Rye Bread

by Created: 01 Jun 2013 Updated: 15 May 2014

This bread is easy to make, healthy (no sugar and almost no oil), and delicious. I bake it 2-3 times a week for my family. Here are two recent examples:

note/rye-bread/rye-bread-finished.jpg note/rye-bread/rye-bread-with-oats.jpg

I developed this recipe from the Rye Bread recipe in Thomas Keller’s excellent Bouchon Bakery. If you want to bake great bread, buy this book. Its recipes and techniques are excellent for beginners and professionals.

I’ll walk you through the steps of creating this bread, and then present the recipe I use. In the pictures below, I’m making a double batch, because my German bread-loving family goes through a loaf in about two days. (Also, a double batch fills my baking stone and 6qt stand mixer.)

The night before, make the poolish. This is a paste of flour and water in equal parts with a pinch of yeast. The yeast autolyses the flour, breaking it down into sugars and developing the gluten structure. You can do this with most breads and get a better result.

In this case, I actually left the poolish for 36 hours, which is a bit too long; 12 hours is better.


If you want seeds or nuts or other grains in your bread, it helps to soak them in water for an hour. Many different ingredients work well here: chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cracked rye, … Today, I used crushed hazelnuts, toasted sesame seeds, flax seeds, oats, and quinoa. Quinoa may seem like an unusual choice, but it tastes excellent in this bread.

I usually chop walnuts, but hazelnuts roll around too much, so I crush them instead. Put them in a freezer ziploc bag (sturdier than the regular ones) and smash them until they’re the desired size.


Weigh the ingredients until you have about 166g (or double all amounts, if making a double batch).


Then add 100g of water, mix, and cover with plastic wrap.


After an hour, grease your stand mixer bowl. I use baking Pam, but olive oil or butter are also good choices. The oil you use will impart some flavor to the bread.

Then add flour, rye flour, and yeast. Mix well. (I do this by hand using the dough hook, but you can instead run the mixer for a few minutes.)


Then add water and the poolish you made the night before. It may not look very appetizing at this point in the process.


Mix for three minutes on low speed. My mixer fails to completely incorporate all of the flour on the bottom of the bowl, so I have to scrape it with a spatula to really mix it all up. Then, sprinkle 2 tsp of sea salt over the top.


Mix for 17 minutes. If you’re adding nuts and seeds, add those in now:


and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board. Use as little flour as you can but prevent the bread from sticking. This batch was a little wetter and stickier than normal, because I went slightly over on the water quantity.

Gently pat the dough into a rectangle.


Fold the dough once. This involves first taking one of the short edges of the dough and folding it over to about the 2/3 mark:


And then do the same with the other short edge, and finally both of the long edges. Take the nice little dough packet you’ve created and place it in a greased bowl. I usually flip the dough in the bowl so that all sides are well-oiled, and then leave it seam-side up and cover it with plastic. Let it rest for 30 minutes.


Turn it out on a floured board again.

To make rolls instead of loaves, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces by weight, roll each between your palms (flouring your hands if the rolls are sticking too much), place on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and score the tops. Skip ahead to the proofing stage. Proof 1 hour and bake 15 minutes.


If you’re making loaves (as in all the photos below), divide the dough into 2 equal pieces by weight, and fold each one.

(The Bouchon Bakery instead “pre-shapes” at this stage, tucking each half into an oblong shape. I like the denser crumb that folding again achieves.)


Leave the two pieces of dough uncovered for 15 minutes to rest. This is an excellent time to clean up all the bowls we dirtied earlier in the process.


Now gently press each piece flat into a rectangle and fold again.

note/rye-bread/fold2.jpg note/rye-bread/fold2a.jpg note/rye-bread/fold2b.jpg note/rye-bread/fold2c.jpg note/rye-bread/fold2d.jpg

Lightly flour the edge of your hand, and press into the middle of the dough along the seam line of the last fold.


Then, bring the two sides up and press the seam together to close it. With both hands, gently roll into a log with the desired thickness and length. (Make sure the bread will fit on the baking stone or pan.)

Transfer the logs, seam-side down, to the linen couche or dishtowel (if using a baking stone; transfer to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper if not).


Using a sharp knife or lamé, score the dough with shallow cuts. A traditional pattern is the sausage cut, shown on the left below. This involves straight diagonal cuts about two inches apart. Or, be creative and make your own pattern. The important part is to give the bread room to expand when baked, without tearing the crust.


After scoring, I pull the couche up between the loaves and against the sides, to help the dough keep its shape while it proofs and ensure the loaves are separated by cloth as they rise.

Set a timer for an hour. Preheat the oven to 460ºF, loosely cover the dough with a dish towel, and leave the bread to proof. When you return, it should have expanded quite a bit:


Carefully, gently transfer the bread to a lightly floured oven peel. It’s important that the bread not stick, and that you not deform the loaves too much. My loaves were slightly too long and I had to press in their ends to fit them on the stone, distorting them slightly.


