My mother's rye bread


My Mother's Rye Bread


The last time my father visited, he mentioned that he used to buy this type of rye bread at the local deli when he was growing up in Oslo. The round loaves would all be arranged on a pole hanging from the ceiling. He grew quite nostalgic when my mother and I baked him a batch, even if Mum has done so for years. There are many types of rye bread, and this is the one I crave the most, as it has this lovely and unexpected aroma of star anise that works so well with rye. You can substitute the anise with fennel seeds, if you wish, as either one will enhance this humble bread. Eat it warm, slicing each ring horizontally through the middle and slathering with butter, or serve it beside a bowl of soup. When cooled, wrap the bread in a kitchen towel to enjoy later; it will keep for 3 to 4 days. 

4 tablespoons salted butter
350ml / 1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons light golden syrup / light corn syrup
2 to 3 teaspoons ground anise
400g / 3 cups course rye flour
200g / 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt

My mother, Yvonne, making her rye bread.

1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the milk over low to medium heat, making sure it does not boil or bubble. Remove from the heat, add the syrup, and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool to skin temperature (about 37°C / 95°F). Test a drop on the back of your hand to feel if it’s the right temperature. 

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the anise, rye and all-purpose flours, yeast, and salt, then stir in the warm milk mixture. Knead the dough with your hands in the bowl till the stickiness is gone and it feels firm and tender to touch, 4 to 6 minutes. Lift the dough, sprinkle a bit of flour at the bottom of the bowl, then put the dough back in, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. Leave it to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until aerated. Lightly flour a surface, empty the dough onto it, and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, adding more flour if needed. 

3. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.