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Peenleib (Sweet and Sour Rye Bread)

Peenleib—leib means "bread"—is an Estonian sweet and sour rye bread that has a complex flavor. Part of the uniqueness of the bread lies in its long preparation time; the dough starter must be allowed to ferment for two and a half days. The combination of rye flour and cake flour creates a tangy sweetness that makes peenleib a favorite of Estonian bakers. Recipe Servings: Makes 3 loaves

Prep Time
5 minutes
+ 3 hours 32 minutes resting
Cook Time
1 minute
Total Time
3 hours 38 minutes
Gluten Free
Dairy Free


For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (25 g) active dry yeast, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) warm water, divided
  • 4 cups (510 g) bread flour, divided
  • 2 cups (205 g) dark rye flour
  • 1 cup (110 g) cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (7.5 ml) caraway seeds
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) melted sweet butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) sugar, divided
For the egg wash:
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water


  1. Three days prior to baking the bread, prepare the starter (preferably in the morning). In a large bowl, combine 1/2 tbsp (8 g) dry yeast, 1 cup (240 ml) warm water, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) sugar and 1 cup (135 g) bread flour. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and cover with plastic wrap. Let starter stand at room temperature for two and a half days (60 hours).
  2. After the 60 hours (2.5 days), add to the starter the rye flour and 1 cup (240 ml) warm water. Mix thoroughly, cover, and let rest overnight at room temperature.
  3. In the morning, dissolve the remainder of the yeast in 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water.  Stir down the dough and add the yeast mixture, plus the salt, caraway seeds, melted sweet butter, honey, cake flour, and the remainder of the sugar. Mix well.
  4. Add around 3 cups of the bread flour, one cup at a time, to make a stiff but workable dough. When the dough stops sticking to the bowl, knead for 10 minutes. Once finished kneading, shape dough into a ball.
  5. Put in a buttered bowl and cover the dough with buttered wax paper, then cover the bowl with a towel. Let rest until doubled in bulk, 60–70 minutes.
  6. Punch down dough and divide dough into 3 pieces. Shape into a rough ball and place on a baking sheet or shape to fit bread pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, around 60 minutes.
  7. Prepare the egg wash by beating together the egg and water and preheat oven to 375? (190?). Brush the egg wash over the loaves.
  8. Bake the loaves for 30 minutes, or until they turn a light brown color and sound hollow when rapped with the knuckles.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool, covering with towels to prevent the crust from hardening.