Danish rye bread

Danskt rågbröd

Danish rye bread

Despite the rivalry between the two countries, Danish rye bread is actually quite popular in Sweden, especially in Skåne and elsewhere in southern Sweden.

I've adapted this recipe from Signe Johansen's excellent book Scandilicious Baking. Signe was brought up in Norway and now lives in the UK. She has an infectious enthusiasm for both Scandinavia and the UK as well as being a highly educated foodie. I probably use this recipe more than anything else in Signe's book, although I have tweaked it slightly over time (I only ever use 'instant' yeast) and I have tried to make it easier for American readers to follow.

It is one of my favourite breads because of the combination of the lovely malty taste, the wholesomeness of the rye and the anise-like flavour of the caraway. It is quite dense and heavy without being dry. It keeps well for up to about a week and, unlike most breads, the flavour seems to actually improve a bit after a day or so.

Prawns on Danish rye bread

It is an excellent bread to use for räksmörgås (open prawn/shrimp sandwiches) or, with the crusts trimmed, for some fancy canapés. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for Danish rye bread


• This bread keeps well but it doesn’t freeze very well.
• Rye flakes or cracked rye can be obtained from most health food shops.
• Some people prefer to soak the cracked rye kernels overnight, but I like the slightly nutty texture so I don’t bother.


Ingredients for Danish rye bread

250 g* rye flour
250 g strong white flour (bread flour)
50 g rye flakes (or cracked rye kernels)
8 g fine sea salt (1½ tsp)
400 g boiling water
45 g black treacle or molasses syrup
6 g caraway seeds (2 tsp)
45 g butter
7 g "instant" dried yeast, 1 packet

*We recommend using digital scales and weighing all quantities when making bread.


1 tsp black treacle or molasses syrup
1 tbsp boiling water


Flours, rye and salt in a bowl

1. Mix the flours, rye flakes and salt together with a spoon.

The dough formed into a ball

2. Stir in the boiling water, taking care to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and that the water is absorbed by the rye flour. (Use your hands to form it into a ball and use it to wipe up the flour until the bowl is fairly clean.) Leave to cool.

Treacle, seeds and butter melted in a saucepan

3. Gently heat the treacle, caraway seeds and butter in a small pan whilst stirring until the butter is melted. Stir into the dough and allow to cool.

Dough formed into a ball

4. When cooled, it needs to be below 45°C (115°F), add the yeast and knead for 2-3 minutes on a lightly floured work surface. You only really need to ensure that ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Note that the dough is quite different to an ordinary dough and is much stickier initially, so use a dough scraper to keep the surface clean and to help move the dough around. Eventually it will become drier and you can form it into a ball..

(As the dough is quite sticky I prefer to use a stand mixer such as a kMix or a KitchenAid to start with. Mix on speed 2 for about two minutes, regularly scrapping down the sides of the bowl, and then finish off by hand to form into a ball, ensuring that everything is thoroughly mixed.)

Dough after rising showing holes in top

5. Place the dough in a clear bowl, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 5 hours (or overnight) by which time the dough will smelly quite malty, but will still be rather sticky and with lots of holes as shown above.

6. Lightly oil a 1 kg (2 lb) loaf tin.

Dough in a tin before rising

7. Knock back the dough for 30 seconds then shape it into a loaf and place in the tin. Cover with the oiled clingfilm again and allow to prove in a warm place for another hour or so until the dough doesn’t spring back when lightly poked with your finger. (Again it will smell a bit malty and will have a rather different texture to an ordinary dough so don't worry if it looks unusual. It should look something like the dough above.)

8. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F, gas 7, fan 200°C) and place a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create a steamy environment which will help the bread rise and prevent it from becoming too dry.

9. Mix the glaze ingredients and lightly brush the dough, giving it two coats.

10. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 200°C (400°F, gas 6, fan 180°C) and bake for a further 35-40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 90°C (194°F).

11. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Another serving suggestion

Danish rye bread with smoked salmon and capers

Spread a couple of slices with crème fraîche and top with smoked salmon, coarsely ground black pepper, some chopped capers, red onion and dill.


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