Bursting with rye, whole grains and a variety of tasty seeds, Danish Rye Bread (rugbrød) is one of the most delicious and nutritious breads out there.
In the world of Nordic cuisine, this dense rye bread is an absolute essential. It serves as the base for smørrebrød (the FAMOUS Nordic open face sandwiches), and is an integral part of the Scandinavian diet, not just in Denmark but throughout the region.
Rugbrød can be difficult to find here in the United States. Unless you live near a good Scandinavian bakery, it's likely that the only rye bread available is something more like pumpernickel or a deli rye. If you want an authentic Danish rye bread, you are probably going to have to make it yourself. Fortunately, this recipe for rugbrød is simple, foolproof and made with easy-to-find ingredients. Ready to get started?
Why This Recipe Works
There are plenty of recipes for rugbrød out there that simply don't work. BELIEVE ME....I've tried several. This recipe succeeds every time because:
- It uses an overnight method which relies on a minimal amount of yeast and no sourdough starter;
- a mixture of bread and rye flour helps create a sturdy gluten structure which holds the bread aloft and keeps it from sinking in on itself (a common problem with rye breads); AND
- the method of baking relies on a few different oven temperatures during the course of the baking time. This helps prevent a gummy texture in the final loaf.
For the Soaker:
- 7 grain cereal provides the hearty backdrop of the bread. Traditional rugbrød recipes call for rye chops which are just coarsely chopped pieces of rye grains. Because rye chops can be hard to find in the U.S., this recipe calls for a 7 grain cereal mix instead (feel free to use rye chops if you have access to them! They work just as well here). 7 grain cereal mix is simply a combination of several different coarsely chopped grains including wheat, rye, triticale, oats, oat bran, barley and/or brown rice. I often use the Bob's Red Mill brand, but have also had good luck with this mix from Nuts.com.
- Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds and flax seed bring texture, flavor and nutrients to this hearty, substantial loaf.
For the Dough:
- A combination of bread flour and rye flour is key to providing the gluten structure this bread needs to keep its shape.
- Instant yeast serves as the leavener. Please note that instant or rapid rise yeast and active dry yeast are two different things. The essential difference between the two is that instant yeast can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients whereas active dry yeast is designed to be proofed in warm liquid prior to adding it to the recipe. Instant yeast is also more reliable, effective and fast-acting.
- Molasses not only sweetens and flavors the dough, it also helps deepen the dark brown color of the final loaf.
You will need:
How To Make This Recipe
The Night Before
- 8-12 hours before you plan to make the bread, begin mixing the dough: Combine the rye flour, bread flour, instant yeast and cold water together in a large bowl (I just use the bowl that goes with my stand mixer since that is where it will eventually go....one less bowl to wash). HOLD BACK ON THE MOLASSES AND SALT FOR NOW. Stir to combine as best you can (mixture will be thick), and then knead briefly with your hands until you have a cohesive mixture. The dough will be very thick and clay-like in texture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature.
- At the same time, mix the soaker together: Combine all the ingredients for the soaker together in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature.
The Morning of Baking
- 8-12 hours later, finish mixing the dough: Grease a 13 x 4 inch pullman loaf pan with butter and dust with rye flour, including the lid. Set aside. Combine the dough, molasses, salt and the soaker (THERE IS NO NEED TO DRAIN THE SOAKER.....go ahead and put in the water and the soaked seeds) in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for another 2-3 minutes. The dough will be VERY STICKY at this point.
- Scrape or spoon the dough into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Damp fingers or a moistened spatula can help with this if you are having a hard time getting the top smooth.
- Dust the top of the loaf with a thin, even layer of rye flour and place the pullman lid cover on top of the pan. Let the dough rise for 1½ -3 hours at room temperature or until it is about ½ inch from the top of the pan. The time that it takes for your dough to rise will largely depend on the temperature of the dough and your kitchen.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the loaf with the lid on for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake, covered, for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pan from oven and carefully slide the lid off. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake, uncovered, for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately turn the loaf out onto a metal cooling rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Return the bread to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely before slicing, at least 3 hours or overnight if you can wait! Rye bread is even better a day after baking.
- Wait a day before enjoying your bread! Unlike wheat breads which are best eaten shortly after cooling, both the texture and flavor of rye bread improves after a rest of 12-24 hours. Once the bread has cooled completely, wrap it loosely in foil and cut into it the following day.
