Bakers in most countries make bread with various milled wheat gains. In Scandinavia, it is relatively cold, so grain-like rye is much better suited for the climate. So that means we commonly use rye flour, and most commonly in bread. This is my Danish rye bread recipe.
Here in Denmark, rye bread is a staple of our cuisine. Almost everyone eats it for lunch every day. It’s dark, it’s malty, and it’s usually full of delicious moist seeds.
The type of rye bread is pretty different from what people in other countries think is rye bread. It’s because it’s made with 100% rye flour, whereas in most other places, people bake rye bread with a mixture of wheat and rye.
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The history of rye bread in Danish cuisine
The rye grain originates from present-day Turkey but came to Denmark through merchants and has been grown in Denmark for over 1000 years.
The Danish people have been baking rye bread all that time, although, in earlier times, bread was probably a lot less palatable than modern bread. This article describes it as 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 bread made with rye. I am all for expanding this border.
The health of this danish rye bread recipe
A bread with 100% rye is a whole-grain bread. It’s much healthier than your typical wheat bread. It has fewer carbohydrates, more fibers, and generally fills your stomach nicely (per calorie eaten).
Here is a breakdown of the macronutrients of commercial white toast, commercial whole-grain toast, my Sourdough bread for beginners, and this rye bread. The rye bread may seem a bit high in fat, but that’s the good stuff from the seeds.
Judge for yourself.
|Pr. 100g|| Wheat toast|
|Calories||253 kcal||247 kcal||220 kcal||228 kcal|
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 a 166% hydration rye starter that you’ve saved from the levain from a previous bread.
Making the levain with your wheat starter 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 use it, that amount will fall to almost zero in 3 or 4 bakes.
|88g||starter (100% hydration)||83.8%|
If you use your rye starter at 166% hydration, less water is needed to keep the hydration of the levain at 166%:
|95g||starter (166% hydration)||83.3%|
The dough 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 dough’s hydration. We soak so that the seeds won’t take out hydration of the dough and keep them nice and supple.
|330g||cracked rye kernels||60.1%|
If you want to play with the hydration or the formula in general, you can do it here in my bread calculator.
I don’t have/can’t get barley malt syrup. Can I make a substitute?
You can create a good taste substitute if you cannot get barley malt syrup.
Combine 125g/1 cup of dark ale and 125g/1 scant cup of dark brown sugar in a pot. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer uncovered until you have a very thick syrup. You can use this syrup in place of barley malt syrup.
Stored in the fridge, it stays good indefinitely.
Conclusion on this Danish rye bread recipe
This is classic Danish rye bread. It’s a staple of Danish cuisine. You will find this at any lunch and even at the celebration lunches we eat for Easter and Christmas, including other Danish specialties like liver pâté, pickled herring, and flæskesteg.
This bread is perfect for any Danish-inspired lunch. The bread has a soft crust, a dense but soft crumb, a nice chew, and a slight crunch from the moist seeds.
The taste is delicious. Slightly sour from the starter, but not overwhelming. A fantastic 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 horseradish, pickled cucumbers, garden cress, 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
Boiled brisket – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced boiled brisket, creamed horseradish, grated horseradish, finely chopped mixed pickle, garden cress
Ham – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced ham, scrambled eggs, asparagus, julienne carrots, garden cress, and a piece of fresh cucumber on the top.
Leverpostej – Rye bread, butter, liver pâté, roasted mushrooms, crispy bacon, pickled beetroot
Spiced meat roll – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, thinly sliced spiced meat roll, meat jelly, onions in rings, and garden cress
The veterinarian’s midnight snack – Rye bread, butter, liver pâté, corned beef, meat jelly, onions in rings, and garden cress
Smoked eel – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, smoked eel, scrambled eggs, garden cress, and cucumber on top
Tatar – Rye bread, butter, lettuce, minced beef steak tartare, grated horseradish, 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 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
Levain (using 100% hydration wheat starter)
Levain (using 166% hydration rye starter)
- 80 gram sourdough rye starter 166% hydration
- 150 gram dark rye flour
- 250 gram water
- 330 g rye kernels, cracked if you can't get these, use whole rye kernels but soak them even longer
- 170 g pumpkin seeds
- 500 g water
Make the levain and prepare the seeds – the night before
- Mix all the ingredients for the levain; if you use a 100% hydration wheat sourdough, you should use those ingredients. Use the other ingredients; if you've keep a 166% rye sourdough from your last bake.
- 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 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 seeds to the bowl.
- Mix the dough by hand until everything is 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 consistency of the dough
- A good rule of thumb for when it is ready to put in the oven is when there are 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 bread's 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.