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What Can Rye Do for You?

June 9, 2010

Following my quinoa experimentation, I thought it would be fun to try my hand with other grains and flours. I tend to ogle the selection of Bob’s Red Mill products whenever I wander down the baking aisle at the grocery store. What can you make with garbanzo bean flour? Apparently a damn good pastry crust at Flying Apron Bakery, as previously mentioned in my post about Fremont.  If that’s possible, what else can be done with all of these obscure ingredients? I decided to grab a bag of the shelf and see what I could do with it.

My first victim: dark rye flour.

When I think of rye flour, I imagine the perfect patty melt, oozing with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, the perfect crunch of the toasted bread studded with caraway seeds…. But wait! What exactly does rye taste like on its own? All I can remember is the minty bite of caraway. Does anyone recall eating rye as is? Does it have a distinct flavor of its own? Here is what I found out:

Rye Muffins

To truly know what rye had to offer, I needed to try a recipe that used only rye flour. No wheat. This muffin recipe found on RecipeZaar looked promising. Though it originally called for raisins I 1) don’t like them and 2)don’t own any, so I substituted dried cranberries and dried apricots. The recipe only yielded 4 muffins, so it was a good way to test the water. The end product had a nice crumb and was surprisingly light for having no gluten to help its structure. Another plus to not having gluten– no fear of overmixing your muffins! Aside from the texture, these muffins would benefit from some added moisture and sweetness in my opinion. The truth about rye: it doesn’t taste like much. The cranberries added delicious bursts of tartness, though. I’ve doubled the recipe and added my recommendations in parentheses below. If you’re trying a gluten-free or vegan diet, these are definitely a good base for experimentation. Let me know what you try!


  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water (could substitute w/ milk, yogurt, or fruit juice)
  • 4 Tbsp honey (add 2 extra Tbsp of either honey or molasses)
  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup raisins, cranberries, or other dried fruit
  • (adding some mashed ripe bananas would be great too)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine water, honey and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until moist. Fold in dried fruit.
  4. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Best served warm.

Rye Caraway Scones

Mmmm…this was my favorite recipe of the bunch (RecipeZaar again). I made sure to buy some caraway seeds to go with my rye flour, but I refused to make the traditional loaf. We all know rye bread is good, but guess what? Scones are even better! I mean, of course they are– they’re laced with butter. These scones had they great whole-grain earthy nuttiness, great crispy edges from the butter, and that great spike of the caraway to really make them dance. I was also thrilled to find a scone recipe that called for just the right amount of liquid! (though I’d still add it slowly just to be sure!)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix both flours, sugar, baking powder, caraway seeds, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers until it forms pea-sized pieces.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk and knead until combined. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and with lightly floured hands pat into a 1/2 inch thickness. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter or water glass to cut rounds from the dough. Reform the scraps and repeat until all the dough is used. It should make 10 scones.
  5. Place scones on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Oatmeal Rye Bread

I know I said I was going to avoid bread, but I was still curious about how rye would hold up without its best friend Caraway. This recipe looked like a simple, healthy loaf and a good opportunity to practice working with yeast. As with the cinnamon rolls I posted about before, this recipe has you make a sponge before adding in the rest of the flour. I struggled a bit with kneading the dough because the whole wheat flour and gluten-free rye made for a less-elastic dough than I’m used to working with. The finished bread had a good texture to it though, so don’t be discouraged if your dough doesn’t seem springy enough. The bread has a light, yeasty flavor that is a little bland on its own, but is great smeared with jam or for making sandwiches.


  • 1 package yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • extra all-purpose flour as needed


  1. Whisk the yeast into the warm water (water should be just barely warm to the touch, no hotter). Add the molasses and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the white and whole wheat flour, stirring well to combine. Beat with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes. It should be bubbly and about he consistency of pancake batter.
  3. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. It should be double in size and quite bubbly.
  4. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and fold in. Add the rye flour and the oats a little at a time and fold them into the dough. The dough should get quite thick and difficult to stir.
  5. Turn dough onto a liberally floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed if the dough gets sticky. Like I said, the dough should spring back a little when pressed, but won’t get super elastic.
  6. Return the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, another 45 minutes.
  7. Punch down the dough and shape into a greased loaf pan. Let rise until doubled. (If you’re in a hurry, I think you could skip one of the rises by adding the kneaded dough from step 5 straight into the loaf pan to rise).
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for around 40 minutes. Brush the crust with melted better and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Cocoa Fudge Cookies

For my final attempt, I decided to see how rye flour would do as a replacement for wheat flour in a recipe. These chewy, chocolatey cookies have been a favorite since high school when my friend Stephanie would often make them. When plain yogurt wasn’t around, she would substitute with whatever she had on hand, like strawberry or raspberry. I followed her example and used the vanilla yogurt I had and just omitted the vanilla extract from the original recipe. Unfortunately, rye just didn’t bring it’s A-game to this recipe. I’m sort of embarrassed to show a picture. Without gluten, rye couldn’t provide any structure and the cookies were flat as pancakes. They look burnt, but they’re not. I just used dark cocoa powder. Despite their off-putting appearance, the cookies still had their awesome chocolate power and a great chewy texture. So, if you don’t mind ugly, these are a good gluten-free option. Next time I would try adding some oats for extra structural support. If you want to go for the original version, just sub the rye flour with all-purpose flour.


  • 1  cup rye flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 5  tablespoons  butter
  • 7  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/3  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/3  cup  plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist.
  4. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set.

The final verdict? Rye is about as exciting as wheat flour. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but it’s a good whole-grain option you could use to sub out some white flour in your recipes. I would just be careful about using it alone in baked goods because it lacks gluten. Quick breads like muffins seem like a good option, but not yeast breads. Another good option might be pastry crusts for pies. Let me know how your own experiments end up!

I still have some rye flour left and I have grand plans for it, but that will come later 🙂 What should I work with next?

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 11:52 am

    WELL DONE! How about brown rice flour? Blog about cooking school. I know everyone would love that butterscotch cake recipe too. Yum!

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