Rugbrød simply means "rye bread" in Danish. It is a sturdy, dense loaf that is comprised of rye flour, chopped rye grains and is often studded with sunflower, pumpkin and/or flax seeds. It is almost always baked in a 13 x 4 inch pullman pan with a lid. This helps the rye bread bake properly and gives it its characteristic square shape.
Check out this link to hear how "rugbrød" is pronounced by native speakers, both male and female. It might take a little practice if you don't speak Danish!
Rye breads, particularly those baked here in America, often have a variety of ingredients added to them to enhance their color (making them darker in appearance) and flavor. Common additions include caramel coloring (no thank you), stout beer, cocoa powder, espresso powder and molasses. Rugbrød, in contrast, has very little additional flavoring, perhaps just a little molasses for sweetening. It is meant to be a very straightforward bread so that it can serve as a neutral base for a variety of different sandwich toppings.
Sometimes I will come across a rugbrød recipe that calls for flavor enhancers such as caraway, fennel or anise seed in the dough, but this seems to be more of an exception than the rule. Again, simple is the name of the game here.
When it is served, Rugbrød is typically sliced thin (a little less than a quarter of an inch) and buttered liberally with salted butter. There is actually a word in Danish, tandsmør, which means "tooth butter". It refers to buttering your bread generously enough so that when you bite into it you can see your teeth marks in it. You butter lovers know what I'm talking about. It may be enjoyed as is, simply slathered with butter, or it can be piled with additional ingredients to form the base of smørrebrød, the famous Danish open sandwich.
It can be stored loosely wrapped in foil at room temperature for about 5 days.
Yes! Rugbrød freezes very well. Tightly wrap the bread (either a whole or partial loaf or slices) in plastic wrap and then either tightly wrap it in foil or place it inside of a freezer bag. It will keep for a couple of months.
I have had many readers tell me they have split the dough into two 9 x 5 loaf pans instead of using the pullman pan with excellent results. Use a heavy baking sheet as a "lid" for the covered portion of the baking and keep the baking times and temperatures the same.
If you have a smaller mixer, it may be difficult to get all of the dough in the bowl at one time. If that is the case, simply mix half of the overnight dough, molasses, salt and the soaker and then mix the second half. Combine all of the dough together in the loaf pan for baking.
It might be helpful to WATCH me make this recipe. Check out the video below!
Once you have baked your own rugbrød, you are going to want to try making smørrebrød (Nordic open sandwiches) at home. If you need some inspiration, I have several recipes on the blog to get you started. Click the link below for dozens of delicious open sandwich ideas!
There you have it! GO FORTH and make rugbrød at home with confidence and ease. Don't be surprised if it becomes part of your regular baking rotation!
Easy Overnight Danish Rye Bread (Rugbrød)
For the Soaker:
- 2 ½ cups 7 grain hot cereal mix such as Bob’s Red Mill brand or rye chops see note below
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup flax seeds
- 2 ⅔ cups cold water
For the Dough:
- 2 cups dark rye flour I use the Bob’s Red Mill brand, plus more for dusting the pan and loaf
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon instant dried yeast
- 1 ½ cups cold water
- 4 teaspoons salt
- ¼ cup molasses
- Butter for greasing the pan
Special Equipment Needed:
- Stand mixer
- 13 x 4 inch pullman loaf pan with lid
- For the Soaker: Combine all the ingredients for the soaker in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight, approximately 8-12 hours.
- For the Dough: Combine both flours, yeast and water in a separate bowl. Stir to combine as best you can (mixture will be thick), and then knead briefly with your hands until you have a cohesive mixture. Dough will be very thick and clay-like in texture. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight, about 8-12 hours.
- Grease a 13 x 4 inch pullman loaf pan with butter and dust with rye flour, including the lid. Set aside. Combine the soaker, flour mixture, salt and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit mixer with paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes until everything is thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Increase speed to medium and mix for an additional 2-3 minutes, stopping to occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mixture will be quite sticky.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Smooth out the top and sift a thin layer of rye flour over the surface of the dough. Place lid on pan and let the dough rise for 1½ -3 hours at room temperature or until it is about ½ inch from the top of the pan. The time that it takes for your dough to rise will largely depend on the temperature of the dough and your kitchen.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the loaf with the lid on for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake, covered, for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pan from oven and carefully slide the lid off. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake, uncovered, for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately turn the loaf out onto a metal cooling rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Return the bread to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely before slicing, at least 3 hours. Rye bread is even better a day after baking. If you can wait until the following day, let the completely cooled bread sit at room temperature loosely wrapped in foil overnight before slicing. The bread will keep at room temperature for 3-5 days loosely wrapped in foil. Freeze for longer storage.
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