Flaxseed Rye

My husband is a very patient person. He puts up with a lot in support of my baking hobby (even considering that he’s a happy beneficiary of it). A fine (or sometimes more than fine) dusting of flour over pretty much the whole house, equipment overflowing the cupboards and stacked on the floor and every available surface, books that leave no shelf space for so much as a phone directory — none of this elicits even the bat of an eye from this man.

So when he casually and calmly mentioned one day recently that my ingredients were overrunning the refrigerator, I paid attention. Time to spend down some of that baking capital: seeds, nuts, more seeds I bought because I forgot I had the first ones, grains, and special flours that have insidiously taken over way more than their fair share of fridge and freezer real estate.

Starting with the flax seeds. Flax seeds are delicious and nutritious and crunchy and beautiful, which clearly explains why I felt I had to buy about 2 or 3 pounds last time I stocked up. (This is maybe 7 cups of seeds — which is a pretty sizable helping of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

This flaxseed rye, adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, was a really great way to use some of those seeds, as well as some of the high-gluten flour that is also in abundance at my house right now. Even though I used whole rye flour in place of the original recipe’s medium rye (I’m not allowed to buy more ingredients!), the texture was amazingly un-dense for a 60%-rye bread, and the flavor combination of flaxseeds and rye is just about unbeatable. I may even increase the flax seeds next time I make this (because I do still have plenty of those seeds left).


One thing that helps with maintaining a more-or-less round cross-section of an oblong rye loaf is to keep the slashes running more across the loaf than down its long axis, which is something I didn’t do here. For some examples of better scoring patterns, as well as some notes on working with rye doughs, take a look at my 47% Rye Bread.

The recipe calls for a rye starter. I don’t normally maintain one, so when I need one I take a portion of my 100%-hydration white starter and simply feed it with rye instead of white flour over a few feedings. No doubt some purists would slap my hand for not keeping a long-term rye starter, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Flaxseed Rye
(adapted from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman)

Yield: 1700 g (2 loaves)


  • Build sourdough: 16 hours
  • Soak soaker: the same 16 hours
  • Mix final dough: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 45 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 15 minutes
  • Proof: 1 hour
  • Bake: 65 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 80F

Flaxseed Soaker Ingredients:

  • 91 g whole flax seeds
  • 273 g water

Rye Sourdough Ingredients:

  • 364 g whole rye flour
  • 290 g water
  • 17 g rye starter

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 182 g whole rye flour
  • 364 g high gluten flour (such as King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot)
  • 119 g water
  • 4.5 g (1.5 t.) instant yeast
  • 17 g (generous tablespoon) salt
  • All of the rye sourdough
  • All of the flaxseed soaker


  1. To make the rye sourdough, mix the starter and water, then add the rye flour and mix well. Cover and ferment for 16 hours at room temperature.
  2. Make the soaker at the same time you build the sourdough. Combine the flaxseeds and water, cover, and let rest for 16 hours.
  3. Combine the fermented sourdough, soaker, and the rest of the final dough ingredients in the bowl of a mixer with dough hook. Mix in low speed to incorporate all the ingredients, about 3 minutes. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium consistency dough.
  4. Continue mixing in medium speed until the dough starts to hold together, which will indicate the gluten is developing. If you can get a windowpane, it will be a very crude one. This might take about 3 minutes, but will depend on your mixer. The dough will be very sticky.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 45 minutes at 80F. (I roughly achieved this temperature by placing it into a large plastic bag with a cup of hot water.)
  6. Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter and divide it into two pieces. (My pieces were 730 grams for the batard and 930 for the round.) Preshape into balls and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into tight rounds or batards and place them, seam-side-up, into well-floured brotforms or linen-lined baskets.
  8. Proof, covered, for about one hour at 80F. The loaves are proofed when the surface shows the faintest hint of “cracking.”
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 460F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  10. Just before baking, slash the loaves as you like, at a 90-degree angle to the surface of the loaf.
  11. Bake at 460F with steam for 15 minutes, then without steam at 440F for another 35–45 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 10 minutes, with the door ajar, to let the loaves dry.
  12. Cool on a wire rack, then cover with linen for several hours before cutting.


CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kathleen says

    Your breads are amazing. I’m going to try a rye this weekend but will need to do a bit more research before Sat. I shall have to dig a bit more.

  2. says

    Loving the Recipe Susan!
    I’ll be making this, so I’m of to Whole Foods to buy flax seeds.

