Rye #1 – Rugbrød (Sourdough Rye Bread)

The New Year is here and the children’s mood swings as well as scales are a gentle (or not so gentle!) reminder that December’s sweet and indulgent time must come to an end…at least for a little while. So, with this in mind I am, over the next few weeks, in the name of health, going to share with you a series of rye flour recipes that I love and make often.

Being Danish, Rye is very much part of my every day life and I am a passionate advocate of it! I rarely eat any bread that does not contain it and try to incorporate it into cakes and pastries also. Most of the time the children do not even know they are eating it.

So what is rye and why bother? Rye is a cereal grain, known scientifically as Secale cereale, which looks like wheat but is longer and more slender. It is one of the most recently domesticated cereal crops. Unlike some other cereal grains that can be traced back to prehistoric times, rye was not cultivated until around 400 B.C. It was first grown in this manner in Germany. Rye is thought to have originated from a wild species that grew as weeds among wheat and barley fields.

Unfortunately, ever since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, this nutrient-rich grain has not been widely enjoyed. In many countries, rye seems to have been relegated to the back of the shelves – maybe out of sight out of mind? Luckily for me, in some food cultures, including my Danish one, rye is still widely used and retains an important position. Especially in Denmark, rye bread (rugbrød) holds an especially esteemed position – hence the recipe I will be posting today!

  • Rye contains high levels of proteins and fibre. It contains good amounts of iron, calcium and zinc and a whole slew of B and E vitamins
  • Rye contains a lot of soluble fibre which slows down the release of carbohydrates and sugars, so that you feel satisfied for longer after eating it compared to wheat bread – thus beneficial in controlling body weight
  • Being overweight and lacking exercise can lead to type 2 diabetes. Whole grain food, including rye bread, consumption is significantly associated with reduced risk of diabetes due to the fact that rye bread generates a lower insulin response than wheat bread does
  • Rye bread and other rye-products can improve bowel function and prevent constipation as well as colon cancer
  • If you think of carbon footprint then rye is a good way to eat as it is easier to grow than wheat in many climates and therefore requires fewer inputs
  • It tastes great!
  • In summary – by eating rye and other fibre rich produce you can lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, high blood sugar, diabetes and obesity as well as being good to the environment! Nice list isn’t it?!?

(For more information please see  www.ryenadhealth.orghttp://www.whfoods.com, http://www.greenfootsteps.com/rye-flour.html, http://commonsensehealth.com/Diet-and-Nutrition/High_Fiber_Food_Chart.shtml).

Rye flour is the key ingredient in this traditional Danish sourdough rye bread I am about to share with you! Be excited! My father is the one who inspired me on this one – he is THE rye bread maker at home!

A final few words before we get on with it though. Bread made with rye flour is more compact and dense than normal wheat bread as its gluten is less elastic than wheat’s. Therefore, do not expect a light, fluffy bread! However, as rye flour is less processed than wheat it retains a large quantity of nutrients. What I am trying to say is – it may be heavy but it’s good for you!

Sourdough Starter

100ml buttermilk
100ml water
55g rye flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp runny honey

Traditional Rye Bread from Sourdough starter

400g rye flour
100g strong white flour
250g seeds – rye, sunflower, pumpkin – any you like! Add nuts too – walnuts are lovely.
About 500 ml luke warm water
1 tsp salt
Sourdough stater (made from recipe above)

Sourdough Starter

The hardest part of making sourdough rye bread is getting the sourdough starter going. The first time you make the bread it will probably not turn out well. This is because it takes the wild yeast you are creating time to become strong. Do not let this discourage you! I had to throw away my first two loaves when I started…now however I have the most gorgeous rye bread that I, and my family, eat all the time.

Add all the sourdough starter ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine – it will look something like the above! The reason you are adding salt and sugar is that you essentially are “feeding” the mixture!

Once combined, leave it covered in a warm place for 24 hours – give it a stir and leave for another 24 hours. Have a look at it. It should start to smell sour and bubble slightly. Place in the fridge for 3 days. After this time it is ready for use but remember, the first few times you use it the bread may not turn out as well as you expect.

Traditional Rye Bread from Sourdough starter


Get a large mixing bowl and pour in 450ml luke warm water as well as the sourdough starter. Mix well.

Add both types of flour to the mixture and stir until it has the consistency of a really thick bowl of porridge! Add more water if necessary. It must not be runny though so if you add too much water stir in a bit more rye flour. You will end up with something that looks like the image here – not pretty I know!

