We eat with our eyes. We’re not sure who first made this brilliant observation, but they were spot-on, describing how our brains make a connection between a food’s appearance and how much we enjoy it.

Simply, the better it looks, the better it tastes.

That’s one reason that marble rye bread deserves a place at the table. The swirls and curves of dark and light rye add some pizazz where it’s least expected, especially with sandwiches: a classic Reuben sandwich, a toasty grilled cheese, a creamy egg salad.

There’s really no flavor difference between the colors. The cocoa used to darken half of the dough doesn’t make your bread taste chocolately. Some bakers use instant coffee, although others think that creates a slight bitterness. In any case, it only takes a few minutes more to make two doughs.

Even better, you can play with how you layer them, opting for a swirl, a bull’s-eye, or a jumbled effect. Whatever you choose, you’ve raised your baking game.

How can you tell? The eyes have it.

Marble Rye

Makes 2 loaves.

Note: We used Hodgson Mill Rye Flour, but any brand of labeled rye, light rye or medium rye will work. Do not use pumpernickel rye flour; it’s more coarsely ground (from whole rye berries) for a more dense and strongly flavored loaf. Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking. 

For the light dough:

• 1 3/4 c. (8 oz.) bread flour, more if needed

• 3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. (4 oz.) rye flour

• 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 tsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast

• 1 tsp. whole caraway seeds, optional

• 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. room-temperature water, more if needed

• 1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil

•1 tbsp. unsulfured mild molasses

For the dark dough:

• 1 3/4 c. (8 oz.) bread flour, more if needed

• 3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. (4 oz.) rye flour

• 2 to 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 tsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast

• 1 tsp. whole caraway seeds, optional

• 3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. room-temperature water, more if needed

• 1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1 tbsp. unsulfured mild molasses

For baking:

• Baking spray or vegetable oil

• 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water


The key to combining the 2 doughs into 1 loaf of bread is to make sure both doughs feel the same when you’re done kneading — that they have a similar texture and suppleness. That enables them to rise at an equal rate. If 1 dough is softer than the other, the loaf will come out lopsided.

To make the light dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the bread and rye flours, salt, yeast, caraway seeds (if using), water, oil and molasses on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until well combined and the sides of the bowl are clean. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and tacky. (If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon to mix and knead with your hands on surface lightly coated with vegetable oil.) If the dough is too sticky, knead in more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If it’s very stiff, knead in water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Spray a medium bowl with baking oil. Form dough into a ball. Place in bowl, then turn over so that all surfaces are coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

To make the dark dough: Immediately after making the light dough, repeat the process to make the dark dough, adding more water if needed to make a dough with the same feel as the first dough. Stretch and fold the dough into a ball and let it rise in another lightly oiled bowl as described above.

To shape the dough: When both doughs have doubled in size, divide each into 4 equal pieces. Generously coat the inside of 2 (8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray.

Rub a little vegetable oil on a work surface. Using your hands or a rolling pin, gently shape each piece into a 6-inch square that’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Make a stack of 4 dough squares, alternating light and dark doughs. Firmly pat down the stack with the palm of your hand so that all 4 pieces adhere to one another.

Starting with the side closest to you, tightly roll up the stack into a loaf, pinching the seam closed. Repeat with the remaining dough for the second loaf.

Set each loaf seam side down. Gently roll and stretch each until it’s the same length as the pans. Place seam side down in the pans, coat the tops with cooking spray, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the loaves rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size with tops that are about an inch above the edges of the pans, 1 to 2 hours.

At this point, pressing on the dough with your finger should make a dimple that springs back slowly. If it springs back quickly, give the dough another 15 to 30 minutes to rise.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put rack in the center position.

Brush the risen loaves with the egg-water mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and swap the positions of the pans. Continue baking 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the loaves are a rich golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 to 195 degrees. If under that temperature, continue baking in 5-minute intervals. Underbaking yields gummy bread. To leave a less noticeable hole, insert the thermometer close to the edge of the pan (without touching the pan.)

Transfer the loaves in their pans to a wire rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the bread from the pans. Let cool completely before slicing.

To freeze loaves, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place in heavy-duty freezer bag. Use within 1 month.

Nutrition information per slice (12 slices per loaf):

Calories 130 Fat 2 g Sodium 200 mg

Carbohydrates 23 g Saturated fat 0 g Total sugars 1 mg

Protein 4 g Cholesterol 5 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ starch.