Being from Denmark, I grew up eating rye bread every day. It has always been a part of my life and I love it. I have been traveling a lot and living in different countries for a longer period of time and rye bread has always been the one food that I missed the most. So upon every return to Denmark I would make sure to “order” rye bread from my mom as the first meal in the country. It is just that good.
So now that I live in Canada, where rye bread is not common, I have found it necessary to bake my own bread about once a week.
My mom has always baked her own bread so I got the recipe from her and from there experimented a little.
Rye bread is based on sourdough, which takes a bit longer to produce and also to bake. The process is old fashioned and against the modern world where everything has to be done fast paced and rather sooner than later. That is why I love making it, I can take my time and slow down the pace and just enjoy the process and know that the result is worth it 100 times compared to a quick fix baked bread that you buy wrapped up in plastic already sliced from one of the larger supermarkets.
I love that I know what I get by making it myself.
I will share this precious recipe with you and even if you are not Danish you will still enjoy it. It is healthier than most bread because it has grains and seeds in it and not just plain wheat flour. It is heavier and will leave you feeling full for a longer period of time after eating a couple of slices. And best of all it tastes great!!
To get started with the rye bread you need to make the sourdough, which takes 7 days. You don’t have to do a lot during that time, just a lot of waiting.
140 g (1 cup) rye flour
1 dl (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
1 dl (1/2 cup) buttermilk
Mix everything together till you get a wet soft mixture. Leave it in a large container without lid but cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure the dough only fills up the container about halfway. Place it in a warm area and stir the mixture twice a day to add some oxygen to the mixture. I stir it when I get up in the morning and before I go to bed in the evening and it takes less than 5 min per day. Do this for 7 days. Around day 4 or 5 you will notice a difference in the mixture. It will start to bubble and get bigger in the container. On day 7 you can start using the sourdough.
For the first loaf dissolve the sourdough into 5 dl (2 cups) lukewarm water. Then add in 500 g (3 ½ cups) rye flour. For the following loafs I only use 400 g (3 cups) rye flour. Use your hands to mix the flour with the sourdough and water and you will end up with a porridge like dough. Cover the bowl with a wet tea towel and leave it in a warm place overnight.
On the second day I start off by removing about 400 g (2 cups) of dough. This will be my sourdough for the next loaf. Put the dough in an airtight container and sprinkle some coarse salt over the top and leave it in the fridge till next time you make rye bread. You can leave it by it self for up till 3 weeks and if you want to keep it longer just stir it a couple of times per week till you want to use it, but don’t keep it too long.
Now the fun begins! This is where you can be creative and add your favourite flavours to the bread.
In the remaining dough you add:
400 g (3 cups) wheat or rye flour, or half each. You can also substitute about 150 g of the flour for seeds, grains or grated carrots. I usually use 75 g sunflower seeds and 75 g pumpkin seeds and a mixture of rye and wheat flour.
1 dl (1/2 cup) lukewarm water, if the dough is very dry you can add a little more water, but be careful not to add too much as the finished loaf will then be soggy or unbaked on the inside.
1 ½ tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon dark syrup (not maple syrup but the real thick kind, you can also use a good honey instead). This will give the bread its typical flavour of Danish rye bread.
Mix everything together with your hands until you have a nice thick porridge.
Butter the sides and bottom of a rectangular bread tin and pour in the dough. Use a rubber scraper to press the dough down into the tin to make sure all the air bubbles are removed. I dip the scraper in water before pressing the dough, as it will make the process easier. The dough should only fill up the tin about ¾ so there is room to rise.
Let it rest with a wet tea towel on top for about 1-2 hours before baking.
Heat up the oven till 190 C (375 F).
With the rubber scraper I slice a 1-2 cm (1/2 inch) deep line lengthwise through the middle of the loaf before baking. This will keep the bread from cracking in random places and give the bread a nice surface when baked.
I repeat the slicing a couple of times during the first 30 min of baking to make sure the slice doesn’t close completely.
Bake the bread for 1 hour and 50 min.
The smell of sweet rye bread will soon fill your kitchen and the rest of your home and will leave your mouth watering and impatiently waiting for it to be ready.
When ready take the bread out of the tin and let it cool on a grid. I always place the bread on its side and after cooling for about 1 hour I put it in a plastic bag. This will give the bread a softer crust, so this step is optional. If you want the crust to stay very hard and crispy just leave it to cool completely before packing it.
I always eat at least one slice of hot rye bread with butter, which then melts all over your hands and a couple of chunks of good cheese.
This is the best part about making rye bread!!
When the bread is cooled completely just store it in a plastic bag in a breadbasket and cut slices as needed. I never cut up the whole bread all at once because this will cause the bread to dry out really fast.
You can easily freeze the bread and take it out and leave it on the counter still packed in the plastic bag a day before you want to eat it.
Remember that the first loaf of bread will be a little different from the rest, so don’t be discouraged if the first bread is not completely as you expected.
It is important to only add water and flour on the first day of making rye bread, as this is where you make your new sourdough. So don’t add any grains or seeds before the second day. On the second day you can add seeds, grains, grated carrots or potatoes or anything you like. Just be mindful that it all takes up space and changes the recipe. So do not add to many different ingredients into one loaf, but experiment one loaf at the time and make sure the measurements still add up to the original as described here.
If you have a friend who wants a piece of your sourdough, offer to make some extra, next time you bake. You simply add an extra 250 g (1 2/3 cup) rye flour and 2.5 dl (1/2 cup) water on the first day and then remove the extra 400 g (2 cups) sourdough and place it in a separate container and give your friend this recipe.