider or white wine and leave in a cool place overnight.

For the leaven: either use a naturally fermented sour mixture of equal quantities fine rye flour and water, left to rise overnight, or use 250g fine rye flour mixed with 250g cold water and a pinch of yeast and leave this overnight in a cool place before use.

Method: drain the grains well (discard the soaking liquid) and place all the ingredients together in a small upright mixer, or mix by hand until you have an evenly combined grey paste. As rye flour does not contain extensible gluten there is no need to work the dough, and all that is needed is the shortest mix to combine the dough. Line 5 very clean 1lb loaf tins (or similar) with non-stick baking parchment, as the acidity in the dough can take on greenish black marks from the tin, and evenly divide the dough between them.

Pack the dough down evenly, banging the tins on the end of the table to remove any gas bubbles. Cover the tins, and leave to rise for 1 hour (if using a commercial yeast sponge) or 3-4 hours (if using a naturally fermented rye leaven) until risen by 30%-50%. As the dough will bake into a dense-grained loaf like pumpernickel, you don’t want too much lift, as this will cause the loaf to crack when sliced.

Preheat the deck to 200°C (top and bottom, no steam), cover the tops of the tins with greased foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature (175°C top and bottom) and bake for a further 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 140°C (top and bottom) and bake for a further 1-1½ hours, removing the foil for the last 30 minutes to colour the upper surface. Remove from the tins to cool, then wrap well individually in oiled brown paper or waxed paper tied snuggly with string. Leave at room temperature or cooler for 48 hours before slicing.