Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roggen Vollkornbrot (well, almost)

Technically speaking, this brot (bread) is made with roggen (rye), and since I milled the flour myself, it is indeed vollkorn (wholemeal). So, this is my roggen vollkornbrot, perhaps just not a völlig roggen vollkornbrot.

OK. Enough of that.

So, the next bread in Chad's fine achievement is a 20% rye, but since I used a 100% rye levain and my rye starter, it came out to be 30.8%. This does not include the whole fermented rye berries that I added.

The thing about rye flour is that it's challenging to work with, right, so you're doing your turns, thinking: 'Man, this is sticky! This will never make a decent loaf of bread!' Alas, you are not doing anything wrong. Don't be tempted to add more flour (or water). It is the nature of the roggen beast. Indeed, those loaves with very high percentages of rye require the use of a mixer to work the dough. Luckily I have a bit of experience with rye because I bake weekly loaves of rye bread. I love it specifically for its temperamental nature because when I'm working with the sticky masses of dough and later pull out out an amazing loaf from the oven, it makes me feel a little like a badass.

30.8% roggen vollkornbrot

Since I am used to working with rye, I had to up my game by adding the fermented whole rye berries (our guru teaches us how to work with fermented grains later in the book, but hints at trying our hand at it now with this loaf). All I have to say is this: Thank you Chad. I can't imagine making another loaf without them.

If you decide not to add the fermented rye berries you will have to adjust your hydration, so plan for that. But seriously, it was so easy. All I did was soak some rye in water at room temp for three days, giving it a quick stir every day and the end result was much more amazing than I had anticipated. Of course the details of the whole deal is outlined in the formula below.

Carrying on.

I milled my own flour again for this bread with much anticipation. Because of the relative high percentage of rye here, I really wanted something special so I chose my small, precious bag of Bluebird Grain Farms heirloom rye. Their farmer has been growing this nonhybridized rye for 40 years. Cool right, to know that you've got a dedicated guy on the backend making this happen for your special loaves of bread. And I wish I could adequately describe this bag of rye. The grains are plump and gorgeous, like they were freshly harvested. It's like a sack of little blue sapphires. Seriously. It's nonpareil.

Oh, if you don't have your KoMo yet, Bluebird also sells flour on their website, and they mill it to order so when you get it, it's uber fresh. Their price points are fantastic as well, so I find myself using their grains frequently. I love the beans out of them not only because their grains are incredible, but because the people who own the company are terribly nice and super attentive to their customers. They're located in Washington, so if you are located up that way, you will find their flour and grains more easily in markets because they have an eye on keeping things local.

Rye breads are not typically dense if made properly, but the crumb is pretty even, especially with higher percentages of it. So don't expect a very open crumb when you bake this up. The reason why is because of the mineral content in rye. The higher the mineral content in a flour, the greater the decrease in bread volume. High mineral content is directly related to the amount of bran present in a flour. The sharp bran fragments cut away at the gluten structure thus tightening the crumb and decreasing the volume.

Another matter is that rye is high in pentosans, a substance that contributes to the high water absorption in rye breads. The pentosans compete with the glutelin (the second protein in rye flour which functions similarly to glutenin in wheat flours) and gliadin in the flour for moisture, and we all know that hampered absorption of water means hampered gluten development. Be advised, however, that over-hydrating your dough is not a resolution to the greedy pentosans. If you over-hydrate your rye dough, you are going to end up with a sticky hot mess. I have found that it's just really vital to autolyse your rye doughs amply. I mean, all of the doughs on this blog are autolysed amply because it results in better bread all around (proper autolysing = better flavor, better crumb and crust texture, better oven spring...), but if you ever (secretly) cut corners when making your bread, no cheating on this one.

Finally, the pentosans are super fragile, so you have to be gentle when working your rye doughs. Overworking it causes the characteristic stickiness to get worse because the flour unknits as the dough is worked. So, no aggressive folds guys. You can't build gluten in this loaf by the sweat of your brow, you have to rely on enzymatic activity to do the work. Your job with rye bread is to control fermentation so that it does not overproof (more on this in a sec).

As you can see, this loaf achieved gorgeous oven spring because I was gentle with the dough, I also autolysed for a full hour, and my final fermentation was about half of what I would employ for a wheat-based dough. Speaking of...

When fermenting your dough here, try sticking to a modest duration. Because rye has more sugars than wheat, rye doughs ferment more quickly than wheat doughs and you run the risk of overfermenting. This coupled with the pentosan issue and the high mineral and bran content of whole rye and you are challenged on multiple sides with the prospect of a flat, gummy loaf. My final fermentation was 9 hours. Incidentally, the high sugar content is the reason rye flour is so fabulous for starters. It supplies an enormous amount of food for our fragile cultures to get off the ground, and more easily than flours that don't contain as much. Rye also accounts for a stiffer starter and levain, but more so with home-milled rye flour than store-bought, so you will have to adjust your hydrations depending on if you are home-milling or using store-bought dark rye. Not all dark rye is wholemeal, see, so it's not going to contain as much bran as home-milled flour. This is another argument for either owning a KoMo, or making sure than you get your flour from reliable millers who mill their grain in entirety.

When planning this bread, start fermenting your rye berries when you begin your 3-day twice-a-day starter feed, since it takes that long to fully ferment. Then you can refrigerate it overnight when you build your levain, and pull it out on dough day, adding it to the dough straight from cold.

Have a look.

Roggen Vollkornbrot
(makes one loaf)


Begin this rye berry ferment three days before levain day.

