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Rye bread: a real German treat

Rye bread: a real German treat

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While crusty French sticks and airy Italian loaves still tend to attract the most attention, Germany is a worthy rival for Europe’s bread champions. They have around 300 varieties of dark and white breads, and lay claim to a whopping 1,200 varieties of rolls and mini-breads too – an achievement worth toasting to, we’d say.

As anyone who’s ever hungrily encountered a hotel buffet will know, bread venerated at the German breakfast table as it is nowhere else. The most important element of the most important meal of the German day, bread provides a vehicle for sausage, cheese, boiled egg, cold meat, fish, jam, honey and other delights, but it’s also a star in its own right. In the rainbow of German offerings there are seeded varieties, wholegrain breads, sweet mini loaves and pretzel rolls alongside more conventional wheat bread and, of course, rye.

A hardy grain that’s closely related to barley and wheat, rye has been grown for over 4,000 years and has been popular across central and eastern Europe since the Middle Ages. Naturally lower in gluten than wheat flour, rye is often lauded for health benefits, including lots of vitamins and minerals, high levels of soluble fibre and evidence that it makes you feel fuller for longer. On top of all that, it’s delicious.

Dense, dark pumpernickel is one of the most traditional forms of German rye bread (as well as being really fun to say), and is typically wheat-free, but does contain gluten. Our 100% rye pumpernickel uses a natural rye sourdough starter and also features roast potato shavings and cane molasses for a slightly sweet, moist loaf that can last for over a week.

Germany’s Scandinavian neighbours are also big fans of dark rye, using thin slices as the foundation of their extravagant smørbrød – open sandwiches topped with smoked fish, seafood, caviar, eggs or pâté. And the famous “black bread” eaten by Heidi in Johanna Spyri’s Swiss children’s novel of the same name would have been rye – although it’s fair to say she appreciated it less than we do now.

Rye is often combined with other lighter flours in mixed loaves too, for a subtler flavour and less-dense texture that still has the grain’s distinctive character. Caraway seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, barley and cornmeal have all been used to create light rye bread and, in America, wheat-rye mixed loaves are famed in Jewish delicatessens, loaded with salt beef, cheese or pastrami. Put yours to work in a serious mouthful like Jamie’s Reuben-ish sandwich.

If you fancy baking your own, this black bread recipe from Jamie Magazine features coffee, molasses and even dark chocolate for a beautifully rich and fragrant mixed rye loaf. Pop it on the table for breakfast and you might still be tucking in come lunchtime.

How to Bake a Traditional German Rye Bread

In the interest of health, I’ve focused my bread baking obsession of late on 100% or near 100% whole rye sourdough loaves. I’ve used as my guide a nicely illustrated book How to Make Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. His specialty is just the sort of rustic German style breads I’ve always wanted to learn to bake. What I love in particular about his caraway rye sourdough loaf (pictured above) is the crust. Unlike most other breads you don’t slash it before tossing it in the oven. The goal is a kind of perfect imperfection–a hard, thick crust with as many fault lines as the state of California. And this is a bread that requires no kneading so you can easily fit it into a busy schedule.

Here’s how I make it (recipe based on Hadjiandreou’s caraway rye sourdough):

70% Rye Bread with Caraway-based on a recipe by by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou from How to Bake Bread

125 grams dark rye flour
125 grams water
1 Tbsp mature starter

Final Dough
350 grams dark rye flour
150 grams white bread flour
10 grams sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
250 grams rye sourdough starter (see step one)
475 grams warm water

  1. First build: take one tablespoon of mature starter and add it to 50 grams of rye flour and 50 grams of room temperature filtered water. Let sit for between 8 to 12 hours at room temperature.
  2. Second build: add 75 grams of rye flour and 75 grams of room temperature filtered water to the first build. Let sit for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. You will end up with 250 grams of rye sourdough starter to use in your dough.

Mixing, proofing and shaping

  1. Combine the 250 grams of starter you made with 475 grams of warm water (80 to 85º F). Mix in the rest of the ingredients until everything is fully integrated and there are no more bits of dry flour. No kneading is necessary. Let the dough rest in a covered container for a half hour.
  1. Dust a counter or cutting board with flour. Rub your hands in some flour to prevent sticking. Dump the dough onto your work surface and form into a boule (round).
  2. Dust your banneton and the boule HEAVILY with rye flour. Place the boule into the banneton and cover. Let proof at room temperature for approximately 3 hours. Note that rye ferments considerably faster than wheat.
  1. A half hour before you’re ready to bake, pre-heat your oven and a dutch oven or combo cooker to 475º F.
  2. Just before you’re ready to bake, turn the oven down to 450º F. Put the boule into the dutch oven and cover. This style of bread is not slashed. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes remove the cover from your dutch oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until it is dark and the cracks in the loaf are just starting to burn. Josey Baker calls this “bold” baking. In other words don’t make the newbie mistake of pulling the loaf out of the oven too soon.
  4. Resist the urge to cut into the loaf until it has cooled and sat for many hours. It’s best to wait between 12 to 24 hours before cutting into the loaf.

