Rye bread is delicious in all of its many forms, whether it’s a dark, dense pumpernickel loaf at a German breakfast table, a thin open-faced Swedish sandwich topped with smoked fish and eggs, or a New York Jewish deli treat piled high with pastrami.
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.
Rye is particularly nutritious -- rich in fibre, manganese, phosphorus and copper. It is also naturally lower in gluten than wheat flour and can help to promote weight loss, prevent gallstones and lower the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Baking rye bread uses all the same basic techniques you’d use when baking a standard all-purpose flour loaf. Follow these four easy tips and you’ll be enjoying your own homemade loaf in no time.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Tip 1: Use white or light rye flour for less dense bread.
White or light rye flour, without any trace of bran, will give you the lightest-coloured, highest-rising bread. Using medium, dark or whole rye flour will result in not just denser, heavier loaves. If you’re after that chocolately dark pumpernickel colour, a little caramel colour (a dark powder) will do the trick.
Tip 2: Mix rye flour with regular flour for a lighter texture.
Rye bread made with 100% rye flour turns out dense and heavy. The more regular white flour (all-purpose or bread flour) you mix in with your rye flour, the higher your bread will rise and the lighter its texture will be. The extra protein in wheat flour balances the lack of gluten-forming protein in rye flour and helps it rise.
Tip 3: Give your rye dough more time to rise.
When kneading your rye dough, you will find its texture more clay-like than elastic, making it almost impossible to knead it into a smooth shape. Instead of struggling with your dough, shape the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise, covered. It should rise nicely. Compared with wheat flour doughs, rye dough takes much longer to rise. Be patient – some recipes require a whole day of rising time!
Tip 4: Top your rye bread with seeds for more flavour.
Caraway, fennel and anise seeds are wonderful additions to rye bread and provide a lovely flavour contrast.