Master pastry chef and baking teacher Rikke Holm marries respect for traditional craftsmanship and quality ingredients with contemporary approaches. Her recipes range from yogurt toppings to dark rye bread that’s worth waiting for.
• Completed pastry chef training at La Glace, an acclaimed Copenhagen pastry shop, in 1990
• Founded and managed the company Byens Bedste Kager (The Best Cakes in Town) for eight years, supplying restaurants and private customers
• Works as teacher, author, and provider of general culinary and specialized baking courses
• Author/co-author of four baking books in Danish, including “Rug” (“Rye”) (Muusmann, 2015)
• Resides in Søborg, a suburb of Copenhagen
• Peddles her own dark rye bread at the hyper-local level, trading it for eggs from her neighbor, who has chickens
• Sees chocolate in rye bread as one of the best baking innovations in recent times. “Sweet, salty and bitter at the same time. And it’s filling too!”
• Admires Yotam Ottolenghi for his ability to combine textures and flavors
A Rye Revolution
True dark rye bread bakers like Rikke Holm know that the magic begins after 12 hours. This is the time it takes for a dough to rise so that the finished loaf is just right—not too compact and not too loose in the crumb.
“You’re doing yourself a favor by taking two days to make it and by adding extra seeds and grains before putting that gooey glob in the oven,” says the former pastry chef, who bakes her own dark rye bread every week. The dark rye breads from grocery stores are a poor substitute.
“I must admit that I find it difficult to eat the store-bought bread. It’s just not sour enough.”
Herein lies the secret of the dark rye bread for which Scandinavians abroad weave epic tales and succumb to homesickness: a proper sourdough culture. It takes a month to develop, although many bakeries sell a sourdough starter that provides the basis for outcompeting any white bread.
“If you’ve ever tasted a slice of salami on homemade rye bread, you’d never trade it for the foamy texture of a white roll. Rye flour gives you something to chew on. It’s also more filling and adds whole grain to your diet, which prevents many types of cancer.”
Holm traces her love of dark rye bread back to her mother’s kitchen in Holstebro, a Danish town located in western Jutland. She has a fond memory of being eight years old with a friend visiting, and sharing a whole loaf of warm, freshly baked dark rye with cold butter. When she moved in with her then-boyfriend and now husband, the bread-baking habit was easy to carry on—it simply tasted better than store-bought bread.
For those who have neither the inherited tradition nor the patience, simpler tactics still allow you to enjoy rye. Holm puts flakes of rye in her oatmeal to give it crunch, and she is not shy about putting rye berries in a salad, a classic risotto, or even a sweet macaroon. To her, rye is a fundamental element of cooking. And although there’s some way to go before rye joins the ranks of lemon, salt, and pepper for adding flavor, the revolution must begin somewhere.
“It adds a touch of bitterness that accentuates and intensifies the overall taste experience. Even a pure wheat bread goes from flat to full of character on the palate if you add a little rye,” she says.