This overnight rye bread is an easier version of a northern European classic, made with whole grain spelt and rye flour, cocoa, and oats. This dense bread is not at all dry and makes a nice alternative to light loaves, with a stronger flavour and slightly chewy texture. Skip to the recipe →
I love overnight bread. It’s much easier to make than normal homemade bread, without any kneading necessary – you just mix everything together in a bowl, let it sit overnight, and then bake it in the morning.
The thing is that it’s usually baked in a dutch oven or lidded ceramic dish and involves some dough folding and sitting in a tea towel in the morning after it’s risen overnight, which I find detracts a bit from the simplicity of the method.
This recipe is a little bit different. It’s about as hands-off as you can get from bread making (other than picking up a loaf at the store and pretending you made it). The only thing you need is a few minutes to mix everything, and the bread does all the work on its own. This does require at least 12 hours of rising time, though, so I recommend that you make it in the early evening as opposed to right before bed.
The dough rises a second time in the pan you bake it in, so you don’t need to worry about proper folding technique or anything like that. All you have to do is mix it the night before, dump it in a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no folding, no special equipment.
Despite the lack of work that goes into this bread, the crust is surprisingly crispy, and the inside of the loaf is soft and tender. This bread lasts longer than other homemade breads, and it keeps for at least a week sitting on the counter, wrapped well.
If you’re familiar with traditional dark rye, this tastes just like it. If you’ve never had it before, dark rye is a commonly eaten bread in northern Europe and Scandinavia. I live less than an hour from the north sea now and just a couple of hours from Denmark, so the food here is very similar to Scandinavian food.
If you like the idea of rye bread but don’t want to go all the way to a dark rye, try this overnight spelt rye bread instead.
The bread is quite dense and filling, and its flavour is reminiscent of sourdough because of the long rising time. It’s often eaten as a breakfast bread with different spreads or used for sandwiches, usually open-faced. I happily eat it for breakfast or as a midday snack with some peanut butter or jam, and Graham will eat half a loaf in a day. The dark colour comes from a little bit of cocoa powder and whole grain flours.
On another note, I made my fig and hazelnut cake today for some students at a jewellery making workshop, and it went over really well. I changed the figs out for halved apples and added cinnamon to the batter. I also made a deal with the owner of the studio, one of my grandmother’s friends, to teach me jewellery making in exchange for catering when she has groups of people there for courses or exhibition openings.
Update July 11, 2017: The recipe has now been updated to include measurements by weight, and includes instructions on how to make it with a sourdough starter in addition to commercial yeast.
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- 400 grams / 3 cups whole spelt flour
- 150 grams / 1 cup rye flour
- 60 grams / 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 25 grams / 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast or a pea-sized piece of fresh yeast
- 500ml / 2 cups room temperature water
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
- In a large bowl, combine the spelt, rye, oats, cocoa, and salt. Add the dry yeast to the dry ingredients as well if that's what you're using.
- If you're using fresh yeast, stir it into the water with a fork to dissolve it before adding it to the flour mixture. Add the water and maple syrup/honey to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough will seem wet and shaggy looking, but that's good. Cover the bowl with a lid, cutting board, or plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-15 hours at room temperature. It will at least double in size during this time.
- In the morning, grease* a 30 cm / 12 inch bread pan or line it with paper. Scrape the dough into the pan, and then press it down evenly with wet hands. Sprinkle flour overtop and cover with a clean dish towel. Let the dough sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
- Heat the oven to 200C / 400F. Once the oven is hot, place the bread on a middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. The crust will be hard and sound hollow when tapped once the bread is done baking. Remove it from the oven and place the pan on a metal rack to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely. The loaf will keep well for a week at room temperature, stored in a bag or plastic wrap.
• To make this bread with a sourdough starter, simply stir in 1/2 cup / 140 grams of your starter to replace the commercial yeast. It will take an additional few hours before baking, but it depends on the heat of your home. I usually mix it about 24 hours before baking. Follow the other directions as written. This is my standard now when making this bread and the results are virtually identical. You will get a more sour flavour and a more noticeable oven spring using a starter.
* If you grease the pan, it might seem like your bread is stuck to it. Don't worry, it's likely that just the very top of the loaf is sticking slightly to the very top of the pan (where it might not have been greased) and all you have to do is gently lift with your fingers or a butterknife. The bread should pop out of the pan easily if you pull the sides slightly and tap on the bottom. I've made this bread several times and haven't had any problems getting it out of the pan.