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Definition: rye from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Tall annual cereal grass grown extensively in northern Europe and other temperate regions. The flour is used to make dark-coloured (‘black’) breads. Rye is grown mainly as a food crop for animals, but the grain is also used to make whisky and breakfast cereals. (Secale cereale.)

Summary Article: Rye
From The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

The hardy rye plant grows well in damp climates and temperatures close to freezing, so it is a favorite crop of Russia, Eastern Europe, the UK, and Scandinavia. It is thought to promote satiety better than many other grains, thanks to its high fiber content and water-binding capacity.


Check the use-by dates carefully, as rye easily becomes musty. Stoneground dark rye flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer and used within 6 months, or within 2 months if stored in a cupboard. Factory-milled, light rye flour can be kept in a cool, dry cupboard for a year or so.


Rye has a strident, darkly fruity flavor that doesn’t always appeal to the uninitiated. Most commonly it is made into breads (and alcohol), and there are many Scandinavian, German, and Eastern European recipes that make use of leftover rye bread, including dumplings, sauces, and soups.

Flavor pairings

Cauliflower, cheese, cinnamon, crab, cream, fennel, ham, honey, oats, orange, shrimp, raisins, sauerkraut, smoked salmon.

Classic recipes

Pumpernickel bread; Dutch honey/breakfast cake; crispbreads.


This has sufficient gluten to make cakes and bread rise, but is often mixed with wheat flour to boost the texture, and temper its strong, fruity flavor. Dark and light rye flours have the same cooking qualities, but the latter is milder and paler, due to the removal of bran and germ during processing.


Whole grains are steamed and, once softened, rolled into flakes. Add them to muesli mixtures, bread or cracker doughs, or cook them like porridge oats.


Whole rye grains need to boil for an hour to reach tenderness. They can be added to soups and stews, used in stuffings or hearty salads, or sprouted and added to bread doughs.

Classic recipe
Rye crispbreads

These earthy crispbreads have a long life, so they are ideal for having on hand to serve with cheese, smoked fish, or butter and jam.

Yield: Makes 2

  • 1 1/4 cups rye flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp from a cake of compressed yeast
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the rye flour, oat flour, and salt. Crumble the yeast into a liquid measuring cup and add 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Whisk until the yeast dissolves. Stir the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients to make a smooth but sticky paste. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm place for 3 hours.

  2. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the dough is nicely puffed, divide it between 2 of the sheet pans, spreading it out evenly. Dust the surface generously with the extra rye flour, then roll out the dough on the pans to a thickness of 1/4in (5mm). Cover as before and leave to rise for another hour, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut each sheet of dough into a 12in (30cm) circle, and cut a 1 3/4in (4cm) hole in the center of each. Peel away the excess dough and re-roll the trimmings to make additional crispbreads of any shape you like, arranging them on the third baking sheet. Use the rounded end of a wooden spoon handle to make dimples all over the surface of the crispbreads.

  4. Bake for 40 minutes for the large rounds (and less for the smaller pieces), or until the crispbreads are dry and crisp at the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before storing in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To serve, have guests break off pieces from the large rounds.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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