Quickly, but carefully, transfer to the oven. Add a cup of water to the steam pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Then use the peel to remove the baked loaves from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

The loaves keep for a few days, up to a week; I’ve even sent some priority mail through USPS. If you’re not going to finish eating a loaf within that timeframe, then freeze it after it has completely cooled. Defrost overnight at room temperature when ready to eat.



Rye Bread Recipe

Makes: 2 loaves (about ½ kg each). Double this recipe to make 4 loaves or 2-3 larger loaves.

Time required: Approximately 3 hours for loaves, 2.5 hours for rolls, plus some advance preparation.

Equipment required

  • Stand mixer with dough hook
  • Timer
  • Gram-accurate scale
  • Measuring teaspoon
  • One small bowl (poolish)
  • Optional: one small bowl (soaker)
  • One medium bowl (dough rise)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Spatula or large spoon
  • Baking Pam or equivalent to grease bowls
  • Cutting board
  • Flour for dusting the board
  • Clean dishtowel or couche
  • Sharp knife or lamé
  • Baking stone and oven peel or baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Optional: steam pan
  • Cooling rack
  • Oven


  • 180g, all-purpose flour
  • 225g, water
  • 1 pinch, yeast

Soaker (optional)

  • 33g, oats
  • 33g, quinoa
  • 33g, flax seeds
  • 33g, crushed hazelnuts
  • 33g, toasted sesame seeds
  • 100g, water


  • 295g, dark rye flour
  • 120g, bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 ¼ tsp, yeast
  • 10g, potato buds (optional)
  • 225g, warm water (110ºF)
  • 2 tsp, fine sea salt

The night before (or ~12 hours in advance), prepare the poolish. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature.

If adding seeds or nuts to the bread, prepare the soaker an hour in advance of making the dough. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Grease the bowl of a stand mixer and another large bowl.

In the stand mixer bowl, add the flours and yeast. Optionally, add mashed potato buds to help the bread last longer. Mix thoroughly by hand or with the stand mixer.

In the stand mixer bowl, add warm water and all of the poolish, using the spatula to scrape out all the poolish. Mix on low speed with dough hook for 3 minutes. Use the spatula to make sure the flours are thorougly mixing with the liquids (my stand mixer leaves some flour at the bottom). Sprinkle the salt on top. Mix on low speed for 17 minutes.

If using soaker, add that now and mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured board. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Pat, stretch, and fold. Place in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

When timer is done, turn out onto floured board. Divide in half (by weight), and preshape short. (Or, you can instead make rolls: Divide into 16 pieces and roll into balls between your palms. When making rolls at home, use a baking sheet and parchment paper instead of a baking stone and oven peel.)

Let rest for 15 minutes, uncovered. This is an excellent time to clean all the dirty dishes you’ve made! (It’s easier if you soak the bowls in soapy water as soon as you’re done with them).

Shape for batards. Preheat the oven with baking stone and steam pan (if using those) to 460ºF.

If using a baking sheet, place the dough on parchment on the sheet. Otherwise, place dough on couche or clean dish towel, and score the bread with a lamé or sharp knife. Lightly cover with dish towel and proof for 1 hour.

If using a baking sheet, place it in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the dough to a lightly floured oven peel, taking care not to deform it, and then slide the loaves onto the baking stone. If using a steam pan, add a cup of water to it now. Work quickly but carefully, to prevent too much heat from escaping the oven but also to avoid burns!

Bake for 25 minutes at 460ºF (15 minutes if making rolls), and then cool on rack for at least an hour.


Start Time End Time Action
-12:00   Mix poolish
-1:00   Mix soaker
0:00 0:03 Mix dough
0:03 0:20 Add salt, finish mixing
0:20 0:50 Turn out, rest
0:50 1:00 (approx.) Divide, preshape
1:00 1:15 Rest
1:15 1:25 (approx.) Shape, score
1:25 2:25 Proof
2:25 2:50 Bake
Start Time End Time Action
-12:00   Mix poolish
-1:00   Mix soaker
0:00 0:03 Mix dough
0:03 0:20 Add salt, finish mixing
0:20 0:50 Turn out, rest
0:50 1:05 (approx.) Divide, roll, score
1:05 2:05 Proof
2:05 2:20 Bake


  • Use “bread machine” or “instant” yeast.
  • Use high-quality ingredients. I use King Arthur and Bob’s Mill flours, which are readily available locally.
  • A baking stone is optional but essential to getting a great crust. It increases the thermal mass of your oven, which helps keep the temperature steady, and absorbs some moisture out of the bread while it cooks.
  • If you bake bread often, I highly recommend you invest in a linen baker’s couche. It absorbs some moisture out of the dough while it proofs, and generates less laundry than using dish towels because you don’t wash the couche.
  • Steam is helpful for crust development. I preheat a powder-coated metal pan that doesn’t rust in the oven with the stone, and then pour ~1 cup of water into it when inserting the bread.
  • A sharp knife works fine for scoring bread. If you bake a lot of bread, you might consider getting a lamé, but it’s not as important as the other items above.