When I make my way to any of the bakeries in my hometown, I often need a moment to decide which kind of bread I’d like to buy. This is because, in Germany, the selection is vast.
We have a large number of different kinds of grains growing here that aren’t too common in other parts of the world (such as spelt) and many regions have their local bread specialties.
I particularly like a dark rye. This recipe is for a typical brown loaf, with a nice crust and hearty flavor due to the higher amount of rye in relation to wheat.
Bread recipes that use 100% rye flour are more difficult to handle, because the dough is stickier and less bouncy.
Besides, I like this recipe as it can be eaten the same day you make it, and doesn’t necessarily need to rise over night.
Although there is a nice selection of bread that I can choose from at the local bakeries, I really enjoy baking at home. The smell of a freshly baked loaf coming out of the oven is just wonderful.
And even though it’s not that difficult, my guests are always pleasantly surprised that I baked it myself. From my point of view, the process is not only about the product itself, but rather about the journey.
For example, I like kneading the dough with my hands so I can feel its different textures through the whole process.
It’s a conscious decision to produce something from scratch, which you could easily buy in almost every grocery store. If you decide to bake your own, you should take your time and not rush the process.
Is this your first homemade bread?
Then do not despair if the loaf doesn’t turn out the way you’d like it to. After a few more attempts, you’ll get a feeling for the right timing and consistency. And your reward will be a fresh and crispy loaf.
As an alternative, check out my recipe for ramson pull-apart bread- it’s perfect for springtime, and fun to make!
Malt extract might be difficult to source, but it gives your bread a nice color and a full, malty flavor.
After hours of searching online, I found a product available outside of Germany that is comparable to what we have available in our local supermarkets.
Briess Liquid Malt Extract – Traditional Dark available at Amazon
Marketed for home beer makers in the US and Canada (and perhaps the UK as well?),this Briess Liquid Malt Extract is exactly the same stuff that we use for making bread (and beer) in Germany. One tip in regards to this stuff: it’s gooey.
I’d recommend placing the malt container in pot of hot water prior to using it. It will soften it up and make it a lot easier to pour or spoon out.
The loaf can be made either on a flat baking sheet or in a round Dutch oven.
Once your bread has baked and cooled, you can slice it to whatever thickness you desire with a high-quality bread knife.
And if you’re looking for a healthier bread to make with rye flour that’s packed with plenty of nutrients and flavor, give our multigrain carrot bread a try.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Getting Ready
Measure all of the ingredients, so you will have everything ready when you begin making the dough.
Make sure the water is lukewarm (ideally 85-95°F), so the yeast can work its magic properly.
Step 2 – Dissolve Yeast and Malt
Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the yeast and malt extract, and stir until completely dissolved into the water without any lumps.
Step 3 – Combine with Other Ingredients
Add rye flour, wheat flour, salt, and the sourdough starter to the liquid mixture.
Knead by hand until smooth, or knead with a stand mixer and dough hook according to manufacturer’s directions. I typically do this for 3 minutes on low speed followed by 4 minutes on high.
Step 4 – Rising and Folding
Place the dough onto a floured countertop, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.
During that time, carefully fold and knead the dough every ten minutes.
1. Gently press down the dough until it’s flat, round, and even.
2. Fold one side into the middle, turn the dough clockwise, and fold again until you have folded the dough into a little package.
3. The bottom side should be tight and smooth. Turn around so that this side – not the folded one – is what appears on top.
Repeat steps 1-3 two to three times during the rising period.
For more information on preparing various types of loaves, see our piece on shaping bread.
Step 5 – Decorate
After the last folding procedure is complete, form the dough into a round loaf shape and sprinkle it with some flour.
With a sharp knife or a clean razor blade, cut a pattern into the surface, like a cross, grid, or square.
A Note on Scoring:
Scoring your shaped dough isn’t just for a final decorative finish!
The slashes allow the bread to continue rising and expanding after the crust forms as it bakes, and prevents the bread from bursting and cracking at the sides.
The process of scoring can be a bit tricky to accomplish the first time.
If you cut too deeply, the loaf might lose its shape. But if your cuts are too small, the pattern will vanish while baking, and your loaf may not expand properly.
Practice makes perfect!
Step 6 – Final Proof
Put the loaf on a baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
Step 7 – Bake
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.
Once the oven reaches the right temperature, take a spray bottle of water and spray the inside walls of the oven.
Keeping the loaf on the baking sheet, quickly place it in the hot oven and close the door. Be fast! The temperature will decrease as soon as you open the oven door.
Bake for 45 minutes until it has a wonderful brown crust on top.
If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can fill the bottom of a second baking tray with some water and put it into the oven while it’s preheating to create some steam. Once the oven reaches 425°F, very carefully take out the water-filled tray (it will be very hot!), and place the loaf in the oven to bake.
Enjoy This Classic German Loaf at Home
A bread like this, made with a mix of wheat and rye flour, is one of my favorites. It has a wonderful crumb inside and a crispy crust on top.
The sourdough starter provides a full flavor that goes great with hearty toppings like cheese, cold meat, or butter and fresh veggies.
It’s also delicious with sweet spreads like honey or peanut butter.
The malt extract and the different types of flour give it a nice color, too. Enjoy this fantastic bread that is not only easy to make, but also looks fabulous and tastes amazing, for your next meal.
If you are looking for other techniques to make delicious egg-free products like this bread, read our article on how to bake without eggs.
Interested in grinding your own flour? Check out all the different grains, rye included, that you can easily grind at home.
Looking for more flavor-packed bread recipes? We have plenty:
Have you tried to make this loaf at home? Let us know how it turned out, and what toppings you liked it with most!
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Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published March 26, 2015. Revised and updated May 6th, 2017 by Nina-Kristin Isensee.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.