Rye Breads

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Though a minor grain compared to wheat, rye is still found in many breads in Germany and elsewhere in northern Europe and Scandinavia. Most rye breads baked today are made from mixtures of rye and wheat flours, with rye providing its distinctive, full flavor and wheat the rising power of gluten. Rye proteins simply don’t form an elastic network like gluten, apparently because the glutenin molecules can’t link up end-to-end into long chains. Rye has another major bread-making liability: it tends to begin sprouting before harvest, so its starch-digesting enzymes are active during baking and break down the other major source of dough structure. Nevertheless bakers in northern Europe found a way of making a unique raised bread from pure rye flour.