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Recipe: Denmark’s Rye Bread – Rugbrød

Denmark’s Dark, Healthy Rye

Old Meets “New Nordic” Cuisine

Thoughts of cycling through Denmark likely take your mind to charming Danish towns, coastlines sculpted by striking fjords, and retired Viking ships docked along historic harbors. Most of us don’t think of Scandinavia when we think of extraordinary gastronomic destinations, but a change is afoot. Denmark is rapidly becoming known as a must-visit culinary destination due to gastronomic innovations, or the “New Nordic Cuisine,” in cities such as Copenhagen and Aarhus.

Stories mentioning Denmark’s popular bread, rugbrød, are said to date all the way back to the Viking Age. Today this dark sourdough can be found in both children’s lunchboxes and chic restaurants across Denmark. A staple in Danish cuisine, rugbrød is well known as the base of Denmark’s iconic open-faced sandwich, the smørrebrød, which translates directly to “buttered bread.” Smørrebrød is said to originate from the 16th century when thick slices of stale bread were used as plates. In the industrial ages workers would smear rugbrød with butter or animal fat (to prevent juices from soaking the bread) and top off their open-faced sandwiches with dried fish, cold meats, or leftovers from the previous evening’s meal.

Hundreds of variations of the open-faced sandwich can be found across Denmark today. Takes on this popular dish include: cured salmon, tomatoes and mustard sauce; roast beef with remoulade and crispy onions; and even blue cheese, apples and bacon. To create your own open-faced sandwich all you need is a loaf of rugbrød and imagination (or some leftovers).

Below is Danish chef *Adam Aamann’s favorite recipe for rugbrød. Once you’ve baked a loaf you can simply eat a slice with butter, or experiment with your own take on the smørrebrød.

Yield: 1 loaf


12 oz dark rye flour (about 3 cups)

3.5 oz whole wheat flour (about 1 cup)

4 oz sourdough starter (about 1 cup), recipe follows

16 oz warm water (2 cups)

.5 oz molasses (1 tbsp)

.5 oz kosher salt (1tbsp)

6 oz seed mix (about 2 cups),equal parts sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds.


6 oz dark rye flour (about 1.5 cups)

4 oz warm water (1/2 cup)

2 oz dark beer (1/4 cup)

.5 oz molasses (1tbsp)

.1 oz dry yeast (about ½ tsp), or 3 oz (3/4 cup) previous batch of starter

smørrebrød - Photo source: Wikicommons


To make sourdough:

1.     Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined (about 1 minute on low speed in a stand mixer).

2.     Let rise at room temperature until slightly bubbly, 2-3 hours.

3.     Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 5 days (the longer the time, the more sour the mix will be).

For the final dough:

1.     Mix all ingredients except seeds until thoroughly combined (about 5 minutes on low speed in a stand mixer).

2.     Add seed mix and incorporate into dough (about one additional minute in a stand mixer).

3.     Cover dough and let rise at room temperature until bubbly and nearly doubled, 3-4 hours.

4.     Mix dough with a spoon or spatula to deflate; pour into a greased 2-pound bread mold.

5.     Give the dough a final rise until bubbly and slightly risen, 1-2 hours. Optionally, refrigerate overnight for more complex flavor.

6.     Bake loaf in a preheated 300 degree oven with a pan of water on a lower rack (for steam) for 90 minutes.

7.     Remove bread from pan and return to oven, bake for an additional 30 minutes.

8.     Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature for at least an hour before slicing.

*Recipe source: http://www.skagen.com/us/en/journal/danish-food-travel/food—recipes/rugbrod-rye-bread.html