    Susa, every time I use my bannetons the dough tend to stick and ruin the shape, even worst… deflated my dough. I floured them a lot already, this happen if the dough is actually sticky. Any tips on how to use it if the dough is a bit sticky? please?

    p.s. I heard that whole flax seeds are hard on the digestive system compare to ground seeds. Is it true, I am just curious, wether you know about this. I’l do some more research.


  3. says

    What a amazing goodlooking loaves! Beautiful, makes me wanna take a slice right away.
    commenting on the previous comment; I always learned that broken (or ground) flaxseed give easier access to their nutrients for the body to ‘extract’, but whole seeds are good too!

  4. says

    I stopped chilling a lot of my grains–they were just getting lost in the freezer. Nuts and seeds are still frozen (although I bought all new when we moved this last time and now have limited myself to one bag of each except pecans which I use a lot). The grains though, well I think if they go rancid that’s a sign I kept them too long anyway. We’ll see…..

  5. says

    I’m not worthy!
    Man those are awesome, when they get stale, as if, you can use them as a soaker in the same recipe.

    That would go good with my gravlax!
    I’m going home to make some rye this afternoon!

  6. noa says

    I’ve been trying to build up the courage to go over the 50% rye mark, and this is it – this bread looks too good to miss.

  7. Moriah says

    Very nice! How are you dusting your bread to get it so beautiful? I use a floured banneton but they sure don’t look like yours.

  8. says

    That makes me laugh! My fridge too is overflowing with bread baking ingredients, and I get not a peep from my husband about it. But now I’ve left him alone at home for 4 months and I’m wondering if those miriad of flours are driving him batty. :) He’s so very patient. The bread is gorgeous – of course!

  9. says

    Thanks everyone for all the kind comments!

    Elra, for very sticky doughs you may want to line your baskets with linen (floured). Or just use lots and lots of flour. Some people swear by rice flour but I haven’t tried this.

    My understanding is that whole flax seeds are less easily digested than ground, i.e., the nutrients are less available However, slicing the bread cuts a number of the seeds open, so they will be more susceptible to digestive enzymes. Chewing thoroughly also helps. (Just like your mother told you!) Of course the whole seeds here also bring an aesthetic that you wouldn’t get with ground, but my photo of the crumb doesn’t show that very well.

    Moriah, I dust the brotforms using a small strainer.

    Jesse, I hope all your stuff will still be there when you get back.

  10. says

    As always, your bread looks stunningly beautiful, Susan! I have major slash envy…

    And NOW what am I going to do?! I had planned to make more caraway rye this week but rye with flax seed sounds awfully tempting! Unfortunately, I’ll have to choose because we only have a tiny amount of room in the freezer.

    Hmmm, is a coin flip in order?

  11. Jo says

    Do authors like Mr Hamelman mind you quoting their recipes like this? Do you ask them first or is it considered ok to do this on blogs like this. I am just curious really about copyright and recipes from published sources and whether there are any rules or protocols. Can you advise me?

  12. says

    Jo, rather than quoting Hamelman’s recipe, I have adapted it. That is, the instructions are completely in my own words (to conform to the editorial style of this blog as well as reflect my own baking style), and the ingredient list has been modified as well. And remember that cookbook authors rarely dream up something completely new themselves; the recipes they publish are often their own take on dishes they have learned from someone else in turn.

    There is lots written on the web about recipe copyrighting; one interesting discussion can be found here (scroll down to Elise’s comment which is especially informative):

  13. Menny says

    your loafs are amazing!!! thanks for posting this.
    Is there a way to produce similar loaf without the instant yeast, i.e., without commercial yeast?
    Thanks, Menny

  14. says

    Hi, I’m a newbie in baking with rye flour and this is a recipe I will love to try. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge in starter, white or rye. I hope you can tell me what it is and how I can go about beginning one so that I can get this loaf going!

    Also, I have a KA that I have overworked while kneading dough with it. It is currently still out of action. Even if I do get it repaired I would now want to strain it with such a high density dough. As a result, I will have to hand knead this. Would you recommend hand kneading this loaf?

  15. says

    Hi Susan,

    I just want to thank you for your blog and your wonderful recipes. I consistently have good results from your recipes, and this one is a winner (I am happily munching a slice as I type). My husband is getting into brewing his own beer, and to your recipe here I added in a couple handfuls of the spent grains from a recent batch of Belgian he made. It’s great! Have you done any baking with barm or spent grains? Any words of wisdom in this regard?



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