Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Marbled Rye

Marbled Rye Crumb

It’s taking longer than I anticipated, but I’m still plugging away at The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge and enjoying every minute of it.  With the completion of this gorgeous Marbled Rye, I’ve mixed, kneaded, shaped, photographed, tasted, and shared the first 19 breads in the book.

Each successful loaf feels like a huge accomplishment, but this one in particular was special to me because it was the first time that I’ve attempted baking rye bread.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, because before this I had never even tasted marbled rye, but I was blown away by this bread.  The flavor and texture were wonderful and I fell in love with the striking appearance of the loaves.

The beautiful swirl in the marbled rye is created by making two bread doughs, one dark and one light, and rolling them together into a loaf.  It’s not really any more difficult but it is more time consuming than making plain sandwich loaves.  Because of this, I graciously accepted the help of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to speed up the process of mixing and kneading two separate bread doughs.

Dough Ingredients

First I assembled the dry ingredients for the two doughs in separate bowls.  The ingredients for each are almost identical with only a couple of differences.  One dough includes a flavorless caramel coloring to make it darker.  I also added the optional caraway seeds to the dark dough only, although the book suggests adding caraway to  both the dark and light doughs.

Shaggy Light Dough

Next, I mixed the light dough ingredients with the paddle attachment of my mixer.  Whether you choose to mix by hand or machine, stir the ingredients together until a ball of dough forms and all the loose flour has been incorporated.  In the process you may need to add a dribble or two of water to make this happen.  Next, use the dough hook on the mixer or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4 to 6 minutes, or until smooth.

Light Dough Ready for Fermentation

The kneaded dough should feel supple and pliable, slightly tacky but not sticky.  (To learn the difference between tacky and sticky bread dough, check out this great example at Yumarama Bread Blog.)  After the dough has been kneaded enough, place it in a greased bowl, roll it to coat all sides with oil, and cover with plastic wrap.

Light Dough Doubled

Repeat the entire process with the dark dough then let both ferment at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until the doughs have doubled in size.

Light and Dark Doughs, Kneaded

Now it’s time for shaping.

Dividing Marbled Rye Dough into Pieces

To shape the loaves, the first step is to divide each dough into four equal pieces.  The easiest way to ensure your pieces are the same size is to use a kitchen scale.  I first weighed the intact piece of dough then divided the weight by four to figure out how much each small piece should weigh.  If you don’t have a scale, just divide the dough as evenly as possible.  You want to end up with four dark pieces and four light pieces.

Rolling Marbled Rye Dough

Next, each small piece of dough is rolled into an oblong about 5 inches wide by 8 inches long.  They don’t have to be perfect, but try to roll each one as close to the same size as you can.

Layers of Marbled Rye Dough

To create a loaf, stack four pieces of dough, alternating the light and dark colors.

Shaping Marbled Rye Loaf

Starting at a long end, roll the stack up into an oblong loaf, or bâtard.


Pinch the seam together at the top (the seam side will become the bottom of the loaf).

Marbled Rye Loaves in Pans

Repeat the stacking and rolling to form the second loaf then place the loaves into loaf pans.  If you prefer free-form loaves they can be placed directly on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Allow the loaves to proof at room temperature for another 60-90 minutes or until they have almost doubled in size.

Marbled Rye, Risen and Slashed

Although not required, I chose to slash the tops of the loaves once they had finished proofing.  It was mainly for decorative purposes, but I also wanted to practice my slashing technique since I’m still a bit timid with a razor blade.

Side Split

The loaves were baked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.  They had tons of oven spring – so much, in fact, that both loaves split open a bit on the sides.

Marbled Rye Loaves

Despite the blowouts, they were absolutely beautiful and I was thrilled that the slashes on top opened up to show the different colors inside the loaves.

Marbled Rye Crumb

I’d have to say that the most rewarding part of this entire experience was slicing open the loaves to see the beautiful swirl inside…

Reuben Sandwich on Marbled Rye

But this Reuben Sandwich with homemade thousand island dressing was a close second.

If you’re following along in the challenge, the formula can be found on page 184 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The next bread is Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire – hopefully the bread will live up to its fancy name!

Want to Join The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread, which is the first bread formula in the book.  You may also visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group.

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Marbled Rye Bread from other BBA Bakers:

  1. Cindy

    The opening phot is just gorgeous! You got amazing oven spring. I also loved this bread!

    4:41 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  2. The Teacher Cooks

    I love rye bread and a good reuben sandwich! Your bread looks fantastic! I have really missed your blog and glad that you are back. Hope that your move was a great one.

    4:49 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  3. Donna @waymorehomemade

    Mine split also. Thinking I might make the inner layer smaller and outter layer bigger if I make this one again. Beautiful loaves, Nicole. Glad to see you are still at it.


    4:53 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  4. Janice

    That’s some beautiful bread! And the slashing on top was pure Nicole brilliance. Even though I’m close to the end of the Challenge now, this one’s still my favorite bread from a visual standpoint.

    5:01 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  5. Maribel


    5:10 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  6. Rebecca

    Yum, that looks amazing!

    5:10 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  7. SallyBR

    Oh, gosh…. I am tempted to delete the marbled rye post from my blog, it is a monstrosity not worth of the BBA Challenge…

    Not only the colors of my dough did not have enough contrast, but I managed to totally butcher the swirl effect…

    Your loaves are, in my opinion, more beautiful than the ones in the book.

