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Rye Bread Choices

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2009

What are the differences among light, dark, and pumpernickel rye bread?

All three types of bread are made from flour milled from rye grass. Light rye flour is produced by removing the coarse outer layer of the rye berry (like a wheat berry, this is the “fruit” of the grain), exposing its relatively light interior. This kernel is then ground to a fine powder that is typically blended with white wheat flour to produce light rye bread. Dark rye flour includes some of the outer layers of the rye berry, while pumpernickel flour is ground from the whole rye berry and left rather coarse instead of fine.

We tasted all three types of bread plain and in Reuben sandwiches. There was no clear winner; any preference boiled down to personal taste. Some liked the mild taste of the lighter rye bread, while others preferred the stronger flavors of dark rye and pumpernickel. If you have trouble choosing, consider marbled rye, the swirled bread made with light rye dough and either dark rye or pumpernickel dough.