Monday, 27 April 2015 | 32 comments

A simple rye bread for toasting

To say that our budget is a little tight right now is an understatement. More accurately, and perhaps more in the parlance of our modern era, we have enacted austerity measures. I am a reasonably thrifty person, but if you buy a house and throw a large wedding within the span of three months and aren’t broke, well, you probably aren’t doing it right. (Right?! Please comfort me.)

Being a person who cooks can be empowering during times like these, not only because cooking can be more pocketbook friendly than eating out, but because you likely already have some pantry staples and freezer something-or-others stowed away that you are only going to cook if necessity calls for it. You know what I’m talking about: the brick of leftover lentil stew that you froze in 2013 with good intentions, but looks so unappetizingly brown that you don’t really have the stomach to defrost it. Or the buckwheat groats that you bought because you have an Eastern European friend who claims that kasha varnishkes is somehow actually delicious (still open to being convinced; still have not cooked it). Canned water chestnuts (seemed like a good idea?). Ten pounds of dark rye flour (long story). That sort of thing. And so the gauntlet has been thrown: no grocery shopping unless absolutely necessary. Use what we have on hand.

The cooking arsenal of the broke is vast, and intensely personal. I turn to bread. Bread, although maligned for many reasons nowadays, is very useful for turning ingredients that aren’t particularly substantive on their own into a meal. (Dried pasta, similarly maligned, is similarly useful.) So I set off to make a loaf. My go-to recipe is Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread (and its variations), but it goes stale pretty quickly on the countertop. Not really at-the-ready for slicing when you need a piece under a fried egg or some cheese. What I needed was a slightly enriched dough, with a little bit of fat and sweetener, that stays pliable a bit longer and has a finer crumb for toasting. And there was that ten pounds of dark rye flour in my cabinet.

What followed was a cobbled-together recipe from various King Arthur Flour recipes. We tend to associate rye with caraway, the seed it’s most commonly paired with in classic deli rye, but on its own it has a mild, nutty flavor that I really love. The bread itself is reasonably easy as far as breads go, and stays fresh sealed in plastic on the countertop for up to a week. Most importantly, it toasts up beautifully: crisp on the outside, still pillowy on the inside, ready for whatever you can scrounge from the fridge and pile on top (tomato jam, cheddar, and chopped fennel fronds? Maybe being broke is not so bad.)

A rye bread for toasting

Adapted from a few rye bread recipes on the excellent King Arthur Flour website

You’ll need

  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 cups rye flour
  3. 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  4. 2 tablespoons honey
  5. 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  6. 3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
  7. 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water


  1. Mix all the ingredients together, stirring until the dough just comes together. Knead the dough with your hands for just a minute or two. It should be a little sticky and very pliable, but not too wet.
  2. Cover the dough and let rise until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
  3. To make a more sandwich-style, taller loaf, lightly grease a 2-pound capacity loaf pan (don’t worry, you can also shape the loaf by hand and bake on a baking sheet).
  4. Deflate the dough and gently shape it into a log and place it into the loaf pan. If not using a loaf pan, shape the dough into a round boule or freeform longer loaf, tucking ends under to create a smooth loaf, and place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Allow the dough a second rise, for another 60 to 90 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit near the end of the second rise. Just before baking, slash the bread several times across the top with a sharp knife.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes, until bread is dark-golden.
  8. Allow bread to cool before slicing. Bread stores well in a plastic bag or bread box for up to one week.


§ 32 responses to A simple rye bread for toasting

  • Bread made at home is the best! I love the smell of it baking, and rye bread sounds like the perfect kind to make for the weekend. Yum!

  • I love it when my own readers do this so thought I’d tell you: the dough is rising on the counter.

    PS Good luck with everything, this too shall pass. My own drive is based on a definite surplus of rye flour, two or three or maybe even four bags. Plus the $7 sourdough loaf from Whole Foods we’ve become most attached to!

