Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hanne Risgaard's Real Rye Bread

While I am not yet back in full baking mode, bread is slowly making its way back into my life (of course not baking was and still is made easier by the fact that our freezer was literally bursting at the seams when tragedy struck mid-December: we had been expecting our two teenage grandkids for their winter breaks and I had been baking up a storm).
This time around the first bread on the agenda is likely to be Hanne Risgaard's Real Rye Bread. There is something profoundly honest and straightforward about this bread. It isn't fancy and some may not consider it elegant (although I would argue the point.) But it does deliver in terms of taste, consistency, shelf life and versatility. Besides I find it deeply comforting as it brings back memories of light-filled summers spent in Denmark with beloved family members.
I have made it several times already, sometimes with my own rye starter, sometimes with the rye yogurt starter indicated in the book. I like both versions. For most people the yogurt starter is probably the easier way to go as you don't have to have a pre-existing starter on hand to try the bread (see below for the starter recipe).
You will find the real rye bread recipe on page 133 of Hanne Risgaard's gorgeous book, Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry. You will also find it a beautiful rendition of it online (with a list of ingredients and detailed instructions) at My Italian Smörgåsbord.
The ingredients listed make for a huge loaf (or two smaller ones). I don't find it to be a problem: it is a lovely bread to share, it freezes beautifully and, thinly sliced and dried out, either in a dehydrator or in an oven set at a low temperature, it makes lovely crisps which keep for months in an airtight container. Those crisps are the perfect foil for sardines, smoked salmon, pungent cheeses, etc. They are also handy and healthful in case of a snack attack!
Once I knew we both liked the bread and I was going to make it over and over, I started looking for a gallon-size pan (that's where the elegance comes in: I just love the sleek look of the loaf Hanne chose to illustrate her recipe). Thanks to my friend Larry Lowary who is an invaluable source of tips and advice, I found here a pan almost identical to the ones used in Denmark (except that the sides are not straight but slightly slanted). The price was right (I didn't get the lid which I didn't need) and I bought it. I have had no reason to regret it (my only advice would be to slightly grease the pan before placing the dough in it. The first couple of times the bread slid out like a breeze but with each later use the pan became a little bit more reluctant to let go).
Hanne says to leave the dough to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours before baking. I don't know how cold it is in Denmark where she bakes but here in the Pacific Northwest where the temperature inside our house usually hovers around 65°F/18°C, I have found six to ten hours to be enough. I tried letting it go twenty-four hours once just to see what happened and it was not a success. Which reminded me of the golden rule: rye doesn't like to wait!
So instead of following Hanne's proofing time suggestions, I heed her practical advice: bake the loaf when the dough almost reaches the top of the pan.

As I said, I love the book as a whole: I have already made the Pear and Sourdough Bread (p. 142) (I skipped the yeast though)...
...and the Pumpkin Seed Bread with Buttermilk (p. 136) (so tasty and fragrant, especially with the suggested addition of fennel seeds that it is close rival to the Real Rye one in our affections)...
...and there are plenty of other appealing breads that I plan to try and make. My only reservations would be that several of the non-rye levain-based recipes call for yeast (I don't see the point of adding yeast to levain except in a production environment with a tight schedule) and that it would be useful to see more crumb shots.
The photography is gorgeous however and guaranteed to make you want to start baking on the spot (which is maybe the reason why Hanne's real rye bread may be the one to finally pull me out of my baking funk).

The rye yogurt starter is fairly simple to make.

Ingredients (for 400 g mature starter, total)
  • 150 g water
  • 150 g organic plain yogurt
  • 200 g whole rye flour
  • 150 g water
  • 200 g whole rye flour
  • To start: mix all starter ingredients thoroughly and keep, tightly covered, in a warm place for 24 hours (Hanne recommends 86°F/30°C)
  • Feeding: After 24 hours, add water and flour, mix thoroughly and keep, tightly covered, in a warm place for another 24 hours 
Hanne's recipe uses all of the starter (and replaces it with 400 g of dough which she keeps in a fridge, slightly salted, for her next batch). She says that, when it has been refrigerated, it will need to spend 24 hours at room temperature to be ready for use again.
Hanne Risgaard's Real Rye Bread is going to Susan for this week's issue of Yeastspotting.


