| |

How To Make A Traditional Danish Rye Bread With Sourdough Starter

Sharing is caring!

Homemade Sourdough Danish Rye Bread is a cozy and satisfying bread that you can make at home. This bread is loaded with seeds and grains, and fermented with sourdough starter for a unique and delicious flavour. Learn how to make it with this step-by-step recipe.

Fresh out of the oven Danish Rye Bread in loaf tin within dutch oven cooling on rustic table

Have you ever tried Danish rye bread? It’s one of my favourite breads and a staple in our household. It’s not like any other bread you’ve ever tasted. It has a dense texture, a dark colour, and a sour flavour that makes it perfect for sandwiches, soups, or hearty breakfasts.

I first discovered this bread when I visited my sister who lived in Denmark for a year. I spent a couple of months there in my early 20s and I fell in love with the Danish culture and cuisine (I have Danish great-grandparents so I like to think some sort of ancestral memory is at play!). 

One of the things that impressed me the most is their traditional lunch with open-faced sandwiches or as they call them: smørrebrød. You take thin slices of rye bread and top them with all kinds of delicious ingredients, such as cold cuts, cheese, eggs, fish, vegetables, pickles, pate and herbs. They’re so easy to whip up and have with a mug of soup in the colder months. I also love having rye bread for breakfast with avocado, saurkraut and soft-boiled eggs. It’s so filling and satisfying.

Upon returning home, I was determined to learn how to make this bread myself. I did some research and found out that the secret to this bread is the rye sourdough starter. This is a mixture of rye flour and filtered water that is left to ferment for several days. It gives the bread its distinctive sour taste and helps it rise. Thus my love for sourdough was born!

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to make your own homemade sourdough Danish rye bread or classic rugbrød. It’s not as hard as you might think and it’s totally worth the effort. You’ll need some patience and time, but you’ll be rewarded with a loaf of bread that is delicious and nutritious.  It’s a good recipe if you’re making sourdough bread for the first time, as it’s far more forgiving than many other styles of sourdough.  

Danish Rye Bread ingredients: rye flour, salt, barley malt, caraway seeds and seed mix with sourdough whisk.

Danish Rye Bread Ingredients and Preparation

Rye Sourdough Starter

This is the most important ingredient for making Danish rye bread. It’s a living culture of yeast and bacteria that feeds on rye flour and water. It gives the bread its distinctive sour taste and helps it rise. You can buy a rye sourdough starter online or you can make your own from scratch. I will show you how to do that in the next section.

Whole Rye Flour

This is the main type of flour that is used for making Danish rye bread. It is made from whole rye grains that are ground into a fine powder. This bread has a dark colour, a nutty flavour, and a high fibre content.  Rye flour typically contains less gluten than whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour, so it behaves quite differently in baking.  The bread dough takes on an almost clay-like consistency and yields small air pockets after fermenting.  

Sea Salt

This is used to enhance the flavour of the bread and balance the sourness of the starter. I use sea salt because it has more minerals and less additives than table salt, but you can use any kind of salt you like.

Mixed Seeds

I like to use equal parts sesame seeds (black and white), pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax seeds, but you can use any seeds you like or have on hand. Sometimes if I’m going for something simpler, I’ll just do sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.  Or if I’m in an elaborate mood you can also add whole grains like rye berries (also known as rye seeds or kibbled rye), steel-cut oats, oat flakes, rye flakes, millet or barley groats.  Once you’ve got the basic recipe down pat, it’s a lot of fun to experiment.  

Caraway Seeds

These are an optional ingredient, but they add a traditional taste to the bread. Caraway seeds have a slightly sweet and spicy flavour that complements the rye flour well. They are often used a lot in Scandinavian and German cooking.  I will sometimes use fennel as well.   

Filtered Water

This is used to hydrate the flour and the starter and form the dough. You may need to adjust the amount of water based on how much your seeds absorb and how humid your environment is. I recommend using filtered water because town water contains chlorine which will kill off your sourdough starter. 

Blackstrap Molasses or Barley Malt

This is another optional ingredient, but it adds some depth of flavour and colour to the bread. Molasses is a thick syrup that is made from sugar cane that has a rich, sweet, and slightly bitter taste. Barley malt is a liquid extract that is made from sprouted barley grains. It has a malty, sweet, and slightly nutty taste. 

