Grandma’s Jewish Rye Bread

I cannot believe that it's been a week since my last post. Time sure flies when I'm on Spring Break!

Since Adam and I didn't travel anywhere this break, It's been a break full of cleaning, crafting, and cooking.

In the first bit of cleaning, I found a little folder full of my grandma's recipes that I grabbed when we cleaned out her house after she passed away 6 years ago. The stack of yellowed papers still smell slightly of her house, some were dirtied with flecks of batter and grease from years of constant use.

The recipes of my childhood, my mom's childhood, lay in a little vinyl folder, complements of the Loews Glenpointe Hotel. I leafed through the sheets, gasping with glee when I read the titles of some of the recipes. Pineapple cheesecake… blueberry cake… Kahlua cake… banana chocolate cake… sheet after sheet of memories of birthdays, holidays, aluminum-foil-wrapped miniature loaves of banana chocolate cake stuck in my purse before I headed back to college…

And then I found it. The yellowed and stained page I'd been looking for, filed in triplicate in the little vinyl folder.


Her loopy handwriting had meticulously written down the recipe for her infamous Jewish rye bread. She didn't share the recipe with many, and if you were lucky enough to get a copy, it was to be guarded and one did not stray from a recipe from my grandma. Heck, she kept a ruler in her kitchen utensil drawer to perfectly measure sliced cookies.

Yes, it's Passover, and I'm not exactly keeping it this year. I haven't really for years now, but I've done my fair share of acknowledging the season. My spring break allowed me the time to cook some challenging recipes, and this was the first. Passover or not, I was making grandma's rye bread.

My mom gave me the all clear to blog the recipe, and let me tell you it's the best rye bread. Really. The process is unique, and there really can be no substitutions when it comes to making this properly.

Grandma's Jewish Rye Bread

by What's For Dinner?

Prep Time: 20-25 minutes, plus rise time

Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Keywords: bake bread Jewish

Ingredients (2 2-pound loaves)

  • 2 cakes or packages of yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 4 Tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon dill seeds
  • 3/4 cup liquid shortening (oil)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup pickle juice
  • 2 cups water, plus 3/4 cup for softening yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons potato flakes
  • 10-11 cups flour, mixed in a 3 cups white to 1 cup rye ratio


Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

In a large pan, heat the buttermilk to tepid.

Add 2 cups water, pickle juice, shortening, sugar, salt, caraway, dill, and potato flakes. (at this point, I transfered to a large bowl)

Add yeast which has been softened in 3/4 cup lukewarm water.

Add 2 cups flour and blend thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Add remaining flour.

Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth. (Grandma's note: will require less kneading with less pressure)

Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled, covered. (about 90 minutes)

Shape into round loaves on greased cookie sheets.

Let rise until double (about 30 minutes).

Brush with well-beaten egg yolk mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk.

Make several slits on top with razor blade.

Bake 40-45 minutes.

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It's not a typo in the ingredient list: there is indeed pickle juice in it. I used the liquid from a jar of favorite pickles. Between that, the buttermilk, and the different flavors from the caraway and dill seeds, the flavor is complex, a little sour, and exactly what I'm hoping for whenever I eat rye bread.

It took all the strength I had to not cut into this gorgeous loaf of bread until it was cool, but I knew it would be a better texture if I waited. So waited I did.

The first slices reminded me of going to Max's Deli with my grandma when I was a little girl, and then having her tell me that her rye was better. Indeed it was.

I'd made it a point to pick up some extra lean corned beef and spicy deli mustard to make a sandwich, the likes of which I haven't had in years.


One loaf is tightly wrapped on the counter, being slowly noshed on, and the other is in the freezer. I'm sure some summer day down the road, I'll desperately need a corned beef on rye.

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8 Responses to Grandma’s Jewish Rye Bread

  1. Looks fabulous! I was just gifted a bag of home-milled rye flour, too. Perfect timing!!!
    Kasha the FarmGirl´s last blog post ..Springtime Dessert Perfection: Crepes Paloma

  2. mom says:

    yep yep yep… so nostalgic, especially to see the real recipe in my mom’s writing.

  3. That is a really unique recipe! Noshing on rye bread is just as Jewish as matzah in my book!
    Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat´s last blog post ..Best Kosher for Passover Items at Whole Foods

  4. Suzy says:

    Oh, do I love me some good rye bread…this looks heavenly. I think it may be at the top of my baking list once we are moved and unpacked! Nothing better than a real patty melt on rye…
    Suzy´s last blog post ..So What Has Suzy Been Doing?

  5. Marianne says:

    I am definitely intrigued by a bread that uses pickle juice! Of course, it then has me wondering – would my pickles still be good if I drained off all that juice? I might have to wait until I’m half way through the jar before I give it a try 🙂
    Marianne´s last blog post ..Random Eats

  6. Steve says:

    Curious… the pickle juice dill or sweet? You don’t really elaborate on that.

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