Rye in July: 5 cool tips

Bake rye bread – in July?

You’re kidding.

Baking rye bread has a certain feel to it – a snowing-outside, spend-the-day-in-your-warm-kitchen aura.


Unlike baking, say, bright and sunny English Muffin Toasting Bread, baking rye bread, with its heavy, dark demeanor, feels like a primal experience – like winter itself.

So, why am I baking rye bread in July?

Because speaking of primal, I had a sudden urge for a patty melt.

Inspired perhaps by all those burgers on the grill over the 4th of July, I remembered one of my first “Ah-ha!” food moments: the time I realized “Hmmm, there’s a big world of food out there beyond what Mom puts on the table.”

Picture a cold, late-fall afternoon. I’m in high school. Field hockey practice over, the sun setting in a brilliant deep-purple and gold sky, the team starts to disperse – the younger girls to the “late bus,” the older ones with whoever was lucky enough to nab the family car that morning.

Feeling smug – “We’re so cool, we don’t take the bus anymore” – we head to Friendly’s, the local ice cream/burger chain, for a pre-dinner snack.

Banana split at 5:30 – dinner at 6 p.m.? No problem.

But frankly, much as I love ice cream, it doesn’t sound very comforting on this frosty late-fall evening.

How about a hot burger and fries? Just right.

I glance at the menu. There’s the regular burger (with cheese, if you want to pay the extra 10¢). But there’s also something called a “patty melt” – a burger on sliced grilled rye bread.

Rye bread instead of a hamburger bun? With Swiss cheese, not yellow American? And fried onions to boot? Now THAT’S over the top. Ever the culinary daredevil, I decide to try it.

And am immediately won over. The sweet caramelized onion, nutty melted Swiss, juicy burger, and buttered/grilled rye are the ideal combination of crisp bread, soft cheese, and a range of perfectly matched flavors.

I wolf down my first patty melt – then go home and devour the pork chops and mashed potatoes my mom sets in front of me. Remember those days before calorie counting? Sigh…

Anyway, enough with the trip down Memory Lane. Even though rye feels like a cold-weather bread, the prospect of patty melts is one very good reason to bake rye in July.

You’ve got the grill going anyway, right? Once you’ve baked your rye bread, you’re only a few simple steps away from this wonderfully comforting (and all-season) sandwich.

Let’s make some patty melts; and while we’re at it, I’ve got five rye/patty melt “tricks” to show you.

We’ll start with my favorite Sandwich Rye Bread recipe – but feel free to try the following suggestions with the sandwich rye recipe of your choice.


TRY THIS: Substitute dill pickle juice for half the water in the recipe.

WHY? The signature flavor so many of us identify as rye is usually a combination of other flavors: chiefly caraway, dill, mustard, and a hint of sour. Pickle juice adds a bit of sour and a touch of dill.

Hint: for even more rye taste, try our Deli Rye Flavor.

ADJUSTMENT: If the pickle juice tastes noticeably salty, reduce the salt in your recipe; in the recipe I use, with half-sour pickle juice, I reduce the salt by 1/4 teaspoon.

This will be a “taste and see” proposition for you, with your own recipe and pickle juice; add less salt than you think the dough needs, then more to taste.


TRY THIS: Substitute sourdough starter (fed or unfed) for some of the flour and water in the recipe.

WHY? Because it’s a good way to use up that discard sourdough you end up with during the feeding process. And it adds flavor. Plus if you use fed sourdough, it gives the loaf a lift, to boot.

ADJUSTMENT: Since sourdough starter is basically equal parts flour/water by weight, reduce the amount of flour and liquid in your recipe as follows: If you use 8 ounces (1 cup) starter, reduce the flour in your recipe by 1 cup (approx. 4 ounces); and the liquid by 1/2 cup (4 ounces).

Tip: If your starter is liquid enough to be pourable, like heavy cream or pancake batter, don’t reduce the flour in your recipe as much.

In this particular recipe, I substitute 6 ounces starter for 3 ounces (3/4 cup) bread flour and 3 ounces water – see how the formula works?

Which flour should you substitute for: rye, or all-purpose/bread? Since sourdough starter is usually made with all-purpose flour, substitute for the AP or bread flour, rather than the rye.


TRY THIS: Knead rye dough in your bread machine, then take it out and bake it in a pan (see next tip).

WHY? Rye dough, with its lower gluten content, can be a challenge to knead. It’s inherently sticky. And if you’re kneading by hand (or even using a mixer), the tendency is to add more flour – which will make your bread dense and dry.

Instead, throw all the ingredients into the bucket of your bread machine, press start, and check the dough about 10 minutes into the kneading cycle; adjust its consistency with additional flour or liquid, as necessary. And come back in an hour for your effortlessly kneaded and perfectly risen dough.

ADJUSTMENT: None needed. Kneading dough in a bread machine is super-simple.

