Almost-wild Very (very) Light Rye (BBB September 2017)

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Bread Baking Babes September 2017summary: BBB Swiss Rye Ring (and boule) based on a recipe by Stanley Ginsberg; trying to use wild yeast instead of commercial yeast; creating a rye starter using Jane Mason’s method; creating scary rye alcohol in solid brick-like form; ears! we see ears; a Bread Baking Babes project;

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) September 2017: Swiss Rye Ring

BBB Swiss Rye Ring What?!!!! They want me to make a rye starter now??? :stomp:

At least that’s what Stanley Ginsberg’s (The Rye Baker) recipe says. He based the recipe on a recipe at Bernd’s Bakery:

Eine kleine Schwierigkeit stellt hier der Zeitpunkt der Stückgare dar – es sollte nur eine kurze Gare durchgeführt werden um noch ausreichend Ofentrieb zu haben. Da ich aber wilde Hefe aus Hefewasser verwende, galt es hier die Zeit abweichend zu ermitteln. Ich bin noch nicht ganz zufrieden – es hätte noch 10 Minuten haben können. Das Brot ist köstlich und dringend zum Nachbacken empfohlen. Es sieht gut aus, hat eine feine und sehr lockere Krume und eignet sich durch seinen kleinen Querschnitt hervorragen für kleine Häppchen – bevorzugt mit Alpkäse und Trockenfleisch. A small difficulty here is the right timing for the final proof – it should only be a short final proof to have sufficient oven spring. But since I’m using wild yeast made from yeast water, i had to find out the correct timing. I’m still not quite satisfied – it could have been 10 minutes more. The bread is delicious and highly recommended for baking. It looks good, has a very fine and fluffy crumb and is due to its small cross section for excellent appetizers – preferably with Swiss mountain cheese and dried meat.
– Bernd, Bernd’s Bakery
You’re the director of your sourdough, with the starter + flour ‘actors of sorts’, ingredients you can guide but never entirely predict.
– Dan Lepard, Twitter, 20 July 2017

Okay. Let’s say that Dan Lepard is right!! I am the director. :-)

And Jane Mason does say that it takes just 5 days to create a starter. So. Armed with Jane Mason’s charts, I got out the rye flour and forged ahead.

Here’s how things went:

BBB Swiss Rye Ring diary:

4 August 2017, 18:36 This is amazing! A couple of weeks ago, I went to the library to get one of Anissa Helou’s books out (to see if I want to buy it) and while I was there, I saw Ginsberg’s book. I got it out and bookmarked a couple of recipes to try but then got distracted by Jane Mason’s sourdough adventure. And I had to take the Ginsberg book back without really trying anything from it. I’m so glad that Cathy chose this bread!

31 August 2017, 08:21 I’ve just been re-reading the recipe (ha! I know that sounds unbelievable. How could I re-read if I haven’t really read it the first time round?) and have a couple of questions that I asked the others.

  1. Is “first clear flour” malted high-protein wheat flour? I looked at the linked page to see “Approximate analysis (14% moisture): Protein 13.9%, Ash 0.85% […] a workable alternative to French Type 110 and German Type 1050 flour”. How much malted wheat (malted rye??) should I add to bread flour to mimic “first clear flour”?
  2. With prime real estate already taken up in the fridge by the mason jar of wheat starter, do you think I could use my wheat starter for the wheat poolish and the yeast for the rye sponge? If so, how much yeast for the rye sponge and how much starter for the wheat poolish? OR do you think I really have to create a rye culture like the one we did for Brunkans Långa?
  3. Would something really terrible happen if I used dark rye flour in place of medium rye flour? (We have lots of dark rye flour on hand….)

My reason for not using rye flour in my wheat starter is that Jane Mason is very specific in saying never to mix them. I know I don’t have to believe everything I’ve read but I am particularly grateful to her for her instructions that finally got a good wheat starter going in our kitchen.

You don’t want to have a starter that is part wheat and part rye, or part rye and part spelt, because the grains perform differently and a mixed starter will make it difficult to follow recipes. That should not deter you from experimenting, but you may want some ‘pure’ starter as well to make your life a little easier (although possibly less fun).
-Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p47

13:30 Cathy quickly pointed to Peter Reinhart’s notes about clear flour:

[I]n Peter Reinhart’s poolish baguette recipe, he says to sift whole grain flour once in order to approximate “clear flour”.
– Cathy, in message to the BBBabes

But, after reading more about “first clear flour”, it disturbed me that Reinhart didn’t call for malt in his substitute.

