Perfecting your rye loaves with our recipe

Readers have asked us why their rye breads and pumpernickels seem to have so much more “whole-grain” character than what they remember from childhood (rye and pumpernickel are pictured here in Mark Luinenburg’s beautiful shot from our book). While whole-grain character is nice, it isn’t the traditional approach to rye breads (at least for those available in the US; some European rye styles are very high in bran). The reason for our readers’ results is simple: most rye flour that’s readily sold in US supermarkets is very high in bran. You’ll get a less “whole-grain” result if you use a lower-bran (fiber) rye flour, usually labled as “medium rye.” Medium rye produces breads with a gorgeous custard crumb and noticeably less whole grain character. The hole structure is more “open” as well.

For our book, we decided to avoid this complexity and just keep the total proportion of rye low, but if you’re a rye bread fanatic, read on.

In every market we’ve surveyed, it appears that Pillsbury has stopped distribuing its medium rye product. In U.S. supermarkets, that generally means you have two choices: Hodgson Mill All Natural Stone Ground Rye Flour, which is 17% fiber by weight. Then there are the Bob’s Red Mill rye products, which range in fiber content between 15% and 23%. True medium rye, which isn’t widely distributed in stores in the US, is about 13% fiber by weight; you can find it on mail order.

If you are a true rye fanatic, you won’t be disappointed. The holes will be large and airy, the crumb less tight, even if you decide to increase the proportion of rye flour in our recipe (you may find you need to slightly increase the water after about 30% rye by volume, and don’t exceed 50%). You’ll see true “custard” crumb from the earliest loaves in a batch. And the flavor is fantastic.

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89 thoughts on “Perfecting your rye loaves with our recipe

  1. Gretchen:
    Thanks for your enthusiasm, and send our best wishes to all your friends who shared dinner.

    Look for a quinoa-based bread in our next book!


  2. I did not have a Pizza stone, so I used a Pampered Chef jelly roll pan. Worked just fine. I took the loaf off the stone when 5 minutes of baking time was left and put it directly on the bottom shelf, after removing the water filled pan. Super!!

  3. Hi Rosemary,

    Yes, your plan to use the jelly roll sheet sounds just right. By taking it off the sheet in the end you must have gotten a wonderful crust! Thanks for sharing the idea!


  4. Hi, gang. My brother is Tom Gray, the potter, that has written back and forth with you guys extensively. He had your book on his Amazon wish list around Christmas time. I thought it looked pretty good, so I ordered 2 copies…one for him and one for me.
    My first couple of batches of bread did not do well, but I attribute that to poor quality flour. Since switching to KA, I have had great results, and I’ve never baked bread before in my life, except in a bread machine.
    Unlike my brother, who goes exclusively by the recipe, I have been tweaking things from the get-go. I love high fiber breads, so have been subtracting a bit of flour from each batch, and adding a bit of bran…oat or wheat, depending on what bread I am making.
    My brother’s favorite right now is the Peasant bread, so there is a loaf of that rising right now on my kitchen counter for tonight’s supper of Potato soup, compliments of my neighbors.
    The book has been so popular in my family, that I had to order a copy for my step-mom. I expect her copy here tomorrow in time to give to her for Valentines day.
    Thanks for a great book!

  5. Hi Brenda,

    Thank you so much for writing! I’m glad you found KA flour and are happy with the bread. I love their flour and have found my best results with them as well.

    It is great that you are playing with the recipes and creating your own loaves. Let us know if you come up with something you really love and want to share!

    Thanks for sharing the book with your loved ones!


  6. Hi Jeff or Zoe,
    I’ve made rye bread several times now and find the dough to be more wet than the master recipe. I’ve added more flour and that seems to help handling but my end result bread has a crumb that is more moist. I’ve been baking it for 30 minutes; should the rye be baked longer? – it tastes delicious but I think it’s too moist inside although I haven’t had any complaints when it’s eaten.

  7. Barbara: Proteins in rye flour make for a moist, almost (please pardon) slimy texture. That’s normal. The struggle with what’s available in the supermarket is that it’s very high in rye bran, which can promote a dry effect. So we left the rye pretty wet. But this is a matter of taste. If you like it a little drier, just increase the white flour until you get what you’re looking for. But keep in mind that if you overdo it, the dough won’t store well in the refrigerator. My guess is that you can increase the white flour by no more than about 1/4 to 1/2 cup without losing storage capacity. Jeff

  8. Hi, Jeff and Zoe! After a summer and fall of buying and trying just about every bread book out there (I’ve been baking bread for years, but was fascinated by some of the “new” methods) I was given a copy of your book for my birthday this year. I am a total convert and now have a bucket of dough going in the fridge at all times! I started with the Master Recipe, which we love, but wanted you to know that it works beautifully with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour subbed for up to 3 cups of the all-purpose. Then, for Easter, I decided to try the rye and have to say, I can’t get beyond that bread! It’s fabulous! I use King Arthur Rye Blend and increase the caraway seeds a bit (2 Tbsp)…it’s better than any bakery rye we’ve ever had! Just a note on some things I do. I don’t use more than 2 tsp of instant yeast for the 6 1/2 cup recipe and have great rises, and I also use room temperature water (I keep a big jug of a name brand spring water in my kitchen just for bread).

