Light Rye – Bread Machine

Table of Contents



Bread was made with rye flour in parts of Eurasia where rye grew and wheat did not, including the parts of Northern Europe, including the lands around the Baltic Sea. Rye has some protein, but does not produce enough gluten to rise like a leavened wheat bread.

Pumpernickel may refer to bread made from 100% rye flour, according to medieval recipes. These loaves are a specialty product. Many grocery stores sell commercially baked pumpernickel. It is flat, compact, usually brown or black. American rye bread recipes usually involve a blend of rye flour with wheat flour. Some recipes that are made with a blend of rye and wheat flour, (i.e. light rye bread), will make the crumb dark by including cocoa or coffee. This style may be called pumpernickel in any given recipe

There are some American recipes for a rustic style made with a large amount of rye flour, e.g.  King Arthur Classic Pumpernickel baked in an oven.  100% rye flour bread is not made with bread machines Some recipes made with a large amount of rye flour may suggest that dough can be mixed and kneaded in a bread machine.

There are industrial formulas and home recipes for light rye bread, baked in an oven. Most commercial and home made rye bread is light rye, made with wheat flour with rye flour or rye meal. Light rye breads are soft  breads, with fairly close crumb and a distinct dark crust – chewy but not crunchy. There are rustic rye and rye sourdough styles. There are deli styles and reconstructions of local bakery styles. Some light tye recipes will produce torpedo shaped loave rather than pan loaves. There is a Winnipeg style, a bread flour loaf with a small amount of rye flour and/or rye meal or chopped rye berries. The Winnipeg Free Press had recipes based on the rye bread baked by Winnipeg’s City Bread. There is a bread machine version that I have not tried.

Rye Flour

Rye flour has:

  • less of the proteins that build gluten than wheat flour, and
  • has pentosans. 

Peter Reinhart notes in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice at p. 185 that rye flour has different protein profile than wheat flour, and forms gluten differently, it uses glutelin to form gluten (wheat flour has glutenin). Reinhart also notes that rye flour has pentosans, which absorb water differently and make the dough gummy. According to Daniel DiMuzio’s Bread Baking, An Arisan’s Perspective:

  • (p. 51) pentosans absorb water with very little mixing and are fragile, breaking down and releasing water after as little as 3-4 minutes of intensive mixing;
  • (p. 51) bakers using mixing machines use a short period of slow mixing for dough with significant amounts of rye flour, and little intensive mixing;
  • (p. 216) dough for deli-style light rye (70% white/30% rye) would be hydrated at 68% and mixed slowly: in a stand mixer, 3 minutes slow to blend ingredients and 3 minutes on second speed.

Measurement and Ingredients

Some recipes call for light or medium rye flour which is produced from rye endorsperm (i.e. not whole grain rye) with more screenings. Dark Rye flour uses more whole grain. Some bread machine recipes specifically call for it or treat it as an alternative.

There is a range of conversion weights, for different kinds of rye flour; there are variations of methodology of measuring a cup to weigh:

  • Online Conversion’s converter and Aqua-Calc converter – 1 cup of dark rye flour = 4.5 oz. = 128 g.
  • Bakery Network conversion chart – 1 cup “rye flour” = 4 oz. = 113 g.
  • Aqua-Calc converter light rye flour (or medium rye flour) – 1 cup = 102 g = 3.6 oz.
  • The Traditional Oven’s converter – 1 cup = 102 g. = 3.6 oz.  light rye?
  • King Arthur Flour’s Ingredient Conversion chart – 1 cup = 3.625 oz.  light rye?

Anita’s Organic Mill Organic Rye Flour is available in 1 kg. bags in some local stores and online. This may be a better quantity to buy for flour used in 1 to 1.5 cup quantities than Rogers Dark Rye Flour, in 2.5 kg. bags. For both of those rye flours, the Canadian Nutrition Facts label indicates 1 cup = 120 grams = 4.2 oz. Nutrition Facts labels use values based on food data bases based on the measurement standards of their methology. Anita’s is about 120 grams a cup if settled and scooped to pack the cup. Rogers Foods Dark Rye Flour is available locally in 2.5 kg. bags, and priced as a staple.  Its Nutrition Facts label says ¼ cup weighs 30 g. Online Conversion’s converter and Aqua-Calc converter dark rye flour said 1 cup of dark rye flour = 4.5 oz. = 128 g.  This is the mean or average for dark rye flour surveyed in USDA data base. Rogers Dark Rye may be about 124 grams a cup, settled and scooped.

Rye bread often contains caraway seeds; consumers associate the flavour with rye bread. Caraway is related to cumin, fennel, anise, carrots, celery and parsley. Some varieties are known as Persian cumin. It has been used as a cooking herb or spice since the time of the Roman Empire. It is a major spice in Central European cooking and in the nations beside the Baltic. It was adopted in Germany, the Nordic countries, the “Low” countries and England. Caraway seeds were/are used to make flavoured breads with white flour in Central European recipes. Cumin and caraway are the spice in spiced DutchKamijnekaas – Leiden Kaas and spiced Gouda. Other flavouring agents in light rye: fennel and anise seeds, chopped onion, dried orange peel, orange zest and orange oil. There are dark or sour light rye styles with bread flour, rye flour and:

  • an agent (molasses, cocoa or ground coffee for home bakers) for dark colour,
  • vinegar or sour cream for acidity, and
  • corn meal, oatmeal or sunflower seeds for texture.