First clear flour is what remains after milling patent flour, giving it a darker color and higher mineral content.
King Arthur Flour Shop | First Clear Flour – 3 lb.
12.7% Protein.50% Ash Malted, Enriched
This “short patent” is a classic spring wheat bread flour milled from the center of the wheat kernel resulting in high protein and low ash. A good fit for hand or machine production. Provides good tolerance and oven spring and is ideal for hearth breads, pan breads, and buns. Also works well for yeasted breakfast pastries.
King Arthur Flour Shop | Products for the Professional Baker – Signature Flours

I really think I should add some malt. After all, we have a ton of various malted grains (rye, barley, wheat) in the freezer!

2 September 2017, 08:11 I do understand that the BBB recipe suggests to feed my wheat starter with rye flour. And until this year, I would have done that. But I’ve had such amazing success using Jane Mason’s method and such amazingly disastrous results using any other methods for creating/keeping natural starters, that I don’t dare to deviate. (Nobody has any real idea just how cranky our household gets when the food is wrong….)

If I only need 20 grams of rye starter, maybe I will experiment with Mason’s 5 day formula for making a rye starter. But I’ll use considerably less flour on each day so that the jar that ends up in the fridge (if it ends up there at all) can be small.

Making your own RYE sourdough starter
Day One Mix 25g/3 tablespoons rye flour and 50g/3½ tablespoons water to the mix. Stir and cover. Leave for 24 hours.
Day Two Add 25g/3 tablespoons rye flour and 50g/3½ tablespoons water to the mix. Stir and cover. Leave for 24 hours.
Day Three Repeat as Day Two
Day Four Repeat as Day Two
Day Five Your starter should be bubbly. Congratulations! If your starter is not bubbly by the morning of Day Five, don’t add any more flour, just cover it and let it sit for another 24 hours. If nothing has happened by then, your house could be too clean. Seriously! Stop using bleach or other antiseptic sprays on every surface. Revert to hot, soapy water to clean surfaces. You need germs and so dose your sourdough!
-Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p45

Because of the thrill of finally making decent bread that is all natural starter and zero commercial yeast, I’m very tempted to make this with only natural starters.

Therefore, I’m on day 3 of putting together a rye starter. If it doesn’t work, it’s NOT because our kitchen is too clean (if you know what I mean) and I’ll just switch and make a rye sponge with yeast and the wheat poolish with my wheat starter.

4 September 2017, 17:06
How do I use sourdough rather than yeast? […]
i) Pick the recipe you would like to bake, note the amount of fresh yeast that is called for and double it to get the amount of [natural starter] you need. Weigh this out in a bowl.
ii) Take 25% of the flour that is called for in the recipe and put that in the bowl too.
iii) Take half as much water as you took of flour and put that in the bowl. […] Mush it all together with your hands, cover it and leave it overnight or all day on the counter. Write down how much flour and water you used because you will need to subtract that from the total amount called for in the recipe and use the balance the next day.
-Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p48
To convert recipes calling for fresh compressed yeast to instant yeast; Use 0.32 times the weight; or, for 1 packed tablespoon (21 grams) fresh yeast, use 2 teaspoons [6.4gm] instant yeast.
-Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Bread Bible, p.562
for every cup of flour in the recipe, use either of
      3 grams compressed fresh yeast
      2 grams active dry yeast
      1 gram instant active dry yeast
-Maggie Glezer, Artisan Baking Across America

(read more about yeast equivalents here: Yeast Equivalents – AGAIN)

So. In the BBB recipe, instead of 8gm instant yeast, that would be 24gm fresh yeast, which means I’ll need 48gm bubbly starter for the wheat poolish….

Will this work? Or will the whole thing explode because of the two starters battling it out for supremacy?

5 September 2017, 16:37 The rye starter is just beginning to show bubbles. It will be really interesting to see if Jane Mason is right and that it’s ready to go tomorrow. Even so, I won’t be able to start putting together the two starters for the bread until Thursday.

I still haven’t worked out how much of the crushed malted rye berries I will use to get my sieved whole wheat flour to be like “First Clear Flour”… How much should it be?? A tablespoon or so?

Or am I confused? First Clear Flour is wheat flour, isn’t it? It keeps coming up in the “rye” search on the KAF site….