“Can I bake the bread right in my machine?” Totally depends on your recipe. The only way to find out is to give it a try. That worst that’ll happen is you end up with a treat for the birds and squirrels.

Next, consider your pan –


TRY THIS: Bake your rye loaf in a lidded 9″ pain de mie pan, instead of a regular 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ or 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.


WHY? Because the resulting loaf, confined as it rises by the pan’s lid, will have a wonderfully dense/close-grained/moist texture.

Think easy “sliceability,” perfect for hors d’oeuvres (smoked salmon), toast, and sandwiches.


The loaf will also have square corners – very nice for stacking ham-on-rye sandwiches into plastic containers prior to packing into the picnic basket.

ADJUSTMENT: This pan is a fit for recipes using between 3 and 4 cups of flour.


TRY THIS: When making a patty melt (or grilled cheese, or panini, or any kind of grilled sandwich), spread the outside (the grilling side) of the sliced bread with mayo, instead of butter or oil.

WHY? Mayonnaise gives grilled bread added flavor, and just as much crunch as butter or oil. Plus there’s no need to soften or melt mayo; it’s wonderfully spreadable right from the jar.

ADJUSTMENT: None needed. Spread mayo on the bread just as you would softened butter.


OK, we’ve got the bread and cheese.


And the onions, which I sautéed out on my deck, to avoid a grease-spattered kitchen counter.


And the grilled burgers.

Let’s build some patty melts!


Assembly is easy.

For two patty melts, spread mayonnaise on one side of each of four slices of rye bread. Layer all four slices with Swiss cheese.

Spread sautéed onions on two of the slices; lay a hamburger patty atop the onions. Top with the remaining bread/cheese – cheese side in, mayo side out.


Sauté over medium heat until the cheese is melted, and the sandwiches are golden brown on both sides.

photo 3(3)

See how evenly golden brown the crust is? That’s the mayo doing its thing.



photo 1(1)(1)

…to the last delicious bite!

And THAT, my friends, is the “why” behind rye in July!

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. cwcdesign

    Oh PJ, I absolutely LOVED Friendly’s patty melts (Newport Creamery’s weren’t half bad either)! It was always my go-to sandwich there.

    On the recipe, what if you don’t have a bread machine, can it still be done in the KA with a dough hook and what adaptations might you have to make? I have been dying to try rye bread.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This recipe will work very well using a stand mixer. It will take about 5-8 minutes to knead the dough with a hook. The dough will probably take 1 – 2 hours to rise in the bowl, depending on the warmth of the dough and your kitchen.~Jaydl@KAF

  2. Tom Garbacik

    Nice! The mayo trick is interesting – perhaps rosemary/garlic aioli? Or mayo with a little grated asiago? Thanks!

    1. Wendy Hampton

      AHHHHH! That’s it. Asiago mixed in with the mayo. I was missing something and THAT’s the taste. Kudos to Tom for the suggestion! This is a divine sandwich!

  3. waikikirie

    Hey PJ! I’ve been eyeing that pain di mie pan for a while. I think you just pushed me over the edge….May just be in my next KAF order. Two questions: If I use the pain di mie pan, what are the instructions for rising???? Also, what kinda burgers you got goin’ on? They don’t look like my regular beef burgers….do tell….pretty please! xoxoxoxox

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Hey, girl – I let the bread rise until the crown at the center is almost touching the lid – not quite. Then put it into the preheated oven. The burgers are sirloin burgers – very lean, but tasty. Especially in this patty melt! 🙂 PJH

    2. waikikirie

      Thanks for the info PJ……You’re burgers looked like you added a sauce or a seasoning to them….Thanks for sharing…..xooxoox

  4. Gayle Snyder

    Hi PJ. I want to start buying some of the ingredients on the website. I was wondering if you could give me a list of what I should start with for good baking. Thanks so much.

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Gayle,
      Well, it really depends on what type of baking you want to do. Are you more into bread, or cookies? Cakes, or pies? I’d say drop an email to bakers@kingarthurflour.com with a few ideas on what you’d like to start baking, and we can give you advice on what items you’ll need first, and which can wait for later. ~ MJ

  5. Bridgid

    What a great post! And perfect for me to ask this question that I have been wanting to ask since last Thanksgiving. I am looking for a recipe for pumpernickel raisin bread. AKA Russian Bread or Black Russian Bread. I found 2 recipes online and meshed them together and was unhappy with the results. I looked at the pumpernickle bread recipe KAF has, but there was onion and caraway. I HATE caraway! (I know, my mother was aghast – how was she going to continue making her signature Irish Soda Bread? She made it without caraway for me. I am loved.) So any thoughts or recipes for this bread that I am seeking? The color of the bread came out perfect – deep brown. But it was too dense. I know it should be dense, but this was like a brick. PS – working at Friendly’s is what got me through college.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Bridgid, you might try our Classic Pumpernickel Bread recipe, minus the caraway, and with added raisins (kneaded in after the first rise). Substitute 1 cup all-purpose or bread flour for the whole wheat, and you’ll get a lighter-textured loaf. Good luck – let us know how it goes, OK? PJH

    2. bactitech

      My daughter gave me a book with some great recipes for a bread machine. There was a rye bread recipe that used fennel seeds instead of caraway, and also added a bit of zest of an orange to the recipe. My husband, who doesn’t like caraway either, really liked this! Give it a try!