It’s in German, but you can see this exact style of bread being baked in a wood fired oven. Note the steam is created by mopping the oven just before the loaves are tossed in:

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What is German Bread Spice?

One thing you will notice when eating German rye bread, is that it has a very characteristic flavor. Many of the recipes we found called for &ldquoGerman bread spice&rdquo, which seemed to be key to creating that authentic German flavor.

German bread spice is a mixture of spices that typically includes caraway, anise, fennel, and coriander. The sweet, yet savory flavor of these spices adds a wonderful depth and sweetness to the rye bread.

In addition to adding flavor, they are wonderful medicinal spices that aid in digestion.

Rye bread packs a lot of fiber, and mixing these spices right into the bread gives your digestive system a little extra help breaking all that fiber down.

Recipe Summary

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 ¼ cups rye flour
  • 2 ½ cups bread flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

In a large bowl combine milk, sugar, and salt. Use a mixer to beat in molasses, butter, yeast mixture, and 1 cup of rye flour.

Use a wooden spoon to mix in the remaining rye flour. Add white flour by stirring until the dough is stiff enough to knead.

Knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. If the dough sticks to your hands or the board add more flour.

Cover dough and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until double.

Punch down dough and divide to form two round loaves. Let loaves rise on a greased baking sheet until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Recipe Summary

  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour (such as King Arthur®)
  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 3 tablespoons dry potato flakes
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 ½ tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup sour pickle juice

Place bread flour, rye flour, potato flakes, caraway seeds, demarara sugar, yeast, and sea salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer. Turn mixer to low and thoroughly mix dry ingredients. Beat warm water, canola oil, and pickle juice into dry ingredients. Fit dough hook onto mixer and beat until dough is rough and shaggy-looking.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for exactly 30 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and knead dough in stand mixer with dough hook until smooth, firm, and only slightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth, 1 to 2 more minutes.

Form dough into a ball, place dough into an oiled bowl, and turn dough around several times in bowl to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set into a warm place, and let rise until nearly double, about 1 hour.

Grease a 5x9-inch loaf pan. Turn dough onto a lightly oiled surface, shape into a log, and place into prepared loaf pan. Cover with a cloth kitchen towel and let rise until top of dough has risen slightly over top of pan, 60 to 90 minutes.

Place rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake loaf until golden brown and cooked through, about 35 minutes. The internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees F (90 degrees C). If loaf browns too quickly, cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil with shiny side out. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Classic Rye Sandwich Bread

Here's the bread you know and love if you grew up enjoying deli-style sandwiches on rye. The familiar caraway and onion flavors shine through in this loaf made with our medium rye flour, highlighting the flour's tangy flavor notes. If they're not the reason you've come to appreciate rye bread, the caraway and onion can easily be omitted. Either way, this is one loaf to keep in your repertoire for homemade sandwiches piled high with whatever fillings your heart desires.


  • 1 1/2 cups (159g) medium rye flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (210g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon minced dried onions
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup (227g) water, lukewarm (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 tablespoon (22g) molasses or honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22g) unsalted butter, melted


Weigh your flours or measure them by gently spooning them into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

Combine the dough ingredients and mix and knead everything together — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk. Even if rising takes longer, give it enough time to become quite puffy.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. Place the balls side by side in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan. Alternatively, simply shape the entire piece of dough into a log and place it in the pan. Tent the pan loosely with greased plastic wrap.

Let the bread rise until it's crested about 1 1/4" over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until its crust is golden brown, and the interior temperature reads 190°F on a digital thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan onto a rack, and brush the top with butter, if desired this will give it a soft, satiny crust.

Cool the bread completely before slicing and serving.

Store leftover bread, well wrapped, at cool room temperature for several days freeze for longer storage.

Best Sourdough No-Knead Bread .

There is one type of bread, though, that I created many, many years ago when our boys were young and we were on a 'health food' kick.

It was a most interesting experiment . and the family survived! In fact, what I created was a no-knead sourdough bread that is absolutely amazing.

It does take a bit of work, or actually, a bit of time . but the results are a perfect loaf of bread, every time. As well, it's as healthy as you want to make it. 

I normally put in almost anything I can find in the way of seeds and whole grains. It's a different loaf all the time, but each time, it works. Check it out here. 

Open rye sandwiches – Rye-ninis

Smashed Avocado: Simply mash half a small ripe avocado, season with black pepper and lemon juice and pile onto rye bread. You can add chopped chilli, spring onions (scallions) or crème fraiche too.