16:51 Looking at the KAF site, pumpernickel flour is coarsely ground rye flour and medium rye flour “is a slightly darker rye, milled closer to the bran than white rye”. And as far as I can tell, dark rye is 100% whole grain. The dark rye (Rogers no additives) that we have in the cupboard is very smoothly milled.

Here’s what Jane Mason says about dark and light rye flour:

It is an odd convention that rye flour is called “dark rye” and “light rye” rather than “whole meal rye” or “whole rye” and “white rye”. […] “Light rye” is the equivalent of white flour and “dark rye” is the equivalent of whole meal (whole wheat/spelt) flour – that is to say, “dark rye” has all the bran and the germ in the flour and “light rye” does not. When you bake with dark rye, your dough will be more absorbent (ie it will need more water) and it will bake into a loaf that is slightly smaller than if you bake with light rye flour
-Jane Mason, What is dark rye flour? | Virtuous Bread

6 September 2017, 11:50 It’s a perfect day for a wild goose chase. The sun is shining; the air is a little crisp; gardens are burgeoning with peppers and sunflowers. But, several bulk stores later, we have come home with zero light rye flour. It seems we can only get dark rye flour. We didn’t see pumpernickel, medium, or light rye flour. We didn’t even see the kind that has wheat flour already added!

7 September 2017, 12:45 This morning, the Jane Mason rye starter was ready to go (floating beautifully) but the wheat starter had gone past its prime. So I fed them both and will make the sponge and poolish sometime this afternoon (I think).

So. I’m going to have to improvise.

Here’s my plan:

Rye Sponge
300gm dark rye flour
200gm warm water
20gm rye sour culture
Wheat Poolish
10gm malted wheat berries (coarsely ground)
170gm sifted whole wheat flour (haven’t decided what to do with the bran yet) 4gm bran removed – replace with 4gm unbleached all-purpose flour
180gm cold water
48gm 100% hydration wheat culture
Final Dough
all of Rye sponge (520gm)
all of Wheat Poolish (408gm)
12gm crushed malted wheat berries
70gm sifted whole wheat flour (what to do with the bran??)
210gm dark rye flour
110gm unbleached all purpose flour
170gm warm water
20gm salt

What do you think? Am I completely out of my mind?

14:54 Oh oh! I hope I didn’t make a mistake! The Mason wheat starter was floating beautifully. The rye starter was foaming like crazy and I stupidly assumed it was floating and went ahead to make the rye sponge.

THEN I checked to see if what was left over was floating. Duh…. no. Of course not. Sigh… (here’s hoping that the wheat starter will have enough oomph. I wonder if I shouldn’t add a pinch of regular yeast – just in case – when I mix the final dough.

23:16 I just checked the two starters. Whoa!!! The rye sponge smells like paint thinner! And the little bit of starter that I left to keep fermenting has zero bubbles. But it too smells like varsol.

Should I try rescuing the sponge? Or would I be better to toss all the rye sludge and forget about using that revolting rye sponge altogether? Should I just incorporate whatever rye flour was supposed to go into the sponge into the actual bread?

Hmmm, while I’m at it, should I add a tiny amount of yeast too? Maybe I’d better. Even though the wheat poolish is looking nicely active and probably has enough raising power. I just don’t dare to take a chance!

8 September 2017, 00:20 I’m a bad bad bad bad Babe! Just before mixing the final dough, I smelled the rye sponge one more time to see if I was over-reacting. I almost keeled over from the fumes. (Is that what bathtub hooch smells like? Thank Heaven that Prohibition was repealed and we have access to decent liquor!)

Bearing in mind that I am the director, I started over. (Nothing like having half the opening on the cutting room floor, eh?)

But I didn’t have enough rye flour – we only had 113gm left. My elegant {cough} proposal to use 210gm in the final dough (with the rye sponge calling for 300gm rye flour) is foiled. While there are probably 24 hour stores that sell rye flour relatively close by, I’m NOT going out this late. Just in case the 24 hour stores don’t sell rye flour after all. :lalala:

So much for all that planning I did to use two natural starters…. Remembering that “there will be no guesswork in our kitchen”, I improvised. I substituted with a lot of unbleached all purpose flour. And a little bit of buckwheat. And a dash of active dry yeast. I kneaded it and am going to put it into the fridge overnight.

