I like rye. I like to use it in my sourdough starter. It mixes well and it seems to rise more robustly than wheat. And I especially like rye bread. My OMG Rye Bread is our favorite of all the sourdough breads I have baked. I also bake rye sourdough crackers often, using my discard starter.
But there is one important issue with rye. Well, more than one, but the first issue is availability. When I began my journey into sourdough country, a nearby supermarket sold rye in 5lb bags for about $5. It wasn’t organic but it was my start with rye. Then the store ran out of rye. (When you’re out of rye, you’re out of flour.) I found one bag at another store a little farther away of the same chain, but it appeared that the store chain was not continuing to stock rye flour. Checking their website confirmed. How dare they!
I could still buy Bob’s Red Mill rye at many stores and it’s a fine product, but a little pricey. Buying 5lb bags online is not good because of shipping expense. Buying larger quantities of flour solves the shipping expense issue but then you have the shelf life issue. Whole grain flour gets rancid quickly and you do not want to taste old, rancid flour in a loaf of bread. So the best thing to do is get rye berries and mill it myself. (Why berries, not grains? I dunno.)
I have a Marathon Uni-Mill stone mill. I inherited it from my mother, who bought it in the early ’80’s. Lovely mill. Its manual cautions against milling rye, unless it’s “low moisture” rye. The danger of soft or low moisture nuts or grains is that they tend to “gum up” the millstones. What is “low moisture” rye? I don’t know and could not find the answer online.
If you have a Marathon and need a manual, contact me and I’ll email it to you.
I found a good source for organic rye berries at CLNF.org. I learned from them that their rye is dried to 9-11% moisture, but they couldn’t tell me if it was safe for my mill. I posted my issue on several baking forums and learned of the “bite test.” Bite the grain and test its chewyness. My first order of 25lbs delivered. I did the test and not only did I cleave the berry easily, it was a little chewy. Kinda like a toothpick made of wood. My millstones don’t want chewy.
My dehydrator to the rescue. I spread 800 grams of rye onto the trays of my dehydrator and set the temp at 105F. I tested a few berries at 7 hours and they were all very hard, very brittle, and very not-chewy. Kinda like a toothpick made of petrified wood. One more hour to be sure. I don’t think there is a “too low moisture” for rye berries.
Eight hours. Tested some grains. More petrified wood. The dried grains weighed 758 grams, which means they lost 42 grams during dehydration, or 5.25%. Success!
I now have some low moisture rye, ready to mill and no fears of millstone gumming.