Rye sourdough starter

Making Sourdough Rye Starter from Scratch

The most important ingredient for making Danish rye bread is the rye sourdough starter. This is a living culture of yeast and bacteria that feeds on rye flour and water. It gives the bread its distinctive sour taste and helps it rise. To make your own rye sourdough starter, you will need a glass jar, some rye flour, and some water. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Day 1: Mix 50g of rye flour and 50g of water in a glass jar. Stir well and cover loosely with a lid or a cloth. Leave it at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Day 2: Add another 50g of rye flour and 50g of water to the jar. Stir well and cover loosely again. Leave it at room temperature for another 24 hours.
  • Day 3: Discard half of the mixture from the jar. Add another 50g of rye flour and 50g of water to the remaining mixture. Stir well and cover loosely again. Leave it at room temperature for another 24 hours.
  • Day 4-7: Repeat the same process as day 3.  Continue on until you see some bubbles and smell a sour aroma from the jar, this may take a couple more days depending on your environment.  It will be a faster process in the warmer months of the year.  
  • The day before making your bread: Feed your starter one last time with 50g of rye flour and 50g of water. Stir well and cover loosely again. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours until it is bubbly and doubled in size.  Your starter is active and ready to use!  
  • Maintenance: You can keep your starter in the fridge, which puts it in a dormant state.  Then on the day of or the night before, I’ll feed it so it’s nice and bubbly when I go to make the dough.  

If you’re more of a visual learner, this is a wonderful tutorial by Joshua Weissman on his YouTube channel.

Making the Danish Rye Bread Dough

Making the bread dough for your sourdough Danish rye bread is very easy and doesn’t require much kneading or shaping. You just need to mix the ingredients together, let them rise, and then bake them in a loaf tin. Here are the steps to follow:

In a large bowl, whisk together the rye flour, seeds, caraway and salt.

Mixing the dry ingredients in ceramic bowl

Make a well in the middle and add your water and barley malt.  Using a whisk, bring some of the outside flour mix in to create a sloshy mix.  Add your sourdough starter and continue to whisk.  This technique allows for your water, barley malt and sourdough starter to be evening distributed throughout the dough.  

Mix dry ingredients and well in middle ready for wet ingredients

Continue stirring until everything is combined. You should have a thick and sticky dough that holds together.  Not unlike the consistency of fruit cake batter.  

Danish Rye Bread in progress dough texture on sourdough whisk

Cover the bowl with a cover (I use beeswax wrap or you can use plastic wrap) and let it rise in a warm place for about 8-12 hours, or until it has expanded. The dough will not double in size like regular bread dough, but it will become more airy and bubbly

Dough set for its first rise in mixing bowl with beeswax cover

After the first rise, mix the dough gently with a wooden spoon and transfer it to a lightly greased loaf tin (I use coconut oil for this). You can use a Pullman pan for a uniform shape, but you can use any deep loaf pan you have that has a 900g-1000g capacity. Smooth the top of the dough with wet hands or a spatula.

Danish Rye Bread dough in loaf pan, ready for its second rise

Cover the tin with your beeswax wrap (or other covering) and place it in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This will allow the sourdough to develop more flavour and texture. Depending on how sour you like your bread, you can let it ferment for longer or shorter periods of time.

Bread after second rise (dough is now cresting over the loaf pan) and in dutch oven ready to be baked

When you are ready to bake, place a Dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 210°C (410°F). Remove the wrap from the tin and bake the bread covered for about 50 to 60 minutes, or uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes. The bread is done when it has a deep golden crust and sounds hollow when tapped, so you may need to adjust the baking time.  

Danish Rye Bread fresh out of the oven - golden top with slight cracking texture

Carefully remove the bread from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack. It is very important to let the bread cool completely before slicing, which can take up to 6 hours. This allows the bread to set and prevents it from crumbling or collapsing. I know it’s tempting to cut into your freshly baked bread but trust me, you’ll enjoy it more if you wait.  Enjoy your first loaf!

Danish Rye Bread cooling on wire rack.

Serving and Enjoying Danish Rye Bread

Now that you have your homemade sourdough Danish rye bread ready, it’s time to slice, serve, and enjoy it. This bread is perfect for making open sandwiches or smørrebrød, which are a traditional Danish lunch dish. You can also have it for breakfast, snack, or dinner.

Slicing & Storing Your Danish Rye Bread

To slice the bread, use a sharp serrated knife and cut thin slices about 1/4 inch thick. You can also use an electric knife or a bread slicer if you have one. The bread will keep well for up to a week in an airtight container or a waxed bread bag at room temperature. You can also freeze some slices for later use. To thaw them, simply leave them at room temperature for a few minutes or toast them lightly. For my last postpartum I made 8 loaves of this bread and did exactly this, it keeps very well! I’m endeavouring to do the same again this time around for baby #2.

Favourite Toppings

To make an open sandwich or smørrebrød, you can spread some butter or cream cheese on your bread slices and add some toppings of your choice. You can use any ingredients you like or have on hand, but here are some of my favourite toppings:

  • Ham, salami, or roast beef with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard.
  • Chicken liver pate with pickled beetroot, onion, and parsley.
  • Soft-boiled egg, ricotta cheese, fish roe, and chives.
  • Avocado and soft-boiled egg with salt and pepper.
  • Avocado and sauerkraut with lemon juice and dill.
  • Smoked salmon, boiled eggs, cucumber, dill, and lemon.
  • Cheese, tomato, basil, and sea salt.