I hope it rises. Fingers crossed that I haven’t created a whole ton of library paste. :stomp:

00:53 I’ve decided to leave the dough on the counter overnight. I think (I hope) it’s cool enough in the kitchen that it will just nicely double and then I can shape it in the morning. errm… later this morning. Because it’s already morning, isn’t it?

13:08 I probably should have left the dough on the counter… Still, after taking it out of the fridge around 9am and doing the finger-poke test at 11, it was ready to shape. I made one loaf into a ring and one in a round (I’m hoping it will be good for making Roncesvalles Reubens – with ham instead of beef…).

I’m just going now to see if it’s time to turn on the oven.

BBB Swiss Rye 13:12 It was! It was!

Isn’t it fabulous how easily the boule popped out of the brotform? Rice flour is a wonderful invention! I can’t believe it took me so long to learn about it…. :lalala:

13:35 Swiss Rye Ring After liberal spraying, into the oven they went! Alas, we don’t have a large enough bowl to act as a hat for the ring. So I fell back on the old method of introducing steam: I liberally sprayed the top of the ring with water.

Oops!! No time like after the fact to read the instructions, eh? (I used a fork to poke holes. I wouldn’t have used the steam pan anyway. It’s too much like work.) BBB Swiss Rye Ring The ring was pretty floppy and pretty flat.

Cover and proof at room temperature until the breads have visibly expanded and surface shows cracks or broken bubbles.
Preheat the oven to 480°F/250°C with the baking surface in the middle and a steam pan on a lower shelf. Dock the surface of each loaf thoroughly and evenly to a depth of at least ¼”/0.6 cm. with a fork, chopstick or docking wheel.
Bake with steam 15 minutes, then remove the steam pan, reduce the temperature to 410°F/210°C and bake until the loaves thump when tapped with a finger and the internal temperature is at least 198°F/92°C, about 30 minutes.
-BBB September 2017 recipe

14:07 It smells wonderful – almost like Christmas cake (interesting considering that there are no spices in the bread at all). But it’s not done yet…. I just took the hat of the round loaf and Wow! The ear on the score is fabulous. !! Whoohooooooo.

It makes me wonder if I really had to bother putting in those few grains of yeast at all.

Rye sour culture is a rye based sourdough starter consisting of whole rye flour and hydrated at 100%.
-Stanley Ginsberg, The Rye Baker | Swiss Rye Ring

Oops!! NOW I notice this! Clearly, my 200% rye starter was wrong wrong wrong. No wonder it didn’t work.

BBB Swiss Rye Ring
BBB Swiss Rye Ring Crumb

After allowing it to cool completely, we sliced into it. Wow. How beautiful!

We ate half of the rye ring with Lidia Bastianich’s chicken with red peppers (we saw it on “Lidia’s Kitchen” on PBS – the title of the show was ‘Savory Baking’) and steamed broccoli. Once again – even though Royalty might not voluntarily eat things made with rye flour – we ate like kings!

That’s right. In spite of everything I did in inadvertent attempts at failure, our Swiss Rye (very light rye) Ring was fabulous.

chicken and peppers
chicken and peppers

As for the boule, I couldn’t have been happier! Just look at those ears! (I baked it in a preheated cast-iron frying pan with a stainless steel mixing bowl lid for the first half of baking. Quel oven-spring!)

BBB Swiss Rye

Many thanks for choosing this bread, Cathy! It’s quite delicious (even though the one I ended up making isn’t quite the same as Stanley Ginberg’s OR Bernd’s)

Here is the BBB September 2017 Swiss Rye Ring recipe we were given. And here is my revised ingredient list:

BBB Swiss LIGHT Rye Ring
based on a recipe for Swiss Rye Ring/Brasciadela/Kantonsbrot Graubünden on Stanley Ginsberg’s website “The Rye Baker”

makes two loaves

Rye Sponge

  • 300gm dark rye flour
  • 200gm body temperature water
  • 20gm rye sour culture, that you think is strong and bubbly but, in fact, is just about to turn to alcohol

Wheat Poolish

  • 10gm malted wheat berries (coarsely ground)
  • 170gm whole wheat flour, sifted (to remove 4gm bran)
  • 4gm unbleached all-purpose wheat flour
  • 180gm room temperature water
  • 48gm 100% hydration wheat culture

Actual Bread

  • all of Rye sponge (520gm)
  • all of Wheat Poolish (408gm)
  • 12gm crushed malted wheat berries
  • 70gm 100% whole wheat flour
  • 113gm dark rye flour
  • 507gm unbleached all-purpose wheat flour
  • 10gm buckwheat
  • 210gm warm water
  • dash active dry yeast (about 20 grains)
  • 20gm salt

Please see the actual BBB September 2017 Swiss Rye Ring recipe for mixing and baking instructions. (Even though the resulting bread was quite delicious, you probably don’t want to repeat my mistakes….)


