The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

66% Sourdough Rye

ericb's picture

66% Sourdough Rye

Last night, I baked the 66% Sourdough rye in Hamelman's book. This is the highest percentage of rye I have ever worked with, so it was quite an experience. My favorite part about it is that it's a very fast bread to make. From the time I mixed all the ingredients together to the time I pulled the loaf from the oven, I think it was about 2 hours. The high percentage of rye requires very little proofing time, so this fits in nicely into a busy schedule.

I found that shaping the loaves was a little tricky. I really wouldn't say that I "shaped" them in the traditional sense. It was more like rolling out play-dough.

Despite how much I want to love it, rye bread is just a little too intense for me. The thought of taking a bite out of a big chunk of it makes me a little queasy. I have to slice it very thin, and even then, the taste is almost overwhelming. I wish I had to vocabulary to describe it... I almost get an umami flavor from it. Perhaps the best comparison is to a dark oatmeal stout or a fine bourbon, in that you would never want to gulp it, but only let it wet your lips.

Anyway, I was wondering what kind of condiments traditionally go with dense rye breads? I've heard that smoked meats are popular, but we don't have access to those right now. Dipping oil seems too heavy, but maybe some cream cheese or a thin pat of butter is all it needs? 

Any thoughts?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Eric.

Hamelman's 66% rye bread is getting into "real" rye. It is somewhat of an acquired taste, but your question about how to match it with foods is a good one.

I don't know much about German food culture - maybe Mini O will chime in. The French think rye bread goes with fish, strong cheeses and smoked meats or charcuterie in general. I think it also goes well with tart foods. One of my favorites with rye bread is pickled herring. I also like rye, toasted, with eggs. Rye toast is also delicious with almond butter and a tart preserve - apricot or plum.

I'm getting hungry! Better go fix dinner. :-)


Yerffej's picture

I never thought of rye as an acquired taste but possibly that is only how I view it.  I make a number of different ryes from a light rye that is about 30% rye, to a heavy Russian rye that is 85% rye, a similar Danish rye, and a 100% rye.  It is a taste I love and could eat it all the time.  I slice it thin and use it as one would use just about any sandwich bread.  Thinly sliced, toasted, Borodinsky rye with butter and homemade strawberry preserves is only a half a step from heaven.

Heavy rye bread has a flavor that can stand up to and complement the strongest flavors you might pair with it such as smoked fish, intense cheese, raw onion and so on.  As for the thin pat of butter.......if by thin you mean a 1/16 of an inch then I say "perfect".


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

My father's side of the family is originally from Poland and they enjoyed rye bread with Polish ham slices, sometimes called boiled ham in the New England states, and kielbasa. The favored condiments would be a brown mustard such as Gulden's or horseradish.

hansjoakim's picture

I understand rye-centric breads can be an acquired taste. I think it's very interesting to read about how preferences and the use of rye in breadbaking varies with region. Certain regions are well known for scalding parts of the flour, northern Germany is known as notorious rye eaters, while the southern parts prefer lighter ryes.

Personally, I'll take anything on top of a good slice of rye. Yes, thinner is often better. I think that slice of toasted Borodinsky rye with honey I had the other week is probably the most mindblowing slice of bread I've ever had. I also love any kind of cured fish on rye. Mustard sauce, hard boiled eggs, a bottle of beer and a glass of Danish herb liquor on the side makes the meal perfect for me.

When shaping rye loaves or rolls, recall that the gliadin:glutenin ratio in rye lean towards the gliadin side. That favours extensibility of the dough, like the playdo feel you describe. Glutenin is what makes wheat based doughs so elastic and tolerant of rough shaping.

I wouldn't give up on rye, but perhaps go back to 30-40% ryes. Try some very simple formulas, with little or no bread spices in them first. To me, many of the caraway ryes are so heavy on the caraway that you can't really appreciate the subtle flavour of rye.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think you need to take a beginner approach....   Make a simple sandwich open face on a nice looking cutting board and have a sharp knife handy.  The slice of bread should be thinner than bagged sandwich bread slices.  Unsalted butter might be first.  Cold seems to be the favorite, sliced paper thin off the block and spread out on the bread so it can soften.  After a few short minutes press the butter into the bread so they are one.  It should be a very thin layer enough to fill in holes and just cover the surface.  Like the blank page about to be written on.  Now cut a very small piece with your knife and taste it.  Make sure it is not all crust.  (Crust lovers, hold your tongues!)

