The Real Bread Campaign’s Rye Revival season, it may be time for a SUPER SIMPLE recipe for rye bread. No sourdough, no wheat flour. Just rye. Any rye will do.
Rye has a bad reputation. People think is is heavy and dense, “brick like” and black. Well, it need not be any of those things. It can be very light and almost airy in texture and it certainly does not need to be black. “Black bread” like pumpernickel or Danish Rye is black because of the added molasses (treacle), not because rye flour is black. In fact, rye flour is rather “greige” (that is to say, greyish-beige) and comes in two varieties – “dark rye” which is the whole grain flour – it has the bran and the germ in it, and “light rye” which is sieved to make a lighter flour. Light rye makes a slightly higher and lighter loaf than dark rye – just like white wheat flour makes a lighter and higher loaf than whole wheat flour.
Rye does have gluten but it is a different kind of gluten than that found in the family of wheat flours (spelt, emmer, einkorn, kamut). 100% rye bread will never have domed top like a wheat loaf and it will never have an open texture, with lots of big holes. It just does not do that. On the other hand, because the gluten is not stretchy, you don’t need to stretch it to get it to perform at it’s best and this means no kneading! Stir, tin or basket, rise and bake! it could not be easier!
As a final plug, rye has loads of wonderful health benefits, one of which is that it is a slow release carbohydrate (low GI) so is very good for diabetics or people who are slimming. Without further ado, here is an easy recipe for delicious rye bread.
300 g light or dark rye flour
250 g water from the cold tap
6 g fresh yeast (3 g dry yeast, 1.5 g instant yeast)
6 g salt
Note: rye has a strong flavour and thus absorbs flavours really well. Spices such as cumin, coriander, and carraway are traditional additions – a teaspoon of ground or whole spice is enough. Honey, molasses, or malt syrup are wonderful additions – a tablespoon is a nice amount. Dried fruit and nuts are also lovely. A handful should do it. In this particular loaf I substituted red wine (we had a half full bottle) and added some toasted walnuts. That is why the photos of the dough show it pinkish and lumpy!
Regardless of the type of yeast you are using, measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in it. Sprinkle the yeast into the well and add 100 g of the water (wine, whatever). Let it sit for 15 minutes or so until the yeast if fully dissolved. A beige sludge may or may not form on the top. Don’t worry about that, as long as the yeast is within the sell by date. After 15 minutes, add the rest of the water and all the other ingredients.
Stir everything together to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Your dough should be very soft – if it is the slightest bit stiff add some more liquid. Rye absorbs a lot more water than wheat so don’t be surprised if you have 260 or 270 g of water (or other liquid) to your 300 g flour. Scrape the dough into a ball in the bowl.
Grease a 1 Lb (500 g) bread tin with a hard fat like butter or lard.
Step Four – you may want to watch the video for this!
Thoroughly wet your hands and pick up the dough. Pass if from hand to hand using one hand to hold the dough and the other hand to smooth the top, rolling it over a few times until you get a little oblong that is the length of your tin. Pick up the tin and gently place the dough in the tin and then – here is the important bit – put the tin down and WALK AWAY! Don’t push the dough into the corners or even smooth the top. Rye simply fills the tin and rises to the top.
Cover the dough with a shower hat or put it into a plastic bag. The rye will rise and it is sticky so you don’t want to cover it with plastic or with a tea towel because the dough will stick to it. If you don’t have a bag or a shower hat, generously flour the top of the dough or cover it with oats or seeds so that you create a barrier between the sticky dough and the plastic or tea towel. Let the dough rise for 2-3 hours at room temperature or in the fridge over night or all day. You will know it is ready for the oven when it has come to the top of the tin and there are little holes on the top of the loaf.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and pop the loaf in. If you want to you can decorate the loaf with seeds or spices (spray the top of the loaf with water before and after the topping goes on so that it sticks) or you can simply sprinkle some flour on the loaf (in this case, don’t spray). Bake for 45 minutes and then cool completely. Rye is best eaten 1-2 days after it has been baked.
For ease and flavour this is my very favourite bread of all. To read more about baking rye with different kinds of yeast in a non exhaustive and non exact time trial, have a look here. Lots of people were writing in with the trouble they were having with instant yeast. Short answer: for some reason, it does not work well and certainly not if you do not proof it. Have a read!