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Graham Saga

Rye and Wheat Sourdough

In Sweden as in the US, sourdough baking has exploded over recent years. People save sourdough starters and keep them alive year after year, “feeding” them on a weekly basis. Sourdough is excellent for heavier types of flour, and it also adds a flavor and chewiness to the bread. It is also somewhat more fickle than your standard yeast, which means that you have to work the dough much more than you’d do otherwise.


Creating a sourdough starter is a matter of mixing flour with water – and of ensuring a clean container. Use a big glass jar, sterilized with boiling water first. Cool before using.


A sourdough takes time – you want to have warm bread on Friday, you need to set the dough on Monday. Once you’ve set it, it can keep for ages, as long as you add more flour to it regularly (Why not, so easy to add to the starter as you are baking!)


In Scandinavia, sourdoughs are mostly set with a combination of wheat and rye flours, as Alex did, white flour being dear!


Starter: Day 1

Mix equal quantities of flour and lukewarm water (half a cup of water, ¼ cup of wheat, ¼ cup of rye) Mix. If you want to really get things bubbling, you can add a piece of apple peel (but only if the apple has been grown organically, i.e. untreated) or a teaspoon of honey.


Put your jar or bowl somewhere in the kitchen – do not cover tightly as air is required to get the bacteria going, so leave it ajar. Cover with a towel.


Feeding the starter:  Day 2

24 hours after you have made the starter, add an additional ½ cup lukewarm water, with ¼ cup of rye flour, ¼ cup of wheat flour. Mix together.


Feeding the starter: Day 3

Repeat Day 2. By now, you should have a bubbling, living thing in your jar. The sourdough is ready to use the next day.


As a rule, you should always “feed” the sourdough the day before you’re planning on using it, never immediately after having taken some to bake with. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it is – they’re temperamental little things!


After the first three days, you only need to feed the sourdough once a week or so (or more, if you bake more often).


Baking Day: Day 4

Time to make sourdough bread!

Using sourdough is usually a two-day process. Because sourdough is somewhat more temperamental, we need to allow more time for it to rise – and it requires more kneading than your standard yeast dough.


3 1/3 cups (0.8 litres) of wheat flour

1 2/3 cups (0.4 litres) rye flour

2 1/3 cups (0.5 litres) finger warm water

1 2/3 cups (200 grams) sourdough (approx. a third of starter)

Salt ½ tablespoon

Aniseed or cumin

½ tablespoon of honey, optional


  1. Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add water, sourdough starter, and honey. Mix into a soft if somewhat sticky dough.

  2. Leave to rest for an hour under a towel.

  3. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.  This ensures you’re spreading the ferment evenly throughout the dough.

  4. Set to rise under a damp towel for two hours.

  5. Punch down and knead dough, adding flour if too sticky. Dust with flour & leave it to rest under its towel for 20 minutes.

  6. Knead it again. Then shape it into a round loaf. Place it in a covered container and put it in the fridge overnight.

  7. Next day, pre-heat the oven to 425 F (225 degrees C). Bring loaf to room temperature and let bread rise to about double in size.  

  8. Put the bread in the oven and lower the temperature to 400 F (200 C). Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until top is golden and tapping the loaf produces a hollow sound.


A lot of work for a loaf of bread one might think. Alex wholeheartedly agrees, which is why she bakes many loaves at one time.



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