1.) leaveners In the wheat poolish, the BBB recipe calls for 8 grams instant yeast. I thought it would be fun to use only natural starters for everything. So I used our active Jane Mason wheat starter. I also created at a rye sour culture, using Jane Mason’s 5 day method. I was surprised and delighted to discover that it really does take just 5 days to create a rye starter. What a shame it is that I wasn’t smart enough to make the rye sponge when the rye starter was ready (floating), instead of waiting until the wheat starter was ready too…. As a result, the rye sponge began to ferment horribly. I resorted to replacing the rye sour culture with a very few grains of active dry yeast.

2.) extra bran I ended up putting the bran that was sifted out of the whole wheat flour into a batch of granola.


BBB Swiss Rye

Bread Baking Babes BBB Swiss Rye Ring

Cathy is our host for September 2017’s Bread Baking Babes‘ project. She wrote:

Get ready for a change of pace for the September challenge! We’ll be baking Brasciadela/Kantonsbrot Graubünden, a ring-shaped rye bread from Graubünden, Switzerland.
Why did I choose this bread?
I […] took a workshop with Stanley Ginsberg. Stanley is the author of the book “The Rye Baker.” I have the book and had been waiting in anticipation for the conference so I could learn from him, but also to ask him personally if we could bake one of his breads. Stanley generously agreed and thought it was a great idea! He said to pick one of the breads from his blog. I chose this Swiss Rye Ring because I like the shape, but also because it involves a 3-stage process – Rye Sponge, Wheat Poolish, Final Dough. […] Don’t worry if you don’t have a rye sourdough starter, just use the starter you have.
– Cathy

We know you’ll want to make Swiss Rye Ring too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 September 2017. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.


For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ September 2017 bread.


BBB Swiss Rye Ring
BBB Swiss Rye Ring
the hazards of taking photos with a black cat on the loose….

I have been completely scared off of rye starters after making paint remover. But I’m not afraid of rye bread!
And now we don’t have any rye flour in the house at all and the supermarket no longer sells rye flour. Weird, eh? (Eeek! How will we have Reuben sandwiches once this BBB boule is finished?)


This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, sourdough and wild yeast, whine on by .

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12 responses to “Almost-wild Very (very) Light Rye (BBB September 2017)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Well, Stanley’s rye starter only took 5 days for me too.
    WOW oh WOW the ears on your boule! Both are beautiful loaves! Wish I’d done a boule, Gorn would really have like a bigger sandwich with this one.

    1. Elizabeth

      I know!! I still can’t get over the ears! We were so thrilled with them that we almost (“almost” being the key word here) didn’t want to eat the boule.

    1. Elizabeth

      Thank you, Kelly. That’s wheat for you! I suspect that if I’d added the actual amount of rye flour, the loaves wouldn’t have been nearly so impressive.

    1. Elizabeth

      Thank you, Karen! I must admit that I’m quite impressed with myself too. And even though people have been baking with wild yeast for eons, it feels as though I’ve invented it. {snort}

  2. katiezel

    What a perfect photo of the cat! And the bread looks lovely as well. I’ve always liked rye bread but it’s not something we have here…. Hmmmm. I really like the boule!

    1. Elizabeth

      A perfect photo, maybe. But not a perfect cat! I can’t believe he took the opportunity, of me holding the camera, to stick his little nose almost onto the bread!

  3. Lien

    This is the airiest loaf I’ve seen so far, very impressive! Do I understand it correct that you left out the rye starter thing, that might be the cause of that I guess. Yes a round loaf is much handier to slice, but I like it that you made the traditional ring too!

    1. Elizabeth

      Yes, that is correct, Lien. The rye starter was entirely omitted so the bread ended up containing WAY less rye flour than it was supposed to.

      I do love the traditional ring. If it hadn’t been for the fact that we wanted to make Reuben sandwiches, I would have made two rings.

    1. Elizabeth

      Thank you, Cathy! The bread does look awfully good – but I have to think it’s largely due to how much rye I didn’t add. (I don’t think I’m even close to being royalty though, considering what happened to the rye starter.)


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