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How To Make Hearty Rye Bread with your Bread Machine

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Sneak Peek: Let your bread machine do the hard work of mixing and kneading this unforgettable Hearty Rye Bread recipe. Shape by hand and bake the loaf in your oven to ensure a dependable outcome.

One of my readers who was taking my FREE bread machine email course asked me for a dense rye bread recipe for her husband.

Since I didn’t have one, I started experimenting with rye bread with the same enthusiasm my grandson displayed after he discovered he could turn lights off and on.

With the pandemic in full swing, regular flour was scarce, not to mention rye flour. This project was a challenge…and a bit expensive.

Finally, after too many tunnels, ugly cracks, and tasty toasted-cheese-on-rye-bread sandwiches, I found a winner. I hope my reader’s husband is completely satisfied and that you will be, too, when you get a chance to try it.

HEADS UP! This recipe must be started the day before you want to bake it. The extra time equals better flavor.

This rye bread is dense and hearty by design. It is great for a loaded sandwich or a panini as it is sturdy enough to hold many ingredients. Don’t expect a soft, cushy loaf. The crust is slightly chewy, even more so if you glaze it.

Recipe Inspiration

This particular recipe solved three of my biggest challenges with rye bread. I couldn’t be happy until I could bake a loaf that would satisfy these requirements.

1. A dense but consistently fine texture without a lot of holes or tunnels

2. A loaf that wouldn’t burst or crack in an irregular pattern on top despite deep slashes before baking

3. A round loaf or boule that bakes up high enough to make nice slices for sandwiches

Keep reading to find out my solutions to these challenges.


But first, let’s talk about rye flour and what makes it different from wheat flour.

What You Need To Know About Rye Flour:

  1. It’s high in fiber.

One slice of rye bread itself has about two grams of fiber, which is not too shabby for bread. “Its high-fiber content makes it a heart-healthy grain good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,” Sussi says. “Its slow transit time [in your digestive system] and ability to be only partially digested is beneficial for gut health.”

https://www.wellandgood.com/is-rye-bread-good-for-you/

2. Rye flour prolongs freshness. A homemade loaf of rye bread will stay fresh for about three days. I’ve read that European bakers used to add small amounts of rye flour to many of their loaves simply as a preservative. Bread made with 100% rye flour can reportedly keep for weeks.

3. Rye is not gluten-free. Rye flour is high in gliadin but low in glutenin. It therefore, has a lower gluten content than wheat flour. It also contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber. This quality is going to have an impact on any bread that contains rye flour.

Rye bread dough tends to spread horizontally as it rises instead of vertically. While the flat shape doesn’t affect the taste, it won’t make for a great sandwich shape or a pretty loaf. The higher the percentage of rye flour in your recipe, the more it will spread.

4. Rye flour makes bread dough sticky. That’s why a bread machine is ideal for mixing up this recipe.

“Because of the sap-like gum that appears naturally in rye, and because of its water-binding capacity, rye doughs will always feel moist and sticky when you test them with your finger. This makes it easy to add too much flour during kneading, so be careful not to add more than a tablespoon or two more than the measurement given in the recipe.

The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine CookbookBeth Hensberger

5. It’s important that bread containing rye flour be completely baked through. The center of the bread should reach 200˚-207˚F (93˚C). Use a quick-read thermometer, if possible. If you don’t check and end up taking it out too soon, your bread is likely to be doughy and sticky in the middle.

6. Allow plenty of time for rye bread to cool before slicing or wrapping it. This is true of any bread, but allow more time for rye bread because of its high moisture content. Cool for at least one hour. Some say three hours.


Solutions to three common problems with rye bread:

1. How can I keep from getting holes and tunnels in my rye bread?

Use a bread machine to mix and knead the dough. You don’t have to worry about over-kneading which is easy to do with a stand mixer. You also don’t have to worry about under-kneading which is tempting when doing it by hand.