    5:22 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  8. Tamara

    Gorgeous! Is there a way to make the different colors without using food coloring? Molasses? Cocoa? Would the flavor be too strange?

    5:31 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  9. Cate

    I’ve never made rye bread before, but it’s been on my to-bake list for awhile. Your loaves are absolutely beautiful!

    5:52 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  10. Kelly

    Gorgeous! Just perfect looking. I really enjoyed this one, too.

    6:57 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  11. Julie

    Beautiful bread. Love the photos. I am enjoying your posts on this book!

    7:31 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  12. Abby

    So excited to see a new BBA post from you! =) Your swirls are just beautiful! We really liked this one, too. I also just made my first homemade thousand island dressing (for the 100% sourdough rye), and it was sooo good!

    8:15 pm  Apr 19th, 2010
  13. Kurt

    Wow! Yours look so much better than mine did. I love the lame work, I am still too tentative and don’t cut nearly deep enough. I too experienced a lot of oven spring and my loaves ballooned over the top and split on the sides.

    3:13 am  Apr 20th, 2010
  14. Magda

    this looks so good!

    4:14 am  Apr 20th, 2010
  15. Phoo-D

    Your marbled rye is absolutely beautiful! Doesn’t it make the best reubens? We loved this one and I will definitely make it again when the challenge is over. I hope that you are getting all settled in your new place!

    5:27 am  Apr 20th, 2010
  16. Natalie


    Question. Whenever I make loaves like this from the BBA, they never crest over the top of the pan, and they sort of unravel at the seam. Maybe I’m not tucking tightly enough? Any ideas? You seem to have mastered it.

    5:58 am  Apr 20th, 2010
  17. Mary @ Butter + Cream

    Simply stunning! I’m not even a huge fan of sliced bread, and now I’m dying to go home and try this. Gorgeous work.

    12:09 pm  Apr 20th, 2010
  18. Jaime

    Love this post. Such gorgeous pictures. And that Reuben!!! I think I’d mug an old lady in New York for that marble rye!

    1:48 pm  Apr 20th, 2010
  19. Hettar7

    Well, looks like yours turned out much better than mine did. When I first got the book my cousin wanted to make one of the breads. She picked the marbled rye. I hadn’t read any of the introductory information, but we plowed on anyway. I’ve made many breads before, so I wasn’t too worried. Well, I guess I should have read before hand because even though I followed the instructions, the bread was way too dense. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong. I do know that we probably didn’t let it rise enough though it “rose” for longer than it said it should require. I’ll have to go back and read and retry this. On the plus side, my bread did have a lovely marble effect.

    2:15 pm  Apr 20th, 2010
  20. The Nervous Cook

    Those loaves are unbelievably gorgeous. And I love all the photos of the process, they reveal the magic of intermingling the doughs in such a charming (and mouthwatering!) way.

    4:26 pm  Apr 20th, 2010
  21. bigjobsboard

    Wow. That looks pretty good! Thanks for sharing how to make bread. Thanks a lot.

    4:42 am  Apr 21st, 2010
  22. Supriya Raman

    Oh my god, look at that beautiful marbled bread! Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

    7:54 am  Apr 21st, 2010
  23. Daniel

    Wow! Absolutely beautiful. I love the peeking through of the various layers from the slashing. Looks totally yummy.

    Every time I see caramel coloring in the baking aisle, I want to re-do this bread, as mine came out too light.

    Oh, and don’t worry about taking so long to complete. You did, after all, set the rules that we could take as long as we wanted to! And- you’re also getting to an awesome stretch in the book. The next one is just heavenly.

    1:10 pm  Apr 22nd, 2010
  24. Michelle

    Gorgeous. I didn’t realize that’s how the swirl became so perfect in this bread. You did it justice, for sure!

    5:28 pm  Apr 22nd, 2010
  25. bhagheerathy

    at last i got my answer …always i’m wondering how it works i mean design inside the bread…thanks dear

    11:27 am  Apr 23rd, 2010
  26. MyGreenFork

    I have been baking bread for about a year now and have loved it! I just stumbled across your blog. I have not tried marbled rye yet but you have inspired me! Thanks for sharing.

    2:06 pm  Apr 25th, 2010
  27. cleawalford

    nothing compares to a self-baked bread & yours looks fantastic!

    4:39 pm  Apr 26th, 2010
  28. Joel

    I like this post. Bread and butter is may favorite food. This bread looks awesome! Slather it with some soft spread butter or honey-spread . . . mouth is watering all over my keyboard.

    3:37 pm  May 3rd, 2010
  29. Cook in a Bar

    I was thrilled to see this posting. I’d just decided to try my hand at marbled rye bread as it is my husband’s favorite. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    2:26 pm  May 5th, 2010
  30. Nutrition News

    Thanks for the “recipe”… Not only does it look great, it’s aesthetically pleasing and healthy. Great with Olives and/or olive oil.

    1:44 am  May 6th, 2010
  31. Sara

    I love the color reverse effect where you slashed the loaves on top, as well as your his ‘n hers/yin & yang version. Mine didn’t quite have the impressive visuals but luckily that doesn’t affect the taste!

    3:18 pm  May 15th, 2010
  32. Ckay

    Your loaves look amazing! The pattern is beautiful. Love them!
    Being a “bread-aholic” I’ve just bought the book,…and now I know, which bread I am going to bake first.
    Thank you for the lovely and clear step-by-step tutorial
    Best regards from Switzerland

    7:52 am  Jan 17th, 2014
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