    Thanks for this wonderful technique and those great recipes!

  9. Thanks for all the kind words, Marcia. KAF White Whole Wheat is a great product. I’m surprised you haven’t needed a bit of extra water to get the consistency like this:

    … but, whatever’s working for you makes us happy. Also great to hear that you’re enjoying the rye, which is the bread that got me obsessed with baking in the first place. Jeff

  10. I have tried making the deli rye bread but it seems to not rise as much as I would like. It would be hard to make a reuben out of it. tastes great, though. Any suggestions? thanks, Linda

  11. Linda: Our stuff tends to spread sideways rather than rise upward, especially if you aren’t quite getting the “gluten-cloaking” step just so. Check out the video at If that’s not the problem, next thing to try is to switch to bread flour instead of all-purpose (you may have to add about 2 tablespoons of extra water). Let me know how this turns out for you.


  12. Hi to Zoe & Jeff,
    I LOVE your book and have a good story to tell. I was invited to participate in a farmer’s market this summer with my free range eggs. I knew that I needed another product to offer and there were already enough produce people so I thought of bread. A friend told me about your method and book. I didn’t have time to go to the big city and buy it so I went on line and got the master recipe and also a youtube demonstration and made a batch. I was blown away by the ease and the great results. I have had a great season selling many loaves of bread all while holding down a regular job. I make all my dough on Thursday after work. I have Friday off and bake all day and sell at the market on Saturday. I would make white, wheat, and rye as my mainstays and add one or two new ones each week. I now have regular customers who will be ordering through the winter months. I couldn’t be more pleased. I even adapted a recipe for anadama bread as I had several requests for this. I know most of the recipes by heart and have a pretty good feel for how the dough should look and act. I have even started ordering my flours through the local food distributor in 50# bags. I have an appointment to speak with a local person who sells specialty foods here in my town. So thank you for such a great book.

  13. Hi Kathy,

    Wow, what a great story, thanks for sharing it with us. I so wish I had some of your eggs!

    Enjoy all the bread.


  14. When you freeze individual loaf sized dough – do you shape and flour prior to freezing or do you wait until the dough has defrosted?

    What is the approximately defrost time in the fridge – I’ve read 12 hours and 24 hours?

    How long can you keep the dough in the freezer?


  15. Hi Ellen,

    I usually wait to shape the dough until after it has been defrosted. Having said that I think it would be a very interesting experiment to do it the other way around. If you shaped it first and then defrosted it overnight in the refrigerator you could just unwrap it and put it on the peel, without having to handle it again.

    Depending on the size of you loaf I think 12 hours in the refrigerator is enough time to defrost.

    The amount of time a dough can last in the freezer depends on what is in it. I don’t like to freeze the doughs with eggs and dairy for more than a few weeks, the other doughs can go for a couple of months.

    Thanks, Zoë

    Thanks for the great question, I have something new to try!

  16. Hi,
    Thank you for your amazing book. I have been using it for about 3 months, mainly with the master recipe and variations on that, or Buttermilk Bread Recipe. I thought I was pretty proficient in understanding the diffferent feel of this dough compared with the drier feel of doughs that you have to kneed.

    So, today I was pretty excited to try the Deli Style Rye. I remember reading that it is wetter, but that you don’t recommend adding more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup more flour overall.
    I KNOW I added 1 cup Rye Flour and 5 1/2 of unbleached all purpose . . .BUT, boy was it wet. I mean flop-all-over the-counter-sloppy-squish-through-your-fingers wet. I did manage to ‘roll’ it out for the caraway swirl and the onion rye (I went nuts). They TASTE fine, but my kitchen looks like a papermache war zone. I did add some extra flour but I know that it barely made a difference. Finally used a metal scraper to get under the flat dough and flip it up over itself to try to roll it up. Gooped it over to the peel. Yes, very yummy, but any ideas?


  17. That’s actually one of the drier ones, so I’m at a loss. 3 cups of water, 5.5 cups AP, and 1 cup of rye will always be drier than the Master. Any chance you’re using bleached flour or something like White Lily brand flour (very low in protein).

    What kind of rye flour is it? Jeff

  18. Hmm, good question. Not sure, so maybe that is the problem. I think I got the rye at our local store, it has probably been around for about 4 months. I can also go to our local specialty store (like a health food co-op) and try to get some fresher. The other flour is always unbleached all purpose (not “bread” flour). I tried it again tonight in a pan–at least it stands up instead of looking like an ameoba worm that spreads all over the place, but I may just start another batch.