As you are pressing the dough into a flat circle before forming the dough into a ball, be sure you press all the air bubbles out first. This is easier if you let the dough rest 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the bread machine pan.

2. How do I keep free-form rye bread from flattening out while baking?

rye bread shown after second rising in a small OXO mixing bowl--done to reduce the possibility of blow-outs

Use a container like a mixing bowl or round casserole dish with steep sides to force the dough to rise upward during the second rise instead of spreading outward. You could call it “Paula’s modified version of a proofing basket or banneton.”

When you dump the dough onto your prepared baking sheet before baking, use you hands to carefully push the dough to the middle and upward. (See video.)

Quickly slash the loaf on top. Immediately place it into your pre-heated oven before it has time to spread out.

3. How do I keep rye bread from cracking unpredictably on top?

Even though I slashed the top of my rye bread with a sharp knife, many of the loaves would crack and “burst out” in other places while baking. It must be a common problem, because I see it in a lot of pictures of rye bread on the internet.

The solution:

When you use a proofing basket, banneton, or steep-sided bowl for the second rise (as seen above), place the bread dough ball into the bowl with the smooth part of the ball of dough at the bottom of the container (the part that will eventually end up on top). The area where you have pinched the dough together to make a ball will be seen on top at this stage.

dough in a 2 qt pyrex pitcher during 2nd rise--smooth side is down
pushing dough toward the middle with hands to cause the loaf to be taller.
The dough that was previously at the bottom of the bowl is smooth, unlike the picture above.

Uses olive oil to lubricate a glass or plastic bowl so the dough can slide out on its own. It’s less of a floury mess than a banneton, and gives the crust a wonderful flavor along with a slight sheen.

When the dough has doubled in size, this is how you do it….

Turn the bowl over and let the bread fall out onto the cookie sheet. If it won’t come out, use a very thin spatula to loosen it on the sides. (Use more oil next time and make sure you don’t miss any spots.)

Now the dough ball will be smooth on top like the picture above. Make decorative cuts with a sharp knife or a lamé to help steam escape and give your bread some expansion cracks.

If you are unclear about how to do this, be sure to watch the video.


Ingredients and substitutions:


What equipment do I need?

Don’t get me wrong. You can make bread without any of these things. But they are an important part of my arsenal. These tools are helpful especially if you want to make bread following this recipe (and many of the other recipes on this website).

Note: You can see all of these things and more in my Amazon store. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (but it doesn’t make your cost any higher).

equipment need to make bread by this recipe
  • BREAD MACHINE: The DOUGH cycle is all I use in this recipe (and almost all of my bread recipes) so you don’t need a fancy machine.
    Note: I don’t recommend doubling this recipe. The dough is dense and sticky. A double recipe would likely over-stress your bread machine.
  • DIGITAL SCALES: Weighing the ingredients precisely, especially the flour, is an important factor in your success with this recipe. If you don’t have scales, see this article about the proper way to measure with measuring cups. In short, don’t be a scooper.
  • SILICONE BAKING MAT: If you plan to make much bread, it’s a good idea to get some of these. Use them to roll out the dough. They keep the floury mess in one small area. If you are making a free form loaf, like Ciabatta, you can leave the shaped dough on the mat (brush off extra flour) and transfer it to a baking sheet.
    Clean-up is a breeze. Either throw the mat in your dishwasher or wipe it off with a wet cloth.
  • WATER SPRAY BOTTLE: Water is important in this recipe. Instead of using flour to handle the stickiness, you will spray your mat or countertop with water, along with your hands. It works like magic.
    No water sprayer? Set a bowl of water next to your work area and sprinkle the water on the mat.
  • BENCH SCRAPER: This is such a handy tool–especially for bread makers. Use it to manipulate dough. In this recipe, you will spray it with water just like you do your hands. These are available in plastic or metal with a nice grippy handle. The latter is my favorite.
  • 2-QUART MEASURING PITCHER: My secret for making a rye loaf that doesn’t burst on top is a glass or plastic bowl that holds at least 1 1/2 quart of liquid. The straighter the sides, the better. Try a 2-quart batter bowl. My favorite is the smallest OXO plastic mixing bowl of the three-piece set.
  • A LAMÉ OR SHARP KNIFE: A lamé is a special tool designed to slash the top of bread. A really sharp knife or a new single blade razor will also do the job.
  • FLAT COOKIE SHEET: Because this is a “free-form” bread, you will want a flat cookie sheet so it will brown evenly all over. If all your cookie sheets have rims, turn one over and place the bread on top.
  • COOLING RACK: Rye bread has a long cooling period. A cooling rack is a must to avoid a steamed bottom. If you are a baker of any kind, you will find many uses for these.

