James Beard's Sourdough Rye Bread

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

NotesCover the sourdough loaves with kitchen towels to prevent the crust from hardening.

Makes2 loaves

Cooking Methodbaking


Total Timea day or more

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, vegetarian

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturechewy, crisp

Type of Dishyeast bread


  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 ¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • Butter and cornmeal, for the baking sheets
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


  1. Three days in advance: In a bowl, combine the yeast with the lukewarm water. Add the 2 cups flour and blend. Pour the starter into a container and seal tightly. Allow starter to sit at room temperature for 2 days. Then place in the refrigerator for 1 day.

  2. One day in advance: Place 1 cup of the “starter” in a bowl. Measure in the rye flour and lukewarm water. Mix together and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand overnight at room temperature.

  3. The bread: Dissolve the yeast with ¼ cup of the lukewarm water. Stir down the dough that has been standing overnight. Add the dissolved yeast, salt, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, melted butter, and sugar. One cup at a time, add 4 cups of the flour, stirring to make a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it with butter. Cover and place in a warm draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

  4. Meanwhile, butter 2 baking sheets and generously sprinkle with cornmeal.

  5. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape each piece of dough into a free-form loaf and place it on the prepared baking sheets. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour.

  6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 30 minutes, or until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.


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