    • Awesome. I do love hearing that :)

      • And … the bread is excellent, one I can easily imagine making every few days. My yeast and rye flour were cold-cold from the fridge so the first rise took forever, life intervened and thus the total time on the first rise was about 18 hours. And my loaf is more craggy than yours, I took your 1 – 2 minutes kneading time literally even though the bread was telling me it needed more. Oh — and my loaf baked in 30 minutes exactly, I always bake to internal temperature, 205F for a rye bread like this. Will definitely make again, thanks so much for moving me to the kitchen, I haven’t actually felt too inspired lately. Leave it to bread. :-))) PS And now Orangette’s Rye Crumble Bars are calling too but this call, I’m choosing to ignore for now.

  • Beth

    This post from Orangette for Rye Crumble Bars with Jam is one of my favorite recipes – if you have some jam and oatmeal they can be all yours!

    Congrats on the house and the wedding.

  • Congratulations on all the life changes. Wedding and a new home. Hurrah. And kudos to you for your thriftiness now. I for one am glad to see a post that celebrates bread. It’s a rarity these days…..Your bread looks delicious…..
    Enjoy every moment. D

  • I feel your pain! We’ve had an incredibly tight April, and I turned to baking some bread also! I have a big heart for bread, knowing I had the tools and talents to make myself a loaf cheered me more than once. Excited to try.

  • Oh, man. You say “budget recipe” and I say “meet you in the kitchen.” Making this soon, tonight if I can swing it.

  • Patty

    Kasha varnishkes is indeed delicious, although maybe more suited to February than to May. Get those onions nice and brown and add plenty of pepper.

  • I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who lets the ghosts of my cooking past languish in the freezer until I am forced to deal with them.

    We do “no buy” weeks from time to time–an austerity measure that has certainly upped my creativity in the kitchen, and my satisfaction when I manage to put a meal together totally by the seat of my pants!

    A house and a wedding – what a big year it is for you two. I suspect you will look back fondly on this broke-ass, making-it-up-as-we-go, adventure time of your lives.

  • Anie

    congratulations on all! We bought a house last year (yellow! ;) and this year we are paying s*it down. It feels good to be thrifty-more time for baking bread and bike rides. And tackling the Lino in the corner, yes?
    Have fun!

  • SO BEEN THERE. Yep. I think moving brings on a similar inclination: eat yourself out of house + home. Godspeed!

  • Knowing that you can make much of what you eat yourself, and it may be somewhat humble but it will be delicious, takes a lot of the pain out of being broke, at least for me. I was just thinking that maybe I should get some of that mediocre pumpkin my friend grew last year out of the freezer … maybe. Good luck!

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Can’t wait to try your recipe! As soon as I get some rye flour. I frequently schedule the first rise overnight in the refrigerator–for convenience and I think it brings out the flavor. With veggies from the garden and bread, you can have wonderful bread and soup meals.

  • I honestly feel like you are two months ahead of me in timing. House buying + wedding (though mine’s a little farther off) are in the plan, and man, it’s scary to think about how much money we’re spending in the next few months. I have to think that if others can do it, then so can we – good luck!

  • Charlotte

    I loved this. I made savory bread pudding tonight with the sausages that keep falling on my toes everytime I open the freezer, congratulating myself on being thrifty – using up the freezer we call it to reduce the grocery bill. This rye bread looks lovely and may be something my son would eat which is the whole reason behind the bread pudding – trying to use up a loaf none of us liked for sandwiches. Bonus would be using up the stash of rye flour currently in my baking drawer. Congratulations on all your happenings and wishing you much inspiration for your thrifty cooking phase (which is always a useful skill).

  • We’ve been trying to work out a good rye bread recipe after leaving the Land of the Rye Loaf (Germany) for the Land of High Humidity and Stubbornly Soft Crusts (the Pacific), so thanks for sharing this. I love finding uses for stashed food too, it makes me feel so efficient and clever…

    Anyway, congratulations on your wedding and your new house. Will you paint it yellow? I think celebrating a marriage with friends and family, and buying a home, are investments that are worth eating buckwheat groats for awhile!

