Party-hearty rye – let the celebrations begin!


To: The United States Department of Agriculture.

From: America’s Holiday Bakers.

Re: The Food Pyramid.

Dear Ag Folks: We know, we know. Whole grains, plus fruits and veggies, should form the solid (and often stolid) base of our daily diet. Meat, fish, dairy, and seeds & nuts should be seen as complementary, not main-course.

But what’s up with the pointy little tip-top of the pyramid? Crowded into a tiny triangle – with an ominous notation to “use sparingly,” instead of a number of daily servings – are two of the holiday bakers’ best friends: sweets, and fats.

Be sensible, now. Do you REALLY expect us to be good doobies and use sugar and butter “sparingly” from now till New Year’s?

Because I’ve got news for you, Pyramid Police – I’m about to throw all dietary caution to the winds.

And I don’t think I’m alone out here.

My Four Food Groups at the holidays? Chocolate; Fancy Appetizers; Eggnog; and Everything I Steer Clear of the Rest of the Year.

My mantra? Bring it on. The treadmill will still be there January 2.

Now for those of you following a healthy diet EVERY day of the year, please forgive me if straying into the Carb Zone offends your sensibilities. I promise I’ll go back to eating sensibly – right after I enjoy my last glass of champagne at midnight New Year’s Eve.

And, just to atone for planned sins, I’m adding a low-fat, low-sugar, whole-grain treat to my lineup of holiday favorites this year: party rye. That dense, dark, thin-sliced rye bread, centerpiece of smorgasbords everywhere.

Forget (for the moment) the smoked salmon and cream cheese, the pickled herring and caviar – this bread is good all on its own.

Or perhaps with the thinnest sliver (“use sparingly”) of butter.

Call it my salute to the Food Pyramid, holiday-style.

Didn’t know you could make Party Rye at home, did you? Read on…


How does that dark pumpernickel you get at the supermarket get its deep-brown, chocolate-y color? From super-caramelized sugar (instructions below); or from this baker’s shortcut ingredient: powdered caramel color.

Want to use espresso powder or dark cocoa or some other element from your pantry’s dark side to make your bread chocolate-brown?

Go for it! But please don’t ask me how much, how it’ll make your bread taste, if it’ll work, etc.; I haven’t tried it, so I don’t know. Give it a whirl, then share your results here, OK?


A very slightly grainy texture adds interest to this bread. Traditionally, it comes from malted wheat flakes (left), wheat berries that are allowed to begin sprouting, which sweetens their flavor. They’re then dried, flattened, and gently softened, making them ready to use in your favorite yeast bread recipes.

We’re really pleased to have found a new source for malted wheat flakes – key to England’s granary bread – after many years of not offering them. If you have malted wheat flakes, use ’em. Assuming most of you don’t have them, though, substitute old-fashioned rolled oats (right).


And what would dark rye be without pumpernickel, the rye equivalent of whole-wheat flour?


And one more texture-enhancer: cracked wheat, which we’ll soften in boiling water before using. It adds a compelling chewiness to the bread.


Let’s get started. As I said, if you have powdered caramel color, use it. If not, here’s the alternate way to deep-dark pumpernickel color.

Place 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar melts.


Continue cooking the sugar, stirring to help it brown evenly when necessary.


Now we’re cooking!


Cook the sugar until it turns dark brown and begins to smoke. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 2 or 3 minutes, while you bring 1 cup of water to a boil.


CAREFULLY add the boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved, reheating briefly if necessary.

I don’t need to tell you that working with boiling sugar syrup can be dangerous; please be sensible when doing this (e.g., no kids, no dogs, no distractions).


Use this water for 1 cup of the boiling water called for in the recipe.


Put 1 cup cracked wheat and 1/2 cup malted wheat flakes or old-fashioned rolled oats in a medium-sized bowl.


Pour in the 1 cup of burnt-sugar water + 2 cups boiling water. OR 3 cups boiling water and 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered caramel color.


Stir to blend.


Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, which will take about 1 hour. Notice the grains have started to absorb the liquid.


Stir in the following:

4 cups pumpernickel flour
1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, organic preferred
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Stir with a spoon…


…or do what lazy me does, and switch to a stand mixer.

