Our supermarket bakery used to make a Polish Sourdough Rye Bread, żytni, that was our favorite. It was dense and moist, sliced very thin, about a quarter of an inch.
They package a 2 or 3-inch section of a loaf, so it was always fresh, even with just the two of us in the flat. The dense bread was always sliced very thin, and being able to do so at home was the reason we bought an electric slicer.
It was darker rye than the flour I’ve used here. So now, I’ll have to start experimenting with different flours.
I picked up one at the organic market this morning that is a coarser grind, but it’s doesn’t seem to be darker.
I found this recipe on a Polish website by searching google.pl for żytni przepis (recipe).
I’ve put their recipe into google translate and will give you my edited version of the results below.
They also have a nice video of the process. The audio is in Polish but if you’d like more visual clues, check it out.
In the interest of full disclosure, the links above are part of an Amazon affiliate program. If you make a purchase, they send me a small commission.
We’re about to start on our second loaf, and I have another batch of starter “cooking” on the kitchen counter. Just to be clear, you begin making the sourdough starter on day 1. You won’t actually bake the bread until day 5 or 6.
I had wondered what to call this mixture of equal weights of rye flour and water. I had hoped it would be a poolish considering the Polish roots of the term and this bread, but no.
According to the King Arthur website, this preferment, because there is no commercial yeast added, it is a German-style sourdough starter. This also makes sense; this area used to be part of Prussia.
A dense dark bread, chock full of sunflower seeds
- 10 cups rye flour
- 4 1/4 cups water, adding more if needed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 – 2 cups sunflower seeds
- Mix 50 g (1/2 cup) of flour and 50 ml (1/4 cup) of warm water in a glass vessel
- Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 24 hours
- Repeat this process for the next 3 days, stirring in 50 g of flour and 50 ml of water each day
- Your sourdough starter will be growing for 4 days
- On the fifth day, transfer your starter to a large bowl and add 500 g (4 cups) of rye flour and 500 ml (2 1/2 cup) warm water (44 C or 110 F), mix and cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 8 hours or overnight
- To the dough, add 150 ml (3/4 cup) water and the salt
- Next add 500 g (4 cups) rye flour and seeds
- Knead the dough lightly; it should still be a little sticky
- Divide dough into two parchment lined loaf pans
- Lightly score the top of the bread diagonally, in both directions giving a criss-cross pattern
- With a pastry brush, brush the tops of the loaves with boiling water*
- Cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours
- Preheat the oven to maximum temperature for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 200 C or 400 F Brush loaves again with boiling water,* put in the oven and bake for 55 minutes
- Cool before slicing
- Bread stays fresh for about a week
- Yield 2 – (8 or 9 inch) loaves
|Be sure the glass vessel you use for your starter has room for the daily additions of flour and water as well as room for a little growth – 1 liter or 1 quart should be fine|
* I believe the boiling water is to set the crust, much like cooking bagels in water before baking. It keeps the top from expanding and gives you a denser loaf.
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.