Danish Rye Bread

In most countries bread is made with variety of milled wheat gains. In Scandinavia it is relatively cold, so a grain like rye is much better suited for the climate. So that means that rye flour is commonly used in a bunch of different ways and very commonly in bread. This is my Danish rye bread recipe.

Here in Denmark rye bread is a staple of our cuisine. It’s very common to eat it every day for lunch. It’s dark, it’s malty, it’s usually full of delicious moist seeds.

Danish rye bread on a board

The type of rye bread is pretty different from what people in other countries think is a rye bread. It’s because it’s made with 100% rye flour, whereas in most other places people bake rye breads with a mixture of wheat and rye.

The history of rye bread in Danish cuisine

The rye grain originates from present day Turkey, but came to Denmark through tradesmen and has been grown in Denmark for over 1000 years.

It’s also been baked for all that time, although earlier times bread was probably a lot less palatable than modern bread. It’s described as very coarse, baked using unsifted flour, lumpy, sour and often half moldy. Yikes.

There’s even a concept called the Rye bread border. It describes an invisible border that cuts through Europe, where, below the border people do not eat breads made with rye. I am all for expanding this border.

The rye bread border. Image by: Palnatoke

The health in this danish rye bread recipe

A bread with 100% rye is a whole-grain bread. It’s much healthier than your common wheat bread. It has less carbohydrates, more fibers and in general fills your stomach well (per calorie eaten).

Here is a break-down of the macro nutrients of commercial white toast, commercial whole-grain toast, my own Sourdough bread for beginners and this rye bread. The rye bread may seem a bit high on fat, but that’s the good stuff from the seeds.

Judge for yourself.

Pr. 100g Wheat toast
bread
Whole-grain
toast bread
Sourdough
bread
Rye
bread
Calories253 kcal247 kcal220 kcal228 kcal
Protein7.1g8.2g7.4g8.5g
Fat1.8g3g1g4.9g
– saturated0.3g0.4g0.1g0.8g
Carbohydrates51g44g44g41g
– sugars2.1g2g0.1g1.9g
– fibers2.4g5g2.4g6.8g

The formula in this Danish rye bread recipe

This bread requires a pretty wet starter. You can either use your existing wheat sourdough starter at 100% hydration or you can use a 166% hydration rye starter which you’ve saved from the levain from a previous bread.

If you make the levain with your wheat starter, it requires some extra water to get the hydration to 166%. The first time you make this rye sourdough starter (or levain) it will contain 44 grams of wheat flour from your starter. If you keep this levain and keep using it, that amount will fall to almost zero in 3 or 4 bakes.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
88gstarter (100% hydration)83.8%
205gwater195.2%
105grye flour100.0%

If you use your rye starter at 166% hydration, less water is needed to keep the hydration of the levain at 166%:

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
95gstarter (166% hydration)83.3%
191gwater166.7%
114grye flour100.0%

The dough itself has 400 grams of rye flour and a good amount of salt. We use 500 grams of water to soak the seeds, but this does not add to the hydration of the dough. The reason we soak is so that the seeds won’t take out hydration of the dough and also to keep them nice and supple.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
200gwater36.4%
400grye flour72.9%
20gsalt3.6%
330gcracked rye kernels60.1%
170gpumpkin seeds31.0%
50gmalt syrup9.1%

If you want to play with the hydration or the formula in general, you can do it here in my bread calculator.

Conclusion on this Danish rye bread recipe

This is a classic Danish rye bread. It’s a staple of Danish cuisine and you will find this at any lunch and even at our celebration lunches that we eat for Easter and Christmas. Which includes other Danish specialties like liver pâté, pickled hering and flæskesteg.

This bread is perfect for any Danish-inspired lunch. The bread has a soft crust, a dense, but soft crumb and a nice chew and slight crunch from the moist seeds.

Four pieces of rye bread on a board - Soft crumb with lots of seeds

The taste is delicious. Slightly sour from the starter, but not overwhelming. A wonderful full taste from rye flour, and malty notes. It’s just perfect for open faced sandwiches.

Smørrebrød recipes – The most iconic open faced sandwiches

There are so many different variations of smørrebrød that it is hard to list them all, but I will give you the most iconic ones that you will find in any smørrebrød restaurant in Copenhagen.

Roast beef – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced roast beef, remoulade, grated horse radish, pickled cucumbers, garden cress and roasted onions

Rye bread with roast beef, remoulade and roasted onions
Roast beef on rye bread with remoulade and roasted onions

Egg and shrimp – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, hard boiled egg, shrimp from Greenland, mayonnaise, caviar, garden cress, a piece of tomato and top it with a slice of lemon

Fish filet with shrimp – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, a freshly seared fish filet with a rye coating, remoulade, shrimp from Greenland, garden cress, a piece of tomato and top it with a slice of lemon

Flæskesteg – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, pork roast, crispy pork crackling, pickled red cabbage, pickled cucumbers, garden cress and a slice of orange

Roast pork on rye bread with crispy crackling, red cabbage and pickled cucumbers
Roast pork on rye bread with crispy crackling, red cabbage and pickled cucumbers

Boiled brisket – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced boiled brisket, creamed horse radish, grated horse radish, finely chopped mixed pickle, garden cress

Ham – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced ham, scrambled eggs, asparagus, julienne carrots, garden gress and a piece of fresh cucumber on the top.