The possibilities are endless! You can also add some herbs, spices, sauces, or pickles to enhance the flavour of your sandwiches. They’re also going to be one of my go-to breastfeeding snacks when baby #2 joins us!

Happy Baking!

I hope you enjoy your homemade sourdough Danish rye bread as much as I do. If you try this recipe, please let me know how it turns out in the comments section below.

Sourdough Danish Rye Bread

Sourdough Danish Rye Bread

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 1 hour

This recipe will show you how to make a classic Danish rye bread, also known as rugbrød. This bread is hearty, wholesome, and full of flavour. It’s perfect for making open-faced sandwiches, or smørrebrød, with various toppings. You’ll need some rye sourdough starter, whole rye flour, a mix of seeds, water, salt, and molasses. 

Ingredients

  • 500g whole rye flour
  • 10g fine sea salt (approx. 1.5 tsp salt)
  • 160g mixed seeds (I use sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels, flax seeds and 1 tbls caraway for a traditional taste)
  • 450ml filtered cold water (you may need to adjust this based on how much your seeds absorb - this may be as much as 50-100ml more)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses or barley malt
  • 130g rye sourdough starter

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the rye flour, caraway seeds and salt. Add the seeds and toss to combine.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add your water and barley malt.  Using a whisk, bring some of the outside flour mix in to create a sloshy mix.  Add your sourdough starter and continue to whisk.  This technique allows for your water, barley malt and sourdough starter to be evening distributed throughout the dough.  Continue stirring until everything is combined. You should have a thick and sticky dough that holds together.  Not unlike the consistency of fruit cake batter.  
  3. Cover the bowl with a lid or wrap (I use beeswax wrap, but you can use plastic wrap) and let it rise in a warm place for about 8-12 hours, or until it has expanded. The dough will not double in size like regular bread dough, but it will become more airy and bubbly.
  4. After the first rise, mix the dough gently with a wooden spoon and transfer it to a lightly greased loaf tin (I use coconut oil for this). You can use a Pullman pan for a uniform shape, but you can use any deep loaf pan you have that has a 900g-1000g capacity. Smooth the top of the dough with wet hands or a spatula.
  5. Cover the tin with your beeswax wrap (or other covering) and place it in the fridge for 12-24 hours for its second rise. This will allow the sourdough to develop more flavour and texture. Depending on how sour you like your bread, you can let it ferment for longer or shorter periods of time.
  6. When you are ready to bake, place a Dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 210°C (410°F). Remove the wrap from the tin and bake the bread covered for about 50 to 60 minutes, or uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes. The bread is done when it has a deep golden crust and sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. Carefully remove the bread from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack. It is very important to let the bread cool completely before slicing, which can take up to 6 hours. This allows the bread to set and prevents it from crumbling or collapsing. I know it’s tempting to cut into your freshly baked bread but trust me, you’ll enjoy it more if you wait.

Notes

  • ​If you live in a cold climate, you can use warm water to get your dough started.  This will decrease fermenting time by a couple of hours.  
  • Sometimes you'll find whole rye flour labelled as "dark rye flour" in the grocery store.
  • While Danish rugbrød is very easy to mix together with just a sourdough whisk or wooden spoon, you could also use a stand mixer.  No need for a dough hook, the paddle attachment will work just fine, as developing the gluten content is not important for this style of bread.  If you do go this route, I recommend first adding your water, barley malt and sourdough starter and mix well.  In a separate bowl add your dry ingredients and add this little bit by little bit to the sourdough mixture with your stand mixer set to low-medium.

Similar Posts

6 Comments

  1. Hi Clara
    Thank you for the Rye Sourdough recipe. I just have one question. When I add 50g or rye flour and 50g of water it forms a dough right away and I felt that the starter should be runnier? Have I got it right?
    Thanks so much
    Johanna Anning

    1. Hi Johanna! So lovely to see your name here 🙂 this part can take some experimentation as different batches of flour seems to have different fibre content which influences how much water they absorb. While you’re looking for a roughly 50% hydration starter, you want the consistency to similar to thick pancake batter, so it sounds like you’ll need to add more water to achieve that. If it’s too doughy, it’s hard to work with.

  2. Hi Again Clara
    My second question on your sourdough recipe is the guy in the video warmed his water, do you do this? Or just use filtered room temp water?
    Thanks again
    Johanna

    1. I did in the beginning when I was getting my starter going, but I now find that room temperature filtered water works just fine, even through the winter months. The nice thing about sourdough is that it’s very forgiving. If you wanted to speed up the process you could use warm water, but if you’re not in a hurry room temperature water will get you there, albeit is may take a wee bit longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *