One of the things I really wanted to do this year was spend more time in the kitchen for fun (as opposed to for work, which I love too, but for different reasons). Baking bread is the ultimate in relaxation – it’s absorbing, but not taxing. I love it. I love having a loaf on the table at dinner times for people to grab a hunk and mop up whatever we’re eating. The boys both adore this bread and serving it up for breakfast seems so much nicer than sticking a couple of slices of bought white sliced in the toaster. I’ve been fiddling with rye recipes recently and I feel like I’ve really cracked it with this easy rye bread. The secret seems to be a really sticky dough, which doesn’t need kneading, followed by a nice, slow rise, both of which coincidentally make this bread really easy to make – the longer you forget it, the nicer it is!
Rye is incredibly good for you. Studies have shown that it keeps you fuller for longer than wheat, and even that whole grain rye ‘evokes a different metabolic profile compared with whole grain wheat’, resulting in whole grain rye test subjects having reduced body weight compared to those who ate the same amount of wheat (admittedly this study was done with mice but, y’know…). We’re not massive fans of 100% rye – it’s far too dense. This one is just over half and half, and we think it’s just about perfect, but feel free to play with the ratios. Rye contains less gluten than the strong white bread flour so the more you use, the less springy and bread-like it will be.
Easy rye bread
400g strong white bread flour
325g rye flour
2 x 7g packs fast action dried yeast
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp golden caster sugar or honey
4 tbsp rapeseed oil (or coconut oil, which is easy to spoon straight out of the jar)
About 500ml warm water
So firstly, combine the flours, yeast, salt and sugar (and any seed or nuts or whatever), then add the oil and finally, with the mixer going, pour in the warm water. If you’re using honey, dissolve it in the warm water first. You might not need it all, but be brave, this needs to be a sticky mixture. Next, just leave the mixer going for five minutes, occasionally stopping and scraping it down.
I just take the mixer bowl, cover it loosely with cling film and put it in the airing cupboard for at least an hour (but actually my best bread came after I forgot it for the whole morning).
Next, with floured hands, knock the dough down and shape into two loaves. Slit it down the middle with a sharp knife and place on a floured baking tray. Again, allow to rise for about an hour or until the loaves have really puffed up.
Then, just bake for 35 minutes at 190 degrees C/gas 5. If your oven’s uneven like mine you might need to turn it around half way through.
I guarantee you’ll LOVE this bread. Once you’ve made the plain one, start getting creative with seeds, nuts, dried fruit, herbs… whatever you like. My favourite so far has been this one, made with a slightly higher ratio of rye to wheat, and with 50g chopped, roasted hazelnuts and 50g chopped dates, which was weirdly delicious toasted and piled with avocado. Next I’m going for cranberry and pistachio, and we’re planning a sun dried tomato, oregano and basil version too.
In case you’re interested – the topping on this one is because I ran out of rye and had to use a bit of wholemeal, so I sifted it first. Before baking, I sprinkled the bread with the bits I sifted out. Nice bit of recycling there! I’ve worked it out, and if you cut one of the loaves into about 8 fat slices, each slice comes in at 200 calories. Add a poached egg and you’ve got the most delicious, healthy, filling breakfast for under 300 calories. It also lasts really well – a good couple of days – with only a small change in texture.
If you make this bread, do let me know how you get on, especially if you have a fiddle and have some suggestions for me to try. I’m feeling rather evangelical about it – especially when the boys make a huge fat bacon sandwich with it and declare ‘I love this bread, Mum, it’s awesome’, making me feel all earth mothery and nurturing, which doesn’t happen often, believe me.