Yeasted Rye Bread Recipe with Sponge Starter

This delicious yeasted rye bread recipe is made with a sponge starter.

From "From No-Knead to Sourdough"

  • A freshly baked loaf of rye bread is ready to be eaten.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • Active rye sourdough is ready to be turned into homemade bread
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • A glass jar is perfect for holding sourdough starter.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • Fresh-baked bread needs to cool before being sliced.
    Photo by Victoria Redhed Miller
  • Nothing beats the flavor of homemade bread.
    Photo by Victoria Redhed Miller
  • Homemade bread slathered with butter is perfect for breakfast, a snack, or as an accompaniment to supper.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • "From No-Knead to Sourdough" by Victoria Redhed Miller
    Photo by New Society Publishers

Total Hands-On Time: 8 hr 30 min

Preparation Time: 7 hr. 30 min

Cook Time: 55 min

Yield: 1 Loaf

This delicious yeasted rye bread recipe is made with a sponge starter. First, the sponge must be fermented for 4 hours, followed by 10-25 minutes of kneading the dough.  Then, the dough will be fermented for 90 minutes, and shaped before baking.



  • Large mixing bowl (stainless steel, glass, Pyrex, or ceramic)
  • Wooden spoon or wire whisk
  • Large wooden cutting board
  • Standard bread loaf pan
  • 2-quart dough-rising bucket, optional

 Sponge Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup unbleached bread flour            
  • 1-1⁄4 cups rye flour, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast                     
  • 1 cup unchlorinated water, cool         

 Bread Ingredients:   

  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1-1⁄4 teaspoons sea salt          
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, soaked
  • 1⁄4 cup milk or buttermilk


TIP:  Start soaking caraway seeds in a small bowl of water when you start your sponge. Drain them thoroughly before adding to the bread dough. This way, the seeds won’t draw moisture out of your bread dough.

Making the Sponge:

  1.  In a large mixing bowl, stir all the sponge ingredients together with a wooden spoon or a wire whisk to make a smooth batter.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and ferment at room temperature for about 4 hours.
  3. The sponge will rise and then fall; don’t worry, this is normal.

Mixing and Kneading the Dough:

  1. Add the bread ingredients to the sponge, stirring until the dough forms a ball. Knead the dough for a total of about 10 minutes, letting your-self and the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes in the middle.
  2. The dough should be smooth and a little tacky, but not too sticky. (TIP: Rye dough should be kneaded less than wheat dough. If kneading in a mixer, knead at low speed so gluten strands don’t break.)

Fermenting the Dough:

  1. Put the dough into your dough-rising bucket and put the lid on, or put it back in the mixing bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  2. Let the dough ferment at room temperature until it doubles, about 90 minutes.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

  1. Form the dough into a loaf to fit the bread pan. Lightly grease the loaf pan, and place the shaped dough into the pan.
  2. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof for 60 to 90 minutes; it should about double in volume, with the top of the loaf forming a dome shape, but not overflowing the sides of the pan.

Baking the Bread:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Bake the bread for 45 to 55 minutes; it should look evenly colored and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf.
  2. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack. Leave it in the pan for a few minutes before tipping it out onto the rack. Let the loaf cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing.

Excerpted with permission from Victoria Redhed Miller’s book From No-Knead to Sourdough, published by New Society Publishers.


  • Use spring water if possible; bottled is fine. Avoid chlorinated water and distilled water.
  • Use organic, stone-ground flour for activating your starter.
  • Rye flour is added on the first day because it ferments quickly and has more enzymes and minerals than wheat flour, helping to get a new culture off to a strong start.
  • I recommend putting a lid on your starter container. The yeast and bacteria are already in there; there’s no need to use cheesecloth or anything else as a revolving door. Trust me on this.
  • The ingredient measurements aren’t critical. It’s easier, when doing this for the first time, to have the parameters defined, but don’t worry about it being exact. The main thing is to keep all the flour in the mix well hydrated.

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