All-rye soda bread

Continuing my rye kick, for St. Patrick’s Day I decided to try to make soda bread using only rye flour.

I started from a brown soda bread recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. That recipe called for a roughly fifty-fifty mix of white and whole wheat flours, with some wheat bran also thrown in, and enough buttermilk to equal about 70 percent of the total mass of flours.

Using only rye flour, I found 70 percent hydration way too low — I could barely mix the dough together and there was dry flour everywhere. I ended up with closer to 92 percent as much buttermilk as flour. That seems to be a common issue with rye; I also needed more water than was recommended for a wheat-only crust in the quiche pastry recipe above.

My recipe was, approximately:

  • 286 g rye flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 264 g buttermilk

Stirring that together yielded a cohesive, wet dough. I transferred that to a baking sheet with wet hands so the dough wouldn’t stick and patted it into a disk.

After 30 minutes in a 400ºF oven, a cake tester came out clean and it was done.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this since I didn’t really do any research about all-rye soda breads, but it came out pretty well. The texture was very dense, as you would expect with rye. The flavor was sweet and nutty. Soda bread might be an ideal way to put together a rye loaf, since the low gluten content is always going to limit the airiness you get from fermenting a yeasted bread. But I still wanted to experiment with high-rye sourdoughs.

As for the rest of St. Patrick’s Day dinner, it was lamb stew and colcannon:

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