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rest for at least 12 hours – I usually leave it over night. Do not fill the dough more than 2/3 of the way as it will rise.

Day 2

Once risen, your dough should look like the above image! It will be spongy when you touch it.

Add the seeds or nuts/rye – my seed mixture (cracked rye and wheat and others) needs to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes before being added, as below, but if you just use nuts and seeds you can add them as they are.

Give the mixture a good stir and add 1tsp of salt – you can add more or less salt if you wish – taste it and see what you think. The dough should feel soft to stir but not be watery. If it is too hard you may add a little bit of luke warm water – not more than 30dl though – which probably is equivalent to a few tablespoons. If you make it too watery the bread will come out sticky.

Once you are happy with the consistency of your batter, take a good couple of spoonfulls out of the bowl and put in a glass – as below. This will be the sourdough starter for your next bread!

Put a few tsp sea salt on top of the sourdough and close the jar with a lid. Again, only fill the jar about 2/3 of the way as it will rise. Place it in the fridge until you need it! Leave at least 3 days before you use it though as the wild yeast needs time to develop.

The image below shows how the sourdough ferments after a few days – notice the air bubbles – this is how you know it is a good sourdough. It took me 3 loaves of bread, and sourdough, before mine was really good.

Take your batter and pour into a greased bread tin – you will need a rather large, rectangular one or two smaller ones. I often make mini loaves for the children – they are really sweet! You could use silicone cupcake cases for this if you do not have actual miniature tins.

Once in the greased tin, let the dough rise for two hours under a tea towel before you place it in the warm oven.

The bread will need 1.5 hours at 100C. After this time, turn the oven up to 200C and give it another 1 hour – if you feel it is going too dark simply place some aluminium foil over the top.

When the 2.5 hours are up – turn it out of the tin and listen to it “talking” to you! Don’t laugh…it really does! You know that the bread is good if it crackles and hisses when you listen to the bottom of it.

The smell in your kitchen will be phenomenal at this point and you will, no doubt, be tempted to slice it open, butter it and eat it all! DON’T! As with any fresh bread, it needs time to sit and collect itself before you slice it.

Wrap a damp tea towel around it and put it back in the oven, now turned off but still warm, with its top down. Let it stay in there like this until the oven is cold, then transfer to a plastic ziplock bag – to retain the moisture in the bread – and place in the fridge. It will be ready for you to eat the next morning – or a good half day after being put in the fridge.

I know it sounds awfully complicated and labour filled – the first time you make it, it is! But once you get into the rhythm it takes no time at all and you fit it into your day.

Stunning fresh rye bread!

These are some ways I LOVE to eat mine. I always toast it on high to make it nice and crisp and then…

 Pan fried cod roe with lemon…heaven!

Avocado, pepper and sea salt…a fibre health bomb of deliciousness! 

The children’s favourite…cheddar and jam! 

My, sometimes, mid-morning snack! Cheddar and orange/elderflower marmelade…doesn’t get much better! 

So there you have it – Danish Rugbrød! Very much a part of my food culture and filled with goodness. Serve it for breakfast with cheese – fibre and calcium covered! For lunch with pate and cucumber, cheese and a slice of red pepper (vitamin C), hummus and ham (protein)…so many options! For dinner it is great served with an omelette…

It freezes well so make a double portion and freeze one loaf – pre-sliced maybe – then all you have to do is pop a few slices in the toaster and you are off to a great meal or snack!

The Magic of Lemons

After my chocolate passion spell, followed by a week on holiday with lots of marshmallow roasting and cream teas, I wanted a healthy theme and one that included a food I could cook and use mostly for savoury recipes. When I then read on the Discovery Health website that Vitamin C promotes the production of collagen (a protein that encourages cell growth and promotes skin firmness) I knew that lemon would be a good choice!

It has been lovely using lemon in all my recipes, from breakfast to dinner, and apart from feeling positively refreshed, I am sure my skin looks better! Furthermore, our home has gained a wonderful subtle scent of spring – without me even needing to clean!

Lemon is well-known for having a multitude of health benefits, the main ones being strong antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting powers. They also act as a weight loss aid due to the fact that they induce the liver to create bile which is a juice that dissolves the fat in your food (more on this in a great article on lifemojo.com). During this process. the juices also clean out your liver. If these are not enough reasons to enjoy some of my recipes, read on to discover more glorious secrets about this little yellow gem!

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