  • Congratulations on the house and wedding! The bread looks lovely, and I agree that rye works well with a bit of sweetness… I understand the eating down the pantry issue – we’ve been generally being more frugal since some extensive (and expensive) renovations – and more recently our fridge died so I went through a very hectic process of using up anything that wouldn’t fit in the esky (cooler?) and since then trying to eat from the pantry/freezer until the fridge is paid for :)

  • My roommate and I used to call it “the pantry challenge” where we’d cook only what we had in storage for 1 week. Such a great way to save money and bring on the creative yankee resourcefulness! Also I’m all for wild foods foraging. It’s nettle o’clock! And i’m about to get married, so we’re bracing ourselves for brokeness…

  • mary mcmahon

    The bread was wonderful…my german hubby also loved it. I did kinda miss caraway seeds so will get some before I make another loaf. thanks, mary in Cincinnati

  • Anna

    Sarah, I have been reading your blog for a while and love the great writing and recipes. I haven’t made a yeast bread in years, partly because of too many flat brick failures in the past, but also because of the delicious convenience of local bakers. Your toast photo inspired me to make this recipe Monday- my first rye bread- and it was excellent! Thank you for sharing your post and this revised recipe. I used Bob’s Red Mill OG Dark Rye, maple syrup for the honey, and my rise took a while, as well. I let myself be patient with the yeast, and once my boule hit the oven it smelled fantastic. My husband often avoids bread as too filling, but he keeps making toast and even craves butter on it (but suffers through with almond butter). I love Jewish Seeded Rye bread but this was nutty, malty comfort food. I will be sad when it’s gone!

  • Agreed — we did it in less than nine months, and anything less than a year is tough, I think. But, all worked out and it will for you too! Congrats and am off to acquire rye flour post haste. :)

  • Saving money (for any reason!) can be really challenging but I’ve found that some of my favorite meals were borne out of a desire to use ingredients I already have instead of continually going grocery shopping! Like this bread for example – so simple and beautiful! (PS – Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!)

  • Just found your site browsing around the ’15 Saveur awards, looking for some inspiration for focusing my blog this year. So a little late to the comment party, but we just got married, bought a house, AND adopted a puppy which eats through about $15 in chew toys per day. He’s likely going to bankrupt us, and I just used up some brownish-green looking bags of lentils and other odds and ends from the freezer this weekend. Love your posts–will be following along from now on.

  • Olga Koutseridi

    Is this a forgiving recipe? I usually only make bread with measurements, would you recommend I use the scale to weigh out all the ingredients?

  • OgitheYogi

    I made this recipe last night, I live in Texas so the summer heat helped with the rise. The flavor of the bread was scrumptious, I did have a couple of questions about the recipe. Do you think it would be better to use instant yeast in this particular recipe, I usually really enjoy the yeasty flavor/smell but it fell a bit strong in this recipe. Also I was curious about the temperature, I baked mine on a pizza stone and tried creating a little steam in the beginning for nice crust, what would you recommend here, should we attempt to steam in the beginning?

    The bread had a nice rise but did not expand too much in the oven, I was wondering if you could shed some light on this, when I slashed my loaf before putting it in the oven the slashes didn’t really change in size. The bread is delicious and crumbly.

    • Hi Olga! So sorry I missed your first question. Lots of good questions here. My bread also didn’t have much oven lift; it was sort of a flat oval loaf. I don’t know much about the difference between instant and regular yeast in terms of flavor…definitely something to look into. My aim with the bread was to actually have a slightly softer, sandwich-bread style crust, so I didn’t attempt to make it a baguette-style crust-y crust. Definitely the pizza stone and steam would help with getting that crustier texture if that’s what you’re after. Glad you enjoyed! –S

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