Bread Machine Recipes


Many formulas and recipes for oven baked light rye are based on north European (German and Scandinavian) light rye bread recipes, with white flour and some rye flour or meal. Russians, Ukranians and East Europeans also made light rye bread with a blend of white flour, whole wheat flour and rye flour

No bread machine manufacturers have programmed a light rye program. Several discourage baking with rye flour. Panasonic’s manual says rye flour leads to dense bread when used to replace other (wheat) flour in their recipes and warns that using rye flour might overload the motor. This might be a problem if someone tried to make pumpernickel.

Overloading the motor, suggested in some manufacturers’ manuals, is not really why manufacturers don’t like to address rye. Baking with rye flour is simply different. Unless the mixing time is kept short, the rye flour will absorb and then release water and mix a dough that will not bake without issues. Modern bread machines don’t really work with rye flour, perhaps because of kneading action and the length of the mix/knead programs in modern machines.

The bread machine recipes for light rye bread in Beth Hensperger’s ambitious baking books, Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (at pp. 133-143, 313), and the Bread Bible use the basic bake or bake whole wheat programs for light rye. I have tried Swedish Rye Bread, a limpa style, from BLBMC, Scandinavian Light Rye, fand Narsai’s Rye Bread. The latter is a bread machine recipes in Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible. It gets a brown colour from molasses.

Those recipes use 1 cup or more rye flour and 1¼ cups of water in medium recipes with 2 cups of bread flour. The rye flour is over 30% of the total flour and the hydration is 70%. Those recipes worked in older machines.

When I baked light rye with BLBMC recipes in the Panasonic and Zojirushi, the machine mixed a dough that looked reasonable in the first 10 minutes of kneading, but was wet by the end of knead time. It rises; when it falls at the knockdowns, it leaves a wet dough residue clinging to the pan which bakes as cracker or flat bread against the edge of pan. This result is produced by a combination of kneading, and over-generous hydration.

Preset and Custom

No bread machines have or have had light rye cycles or programs.

Modern machines have almost dropped rye from the manuals – The are a few recipes, tending to modest amounts of rye flour. There is a bread machine recipe for Bread with Caraway and Onions in the Panasonic SD-YD250 manual for a medium loaf (1.5 lb.) – 1/8 cup of rye flour, 3 cups of bread flour, and caraway seeds, with nearly identical to Panasonic’s Basic White Bread. Zorjirushi has a recipe in the BB-PAC20 manual with 2/3 cup of rye flour and 4 cups of bread flour to make a large loaf.

Hydration is tricky because of the way the pentosans in rye flour release water. A dough with too much water may throw off some wet dough sheets that bake as crackers or as a thick crunchy crust.

The basic bake and whole wheat programs for bread machine baking are not adjustable. Modern machine programs mix and knead dough for about 20 minute, to work the dough and build gluten for yeasted bread made with wheat flour. The dough progam will be close to 20 minutes. The gluten-free program and the “cake” program (for unyeasted baking) also mix for about 20 minutes. The kneading action in all programs for the Zojirushi machine seems to be equally intense and fast.

Some bread machines can be programmed with custom cycles. I used the Zojirushi BB-PAC20, in a custom program with a short “knead” phase. The Zojirushi (“home-made”) programs cannot be set to knead for less than 5 minutes. This will mix a light rye that is 30% rye flour by weight. The homemade programs allow adding to the rise time, which allows more fermentation and rise. It is difficult to bake a light rye loaf smaller than a bread machine “medium” loaf in a Zojirishi horizontal pan machine.

A short mix makes a dent in the problem, but will leave or make other problems.

Crater Bread

This is an issue described by Beth Hensperger in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook at p. 39:

Sunken top: known as crater bread, this happens when there is too much liquid in the recipe …

The BLBMC describes the problem as too much water, but does not suggest reducing water in this recipe? Perhaps the author thought this was too difficult to be feasible for home bakers who measure fluid by volume? The solutions in the BLBMC are contradictory.

A solution using a custom program appears to be:

  1. adjust hydration – to reduce water and water based fluid ingredients – to get hydration under 70%. A reduction of 15 to 30 grams (1-2 Tablespoons) changes the dough.
  2. Adding vital wheat gluten.

This avoids a crater, but makes the loaf lopsided – a minor cosmetic flaw.

Recipes in progress

Country French, from BLBMC. Beth Hensperger’s recipe “Chuck Williams Country French Bread” is a lean French loaf made of bread flour with some whole wheat flour. Beth Hensperger adapted a recipe by Chuck Williams (of Williams-Sonoma) for the La Cloche device. It is similar to a hearth bread she calls Pain de Campagne in her Bread Bible (2000), which is made with a starter and sponge made with whole wheat flour. It is in the style of the French Pain de campagne, as made in French bakeries in the 19th century.  It may work rith rye flour instead of whole wheat flour, with adjustments for quantity.


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