Vollkornbrot is a true German rye bread recipe, but unfamiliar to most nonnatives. Often called the archetype of rye bread, this recipe (adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes) produces a dense, moist sourdough which is eaten in thin slices. To allow enough time for rising, start this bread the day before you bake. It does not require Altus (old bread) so it is an easy bread with which to start your breadmaking adventures.
- 2 2/3 cup / 370 grams whole rye flour (or pumpernickel flour)
- 1 1/2 cup / 370 grams chlorine-free water (bottled is good)
- 2 teaspoon / 20 grams sourdough starter
- 2 1/4 cup / 283 grams rye berries (cracked)
- 1/4 cup / 283 grams water
- All of the sponge
- All of the soaker
- 1 3/4 cup / 243 grams whole rye flour (or pumpernickel flour)
- 2-3 teaspoons / 30 grams water (variable)
- 1 tablespoon / 17 grams salt
- 6 teaspoons / 56 grams sunflower seeds
- 1 3/4 teaspoon / 6 grams instant yeast
Make the Sourdough and Soaker
Stir together the whole rye flour, water, and sourdough starter until all the flour is hydrated. The starter can be from the refrigerator if you renew it weekly. Otherwise, feed the starter once, which adds about 12 hours to the project. Also, use water which is chlorine-free or let water stand at room temperature for a day before using because the sourdough grows better with dechlorinated water.
Stir the cracked rye and water together in a separate bowl. If you can only find whole rye berries, place them in a blender or coffee grinder for 30 seconds. It doesn't do the best job at cracking them, but it helps.
Cover both bowls and leave at room temperature for 16 to 18 hours. Room temperature is assumed to be 75 F. If your room is colder, you might want to let them soak/ferment longer. The sourdough will smell strong but not rise and the berries should have soaked up all the water.
Final Bread Dough
Add all the rest of the ingredients, including soaker and sponge to a bowl and mix on low or by hand for about 10 minutes. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a floured board.
Form into a loaf and place in a well-buttered and floured Pullman or tea cake form. The dough is very sticky and you can't really see any gluten strands, but it is correct.
Flour the top of the loaf, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at 85 F for an hour. Surprisingly, the loaf will rise a bit. Consider keeping it in the oven with the light on; the light warms the interior of the oven to about 85 F. Just do not turn on the oven.
Bake the Bread
Preheat the oven for an hour to 480 F with a baking stone, if you have one.
Place the bread (still in the form) directly on the baking stone and bake with steam for 15 minutes and dry for about 45 minutes to an hour. In the last 15 minutes, carefully remove the bread from the form and place it back in the oven, to dry out the sides of the loaf.
Let the Vollkornbrot cool, wrap in cloth and let it age for 24 hours or longer before slicing. Slice 1/4 inch thick or thinner. You can also wrap and freeze. Freezing in sections is good for small households.
- Some consider Vollkornbrot an acquired taste. It is a lot like the cocktail pumpernickel available at stores, except it is entirely made from whole rye and denser than store-bought bread.
- You can sometimes find partial loaves of Vollkornbrot that have been imported from Germany in stores, where they cost about $3 a pound. This recipe makes a 5-pound loaf, so if you like dense rye bread, it's more economical to make at home.
- You will need a sourdough starter to make this bread. German bakeries would specifically use a rye sour, but a white flour starter will do fine, at least at first. Yeast is added to this loaf, so the sourdough is mostly there for flavor. As an added bonus, rye flour has been shown to control blood sugar levels better than whole wheat flour.