Authentic German Black Bread (Schwarzbrot)

“This is a traditional, 100% rye bread that is thinly slice and eaten open-faced with cheese or sliced meats. Black bread is made from cracked rye grain, water, sourdough starter, and salt. The rye should be cracked in a grain mill and should contain no more than about 25% flour. Start the dough 12 to 14 hours before baking.”
19hrs 30mins
2 loaves

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 7 12 cups rye berries, cracked (measure before cracking)
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Combine the water, sourdough starter, and one half of the cracked rye. Mixture will be soupy. Cover and allow to set at about 70° F for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. After 8 to 10 hours, the mixture will have absorbed water and be similar in consistency to porridge. Save 1 cup of this mixture for the next batch of bread, then add salt and the rest of the cracked rye.
  3. Allow the dough to ferment at about 70° F for 4 more hours. At the end of this time, work and squeeze the dough with your hands to develop its cohesiveness. The dough is nothing like wheat bread dough. It is very moist and slippery and cannot be kneaded. When a handful is squeezed, it will squirt out between your fingers.
  4. After working the dough for several minutes, pack it into bread forms, preferably glass. There's not much rising that goes on and too much air space in the bread would be detrimental to the texture. The moistness and acidity of the dough and the long baking time will strongly rust steel pans and etch aluminum ones. Pack the dough into the pan tightly and smooth the top with a spatula. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the top of the form and then cover tightly with aluminum foil. The aluminum foil keeps the bread from drying out and the parchment paper keeps the aluminum foil from dissolving into the bread. Bake at 225° F for 3½ hours.
  5. Turn the oven off but allow the bread to remain inside for a couple more hours. Carefully remove the bread from the pans and place on a rack to cool and dry. Ideally, you should wait a day or two until the bread becomes firmer before attempting to slice it.

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