Four ways to make a lighter-textured rye bread:

  1. Use less rye flour compared to wheat flour. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of rye, decrease the rye flour to 1/2 cup and increase the bread flour by 1/2 cup.
  2. Use light rye flour instead of dark rye flour. Dark rye is a whole grain flour. Light rye does not contain the bran or the germ. It’s comparable to the difference between whole grain wheat flour and white flour.
  3. Use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. Generally speaking, all-purpose flour contains less protein and therefore, less gluten than bread flour and whole grain flour.
  4. Add vital wheat gluten for more rising power. Start with 2 tablespoons to 3 cups of flour. You may have to add some additional water–start with 1 tablespoon at a time.
comparison of rye bread with gluten and without gluten
Left: Rye bread without gluten Right: Rye bread with gluten

For the current recipe, I was specifically looking for a hearty and dense rye bread, so I have not added any extra gluten to this recipe.


How to make and shape this Hearty Rye Loaf recipe:

Baked Rye bread cooling on a rack
15. After baking, move the baked rye bread to a cooling rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.

What is the next bread recipe you would like to see?

Yield: 10 slices

Hearty Bread-Machine Rye Bread

Baked loaf of bread-machine rye bread

This dense and hearty rye bread boule is flavored with molasses and caraway seed. Make a "sponge" the night before in your bread machine, then add the remaining ingredients the next day. This simple step will give you a better texture and more complex flavor.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 2/3 cup (5.4 ounces) cool water
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) dark rye flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (4 grams) instant or bread machine yeast

Dough

  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4.5 ounces) cool water
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) rye flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (240 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons (5 grams) caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 (9 grams) teaspoons table or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) olive oil

Glaze (optional)

  • 1 egg large (50 grams)

Instructions

Mixing the SPONGE

  1. Add all ingredients for the sponge to the bread machine pan in the order given.
  2. Choose the DOUGH cycle. Let the sponge mix for about 5 minutes. Use a small spatula to clean the flour out of the corners. Unplug the machine and let sit overnight or for at least 10-12 hours.

Mixing the DOUGH

  1. Add all remaining ingredients (but the olive oil) to the sponge you already mixed the day before. Select the DOUGH cycle. After about 5 minutes, add the olive oil.
  2. When the DOUGH cycle completes, pull the rye bread dough out of the machine onto a surface you have sprayed with water. (I like to use a silicone baking sheet so I can also bake on it, then throw it into the dishwasher.)
  3. Wet your hands and manipulate the dough to form a rough ball. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Press the dough into a large circle approximately 9-10 inches in diameter being careful to push out all the air bubbles.
  5. Fold the edges to the middle and press to secure. Keep folding the dough toward the middle to make a tight ball.
  6. Use olive oil to thoroughly and completely coat the inside of a round (1 1/2 to 2-quart) container with high and steep sides. (More details are provided in the post itself)
  7. Place the ball of dough with the smooth side down into the oiled container.
  8. Preheat oven to 425˚F
  9. Cover loaf with a tea towel or a cheap plastic shower cap. Allow to rise until double the original size.
  10. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with a silicone mat, a piece of parchment paper, or sprinkle with semolina or finely-milled cornmeal.
  11. Remove cover and use a thin spatula to carefully loosen dough from the edges of the bowl
  12. Carefully turn the bowl upside down and let bread gently fall onto a cookie sheet. The smooth side of the ball should now be showing.
  13. (Optional) Whisk one egg in a small bowl. Use it to glaze the loaf. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Work quickly.
  14. Make three to five slashes across the top with a clean single-edge razor blade or a very sharp knife. They should be at least 1/2-inch deep. Repeat the same slashes if necessary to make the slits deep enough.
  15. Without delay, place bread into a hot oven before the dough has a chance to spread out. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a quick-read thermometer reads 200˚F and the rye loaf is nicely browned.
  16. After taking the loaf out of the oven, remove it to a cooling rack to cool for a minimum of 1 hour. This is an important step. Slicing into the loaf before it is cooled can result in a gummy texture.