For that matter, you could start right out in the bowl of a stand mixer, couldn’t you? In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t do that.


If you’re looking for a typical yeast dough here, forget it; the mixture will be sticky and have about as much life as a lump of clay. Not at all your typical yeast dough.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place (70-75°F) for at least 12 hours, and up to 24 hours.


Here it is, about 15 hours later. You can barely see, along the floury sides of the bowl, where it’s “risen” just the slightest bit.


Dig a spoon into it, though, and you’ll see its spongy texture. The yeast has definitely been working.


After the mellowing/rising period is complete, grease two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans. Stir the dough in the bowl a bit, to bring it together. Divide it in half, and press each half into one of the pans.


Smooth the surface of the dough with your wet fingers. The dough is exceedingly sticky/slimy; but if you keep your hands wet, all will be well.


Want a thinner/longer, more traditional shape to your party rye? Use two long, narrow 12 1/2” x 3” x 2 1/2” pans, if you’ve happened to acquire such pans in the past. Or try our three-channel pan (above), using just two of the channels.

See how the loaves above are slightly different colors? One is made with powdered caramel color; the other, with burnt-sugar syrup. Which is which I can’t remember. And in the end, it didn’t matter – by the time the loaves were baked, they were the same rich brown color.


Here’s one more pan option: our brownie edge pan, a perfect fit for this recipe.


Cover the loaf (or loaves) with plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 1/2 hours; they’ll rise just slightly, as you can see above.


Grease one (or two) pieces of aluminum foil, and cover the pan(s) tightly with the foil, greased-side down.

Preheat the oven to 225°F.


Place the covered pans in the oven. Bake the bread for 2 hours. Remove the foil from the pans, and check to see that the bread is firm and looks set – it should register about 205°F to 207°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a loaf.


Its top crust will look very moist; that’s OK.


Also, it doesn’t make a difference which size pan(s) you’ve baked the bread in; the loaves will bake for the same amount of time.


Was this the perfect size/shape pan, or what?!


Let the bread cool in the pans for 15 minutes to firm. Remove it from the pans and allow to cool to lukewarm before wrapping in plastic wrap or a dishtowel.


Cool completely before slicing. This is one of the 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaves. For party rye squares, slice thin, then cut each slice in half crosswise.


Now THAT’S what I call thin-sliced.


Slice your bread. Ready your toppings.


Let the party begin!

Usually it’s not a good idea to refrigerate bread; it stales more quickly in the fridge. But in the case of this ultra-moist bread, if you’re going to store it longer than a couple of days, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. Or at least put it someplace cool. Otherwise, its moisture makes it prone to mold.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Party Rye.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Mags

    Party rye bread at home…. are you serious? Thank you so much for this recipe because I’ll go through a ton of this bread between now and the new year. And… I must have that brownie-edge pan… thank you for reminding me to order it.

    Also, thank you for assuaging the guilt of baking outside the normal food-pyramid boundaries for the holidays. It is Thanksgiving afterall, which coincidentally happens to be the opening day of cream cheese season.

    Of all the opening days (deer season, turkey season, baseball) this one sounds like a new favorite! Irene @ KAF

    Mags – “Cream cheese season”? Now I’m laughing out loud and my officemates are casting quizzical glances my way… 🙂 PJH

  2. Mrs. Hittle

    i love the extra-thin-slice photo. i’m kind of a photo geek… i’m always taking pictures of random things and especially the things i bake. This photo is great. 🙂

    Thanks! I like to play around with photos, too. The sun was shining that day (surprise, surprise, for November), so it was a natural… PJH

  3. Lish

    This looks fantastic, and all whole grains! Can’t wait to make this for holiday parties. I make a low fat cheese spread with neufchatel cheese and the Vermont cheese powder and some other seasonings, and that would be great on this with some slices of tomato!

    Lish, thanks for your inspiration about adding the cheese powder to cream cheese to make a spread – cheddar-y without the graininess. Love it! PJH

  4. Val

    I love the idea of a really dark pumpernickel, but the sugar process seems a little daunting. 🙂 OTOH I’m always leery of adding ‘color,’ but from the product listing, it looks like the ‘powdered caramel color’ is simply burnt sugar? I didn’t see a link to nutritional info for it, so I wasn’t sure. Is caramelized sugar all that’s in the powdered caramel color?