Leverpostej – Rye bread, butter, liver pâté, roasted mushrooms, crispy bacon, pickled beet root

Liver pâté on rye bread with mushrooms, crispy bacon and pickled beet root
Liver pâté on rye bread with mushrooms, crispy bacon and pickled beet root

Spiced meat roll – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced spiced meat roll, meat jelly, onions in rings and garden cress

The veteriarians midnight snack – Rye bread, butter, liver pâté, corned beef, meat jelly, onions in rings and garden cress

The vetenarian's midnight snack - Liver pâté and corned beef on rye bread with raw onions and meat jelly
The vetenarian’s midnight snack – Liver pâté and corned beef on rye bread with raw onions and meat jelly

Smoked eel – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, smoked eel, scrambled eggs, garden cress and a cucumber on top

Tatar – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, minced beef steak tartare, grated horse radish, capers, chopped onion and topped with an egg yolk

There are many more, but these are the most common ones on rye bread. There are quite a few for white bread, but that will be for a different day.

Here you can see me make four of the best open faced sandwiches:

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This is my recipe for a for Danish rye bread. I hope you will try to bake it. If you bake it and post it on Instagram, please tag me as @foodgeek.dk so I can see your creations. That will make me happy.

Danish Rye Bread

Course: Lunch
Cuisine: Danish
Keyword: danish rye bread, rugbrød, rye bread
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 20 minutes
Proof: 4 hours
Total: 5 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 1 rye bread
Calories: 4729kcal
Author: Sune Trudslev
Nutrition Facts
Danish Rye Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 4729 Calories from Fat 918
% Daily Value*
Fat 102g157%
Saturated Fat 16g100%
Sodium 7881mg343%
Carbohydrates 848g283%
Fiber 140g583%
Sugar 40g44%
Protein 176g352%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Rye is a grain that thrives in the relatively cold environment in Scandinavia, so that means that bread made using rye flour is common in Denmark. This is my recipe for a dark, malty sourdough rye bread with rye kernels and pumpkin seeds.
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Ingredients

Levain (using 100% hydration wheat starter)

  • 125 g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 150 g rye flour
  • 350 g water

Levain (using 166% hydration rye starter)

  • 150 gram sourdough rye starter (166% hydration)
  • 180 gram rye flour
  • 300 gram water

Seeds

  • 330 g rye kernels, cracked
  • 170 g pumpkin seeds
  • 500 g water

Dough

  • 400 g levain
  • 1000 g soaked seeds
  • 200 g water
  • 50 g malt syrup
  • 400 g rye flour
  • 20 g fine salt

Instructions

Make the levain and prepare the seeds – the night before

  • Mix all the ingredients for the levain; if you are using a 100% hydration wheat sourdough you should use those ingredients. If you've keep a 166% rye sourdough from your last bake, use the other set of ingredients.
  • There will be enough levain to save for the next bread.
  • Mix the seeds with the water and leave to soak overnight.

Mix the dough

  • Put 400 grams of the levain, 20 grams of salt, 50 grams of malt syrup, 400 grams of rye flour and 200 grams of water in a bowl.
  • Whatever of the levain is left over, is your new mother rye starter. Put it in the fridge until the next time you need it.
  • Strain whatever water hasn't been soaked by the seeds and add the to the bowl.

  • Mix the dough by hand until everything is really well incorporated.
  • Butter a large bread pan liberally.
  • Add the dough and level it using a wetted spatula.
  • Leave to proof covered with a wet dish towel or cling film.

Proofing the bread

  • A rye bread needs to rise about 30%-50% before it's put in the oven. If you put it in too early, the bread will crack on top because of too much oven spring, if you put it in too late the bread will deflate in the oven.
  • The proofing can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours depending on a lot of factors, like the ambient temperature, the strength of your starter, the temperature of the dough and the consistancy of the dough
  • A good rule of thumb for when it is ready to put in the oven is when there is 6-7 pinhead sized holes on top of the dough

Baking the bread

  • Heat the oven to 240°C/465°F/Gas Mark 9.
  • When the bread is ready to bake, put it in the oven and close the door.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/355°F/Gas Mark 4.
  • Bake for another 40-70 minutes until the breads internal temperature is 98°C/208°F.
  • Leave the bread to cool on a wire rack.
  • Once it's cooled to room temperature, put it in zip lock bags and let it rest for a day before slicing into it.

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  1. Robin Dunn Reply

    Thank you Sune. I for one am very grateful for your website and videos. What you do and that I can learn from it halfway across the world connects us as human beings on things that, in my opinion, really matter.

    • Thank you. It would be nothing, if nobody could use it, so I am very happy that what I make can make a difference for you.