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Bauernbrot (German farmer-style rye bread)

(German farmer-style rye bread)

Average: 4.2 (26 votes)

Authentic-tasting German bread is easier to make than you'd think. Bauernbrot, or farmer's bread, is a hearty rye bread that is the standard loaf in many German homes, especially in the south.

Bauerbrot was traditionally made from scratch in farm homes and baked in age-old, wood-fired ovens. At home, it takes a few hours from start to finish, but most of that time is spent resting the dough or baking it. The final product has a dense crumb, full flavor and a chewy crust.

1 large loaf


Dough Starter

  • Bread flour -- 3/4 cup
  • Rye flour -- 3/4 cup
  • Honey or malt syrup -- 3 tablespoons
  • Lukewarm water -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Instant yeast -- 1/2 teaspoon

Flour mixture

  • Bread flour -- 2 1/2 cups
  • Caraway seeds -- 2 tablespoons
  • Salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Instant yeast -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Oil -- 1 tablespoon
  • Cornmeal -- for the baking tray


  1. Add the ingredients for the starter to a large bowl and mix together until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  2. While the starter is resting, mix together the remaining ingredients except for the oil and cornmeal. Pour the flour mixture over the starter. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set aside for at least two hours and up to five hours. The starter will bubble up through the flour mixture. This long rest will give your loaf a big boost of added flavor.
  3. Add the oil to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to stir the flour mixture into the starter. As the mixture comes together, remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. The dough might be a little sticky. Knead in just enough extra flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
  4. Set the dough aside to rest for about 10 minutes, then knead for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Set the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set in a draft-free area of the kitchen to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Punch down the dough and lightly knead it 3 or 4 times. Form into a ball, return to the bowl, cover and let rise for another 45 minutes or so.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F and set the shelf at the lowest level. Put a small metal pan in the oven (you will use this later). Lightly press down on the dough and form it into a ball. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto a baking sheet and set the dough onto the baking sheet, with any seams on the bottom. Lightly oil the top of the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for another hour.
  7. Use a sharp knife or razor blade to slash the top of the dough in 3 parallel lines, each about 1/4-inch deep. Then slash with another set of 3 lines perpendicular to the first set. Use a spray bottle to mist the dough with water.
  8. Set the baking sheet in the oven and pour about 1 cup of water into the small pan to create steam. Shut the door immediately and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake for another 35 to 45 minutes. (An insta-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf should register 190°F.)
  9. Set the loaf on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Bauernbrot Variations

  • Flour: Vary the proportion of rye flour and bread flour to your liking. Or eliminate the rye flour altogether and use all bread flour. You can also make a whole wheat loaf by replacing about 1/2 of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. You will need to add a little more water if you do.
  • Other Additions: Mix 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, flaxseeds, cracked wheat, rye or spelt into the flour mixture for added texture.
  • Rising Time: For even better flavor, let the starter ferment for an hour a room temperature. Then set it in the refrigerator to ferment slowly for another 8 to 24 hours. Return it to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe. This works well if you want to start bread the night before for lunch or dinner the next day.
  • For the Crust: For a darker crust, brush the dough with some buttermilk, yogurt or dark coffee just before baking. Use a baking stone for even better crust development. Set the stone in the oven about an hour before baking to preheat it thoroughly. After the final rise, move the dough directly to the stone to bake.


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