Peter Reinhart’s Hutzelbrot


Lately I’ve been making loaf after loaf of rye bread, and I wanted to try something a little different. This rye bread is made with dried fruit for a slightly sweet bread, perfect for topping with butter, cream cheese or jam.


I looked up the translation of Hutzel, which in German means either “dried pear” or “wrinkled old woman,” ha ha.

Hutzelbrot is a traditional German Christmas bread, not unlike stollen or fruitcake.  However, hutzelbrot is typically made the rye flour and is not soaked like a fruitcake.

Anyway, there are a lot of moving parts to this recipe.  The bare minimum you need is a loaf of rye bread already made for the altus, and a lively rye starter.  Then it gets more complicated from there.


my rye starter, looking lively underneath

If you have rye bread and a lively starter ready to go, this bread takes two days to make.  If you need to refresh your starter it’ll take longer.

On the evening of Day 1, take 71g of your starter and mix it with 213g rye flour and 170g water.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.


Next, cut up a cup of rye bread into 1/2 inch pieces and cover with 1/2 cup hot water.  Let soak until room temperature.  This is your “altus.”


Preheat your oven as low as it can go, preferably to 150 degrees F.  Meanwhile, heat 1 cup of water, to 165 degrees F in an oven-safe sauce pan.  Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.  Whisk until it forms a paste, then transfer to the oven and let it mellow for 3 hours.  This is your mash.


After three hours, remove the sauce pan from the oven and mix in your altus.


Cover and refrigerate overnight.

On day 2, remove the mash and starter from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature during the day.

Mix your doughs together in a large bowl along with:

99g rye flour

99g whole wheat flour

1 cup dried fruit (I used apricots, prunes, raisins, dates, figs, and candied lemon peel)

14g salt

7g instant yeast

14g cocoa powder (for color)


This bread was tough to mix together – rye flour is very sticky and doesn’t have any gluten so it doesn’t like to stick to itself.  I muddled through.


After the dough was fully incorporated, I divided it in half and shaped each half into a ball.  Then I rolled each ball in whole wheat flour and placed it in a banneton, then covered and placed them in the refrigerator to rise for an hour.


Peter Reinhart recommends coating the loaves with a paste made from flour and water.  I did that with the first loaf, but I didn’t like how it came out so I didn’t do it for the second loaf.


Dough before going into the oven


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F with a dutch oven.  Bake your dough for 15 minutes on 425 with the lid of the dutch oven on, then 15 minutes at 375 degrees F, then a final 15 minutes at 375 with the lid off.



The breads were a little flat but Reinhart says they are supposed to be dense.  The dried fruit and candied lemon peel add a nice sweetness to the bread, which is very moist and doesn’t taste like rye.  I like how different this bread is from the other ryes I’ve been making.  It’s going to be perfect for toast at tomorrow’s breakfast!


For the starter: 

71g active starter

213g whole rye flour

170g water

for the mash:

1/2 cup rye flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

300g water

1 cup chopped rye bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water

For the final dough:

454g starter

397g mash

99g whole wheat flour

99g whole rye flour

170g dried fruit

14g salt

7g instant yeast

14g cocoa powder

flour paste (optional)

  1. Mix together the starter.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat the water to 165 degrees F, then whisk in the flours.  Bake at 150 degrees F for three hours.  Mix in the altus, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Mix together the final dough ingredients, then divide into two loaves and let rise one hour in the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 425 and bake in the dutch oven for 15 minutes, then bump the temperature down to 375 for 15 minutes, then remove dutch oven lid for final 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest until COMPLETELY cool.


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