Ways to extend the life of your rye loaf
In the Baltic countries and Russia, where most of our recipes and baking techniques originate, rye bread is not just the preferred type of bread – it is an integral part of the culture and identity. More than just a base to a sandwich, it accompanies every meal – from the humble bowl of soup for supper to a large celebration, many would say it’s not a proper meal if there’s no rye bread on the table!
Its importance is reflected in the region’s traditional customs. For example, if a loaf of bread falls to the floor, it should be picked up and kissed. A rye loaf should never be placed on a table upside down as it is a sign of bad luck, and may bring hunger into the family home.
A corollary of this is that the region developed some good practices for keeping rye bread fresh for longer as well as some recipes for using up stale bread. Here are some helpful suggestions for the rye enthusiasts (and general bread lovers) amongst you!
Bread box vs. fridge
Many choose to store their bread in the fridge as a way of preserving it, and while it may help prevent moulding, the bread will lose its moisture and flavour quicker. We recommend storing it in a dry, clean wooden bread box. A clean linen towel or a thick paper bag tightly wrapped around the bread are also good alternatives. Try to avoid storing it on top of the microwave or the fridge as they can generate heat and dry out the bread. If using a bread box, it has to be cleaned and properly dried out on a regular basis.
The freezer is your friend
As rye bread (especially wholegrain varieties) tends to be denser, it freezes much better than refined wheat bread. If you bought too much or have rye bread that is about to go stale we recommend slicing it and placing it in the freezer for up to 30 days. To ‘revive’ it place it in the oven at 150C until it defrosts or turns crisp depending on your preference. You can also sprinkle it gently with some water before placing it in the oven to recover some of the lost moisture. This is a great way to have something close to fresh-tasting bread without having to venture out for a loaf.
Stale bread is the best (ingredient)
There are quite a few recipes in the Baltic region that demand stale rye bread! The easiest is ‘rye fries’. Stale bread is perfect for these as it has a sturdier texture and will absorb less oil than bread that’s freshly baked. Simply cut slices of bread into thin strips and fry it in sunflower oil until crispy (not burnt). Sprinkle it with salt and grated garlic. Best served hot, these fries are utterly irresistible and seriously addictive – they have a deep malty flavour, a salty crust and a chewy texture.
PS. we use leftover bread to make our Rye Fries, which helps us to reduce food waste!
Kvass – this is a traditional fermented drink made using dried rye bread. While (largely) non-alcoholic, it can only be compared to beer in its profile – sweet, malty, fizzy – this drink is in equal part refreshing as it is filling. Traditionally made using dried, stale rye bread most recipes today ask you to simply dry it in an oven or a toaster. We like Beata Nicholson’s ‘Bread Kvass’ recipe in her book ‘Taste Lithuania’.
Rye croutons and rye crumbs are also best made with stale bread. While traditionally not widely made in Eastern Europe, using stale rye bread instead of wheat will give your croutons and bread crumbs more character as well as its drier, sturdier texture will make easier work of the recipes. For something different, try Rosehip & Rye’s rye bread crumbs recipe used in their condensed milk ice cream.
We hope this will inspire you to give your loaf a new lease of life!
If you have any similar tips or suggestions, we'd love to hear about them!