Old Time Danish Brød For World Bread Day

Danish rye bread is one of Scandinavia’s gifts to humanity. It is hearty, moist and just lovely. Possibly the best way ever to fully appreciate rye.

Wheat was indeed not hugely available in Northern Europe in the past and, when available, it was expensive. In fact, while wheat thrives in temperate climates and suffers in very cold weather, rye does pretty good even in the cold and that’s why rye-based breads have been the standard among ordinary Northern people for centuries.

Rugbrød, rye bread in Danish, is to Denmark what pumpernickel is to Germany. Danish rye bread has a somewhat milder taste compared to its German counterpart and, I believe, is easier to appreciate for wheat-risen Southern people like me. I personally love this bread but only in a few occasions could taste the real thing. It was always freshly baked, moist and loaded with rye grains. So very happy I can now make it at home, whenever I want (scroll down for the complete method – segue metodo anche in italiano).

It wasn’t without a little struggle that I found a method which convinced me. In Sweden it is pretty common to bake Dansk rågbröd, so I did find plenty of recipes in Swedish (which I can read better than Danish) online. But none seemed to me like the real thing. Often the recipes used industrial yeast and almost always included mixed seeds, grains other than rye, and commercial syrup (pure glucose). I believe a supposedly poor old time Dane did not have access to plenty of seeds, like sesame seeds, or other grains than rye. And some honest barley malt syrup was most likely used instead of commercial syrup. I also know that the only way to make this bread is with natural leaven, as the fermentation has to be long to allow the natural ferment to partly “digest” the tough rye berries and “eat up” all the alcohol. Indeed, the method also includes a pretty large amount of strong dark beer.


The solution to my search for the “true” Danish rye bread arrived in the form of a post parcel. Containing a book on Nordic breads – oh yeah!! The book is called Home-Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques For Organic Bread and Pastry and the author is Danish Hanne Risgaard, former TV producer converted to grain growing and milling. She called this loaf “the  real rye bread”. And I am inclined to trust her on this. I used a some what stiffer rye leaven than the one she uses (mine also includes a small amount of wheat – see below) and I had slightly less beer, so I added more water than she suggests. The rest stayed unchanged.


You need

soaker: 200 g rye chops or pearl rye, water, pinch of salt.

dough: drained rye grains, 400 g rye sourdough* (see note below), 20 g salt, 50 g barley malt syrup, 350 g (I used 330 g) dark malt beer, 450 g (I used 520 g) lukewarm water, 800 g coarse whole rye flour.

How to

*rye sourdough: the morning before baking feed 100 g of your regular wheat sourdough starter with 50 g white rye flour (I used Swedish white rye, which includes also wheat) +50 g coarse whole rye, and 100 g water. In the evening (night before baking) take out 30 g of this rye starter and add 100 g white rye + 100 coarse whole rye flour, and 200 g water.

soaker: the night before mixing the dough soak the rye berries in enough water to cover them, adding a pinch of salt. Drain the grains before adding them to the dough.

dough: combine all the ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. I found more easy to do this by hand as the dough was so liquid the machine hook hardly made it to combine all properly. Transfer all the dough minus 400 g in a 3-liter (1 gallon) pan. You can save remaining dough in the fridge as your starter for the next  loaf. Or, you can do like I did and use up all the dough. In this case you need more space. I used 3 small pans (1.2 to 1.5 liters each). Even off the dough with a spatula and place each pan in a plastic bag and close tightly. Let rise at room temperature until the dough reaches the borders of the pan. For me this took 4 and 1/2 hours. Transfer the pans (still sealed in the plastic bag) in the fridge and let rest for further 20 hours. alternative: you may also place the pans directly in the fridge and let rest for 24 hours, then let them rest at room temperature until the dough reaches the borders (this may take 12 to 24 hours).

baking: take the loaves out of the fridge and let warm up while warming up the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake for 2 and 1/2 hours. my tip: place a baking tray in the lower part of the oven and add water to it during the last hour of baking. It will give a moister bread with a softer crust (just how it should be in this loaf). important: DO NOT cut the bread before 24 hours have passed from the baking.


Ti servono

ammollo: 200 g grani di segale, acqua, un pizzico di sale.

impasto: grani di segale scolati, 400 g lievito naturale a base di segale* (vedi sotto), 20 g sale, 50 g malto d’orzo, 350 g (io ho usato 330 g) birra scura, 450 g (io ho usato 520 g) acqua tiepida, 800 g farina di segale integrale.

Come fare

*lievito naturale a base di segale: il mattino del giorno prima di fare l’impasto, rinfresca 100 g del tuo lievito con 100 g di farina di segale integrale e 100 g di acqua. La sera, prendi 30 g di questo lievito a base di segale e rinfrescalo con 200 g di farina di segale integrale e 200 g di acqua.

ammollo: la sera prima di fare l’impasto, metti i grani di segale ammollo in tanta acqua quanto basta a coprirli e un pizzico di sale. Prima di aggiungere i grani all’impasto scolali bene.

impasto: combina tutti gli ingredienti e impasta per 10 minuti. Versa l’impasto in 3 stampi da plumcake. Metti ognuno in una busta di plastica, chiudi, e lascia riposare a temperatura ambiente finche’ l’impasto non raggiunge il bordo dello stampo. A me sono servite 4 ore e 1/2. Metti l’impasto, con tutte le buste, nel frido e lascia riposare per circa 20 ore. Alternativa: metti gli stampi coperti subito nel frigo e lascia riposare per 24 ore. Tira fuori l’impasto e lascialo lievitare a temperatura ambiente finche’ non raggiunge i bordi (ci possono volere dalle 12 alle 24 ore).

cottura: metti i pani fuori dal frigo e falli scaldare a temperatura ambiente mentre porti il forno a temperatura,160 gradi. Cuoci per 2 ore and 1/2. il mio suggerimento: inserisci una teglia nel livello piu’ basso del forno e aggiungi acqua nella teglia durante l’ultima ora di cottura. Servira’ a non far seccare il pane, soprattutto in superfice e ai lati. importante: fai freddare i pani senza tagliarli per non meno di 24 ore.

