Rye was considered a staple grain during the Middle Ages and remains popular in European countries, especially Germany and Sweden. There are many variations of rye bread – from light rye breads that contain a mix of flours, to dark and coarse pumpernickel that features in traditional German breakfasts alongside eggs and ham, a variety of cheeses and wurst! Rye breads are generally denser than wheat breads due to the lower gluten content of rye flour.
Wholegrain rye flour has a low glycemic index, is a rich source of manganese, and contains more fiber than an equal amount of wholegrain wheat flour.
Aniseed is traditionally found in rye bread, but can readily be omitted if you’re not a fan of its licorice flavor. Interestingly, star anise and aniseed are botanically distinct. Whereas star anise, which is often used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking, is the fruit of an evergreen tree related to the magnolia family, anise is a herb in the parsley family. However, both star anise and aniseed produce an aromatic compound called anethole, which imparts a potent licorice flavor.
This simplified rye bread recipe uses wholegrain rye flour combined with unbleached wheat and whole wheat flours. Since I found no real benefit in knocking down the dough and having a second rise, this version is quick and easy to make.
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (two ¼-ounce packets)
- 3 cups dark rye flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1-1½ teaspoons aniseed (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1¾-2 cups warm water
- Combine the first three ingredients in a measuring jug and set aside to sponge.
- Combine the flours, salt, aniseed and oil in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the yeast mixture and as much water as is needed to form a soft, pliable dough.
- If using a table model food mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix for 5-8 minutes.
- Alternatively, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead thoroughly. Rub a little oil onto your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape to fit standard bread pans (approximately 8½x4½ inches) or shape into rounds or ovals and place on lined baking sheets.
- Cover lightly with a damp dishcloth or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until at least doubled in volume – 1½-2 hours.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F. When the bread is placed in the oven, turn the oven temperature down to 350˚F and bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Turn out onto a cooling rack.