125g gross Shrot, or, rye berries that have been cracked coarsely with your KoMo (also called 'rye chops' if using store-bought). I used Bluebird grains heirloom rye and cracked it in my KoMo
250g 75 degree h2o
15g active 100% hydration, 100% vollkorn starter

Dissolve the starter in the water, then mix in the coarsely cracked rye (rye chops). For the next three days, stir it twice a day. The ambient temp of my house was 71 degrees. Perfect fermentation temp. The mixture will have a sweet, fruity, creamy smell throughout its fermentation and will be only mildly sour smelling. It will become milky and soft as the days wear on.

Pop it in the fridge after the third full day and build your levain.


75g  Bluebird Grain Farms wholemeal rye flour
75g 68 degree h2o
10g 100% hydration, 100% wholemeal rye starter

Mix together your levain ingredients and ferment. Mine took 7 hours 15 minutes.


386g 70 degree water divided into 350g + 36g measurements
200g high-extraction flour, I used Heartland Mills 'Golden Buffalo' at 90% extraction
150g KA bread flour
100g home-milled Bluebird Grain Farms heirloom wholemeal rye flour
50g home-milled BRM red spring wheat flour
35g wheat germ
250g of the fermented rye berries (save the remainder and add it to your pizza dough)
12g kosher salt, I used Diamond

Dissolve all of the levain in 350g of the water, then mix in the flours and finally the fermented rye berries by hand. Autolyse one hour.

After the autolyse, squish the salt into the dough with the remaining 36g of water until it's fully incorporated and work the dough into a smooth mass. Now it's time for the bulk fermentation. Mine took 4 hours 20 minutes because it's been cool here, so fermentation in all stages of my bread making these days has been a little slow. Check yours at 4 hours, it could be ready then.

Every half hour, perform a series of turns throughout the entire bulk fermentation, taking care not to deflate the dough as you near the end of bulk. The dough will be sticky and feel a little heavy, but not unpleasantly so. Do your best in handling the dough gently. Remember, this is a fragile dough. It may seem like it's not going to amount to a lovely loaf of bread, but trust me when I say that this is the nature of rye flour. It is exactly as it should be: sticky and dense, without the gluten formation that is so evident in doughs comprised of all wheat flour.

When bulk fermentation is accomplished, turn the dough out onto a workspace dusted with brown rice flour, and shape into a loose round. Let it rest. Drape with a damp paper towel to keep it from forming a skin. Mine rested for 15 minutes.

After the bench, shape the dough into a taut boule and pop into a banneton or a bowl lined with linen that you have dusted with brown rice flour and spread with rye flakes. Pop in the fridge and ferment. Mine fermented for 9 hours.


Preheat the oven to 500 with a dutch oven and baking stone inside.

Dust the dough lightly with brown rice flour then unearth by placing a sheet of parchment over the mouth of the dough bowl, then place a peel over this and quickly invert the bowl so that the dough ends up sitting on the paper and the peel, seam side down.

Slash or snip the dough in some lovely pattern, then slide it into the shallow half of the hot dutchie. Cover with the fat half, slide it into the oven, and steam for 15 minutes at this temp, then turn the oven down to 475 and steam for another 15 minutes.

After the steam, remove the fat end of the dutchie, then stack the pan over its mouth to create a buffer between the hot stone and the bread. This will help keep the bottom of your bread from blackening. Toggle the oven between 460 and 475 until the boule is baked to desired darkness. I aim for chestnut-colored. When I took the temp of my bread with my Thermoworks instant read thermometer, it registered as 212 degrees.

Cool on a wire rack for at least TWO HOURS before slicing. Rye needs more time than most breads to cool.

Et voila! Bread!

This bread was more mild than you might expect with the double fermentation. Sweetish and nutty, clean earthy flavors with a moist and tender crumb that was not in the slightest gummy, sticky or compact. The rye berries melted right into the crumb. A glorious revelation, this fermenting of grains. I have added grains to breads in the past with less than happy results (they were always too hard), so this seems to be the way to go. The finish of on the palate was pleasantly sour. Just so you know, rye breads are always higher in acid than wheat sourdough breads, so expect a little more kick. But it is just this increased acid that makes for a loaf with incredibly long keeping powers. You will be eating it in a week's time. That is if it lasts that long.

The crust shattered when cut, the only hamper to that being the rolled rye flakes, which did come out a little more toothsome than I would have liked. I should like to try another brand that rolls their flakes thinner next time. And there will be a next time.


To the staff of life!


  1. Lovely bread France. I've not done a fermented whole grain yet. May just have to try. You should post the link to this on TheFreshLoaf.


    1. Thank you Paul! It was definitely a rewarding bread to accomplish!


  2. As always great post. I'm a bit puzzled by the seemingly very high hydration (~90%). You still seem to get some really nice boules for scoring. If I go anywhere above 75-80 % regardless of flour composition, any scoring will make the bread run out - so to speak (PS - I'm from Denmark and have tried a wide variety of flours including some really pricey full out hippie, organic, biodynamic sing-kumbaya-for-the-corn stuff). Do you have a few tips?

    1. working with freshly milled flour has meant an enormous change in hydration. it has so far been my experience that it takes much more water than commercial flour. just go with what works with your particular flour. there is nothing you can do to make it accept more water than it wants to. i don't aim for 'high-hydration' in my breads. i know how i like my dough to feel, and i hydrate it according to touch. if you notice, my posts from the first part of the blog were rather moderately hydrated. i didn't have a grain mill then.




Follow My Other Blogs Too!

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

get a hold of me at



Except where noted otherwise, all content within the blog posts on this site,, are the sole intellectual property of Francis-Olive Hampton and protected under United States copyright laws: Copyright protection is available for all unpublished works regardless the nationality or domicile of the author. Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

No part of any blog post shall be duplicated or manipulated for private use without prior consent.