Ricotta & Spinach: Mix a small tub of low-fat ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese) with some diced red bell pepper and a handful of baby spinach leaves. Pile onto Rye bread.

Tuna Niçoise: Mix flaked tuna (canned in spring water) with thin slices of red onion, chopped parsley and chopped tomato. Pile into an iceberg lettuce leaf shell and serve on Rye bread. Garnish with black olives and anchovy.

Prawn Cocktail: Mix together 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup, 1 tablespoon low-fat crème fraiche and 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Fold in a handful of cooked, shelled prawns. Pile onto an iceberg lettuce leaf shell and garnish with parsley. Serve on Rye bread.

Pineapple Cheese: Pile a small carton of low-fat cottage cheese onto Rye bread. Decorate with slices of juicy, fresh pineapple and garnish with mint leaves.

Bacon, Cranberry and Brie: Grill a rasher of lean, smoked bacon until crisp, then crumble into pieces. Spread Rye toast with some low-sugar, cranberry sauce. Top with thin slices of brie and warm under the grill until beginning to melt. Sprinkle with the chopped bacon and garnish with parsley.

Guacamole and Red Pepper: Mash a ripe avocado with a little low-fat crème fraiche and a dash of lemon juice. Add chopped spring onion and parsley. Pile into an iceberg lettuce leaf shell and serve on Rye bread. Garnish with slivers of red bell pepper.

Pear & Almond: Mix a small carton of plain, low-fat cottage cheese with a chopped, ripe pear. Pile into an iceberg lettuce leaf shell and serve on Rye bread. Garnish with flaked almonds and parsley.

Tuna & Sweetcorn: Mix a small tin of tuna (canned in spring water) with sweetcorn and chopped red bell pepper. Season with a dash of balsamic vinegar (or salad cream) and spoon into an iceberg lettuce leaf shell. Serve on Rye bread. Garnish with parsley.

Asparagus tips: Steam a handful of baby asparagus spears until tender. Spread Rye toast with low-fat crème fraiche and arrange the asparagus on top. Season with freshly-ground black pepper.

Summer Egg Spread: Mash a boiled egg with a little low-fat salad cream and spread onto Rye bread. Season with black pepper and garnish with parsley.

Hot-Smoked Salmon Spread: Mash hot-smoked Scottish salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice and some low-fat crème fraiche. Spoon into an iceberg lettuce leaf shell, and serve on Rye bread with slices of cooked beetroot (fresh or pickled) on the side.

Luxury Scallop Ceviche: Marinade cubes of ultra-fresh raw scallops (or other white fish) in enough fresh lime juice to cover. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight. Drain off most of the lime juice and stir in some chopped red bell pepper, thinly sliced red onion, fresh coriander leaves and a little olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Spoon into iceberg lettuce shells and serve on Rye bread.

Walnut & Coriander Paté: Lightly toast a handful of walnuts and sesame seeds under a grill (5 mins). Grind (or bash in a mortar and pestle) to you preferred texture. Bind with some low-fat cream cheese, some freshly chopped coriander leaves and a dash of truffle oil (optional). Serve with Rye toast soldiers.

Smoked Trout Paté: Mash a small fillet of smoked trout with some low-fat crème fraiche, a teaspoon of horseradish sauce (optional) and some chopped fresh dill. Serve with Rye toast soldiers.


  • For the Rye Sponge:
  • 2 1/4 cups/300 grams​ rye flour
  • 1 cup/250 grams water
  • 2 Tbsp./30 grams​ sourdough starter
  • For the Final Dough:
  • 2 3/4 cups/340 grams bread flour
  • 3/4 cup/200 grams water
  • 2 tsp./12 grams salt
  • 1 tsp./4 grams instant yeast
  • 2 tsp./7.5 grams diastatic malt powder (find it at Bobs Red Mill)
  • 1 Tbsp. barley malt syrup (or light​ molasses)

Rye in Dog Treats

Rye comes in various forms: rye flour, whole grain rye (or groats), rye grits, rye meal (ground so that it resembles cornmeal), rye flakes or rolled rye (looks almost like oatmeal).

Your dog will like the flavor of rye—maybe even as much as you do! Try substituting ½ to 1 cup of rye for other flours in your favorite dog treats recipe.

Add a tablespoon of caraway for flavor. Rye and caraway seeds are often found together in recipes for rye bread, and they go nicely together!

You will be able to buy this flour at your local grocery store. Just look in the baking section with all the flours. Or you can buy it online here.

You might be able to find cracked rye (rye grits) or rye flakes in the cereal section, depending on the variety of cereals that your store carries.

Consider using rye or rye products in some of your homemade dog treat recipes. You'll be adding great nutrition and wonderful flavor that your dog will love!


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