    3. Linda Reifler-Alessi

      I make a pumpernickel that I basically made up. I use fennel instead of caraway but no seeds are fine too. I also use 1 tbsp of onion powder because I felt that was the “missing link” to the old “Russian” sourdough pumpernickel flavor I was searching for.but it is optional also. I made it for years with 1/4 tbsp yeast and a 12-24 hour rise but now I make it with 1/4 cup rye/white fed sourdough starter. Works either way.
      Dry Ingredients
      1/2 cup rye
      1 1/2 cup bread flour
      1 cup whole wheat flour
      1/2 cup bran
      1/2 cup white whole wheat
      2 tbsp cocoa
      1 scant tbsp salt
      1 tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
      1 tbsp onion powder (optional)

      Wet Ingredients
      1/4 cup starter or ¼ tsp yeast
      1/4 cup beer
      2 tbsp molasses
      Add filtered water to = 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cup

      Directions: All times are approx.. You rule the dough, it doesn’t rule you so don’t let it take over your day or weekend.
      • Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
      • Mix the wet ingredients in a two cup measuring cup.
      • Add the liquid to the dry and mix until fully incorporated.
      • Had to add a bit of flour or water after initial mixing to get the right consistency. This is just something I know but will try to describe. The dough needs to be shaggy but very wet (fully hydrated) but not so wet that it becomes a slurry instead of dough during rising.
      • Do at least three folds. This is lifting a corner of the dough in the bowl and pulling it over to the other side. Do it three times from different sides. Repeat this process three times 20 minutes apart. The dough will strengthen and tighten up and look much more like dough you are used to.
      • Cover and let rise at room temperature for 12-24 hours depending on how hot it is.
      • Using a dough scraper and trying not to disturb the dough too much, turn it out onto a lightly floured board or silicone mat.
      • Put the bowl or a towel over it and let it rest about 20 minutes.
      • Then shape the loaf much as you did for the folds.
      • Take an edge from the far side and pull it over the loaf, tucking it into the bottom. Repeat a few times until you get a tight loaf. Add flour sparingly as needed.
      • Proof the loaf in a floured bowl or brotform for 1-3 hours or until puffed and larger, not necessarily doubled.
      • You can put parchment in the bowl first if you are worried about sticking and then pick the whole thing up with the parchment to bake. If you are doing that make it seam side down.
      • If you are going to turn the loaf out, proof it seam side up.
      • Bake in a 500 degree, pre-heated clay or cast iron pot with a secure cover and no steam holes. After 10 minutes turn the heat down to 425. After 20 minutes, uncover the loaf for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

  6. Nickey Welch

    So awesome I have been craving a great patty melt for awhile and this one is a winner. Love the texture if a great rye loaf, KAF rye is the best I’ve found for making the perfect loaf of yummy rye, thanks PJ.

  7. John Peck Jr

    This feature reminds me when I was kid in Maine around the 60s & 70s. With the pictures now I’m hungry.
    Thank you, remembering the past

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Tracy, the ingredients need to be increased by about 45%; so try a simple 50% increase, and see how it works. If it’s too much dough, next time you can try 30%. Or, if you’re really into math – try 44%! 🙂 PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there! You need different amounts of doughs for the 13″ and the 9″ pan. If you want to use a 13″ pain de mie pan with this recipe, you could increase all the ingredients by 50%, except the yeast, for which you would just use the amount in the original recipe. So, you don’t need two pans, but if you are just going to have one pan, then you want to make sure your recipe is correctly sized for that pan. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  8. Lynn

    I just bought the smaller pain de mie pan ( have the larger size and love it) and pumpernickel flour. But I just realized I don’t have any pickle juice! Do you think I could make a quick dill pickle brine and use that instead? Thanks so much.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I think it would work, Lynn, although it probably won’t be quite as potent. Barb@KAF

  9. Ann H

    This was my first try at rye (and with the pan de mid pan). The first rise was very quick – it had more than doubled within an hour, and then the second rise was only an hour. When I took the pan de mi pan out of the oven to remove the lid for the final 15 minutes, the bread had oozed out of the lid. It tastes great – but should I cut back on the yeast, or on the rise time?

    I used to Zo to knead it and that worked great – I just had to pat the dough with some flour to remove some of the stickiness before setting it our for the first rise.


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