Notes

To bake in a pan:

Use a non-stick 8½ x 4½ inch loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350˚F.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 163Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 320mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


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Al

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Paula,

Thank you so much for a great recipe, and the help you offered to make this the best rye bread I’ve ever eaten. I made it in a bread pan, and it came out perfectly sized for sandwiches. I added 1/4 cup rye flour and reduced the white flour by the same amount. I also added 2 tsps of gluten to ensure a full rise. I did have to bake it for over 40 minutes to get the proper temperature, but the biggest problem was waiting 3 hours to taste it. 😁

Paula

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

High Five!!!! I'm so glad it turned out good for you.

Al

Friday 9th of April 2021

The video shows adding all the ingredients to the bread machine and then running the dough cycle. The recipe calls for a sponge, let sit overnight, and then run the cycle with all the ingredients. Is there much difference in taste and consistency if you do it either way. Letting a sponge sit overnight isn’t a problem, and I would guess the preferred method for taste, but curious of the results using each method.

Paula

Saturday 10th of April 2021

Hi Al,

Yes, you are right on all counts. I inadvertently left that part out of the video. What was I thinking? I'll blame it on Covid and the cabin fever that was going on back then.

Your bread will be better if you make the sponge the night before. However, you may not care about having the "best" so it's OK to skip it. I always make the sponge because it is hardly any trouble--just have to think of doing it. I plan to redo the video.

Al

Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

The pictures and video are great for a novice. However, the pictures match the recipe, but the video shows the bread being baked in a pan. I would prefer to use a pan, as I want this for sandwiches. Is the time and temperature for baking the same as on a cookie sheet?

Paula

Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

Hi Al,

To bake in a pan, use a non-stick 8½ x 4½ inch loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350˚F. I will add this to the notes in the recipe. Thanks for asking.

Don

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Do you put the sponge in the fridge overnight or at room temperature?

Paula

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Hi Don,

I leave it on the counter overnight. If you find you don't have time to make bread the next day, then you can refrigerate the sponge for 3-4 days.

Hope this helps.

Lisca

Friday 11th of December 2020

I made this bread today and it was delicious. Thank you for walking me through the process, that was a great help. It is the second of your recipes I tried (first being the oatmeal sunflower bread, which also turned out very well). I used honey as I didn't have molasses, and I used ordinary light rye flour, and anisseed in stead of caraway. My bread was a slightly flatter bread than yours, but it was crusty and delicious, and the change of the ingredients probably had nothing to do with the flatter result. Thanks for the great recipes and all your work trying out the best methods. I can't wait to make more delicious bread!

Paula

Friday 11th of December 2020

So glad to hear this Lisca. Your substitutions sound just right. Rye bread wants to flatten out and will do so at the first opportunity. That's why I let mine rise in a bowl with straight-up sides. When I dump it out, I hurry like crazy to slash it, glaze it, and put it in the oven before it can flatten out too much.

Thanks so much for writing.