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I love rye bread, so something I have always wondered about is why there are caraway seeds in it. It seems to be some kind of tradition.

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    The obvious answer would be "for their flavor", as they're quite flavorful. But that strikes me as not really what you're asking. Are you asking where the tradition comes from, it's history? Or something else? – derobert Apr 6 '16 at 17:32
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    What is the reason caraway seeds are in rye bread? Saying "for flavor" is not an answer because by that logic caraway seeds could be in every kind of bread, but they are not. There are no caraway seeds in French baguettes are there? There is a specific association between rye and caraway seed. – Drisheen Colcannon Apr 6 '16 at 17:53
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    Because there are awful, awful people out there. And they probably like cilantro, too. – Joe Apr 6 '16 at 20:43
  • Side note: I have seen Rye's without the seeds. – Paulb Dec 9 '16 at 9:47
  • @derobert Some of us even grind our caraway to a powder before adding to pure dark rye flour. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 27 '17 at 4:01
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Caraway seeds in rye bread is - in some parts of the world - a tradition.

Generally speaking, certain flavour profiles are traditional in different cuisines, not ubiquitous (see your baguette counter example), for many types of food. For rye bread, taking European areas into account where there is a "rye bread tradition", Northern Europe (Scandinavia, Northern Germany) uses caraway, Central Europe is undecided and Southern Tyrol (the German-speaking parts of Italy) would use blue fenugreek instead, other regional cuisines leave their rye breads plain.

The reason why particularly rye breads tend to be "spiced" - as opposed to wheat-dominant breads - is that rye breads can be harder to digest and needs a sourdough step to be baked into proper bread. And seeds like caraway, fennel seeds or the blue fenugreek mentioned above have traditionally been used to aid digestion.

If you are buying rye bread in other parts of the world, especially the US, the predominant group of immigrants from Europe may as well have brought their specific "rye bread flavour profile" with them.

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Rye is difficult to digest and causes "bloat" with its production of gas. The caraway seeds are seen as a digestive aid and used as an anti-flatulent aid. So they are mixed with the rye flour. Anise seeds are sometimes used for the same reason. Learned this when reading about the rye amylases during fermentation which destroy gluten and prevent rye from rising as nicely as wheat flour. This is why sour dough fermentation is preferred for rye flour

  • Please back this up with a reference. – Jan Doggen Nov 28 '17 at 9:49

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