Now there is a wide variety of things you can do.  Add your favorite jam or Nutella, which is a chocolate-nut spread.  Cut a thin strip of the bread and spoon a little on it.  Then cut the strip with your knife into bite size pieces no bigger than one inch squares.  Make them the size you want and cut a few or one at a time.  Now taste.  It takes just a fraction more time to eat it this way but the best way to get to know and enjoy your bread.  (I have to take a pause now to 'practice what I preach' and down a slurp of coffee.)  Honey is also good and so are little pieces of fresh ripe fruit, anything from apricot to tomato, plum or cantelope.

On the savory side, one of the many varieties of cheese can be sliced or spread on top.  I hard cheese can be sliced thin and laid over.  Sliced meat, roast, or just the drippings, topped with half a small caper, thin slice of pickle, onion, olive or fresh pepper or herbs from the garden.  The combinations are limitless.  Salt and black pepper are on standby. 

One family favorite topping for Rye bread slices is known as potato cheese.   A creamy potato salad with extra onions, garlic, yogurt, sourcream, caraway and mixed until fine in texture then allowed to sit melding the flavors.  This is spread heavily onto the bread and topped with sliced boiled egg, more onion, pepper, sliced pickle or dusted with paprika or chopped chives.  This lends itself as a snack, pick me up, or can be tray presented for more elaborate occations or hungry crowds.  It never fails to please.   Another favorite is to make a cutting board full of chopped chives and flop the buttered or potato-cheesed bread face down into the chives and press the chives onto the surface.  Carefully roll over and cut into bite size or hand held pieces.  If you do this with cottage cheese, better to sprinkle them on top instead. 

I could go on and on.  Generally we don't toast it,  yet it makes great grilled cheese sandwiches.  The heavier the bread, the thinner it's sliced.  Most the time it is eaten open faced or served plain in a basket when soup is served.   Cut slices as they are needed.  

Start with little bites.  Little tasty bites.  My husband likes to make little tiny open sandwiches stacking thin layer on layer sometimes getting about 1 1/2 inches high.   Just to watch him takes a good deal of patience.   I'm getting hungry!



Nim's picture

Wow! You make me hungry...

ryeaskrye's picture


As a youngster, at extended family (Austrian heritage) dinners, there was always a battle for who got the heels of the bread. The adults were as aggressive as the kids in this pursuit and as they still spoke German, they had a specific name for the heels which I am trying to remember.

Something like "schteisal" or "steisal", though I know those are not words. Might you have any idea for the word I am looking for?


ryeaskrye's picture

I picked it up in my youth and am glad for it. Rye is the primary reason I even started baking bread.

I love rye breads — light, dark and anywhere in between, with or without spices. I especially like caraway, which also is a carminative to aid digestion of starches.

Moments ago, I just finished the last heel of my americanized version of "pumpernickel" topped with a slice of comté cheese. Yesterday saw grilled sandwiches with black forest ham and thinly sliced, pungent Swiss cheese. Like Mini, I even enjoy it with a very light covering of unsalted butter.

As the posts above reveal, rye breads are very versatile. The best have a dense crumb, but can either remain inexplicably light in weight, or can be quite heavy and moist. They tend to have a longer shelf life and their flavor increases over a day or two.


dmsnyder's picture

LOL! I think ericb got more than he bargained for!

Yesterday, I baked Daniel Leader's Polish Cottage Rye, a very light rye that is not much different from any high-hydration sourdough, except it's made with a rye sour instead of a wheat-based levain.

Right now, I have a couple loaves of Jewish Sour Rye in the oven. This is traditionally made with white rye, but, as my taste for rye developed, I find I prefer it made with whole rye. So it's very similar to Hamelman's 40% rye.

These breads are quite different from the German and Austrian rye breads which Mini, ryeaksrye and hansjoakim are thinking of. Food pairing with them could be another couple long lists of possibilities with little overlap.

Rye breads ... or breads made with any amount of rye flour ... are so incredibly diverse. For those who didn't grow up with them, the higher percentage rye breads may be an acquired taste, but that's a taste well worth acquiring, says I.


rhomp2002's picture

My dad, brother and I loved cold stiff baked beans with cheese and onion on rye bread lightly buttered.  Sometines they would add hot pepper to this.  Love it!!  Sharp cheese preferred, especially a cheddar so sharp that it crumbles when you try to cut it.

copyu's picture
copyu open sandwich:

Any good rye bread, slices of Emmenthal cheese, topped with Hungarian salami and dill pickles (sliced lengthwise) on top, with a small bowl of fried potatoes on the side.

I first ate this at a German place in the ski areas of AUSTRALIA (as opposed to Austria [Innsbruck] where my parents lived before I was born.)

This was obviously a 'winter dish' but I can eat this in any season!