  19. Staleness won’t make that much difference to water absorbption. See how it works out, maybe first batch was mis-measured?

  20. My family likes “loaf” breads, so I’m making most of your recipes in loaf pans. I’m finding (with the rye recipes as well as the other recipes) that my loaves are coming out about half the height I expect. What could be causing this? I’m following the recipes as given in the book (with error correction), rising for at least 1 hour, and baking in a calibrated oven. Help!

  21. I use your Deli Rye recipe on page 58 of ABin5. I do one thing different however that I think adds a bit of umph to it. I use 1/4 cup of pickle just in place of 1/4 cup of water. My husband loves the bread, especially made into rolls. He feels there is nothing better in the stores! Thanks for a great recipe!

  22. Is this a good rye to go with (what I call) Napolitan Leg of Lamb (boned/roasted) or would the European potato/rye be better?

    1. Maureen: Depends on the effect you’re going for. The Potato/rye is heavier; the rye here lighter. Do you want to offset the effect of a heavy dish with lighter bread (is the dish heavy)? Or match it? Just a matter of taste, really. Either one will be great. Jeff

  23. I tried the rye with mashed potato (made yesterday; made small loaf today to taste). Yuck. I had hoped this would work so that I can make bread the day before Easter (large family). My lamb is nicely flavored (is that heavy?) Also make pan roasted potatoes (and large tossed salad). I really don’t like the taste of the rye with potatoe – wonder if I did something wrong.

    1. Hi Maureen,

      We’d need more information about the flavor you are not pleased with? I’ve made this loaf many of times and love it, so it is either something you are doing differently or it just is not to your liking?

      I like to use about 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt or I find the loaves taste a little flat. If you want to add salt to the remaining dough you can throw it in a mixer, add another teaspoon of salt and let it mix in. You will then need to allow the dough to rise for a couple of hours before using to allow the salt to incorporate.

      Hope that helps! Zoë

  24. Sent to fast. I use the Hodgeson Mills. The bread tastes flat as if there was no salt (did use). Question: when cooking/ mashing the potatoes, do you use salt or milk (I didn’t)?

  25. Thanks Zoe. Not sure how to answer re: flavor I didn’t like; just didn’t tastle like I expected in rye bread. I used 1 1/2 Tablespoon of salt. My grandson loves the bread??

    1. Hi Maureen,

      We have several rye breads from both ABin5 and HBin5, perhaps one of the other recipes will suit your taste better? So glad your grandson enjoyed it! 🙂

      Thanks, Zoe

  26. First thanks for your answers. I decided to bake the rest to freeze (for my grandson). I forgot to make the slices on top – will this affect the bread in any way? Also, I see the deli rye that I am going to try. If I decide not to use caraway seed – would that affect the taste?
    Thanks again.

    1. Maureen: The slashes allow the loaf to expand evenly, without odd projections and misshapen parts. But the flavor will be fine. If you omit the caraway, well, it won’t taste of caraway, which I love with rye bread but is not to everyone’s taste. See what you think. Some people think caraway flavor IS rye flavor and are surprised at the mildness of rye without it. Jeff

  27. Hi Jeff & Zoe, I made a batch of the whole grain rye dough and am playing with it this week. The first loaf came out fairly dense but did get a small rise after baking…not too bad. The second loaf was baked last night…about 3-4 days after making the dough.
    What a difference in the texture and flavor of the bread! The 2nd loaf is vastly superior to the 1st..I wonder why; perhaps the aging of dough contributed to the texture or more rising time helped. (I am almost out of caraway seeds…need to make a Penzey run soon..).
    having fun baking bread in 5!

    1. Bonnie: Our doughs are better as they age past the 1 to 2 day mark, because of sourdough flavors that build up from yeast fermentation. You also get some weakening of gluten structure (from acids in the by-products of fermentation) that allow larger holes to form.

      I stagger my batches so I’m never using a “Day 0” dough; you can also jump-start this process by using a handful of “old” dough in the new batch (see Jeff

  28. HI,
    Can I make he deli rye in a loaf pan? Do I use the cantelope size piece for that and bake at 375? For how long? I am going to try the refrigerator method with my next boule batch as you suggested on one of your Q&A sites and see if i can get a ‘holey’ dough with that. Mine may not be pretty, but these breads are delicious. I bake 3 at a time and give 2 away to friends who don’t bake at all.

    1. Sam: Absolutely. But I bake that loaf at 450, not 375… which recipe are you using, I’m a bit confused– which book and page number?

      Easiest way to get bigger holes– longer rest time. Increase from 40 min to 60 or even 90 minutes. Longer rest time is very important if you make loaves bigger than 1 lb, like most loaf pans. Jeff

    1. We haven’t tested our stuff in those, only concern is that it might be too wet to adequately “dry out” in the relatively closed environment of a bread machine. And of course, you know that our method and philosophy gets its time-savings by storing the dough and using it as needed…

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