Home > Entertainment, Food, Provenance > Rye Bread Revisited

Rye Bread Revisited

Preparation Time: 60 minutes Baking Time: 30 minutes Yield: 1 loaf

I did a rye bread recipe a few weeks ago which was very well received, despite my initially talking of 125ml cups rather than 250ml cups of flour! Apologies to those who made what amounted to sticky gingerbread!

The previous recipe was a soda bread, which relied on baking powder and baking soda as raising agents, required virtually no kneading, and didn’t need to prove, so it was very quick and easy.

It made a fairly dense loaf, and whilst many people enjoy it, including daughter Alex, I find it a bit too sweet for my taste because of the ¼ cup honey included in the recipe.

A visit to the market at the Lourensford Estate at the beginning of the month (market at Lourensford first weekend of the month, 9am to 4pm both days) resulted in a chance encounter with Pierre Verneau whose bakery is right there on the premises.

Pierre generously shared a recipe with me for making a yeast rye bread, and after a few attempts, plus some adjustments suggested by Kevin Calitz who chefs at Waterkloof, I’ve ended up with a magnificent rye loaf that daughter Alex really enjoys …. and that’s really saying something!

One of the important differences about this recipe is that it uses fresh yeast, which initially had me stymied, but it is actually easily available. Pop into your nearest supermarket which has a bakery section and ask for some fresh yeast, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to sell you some. I buy about 100g at a time and store it wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge where it keeps for two to three weeks.

The recipe requires some degree of effort because of the kneading, but it is well worth it, and it makes 1.5 kg loaf. With rye flour costing about R15 per kg and yeast costing around R65 per kg (you need 40g for the recipe = R2.60) and baking time of 30 minutes at 240 deg C, the total cost of the loaf is about R25. Contrasted with the usual price of about R20 or so for a 750g rye loaf, this is not at all bad. And besides, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve baked it yourself.

The rye flour is not that easy to obtain, unless you pay those eye watering prices at the health and speciality stores. I use stone-ground pure rye flour from Eureka Mills in Heidelberg in the Overberg Region.

It’s not too freely available, but you can get it at Somerset West Spar in the Main Road. If you ask your supermarket I’m sure they’ll be able to get it for you.

Eureka also mills a whole-grain rye flour as well, but it makes a much denser loaf which does not rise as high, and besides, the bran gives me heartburn.

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

1kg of pure rye flour: sifted. You could of course use the whole grain flour, but once you’ve sifted it, you must add back the bran and mix gently into the flour.

600ml tap water

40g fresh yeast: My research tells me that the dry yeast equivalent is 50%, so you’d need 20g of dried yeast, or three x 7g packets, prepared according to the instructions on the packet.

20g salt

2tsp oil: to oil the bowl in which your dough proves.

2tsp butter: to butter your bread tin.


Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt, and make a well in the centre.

If you’re using fresh yeast, dissolve it in the 600ml of water.

If you’re using dry yeast, prepare as per packet instructions then pour into the well of the flour.

Pour the water into the flour well, then using a large fork, mix gently until all of the liquid is absorbed and the dry ingredients incorporated.

Flour your hands then gather the dough and press into a large ball, making sure that you have included all of the flour in the mixing bowl.

Flour a large flat surface and your hands as well then knead the dough quite vigorously for ten minutes. The kneading motion works as follows. Using the heel of your one hand, push down, forward and away on the ball of dough, then with the other hand, gather it up and fold it back over towards you. Repeat this motion alternating hands.

The dough may become too sticky – it will start to adhere to your hands and the work top – in which case flour the surface and your hands lightly again.

Finally, shape the dough into a ball.

Oil the inside of a medium mixing bowl, and place the dough into it, covered with a sheet of clingfilm, and one or two kitchen towels. Put in the warmest place in the kitchen to prove, and once the dough has grown to twice its size, or after 45 minutes, whichever comes first, remove it from the bowl and knock it down. That literally means you knock out of the dough the carbon dioxide bubbles that have been formed by the yeast fermenting in the proving process.

Shape the dough into a sausage that will just fit into your bread tin (mine is L300mm x W100mm x H90mm), cover with clingfilm and two kitchen towels, and set in a warm place to prove for a second time.

Preheat the oven at this point to 240 deg C so that it is at temperature once your dough has risen again, in about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, put the bread tin in the centre of the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and poke a skewer into the bread right to the bottom. Withdraw and feel for uncooked dough. It will be quite sticky if the loaf is not yet baked properly, in which case bake for another five minutes or so.

Turn the loaf out, and thump it gently with the palm of your hand. If it is baked it will make a hollow sound.

If you want a soft crust, wrap the loaf tightly in a couple of kitchen towels, and set on a rack to cool down completely to room temperature.

If you allow it to cool down uncovered, you’ll likely have quite a hard crust, which makes it difficult to slice.

You can store the loaf in the refrigerator for up to a week, in a zip seal bag.

This recipe yields a medium density rye loaf with a lovely texture that is not at all sour, and slices very thinly. It makes lovely toast as well. Enjoy!

Categories: Entertainment, Food, Provenance
  1. June 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    This is really amazing and nice … I like men in the kittchen thx 🙂

  2. angelika
    August 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I tried the recipe but the bread, although the taste is there, is like a stone, very dense and heavy! I used Eureka’s pure rye flour (not the whole grain), but found that I had to add more water as the dough was much too dry. what should the consistency of the dough be before baking? I’m eager to bake my own rye bread as I find most of the bought loaves either too sweet or too sour!

    • August 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Angelika,
      The proportions I have given you work perfectly. I bake this loaf every week. do not add any additional water beyond the 600ml. You can up the yeast to as much as 55g if you like. The dough texture should be sticky enough to just start sticking to your hands before you set it to prove. That’s with no more than 6 or 7 minutes of had kneading.
      Monitor the proving carefully. As soon as it has doubled in size for the first rising, knock it down, then put it in the pan for the second rising. Not more than 20 minutes, unless its very cold.

  3. angelika
    October 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Norman
    I feel a complete dunce, but my rye bread is just not the success that I hoped it would be! My second attempt was better in that the bread was not quite as heavy, but again i found that there seemed to be too little water for the amount of flour and it because of the increased amount of yeast it has a very yeasty taste. Is there a chance of watching you prepare the dough? I need to see and feel it!

    • October 5, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Hi Ankgelia,
      You’re welcome to join me the next time I bake rye bread. Let me have your cellphone number via email (norman@maninthekitchen.co.za) and I’ll call you when I plan to bake.

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