    Carmelized corn syrup is the ingredient. The bottle lists it as: 100% caramel color made from corn syrup. Irene @ KAF

  5. Lee

    Love party rye!! This looks yummy! We like to spread it with some cultured butter and top it with hardboild egg slices and salt-cured dill pickle slices and maybe some really thin slices of pastrami. 🙂

    Question- the KA Whole Grain baking cookbook has a great method for sprouting wheat berries and putting them in the blender to use in the bread. Would this be something I would be able to sub for the malted wheat since you said it was slightly sprouted wheat that was flaked? Or is there more to the malting process? I’ve always been curious what exactly “malted” meant. Is it different from diastatic malt that is called for in the bagel boiling water?

    Lee, there’s more to the malting process to make malted wheat flakes. After sprouting, they’re slow-dried, then put through a roller mill to flatten/tenderize. Diastatic malt is actually the wheat berries ground to a fine powder, rather than flattened. I’ve never tried making my own, but take a look at this article on how to make diastatic malt – you might give it a try. PJH

  6. HMB

    Do you folks at KAF have any idea how come rye flours are getting so hard to find at stores, including health food stores? It’s getting to the point I’m going to have to start mail ordering — hate the shipping charges on heavy bags of flour, but I’m also spending too much gas money and time driving around looking for pumpernickel and rye flours. I live in Northern California, foodie-central, and it’s usually easy enough to find things, but pumpernickel is scarce!

    Inquire with your store managers about carrying the rye products you need. Glad we can offer an option for buying it by mail. Irene @ KAF

  7. Kathy

    “To be good doobies”? Okay, what does “doobie” mean in Vermont? – ’cause it means something else most places. 😀

    By the way, we (boyfriend and I) brought the soft white rolls and the chocolate chunk-pecan pie (in addition to Schlitz-simmered, Wisconsin beer brats in a mustard-cream sauce) to his family’s meal last night, and everything went over very well! I do more baking than he does, so I just coached him a bit while he did most of the work with the pie and rolls. We overbaked both a bit (surprise – the oven runs hot!), but we still had good, homemade food, and we learned a lot, too. Thanks for providing us with a great opportunity to work together, learn more about baking, and bring good food to our family!

    “Good doobie” – to me, wherever I’ve lived in New England, which is all 6 states – means “goody two-shoes,” basically. Though without quite as much cast aspersion. Maybe “doobie” by itself it means something different? Or in Wisconsin? Tell!

    Glad your baking went well yesterday – hope you have lots of leftovers to enjoy over the weekend. PJH

  8. DJ

    LOL My rule of thumb is to simply invert the food pyramid for the entire holiday season (and beyond) and put all of our favorite goodies in the big section! How else would I be able use up all those wonderful spices and extracts and little decorations. I wouldn’t want them to go to waste! This bread looks great! You know it’s perfect when you can slice it wafer thin.

  9. MaryJo

    PJ, is 1/4 tsp of yeast correct? Also, I have three of the Pampered Chef canape tube pans–the ones that have a cap on each end. The instructions that came with them was for 3/4 to 1 pound of white bread dough in each one…can I use those and how much of this dough do you suppose I should put in each one?

    Yes, MaryJo, 1/4 teaspoon yeast is correct. (I almost put “YES THIS IS CORRECT” next to it in the blog, because I knew people might question it.) You really don’t want this bread to rise very much at all. I tried 1/2 teaspoon, just to see – it rose too much and became crumbly, didn’t slice nearly as well.

    I’d imagine you can use those bread tubes. I’d fill however many it takes most of the way, since the dough doesn’t rise much, either before or after baking. Try one first and see – that might be a good plan. Let us know how it comes out. PJH

  10. Margy

    The expression is “good do-bee”. It originated in a local and syndicated show called Romper Room in the 1950-60’s (I’m betraying my age now), dediated to mostly preschool and kindergarten age. Mr. Bee was a character who gave suggestions for being a good and helpful child (as in “do be…”). There was also a Mr. Don’t Bee who presented naughty behaviour (“don’t be…). You can check it out on Wikipedia under “Romper Room”. So a good do-bee I guess would be someone who conforms to generally accepted correct behaviour. The food police would have a field day with me–I currently have a kitchen stocked with 10lbs of butter, several quarts of cream, about 20lbs of various chocolate chips, bars and discs, and 20lbs a flour to begin Christmas cake, cookie and candy making. Guess I’m a “don’t bee”.

