In Russia, rye is an indispensable bread cereal. Although modern flours ground from hybrid rye varieties do not usually have to be acidified because of their lower enzyme content, many Russian bakeries continue to use traditional production methods. For the most popular rye bread, Borodinski Chleb, rye flour is laboriously scalded, acidified and sugared to create a very intensive flavor and a long shelf life.

“Everything may be lost, money may be wasted, and life may be turned upside down, but if there is bread in the house, there is still hope.” This Russian saying reveals the high regard the people of the world’s largest country (in land area) have for their most important staple food. In Russia, bread has played a prominent role in the national diet and comes onto the table several times a day. Whether borscht, pelmeni or stuffed cabbage leaves, a meal without bread is scarcely conceivable. According to Rosstat, the Russian state statistics service, over a third of the population’s diet (34.3%) consists of bread and other bakery products.

Rye flour baking tradition

A peculiarity of the Russian bread tradition is the extensive use of rye flour. Rye is hardier than wheat and better suited to the country’s harsh climatic conditions. Therefore, for a long time, Secale cereale was Russia’s predominant bread cereal.

Bakeries offer a wide range of rye and mixed wheat-and-rye bread and have made a fine art of handling superfine and wholemeal flours. Since the gluten content of rye is not sufficient to create a stable, three-dimensional network in the doughs, the pentosans play a central role in dough formation on account of their high water-binding capability. The larger the proportion of rye flour in the recipe, the stickier is the dough and the lower its gas retention capacity.

Laborious production process

The best-known rye bread speciality is Borodinski Chleb, a wholesome, substantial pan loaf with a malty-aromatic taste. The dough process is extremely laborious since it requires the preparation of both a hot soaker and a sourdough.

To produce a scald, part of the rye flour is stirred with hot water to form a viscous mass. In many recipes this dough is sugared by adding enzyme-active malt flour, which breaks the starch down into dextrins, maltose and glucose. The sugared scald is then mixed with the bakery’s own sourdough.

This pre-dough — the sugared scald with the sourdough — is not added to the main bread dough until after fermentation. At this point, some recipes even prescribe an extra portion of liquid sour to emphasize the acidic note. Large amounts of sugar, molasses, honey or even fruit jelly serve as a counterpart to the sharp and malty flavors. Indispensable ingredients for achieving the characteristic Borodinski taste experience are ground coriander and sometimes a little caraway seed. Every bakery swears by its own method and steers the individual taste and consistency of the loaves through the choice of raw materials and with different temperatures and fermentation times.

Borodinski Chleb was originally made entirely with rye flour. But since Russian consumers now prefer a softer, lighter crumb, it has become usual to add 20% to 30% wheat flour.

The following is a basic recipe for Borodinski Chleb

Scald/hot soaker

Rye flour 1.500 kg

EMCEmaltex 34000 0.300 kg

Coriander, ground 0.030 kg

Water (90 °C) 4.500 kg

Hot soaker 6.330 kg

Resting time: 3-4 hours


Hot soaker 6.330 kg

Rye flour 5.500 kg

Basic sour

(dough yield 160 %) 2.400 kg

Ready-to-use sour 0.400 kg

Wheat flour 1.500 kg

TopBake Roggenmischbrot

HB 0.700 kg

Sugar 0.300 kg

Salt 0.200 kg

Yeast 0.100 kg

Water, ca. 3.800 kg

Dough weight 21.230 kg

All rye doughs must be mixed with a low energy input. Because of the intensive pre-swelling of the sourdough and hot soaker, the production of Borodinski Chleb only requires a mixing time of 5 to 7 minutes at a slow speed.

After a rest of at least 30 minutes, dough portions of 1.10 kg are measured off, rounded and molded and laid in greased baking tins. For the characteristic finish, the surface is sprinkled lavishly with coriander seeds.

When fully proofed, the loaves are placed in the oven with steam at a temperature of 250 °C; a few minutes later, the steam is cut off.

The loaves are baked for about an hour, with the temperature falling to 200 °C.

Typical faults in rye loaves

Although Russia has a long tradition of handling rye flours, various faults may occur in the production of rye and mixed rye loaves. The cause is usually found to lie in incorrect preparation of the flour or quality fluctuations. The following is a brief overview of the most common problems and possible ways of solving them.

Problem: Loaf too flat.

Possible causes: Dough too soft, proof time too long, oven not hot enough.

Solution: Make firmer doughs, put dough portions in the oven earlier, start baking at a higher temperature. Add Alphamalt Gloxy 5080 WD or Alphamalt TTC.

Problem: Not enough volume.

Possible causes: Not enough leavening because of inadequate enzyme activity (α-amylases).

Solution: Add enzymes such as amylases (Alphamalt VC 5000) or xylanases (Alphamalt HCC 2).

Problem: Texture too close.

Possible causes: Dough too firm, proof time too short.

Solutions: Make the doughs softer with more water, lengthen the proof time. Add Alphamalt HTE.

Problem: Firm crumb, dry and crumbly.

Possible causes: Dough too acidy because of too much sour; doughs too firm.

Solution: Reduce the amount of sour, make the sourdoughs softer and cooler, increase the dough yield appreciably. Add Deltamalt FN and Alphamalt Fresh sour.

Problem: Tastes too acidy.

Possible causes: Fermentation time of the sourdoughs too long, too much sourdough, sourdoughs too warm or too acidy, incorrect ratio of lactic to acetic acid.

Solution: Shorten the processing time of the sourdoughs or reduce the amount. Optimize the temperature of the sourdoughs and check their acidity. Reduce the amount of starter. The ratio of lactic acid to acetic acid in the sourdough should be 85-90:15-10.

Treading new paths in the treatment of rye flour

Rye flour and sourdough — for many bakers, these two concepts are inseparable. It is still widely believed that rye must be acidified during preparation of the dough because of the high level of enzymes naturally present in the flour. If the enzymatic activity were not curbed by lowering the pH, the result would be a massive breakdown of the starch molecules, causing inadequate water binding and a weak dough structure.

But the fact is that the hybrid varieties grown nowadays are not only more resistant to disease and capable of a higher yield, they also have a much lower enzyme content than earlier varieties. Therefore, increasing the acidity of the rye dough is no longer seen as irrevocable dogma.

The effects of breeding are reflected in the Amylogram values and Falling Numbers. Whereas, for example, the Falling Numbers of rye flours used often to be between 60 and 80 seconds, values above 150 seconds are now by no means unusual.

Where bread baking is concerned, the reduction of the amylases intrinsic to the flour cuts down the work involved enormously. As a rule, a time-consuming sourdough process is no longer necessary to achieve good processability of the rye flour.

On the other hand, low-enzyme rye flours without acidification have certain drawbacks. The loaves have a low volume, a dry-baking crumb, and a shorter shelf life.

To prevent these undesirable effects and nevertheless rationalize the production method, a practical alternative to the sourdough process is treatment of the flour with enzymes. For the production of bread with a high proportion of rye, Mühlenchemie offers a toolbox with various systems of innovative agents. One effective solution is Deltamalt. This novel fungal amylase makes it possible to control the starch degradation, pasting and swelling processes of the protein and pentosan complexes so specifically that even rye loaves without sourdough are pleasantly succulent and have good elasticity and a long shelf life.

Since Deltamalt also lowers the Falling Number, this enzyme system further enables mills to adjust the rheological quality parameters of rye flour to their customers’ requirements.