Jewish Rye Bread

Recipe by Barb Alpern

Looking for a Jewish rye bread recipe made the traditional way, with a rye sour and old bread soaker? This Jewish rye delivers tangy rye flavor and a moist, chewy crumb. It's the perfect foundation for the thickest, juiciest deli sandwich you can assemble.

Please read this recipe all the way through before starting; it's good to understand right up front the time commitment, and there are several useful tips at the end. Also, your successful execution of this recipe will be greatly enhanced if you read and reference its accompanying blog post, How to Make Jewish Rye Bread. The post includes numerous helpful photos illustrating preparation techniques.

50 mins
40 to 50 mins
16 hrs 35 mins
one large loaf, 18 slices
Jewish Rye Bread


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  1. To make the rye sour: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Mix the ingredients until all the flour is fully moistened; the mixture will be very stiff. Place the sour in a nonreactive container, sprinkle with a light coating of pumpernickel flour, cover, and let rest for 13 to 16 hours, preferably at a temperature of 70°F.

  2. To make the old bread soaker: Cut the bread into 1" cubes and place them in a lidded container. Add the cool water, shaking the container to fully moisten the bread. Store the mixture overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, squeeze out the excess water and stir the bread until it breaks down and becomes the consistency of stiff oatmeal. Measure out 1/3 cup (3 ounces, 85g), and bring to room temperature (or warm briefly in the microwave). The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

  3. To make the dough: Place all of the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl. For best (and easiest) mixing and kneading, use a stand mixer; see manual kneading directions in "tips," below. Using the dough hook, mix on lowest speed for 3 minutes, then speed 2 for 3 minutes. Ideal dough temperature after mixing is 78°F.

  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot (78°F) for 1 hour.

  5. Deflate the dough; for best technique, see our video, how to deflate risen dough. Cover the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes on a floured surface, folded side up.

  6. Preheat the oven and a baking stone (if you have one) for 1 hour at 460°F. For added steam, preheat a cast iron frying pan on the shelf below the stone for the same amount of time.

  7. Shape the loaf into a bâtard, or football shape, taking care not to rip the surface of the dough. Use flour on your hands and the table to help prevent sticking. Pinch the bottom seam closed, if necessary.

  8. Place the loaf on a lightly greased piece of parchment paper; sprinkle the parchment with coarse cornmeal before adding the loaf. Cover and let rise for 40 to 45 minutes in a warm spot (78°F).

  9. Spray or brush the top of the loaf with room-temperature water and sprinkle with additional caraway seeds. Score the loaf with five horizontal cuts across the top of the loaf, holding the blade perpendicular to the surface of the loaf. The cuts should slightly diminish in length as they approach the tips of the loaf.

  10. Carefully place the parchment onto a peel (or the outside bottom of a baking sheet), and slide parchment and loaf onto the hot stone, partially covering the loaf with a stainless steel bowl (see "tips," below), to trap the rising steam. If you're not baking on a stone, simply transfer the parchment and loaf to a baking sheet, and place in the oven — cover partially with a stainless steel bowl.

  11. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water into the frying pan and shut the oven door; this will create the steam necessary for a chewy, shiny crust. Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then remove the bowl.

  12. Reduce the oven temperature to 430°F, and bake 30 to 35 minutes more, checking often for color. The finished loaf should be a deep golden brown when done; its internal temperature should be at least 205°F.

  13. Spray or brush the loaf with water again after removing it from the oven. Cool the bread on a rack overnight before slicing.

Tips from our Bakers

  • This is a difficult dough to knead by hand because it’s very sticky. If you’re up for the challenge, stir all the ingredients together in a bowl until the mixture forms a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Using a bowl scraper to help, knead by hand for 10 minutes, or until the dough is relatively smooth. Scrape the kneading surface frequently to help prevent sticking; the dough will continue to be sticky throughout the process. Wetting your hands, rather than adding more flour, will help prevent sticking without making the dough too dry.

  • For best steam, cover the loaf with a large metal bowl, with the front of the bowl hanging over the front of the baking sheet or stone so the steam from the frying pan below can vent into the bowl. When you're ready to remove the bowl, use a butter knife to lift it, then grip and remove.
  • Once you've baked the loaf, be sure to save a large slice in the freezer to make old bread soaker the next time you want to make this recipe.

  • The maximum temperature rating for most parchment paper is below 500°F, and at temperatures between 450°F and 500°F parchment’s exposed edges begin to char. To be safe, keep a close eye on anything being cooked at temperatures above 450°F (especially anything on an upper rack). Burned edges can also be minimized by trimming away excess parchment before baking.