    Oh, Margy… “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do…” So THAT’S where that comes from. I remember Miss Jean (or Miss someone?), asking me if I’d been good. A good do-bee! Thanks for the enlightenment, and now we’ve both revealed our age (more or less…) 🙂

    Sounds like you’re in for some fun times in the kitchen. Ignore the bees for now – girls just gotta have fun, right?! PJH

  11. Erica

    First off, Love the bread, will have to definatly try it when I get a chance. My main reason for leaving a comment today is to remind everyone that the USDA redesigned the food pyramid a few years ago, there are only 5 food groups, and it is no longer in the format that we grew up with. Sweets are no longer part of the food pyramid while the oils are just a tiny slice. I work in a school and do nutrition lessons with our students, and even tho the food pyramid has changed since some of our students have started school, many still think it looks the same that it did for their parents. The new design is much nicer, allows a better visual of how much of each food group you should be getting on a daily basis. Anyway, just had to add my two cents. I am constantly correcting students about the oil group, that group no longer exists. Thanks for all the great recipes and wonderful knowledge. I love that you share it all.

    Thanks, Erica – I googled the Food pyramid, but got an old version. So I just went to, and you’re right, it has changed – here are the groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Meat & Beans, Oils, and Discretionary Calories. I guess sugar falls into “Discretionary,” huh? Wherever it is – I’m going for it! And thank YOU for sharing your knowledge… PJH

  12. vel

    as one who got to meet Miss Patty of Romper Room and who had her own pair of “romper stompers”, I know it’s a do-bee, not a doobie, the smoking of which would engender much nibbling of the treats on this site. The interchanging of the words did make me laugh!

  13. siuflower

    I have a 13 x 4 x 4 pullman pan can I use it to bake the party rye bread? do I need to reduce or increase the volume of the recipe, and by how much? Can I use the rye flake instead of the wheat flake?


    Yes, you can certainly use rye flakes. As for the pullman – the answer is, good question! Give it a try and see what happens – If you increase the recipe by 50%, I’m guessing it still won’t come close to the top of the pan, but that’s OK. Let us know how it works out, OK? PJH

  14. Lee

    I had a pair of romper-stompers too!
    Back to the malt…I read the page and thought to myself “I have been doing this already in order to make sprouted wheat bread.” But instead of just a small amount I would make an entire loaf or batch of muffins from it. The trouble is if it sprouts just a little too much the dehydrated grains become too fluffy to mill correctly without catching up in the machinery. So I haven’t done it in a while. Very interesting to know for future reference however! Wonder why some folks call it “diastatic malt powder” and others call it “sprouted wheat flour”?

    Must be the cereal scientists vs. the “flour children,” Lee – 🙂 PJH

  15. DayOwl

    So that’s what caramel color is! I love the way you demystify baking in this blog. It means trying new things and succeeding more often.

  16. Ashley

    Excellent instructions. I know what you mean about “no distractions” when making sugar syrup (learned the hard way)! You’ve inspired me to think about pumpernickel crepes…humm…wonder how that would be?

    Long as you add some AP flour to hold them together, Ashley – pumpernickel doesn’t have the gluten to hold itself together. Though, with enough egg… hmmm… hey, worth a try. Let us know how they come out, OK? I can totally see them with ham and melted cheese… PJH

  17. ogoshi

    PJ, i love to bake bread and we have a big family. (think eleven people) Did i mention that i’m only twelve? Can you double this recipe? We don’t have pumpernickel flour. Can you substitute regular rye flour? My mom bought some at the bulk barn.

    No need to double; you serve this in very thin slices. But sure,you can double if you like. And yes, you can substitute regular rye flour, either dark, medium, or light; the color may change a bit, that’s all. PJH


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