Crusty rye bread rolls
Baking & Food


Rye rolls are everywhere in Germany, so I believe from reading ‘Classic German Baking‘. I certainly remember eating some heavier, darker breads when I was in Hesse on a school exchange many moons ago which could only have been rye (possibly a pumpernickel). So, to satisfy an old memory, I had to try these out. I used organic Rye, partially because it’s the only one I could find locally, and also because I like to use organic when I can. Rather than create a sourdough starter, you can get the same flavour by using buttermilk and letting it proof overnight at room temperature.

The result may look like a selection of miniature asteroids, but they are actually pure delights. Rich flavoursome rye rolls, with a chew that makes you want to eat the lot in one go. The crust comes out crisp without being overly hard. To get them like this, you’ve got to knead the dough well. Half measures won’t do. The first time I made these they came out flat like thick pancakes, entirely due to a lack of kneading. I’d used a mixer as the dough is quite wet and needs a lot of work, but I didn’t have a dough hook so chanced it with a regular paddle. The regular paddle does pretty much nothing! After proofing, the dough was bubbly and wet, so I deposited nine puddles on the baking tray, let them proof again for 40 minutes (which made them flatter if anything) and 25 mins of oven time later I had a tray of perfectly done rye flats. Fortunately, what they lacked in roll they made up for in taste – pretty good!

Wet rye dough in a steel mixing bowl.
Very wet dough
Nine flat rye rolls that are baked but didn't rise, cooling on a wire rack.
Could be used for discus throwing competitions.

So, I resolved to try again and get some actual roll shaped rolls. Still lacking a dough hook, I went with elbow grease instead and kneaded by hand. After about 25 minutes, I had a dough that looked ok and felt reasonably springy (my doughs have yet to stretch very far without breaking, but they turn out well regardless). Now, after proofing, I had a soft-ish dough that formed into more ball like shapes on the tray. The dough is still pretty sticky so don’t worry about flouring your hands well while gently rolling the pieces into balls. I didn’t partition the dough properly, being in a bit of a hurry at the time, so some were bigger than others. Feeling far more confident of getting a result that would look the part they went into the oven, I was not disappointed when they came out again.

And the taste – amazing! I was thoroughly delighted, and so was my partner (who now bears the hat of Chief Taster). Through the application of large amounts of will power I managed not to eat them all in one go. They’re excellent once cooled and still fresh, and they toast very well for a few days afterwards if kept in a box. You could probably ‘freshen’ them up in an oven or air fryer if you wanted – but they’re so good toasted I didn’t bother trying.

If you’re short on time a dough hook would be essential – but the long knead is a mindful activity and in this day and age it’s a good time to both feel like you’re actually making something that requires a physical act. Especially for me as the day job involves sitting at a screen getting electrons to move in the right way. Enjoy it, baking as a hobby is fun and rewarding and really tasty too.

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