CONSIDERATIONS: as for all things long enough craved for, the making and tasting of this bread have been incredibly exciting to me. The morning I could finally open and slice the first loaf I was like a little child on Christmas eve. And what a nice surprise to see that the crumb really stood by my expectations. Notwithstanding the heavy dough, with all the coarse rye flour and the rye berries, I could clearly see a lot of bubbles, which is, it was “open”. And so moist and rich that I really felt I was feeding my body royally for the day ahead of me.  Thinking “now I understand why Danish women (and men) are so beautiful!”. Eat this bread packed with nutrients every day and sure thing you will blossom. And the taste? Defined but not excessively sour, strong enough to accompany herrings and smoked salmon but delicate enough to go great also with fresh cheese or vegetables (loved it with avocado, tomatoes and olive oil). And of course, raspberry jam is just perfect on it. Simply, a great breakfast (and mid-day snack) bread. The preparation is very easy, and the long wait for fermentation, baking and cooling are all worth. Just try it.

CONSIDERAZIONI: questo pane mi e’ piaciuto moltissimo. La preparazione e ‘ semplice e i lunghi tempi di attesa per le fasi successive sono completamente premiati dalla ricchezza di queste fette piene di nutrienti essenziali e anche saporitissime. Le ho gustate spesso a colazione e per uno spuntino a meta’ giornata (la mia amata merenda). Questo pane si accompagna molto bene a sapori forti, come salmone affumicato o alici marinate (che buone!) ma e’ sufficientemente delicato da andare benissimo anche con formaggi freschi (da urlo con la mozzarella), verdure, o marmellate. Provare per credere!

NOTE: With this bread I participate to the yearly event World Bread Day.

NOTA: Con questo pane partecipo all’edizione di questo anno di World Bread Day.

This bread goes also to Susan for her weekly collection YeastSpotting!

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

41 replies
  1. ninivepisces
    ninivepisces says:

    this really looks very tempting to me and I hope the mill will provide some whole rye grains, last time I looked they didn’t have those. Great recipe too and I will try it out sometime

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      did you make this bread? so cool, I’d love to read what recipe you used. my first loaf was a disappointment. very dry outside. that’s why I used steam for the second batch.

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      thank you Korena! the crumb made me so happy and the bread tasted so good that I am totally addicted to it now. how nice of you to miss my posts. I have been missing this “world” so much I think I will never leave again 🙂 xox

  2. Ritacooksitalian (@ritacooksitalia)
    Ritacooksitalian (@ritacooksitalia) says:

    Bravissima Barbara!!! Well done Barbara, now I’ve got the recipe step by step in English and Italian, I MUST give it a try again (my Danish husband would be so happy if I could bake a decent Danish RUGBRØD). I love to eat oily fish like mackerel and kipper on my rugbrod, lately I am very keen on cooked beetroot, salad and mayo. Welcome back online Ciao

  3. Federica
    Federica says:

    Adoro il pane di segale, è uno dei miei preferiti. Ma l’ho sempre fatto solo con la farina. Bella questa ricetta vecchio stile con i chicchi in mezzo, ancora più rustica e saporita. Penso che lo mangerei con gusto anche da solo 🙂 Baciotti, buona serata

  4. Francis-Olive
    Francis-Olive says:

    Sis! You are KILLING ME with this bread!! It’s my next loaf for sure! Well, after the one that I’ve got proofing in the frige right now (that I have to wake up at 4am to bake because I screwed up the timing! Grrrrrr.) lovely. I hope I can make one as swell!

  5. Erin @ Texanerin Baking
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking says:

    Wow! This looks amazing. My husband was looking over my shoulder when I opened this page and he ooh-ed and ahh-ed and asked what it was. 🙂 I might have to try this. It looks relatively simple and I still haven’t perfected a Vollkornbrot recipe that will keep the German husband happy in the US. I might as well work on that while I’m over here because rye is dirt cheap. It looks beautiful! I’ll have to get some sourdough going again.

  6. Amy Andrews
    Amy Andrews says:

    Now THIS is what I’ve been searching for! Real rye bread. Thank you so much for posting this recipe and your absolutely beautiful photos. Will have to start w/the sourdough starter, but I’m willing to do anything for a bread like this. 🙂

  7. Irfan Durmo
    Irfan Durmo says:

    Hi Barbara,

    The bread looks so good that I have to make it myself. I’m just not sure about the 30g of the starter – do you feed this 30g or discard it and feed the other 270g? Thanks, Irfan.

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      Hi Irfan, yes, you need to feed the 30 grams of starter with 100 g white rye + 100 coarse whole rye flour + 200 g water (as indicated in the recipe) and discard the rest. happy baking and would love to see a picture of your version of the bread when it’s ready!

  8. Marlon
    Marlon says:

    Hello, I love this recipe, have been using it regularly for a few months, and just totally accidentally discovered the texture of pizza baked using steam, thanks to the steam pan from this recipe, too! Thanks! I hope to continue with this as often as possible.


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