Rugbrød (Danish Rye Bread)

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Those of you that know me, know that I have a real love affair with the Scandinavian way of life. I love the food, the cooler weather, the idea of long summer days, the Fika culture of coffee and cake with friends and the lovely hues of the painted buildings. If I were to choose somewhere to live other than the UK, it would undoubtedly be in one of those countries.

I gifted my mum the cookbook ‘The New Nordic’ by Simon Bajada after our trip to Iceland a few years ago. On my last visit home I found myself flitting through the pages, noting recipes I couldn’t wait to try, when I came across this Rye bread. I love Smørrebrød (a traditional Scandinavian open sandwich), of which Rye bread is an essential part.

Traditional Rugbrød is made with a sourdough starter however, Simon Bajada’s version uses a pre-soak made 18-24 hours before the dough is made to give it that sour taste without the hassle of tending to a sourdough starter.

My first attempt was sunken in the middle and raw. I knew when I had made the dough that it seemed too wet so, for my second I decided to add a little more flour and it turned out perfectly.

Rye bread stays fresher for much longer than white bread and is packed full of goodness. Cracked rye grains, sunflower seeds and linseeds means this bread is really filling without being too heavy.

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Ingredients – Makes one loaf (Recipe from ‘The New Nordic’ by Simon Bajada*)

  • 150g cracked rye**
  • 75g sunflower seeds
  • 75g linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 480ml cold water
  • 250g wholemeal rye flour
  • 1/2 tsp. dried instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 tbsp. golden syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp. malt extract
  • soft unsalted butter, for greasing
Smørrebrød toppings photographed:
  • Cream cheese with chopped dill/cherry tomatoes/smoked herring
  • Thick layer of unsalted butter/sea salt/sliced avocado/soft-boiled egg

*adaptions made to include extra flour and butter for greasing

**this can be found online or in health food shops. If you can only find whole rye grains, crack them in a coffee grinder or blender.

Method

The day before

Stir together the cracked rye, sunflower seeds and linseeds together in a bowl with 300ml of the water. In another bowl, mix the rye flour with the yeast and the remaining 180ml of cold water. Cover both with clean tea towels and set aside at room temperature for 18–24 hours.

The next day

Combine the two mixtures together with the salt, golden syrup/honey and malt. Knead together in the bowl until all ingredients are well combined and evenly distributed throughout (around 5 minutes.) The dough will be wet, like cement, and it should fall off your hands if held up. If the dough feels too wet, add in up to an extra 100g rye flour.

Grease a 25 cm x 10 cm loaf tin liberally with softened butter. Transfer the dough to the tin and smooth over the surface. Leave in a warm place for 2–3 hours, until the dough has risen to the rim of the tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake 1 hour 20 minutes. It should be quite dark and have a firm crust. Turn the loaf out of the tin onto a wire cooling rack. If the base and sides are still a bit moist, cook the bread upside down without its tin for a further 5-10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. This can take up to 3 hours. I prefer to leave the loaf at least another half day to make sure the moisture has been distributed and the loaf has completely cooled. The loaf will stay fresh for 3 or 4 days if it is stored in a paper bag at room temperature.

Note: I have made this bread over three days before, leaving the dough in the tin to rise in the fridge overnight covered with clingfilm. This will give the dough a better flavour. If the dough rises too much before I go to bed the night before, I knock it back and place it back into the tin.

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