Beet Rye Bread

Adapted by
March 2019
Yield: 2 8-inch loaves


Beet Purée:
Bread Spice:
fennel seeds
juniper berries
caraway seeds
coriander seeds
black peppercorns
nigella seeds
Beet Build:
Mature stiff sourdough starter
Whole rye flour
Final Dough:
28 grams sea salt
745 grams Whole rye flour
Shape and Proof:
Neutral high-heat oil
rye flour


For the Beet Purée

Heat oven to 500°F. Place beets on wire rack set in a large, deep roasting pan. Fill pan with an inch or two of water. Roast until beets are soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Reserve cooking liquid and scale beets. In a Vitamix XL blender, combine beets and one-third of their weight in water, first using reserved cooking liquid. Purée until silky smooth. 

For the Bread Spice

In a bowl, combine 1 part each fennel seeds and juniper berries to 2 parts each caraway, coriander, peppercorns, and nigella seeds. In a spice grinder, grind to a slightly coarse powder. 

For the Beet Build

Convert the sourdough starter into a stiff rye starter by feeding it once or twice at 12-hour intervals using a 2:4:3 ratio of starter:rye flour:water. Use refrigerator-temperature ingredients if you would like a longer rise (up to 32 hours) before mixing your final dough. If you would like to mix your final dough sooner, warm Beet Purée to 125°F. In a cambro, combine 170 grams starter, 325 grams flour, and 375 grams Beet Purée. When flour is fully hydrated and starter is evenly dispersed, seal cambro and ferment mixture at 85°F to 95°F until it is full of gas, boozy, and very acidic. It should start to taste like tart green apple and will take on strong, leathery, winey vinegar notes when ready.

For the Final Dough

In a large pot, warm 865 grams Beet Purée to 120°F; stir in salt and 10 grams Bread Spice. Add 865 grams Beet Build and stir until evenly dispersed. Add flour all at once. Use one hand to rotate the pot and the other to fold in and squeeze through the ingredients while also turning against the rotation of the pot. When the flour is fully hydrated, gently mix for another minute or so; the dough should lighten in color slightly, which is a sign that the gel structure is strong enough to trap some oxygen. Resist the urge to mix longer; rye will never form a dough in the way you are used to with wheat. Instead, you’ll end up with something like a heavy, wet clay.

For the Shape and Proof

Heavily grease two 8-inch loaf pans with oil, and then dust lightly with rye flour. Rye doughs are very sticky and best handled with water instead of flour. Use a large pan of water to keep your hands, a dough scraper, and the top of a scale wet. Divide dough into two 1.2 kilogram pieces. Lightly pat dough into rough cylinders and, so the dough does not catch on the edges of the pan, gently place it in the loaf pans. Press dough with a cupped hand to give it a slightly rounded shape. Evenly and heavily dust with rye flour so you can just barely see the color of the dough through the flour. Proof at 85°F to 95°F, until cracks appear on the surface of the dough, and small pinprick holes are visible within the largest cracks. If pinprick holes are visible in even the smallest cracks, you have proofed it too far and may end up with dense or fragile loaves.

For the Bake

Heat oven with a baking stone to 500°F. Place loaf pan on the baking stone and bake 10 minutes. Decrease temperature to 420°F and bake 50 to 60 minutes more, until the internal temperature of the center of the loaves is 210°F. (If the bread appears to take on too much color, decrease heat to 400°F after 40 minutes of baking.) Remove bread from pan immediately after baking and cool on a wire rack. Allow bread to fully cool before slicing.