This overnight rye bread is an easier version of a northern European classic, made with whole grain spelt and rye flour, cocoa, and oats. This dense bread is not at all dry and makes a nice alternative to light loaves, with a stronger flavour and slightly chewy texture.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water, maple syrup, and active starter or fresh yeast if using that option.
Add the spelt, rye, oats, cocoa, and salt to the bowl. Add the dry yeast to the dry ingredients as well if that's what you're using. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, mixing until no visible streaks remain.
Cover the bowl with a lid, cutting board, or tea towel and let it sit for 12-15 hours at room temperature. It will at least double in size during this time.
In the morning, grease* a 30 cm / 12 inch bread pan or line it with paper. Scrape the dough into the pan, and then press it down evenly (wet hands work well).
Cover the dough with a clean dish towel. Let it rest again for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Once the oven is hot, place the bread on a middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. The crust will be hard and sound hollow when tapped once the bread is done baking.
Remove it from the oven and place the pan on a metal rack to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely. The loaf will keep well for a week at room temperature, best stored in a cloth bag.
• To make this bread with a sourdough starter, simply stir in 100 grams (1/2 cup) of your active starter into the water to replace the commercial yeast. Follow the other directions as written. This is my standard now when making this bread and the results are virtually identical. You will get a more sour flavour and a more noticeable oven spring using a starter. Do not use both yeast and starter, it's one or the other.* If you grease the pan, it might seem like your bread is stuck to it. Don't worry, it's likely that just the very top of the loaf is sticking slightly to the very top of the pan (where it might not have been greased) and all you have to do is gently lift with your fingers or a butterknife. The bread should pop out of the pan easily if you pull the sides slightly and tap on the bottom. ** If you'd like to use fresh yeast, you'll need a piece about the size of a pea.