  1. MC, the bread looks beautiful. I hope that this will bring to you some measure of peace and joy if only a little at a time in the beginning. Love and support always.

  2. MC, being as how you are French, are you familar with the "eau de Vie" or "alcools blancs" ? To my understanding this is very commonly done in homes throughout Europe. I think this might be a hobby I persue on an extremly small scale as a personal "treat".

  3. Your rye bread looks amazing! I have a love = hate relationship with rye, and respect anyone who can tame that beast (the rye, that is...).

    I already respected you like a Goddess, but now even more!

    Good to see this post... I will re-quote from Anonymous, Love and support always.

  4. Love from Orlando FL! Glad to see you baking again!

  5. I have to say all of this sounds so delish and looks lovely! I went back and read some of your older bread posts. I am a bread lover of all kinds. I started reading for the Noah Posts, but now I may start baking bread! Good for you that you are thinking about it again :) It looks like my kids and I will start baking. In honor of Noah of course!

  6. As Anonymous above, I too started reading your beautiful Noah posts. But last night I had a dream that I was baking bread. Funny, but I believe you've entered my subconscious. I think I would like to give it a go...this bread baking...I shall look around and see where to start. Thinking often of Noah, you, and your family.

  7. Wow! I am not a baker, barely a cook! LOL. But I am glad you are transitioning back to the other things that brought you comfort and fulfillment. Nothing will ever replace, but the small memories that will come with your love of baking will add to the comfort it brings. I am so grateful for the glimpses you gave us into your heart and soul, it made reality out of what most of the world sees as a fleeting tragedy. You have forever touched the hearts of many people, I know you will continue to be a voice for Noah. I hope to hear from your "My Noah Posts" again someday. Until then........ love and prayers to you and your family and......... "There will be more bread posts".......sherri tan

  8. so happy you posted your beautiful danish rye breads. I am also taking a break from baking and reading this post made me feel like coming home again... thank you for the mention and wish you some more comforting baking. love to you and family

  9. MC,
    Looks delicious! Your home must smell heavenly all the time!
    Thinking of you, Veronique and the rest of the family, and saying goodnight to that sweet boy every night before bed.
    Your friend always,
    Megan in MN

  10. So glad to read you baked again,MC. I can almost smell the bread through the Internet! Bet Noah is pointing out to his friends, "Look, Maminou is baking !".

  11. I am elated to see you are healing through your amazing bread baking talent. I am 6 months pregnant and my mouth is watering just looking at these pics. I keep following my friend Veronique and am continually astounded by your daughter's strength and incredible courage. I wish I didn't live far from Newtown, so I could go to the meetings and rallies that have been occurring-- to show her and the others my support and love. Not a day goes by that I do not think of Noah, the babies, and the heroes. I always have a picture of him on my iPhone-- I love him and he is helping you all to heal. God Bless you and your beautiful family and beautiful Noah always and forever in my heart. XOXOXOXO. Love your Staten Island buddy :)

    1. My feelings exactly, Lauren. I wish I lived closer so I could show these families my support. I'm glad to see that MC is back to baking. Definately one of her many talents.

  12. HI MC,
    So happy to see you back to baking again!!

    Sarah from WI

  13. Hi MC,
    i am so happy to see you back on your blog. You know that i love your bread's and even if i am not Danish - i was born in franconia / Bavaria in Germany where people mostly eat pure rye breads - i love it. I will definitely give you danish versions a try. I have already gathered some recipes (thefreshloaf - pips blog) and will come back with some - hopefully - similar results (no, not the overproofed version :-)

    What a happy day!



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