Repeat of basic bread message: get and read and use Jeffrey Hamelman’s book – Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.
First of all, most rye bread made in this country is not good European rye. Most of the European rye breads are sourdough derivatives. From waaaay back. Later bread was done with a process called Detmolder sourdough, which was developed in Germany. Detmolder will get the maximum flavor out of the sourdough. (See previous discussion of Sourdough Breads.)
For any sourdough cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let sit in a warm place. Some of the stages will require different temperatures, so check the temp in various places, not only in the kitchen, but also around the rest of the house to find the right temperature zone for that particular stage.
Sourdough is not too hard to develop from scratch. Start off with 90 grams of rye flour and 90 grams of water. Sitting temp around 75°F. For the next 3 days take 90 grams of the starter, 90 grams of flour and 90 grams of water. For the next 7 days do the feed twice a day. You should now have a very robust and strong starter. You can keep it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week as with most starters.
For a Detmolder build start with 32 grams of sourdough, 62 grams of water, and 32 grams of rye flour. Target temp 78°F for 6 hours.
Second stage, 500 grams rye flour, 375 grams water, 125 grams of starter. Target temp 76°F for 24 hours.
Third stage, 1220 grams rye flour, 1220 grams water, 1000 grams starter. Target temp 85°F for 4 hours.
The reason for all the different constancies and temperatures is to develop different parts of the flavor of the sourdough. Reserve a bit of the last build to be the start of the next build. Scale the amounts up or down to meet the needs of the moment.
A nice, basic rye is a good all round eating, sandwich, and dunking in hearty soup bread. It is also a very healthy bread. Even the most rabid food nazi should not object to a good rye.
Here is an easy, plain rye:
270 grams rye flour
231 grams high gluten wheat flour (you won’t get much rise without this)
322 grams water
15 grams salt
1 package yeast
524 grams of Detmolder sourdough
Heat a bit of the water to 110°F, mix in the yeast with a small pinch of sugar, let it rest about 10 minutes. This will make sure the yeast is alive and healthy and thoroughly awake.
Mix everything together on low speed for 4 minutes. Mix on speed 2 for 1 minute. Let rest, covered with plastic for 20 minutes at 82°F. Don’t add extra flour, this is not like a wheat loaf and it will be sticky. I get better results by greasing the rising bowl with a small amount of butter. I also grease the work surface when I form the loaves. This is a sticky dough and too much flour on the work surface will goof up the texture.
I like 1.5 pound loaves, but suit yourself. Divide and shape as you like. Traditional is the standard round loaf, but I usually use bread pans so I can get better sandwich slices. Let it rise for 1 hour at 82°F.
If you have a dough docker, use it on the tops. If you don’t have one just lightly stipple the tops with a dull tipped salad fork. Either way, use a light touch so as not too deflate the loaf. Bake at 490°F for 10 minutes. If you want an extra crispy crust, spray the oven with clean water as you put the loaves in. Spray again at 30 seconds and again at 1 minute and 2 minutes. Lower the temp to 410°F and bake for 45 minutes for a 1.5 pound loaf. For a 2.5 pound loaf bake for 1 hour.
Resist temptation. Let cool on a rack, then wrap in cloth and ignore for 24 hours. This lets the crumb set up nice and firm. If you cut in prematurely, the flavor will not be as rich and full.
Herself sez: If you have questions about this, do ask! The Ol’ Curmudgeon is passionate about baking breads.