While we’re all spending so much time at home, it seemed like a good idea to try out a new bread recipe. I came across a recipe for a Polish Sauerkraut Bread or Chleb z kiszoną kapustą. Most Polish food blogs make this with a rye sourdough starter, but I found a recipe that ran in the Chicago Tribune in 1989.
It only uses dried yeast, something we always have in the freezer. I tend to make keep a sourdough starter only when I plan to make żytni or żurek. Remembering to tend it indefinitely is too much like have a baby in the house. The recipe is from Tuzik’s Bakery, which sadly closed in 2019.
Reading about the bakery, left me feeling that it was a place I would have loved. They turned out quality baked goods and had a loyal family of customers. We so often take for granted the dedication that it takes for a small family business to survive and thrive.
Bakers are up way too early. Baking during the night, so that we’ll have beautifully fresh baked goods when we start our day. Do I sound too familiar? I worked at a donut shop off and on in my teens and 20s.
Friends tell me I’m an early riser, but while I’ve puttering around the kitchen making a cup of tea and thinking about breakfast, bakeries like Tuzik’s have already sold much of what they baked during the night.
The popularity of rye bread
The owners at Tuzik’s Bakery thought rye bread was one of their best sellers because the flavor went so well with ham and with Polish sausage. I think it’s also going to work very well for the kanapki (open face Polish sandwiches) I plan to make soon.
If this afternoon in my kitchen is any test, it also goes really well with salted butter. We enjoyed several slices while the bread was still warm from the oven. Cool enough to slice, but warm enough to melt the butter if it sat for a minute.
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The predominant flour in this Polish sauerkraut bread is all-purpose wheat flour, but the addition of some rye flour adds a nice flavor and color. What about the sauerkraut you might ask.
If you gave me a slice of this bread and didn’t tell me what the secret ingredient was, I would have no clue. On day 1, I would have said the bread is not tart. On day 2, I can smell a hint of tartness.
It’s not as sour as sourdough bread, but it has a wonderful texture and taste, and the egg wash gives the crust a lovely shine. Adding the sauerkraut, almost like adding potato to bread, gives the texture a bit of a bounce, if you will, without adding the yoga mat chemicals that commercial bakers use for a forgiving texture and to extend shelflife.
The popularity of baking as we #stayhome
According to my Instagram feed, everyone is baking bread. Showing off lovely loaves. It’s no wonder. Making bread is something tangible you can do for yourself and your family, unlike taking in the news and worrying.
There is something about kneading the dough and shaping a loaf that is good for the soul. I’m writing this during the pandemic. We all have time now, for fiddly projects that require you to be at home for several hours. It might be a project to do with children that are being schooled at home now, or a new hobby to pass the time.
Baking bread is a good fit for our new normal. I mixed up the dough, using some homemade sauerkraut and did some computer work while it had its first rise in a bowl. After punching it down, I shaped it into two loaves, pushing the dough into rectangles with my hands. I rolled them into loaves, tucking in the ends before placing them on the cornmeal I’d scattered over my parchment-lined baking sheet.
During the second rise, I read a book given to us by one of Ed’s golf students. The fellow’s wife wrote about their 30 years working for the Department of Defense American Schools in Europe during the Cold War. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s interesting to read about our lives, as a military family stationed in Europe during that time, from a civilian perspective.
This bread bakes quickly. It was only 30 minutes in the oven. Just time enough to wash up the items used in the preparation and wipe down the counters. A lovely way to spend the afternoon. We have two delicious loaves of bread, and I’ll be able to keep up with the Instagram crowd! 😉
I hope you’re staying well, in good spirits, and that you’ll give this a go!
This makes two beautifully golden free formed loaves.
- 5 1/2 cups flour (you may not use it all)
- 1 cup rye flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 packet dried yeast
- 3/4 cup sauerkraut (drained)
- 2 cups warm water (105 –110 F)
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
- To a food processor, add 4 1/2 cups flour, rye flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and sauerkraut. Process until everything is well combined.
- Through the feed tube, slowly add the water, processing until the mass comes together in a ball.
- The original recipe has you adding additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the food processor bowl. I loved how quickly this came together in my food processor, but I worried about damaging the motor, so I dumped my sticky dough on the counter with 1/4 cup of flour and kneaded it for about 5 minutes. It may be that I used less flour than the full 5 1/2 cups because my kraut was well squeezed.
- Generously grease a large bowl, add the dough to the bowl and turn it upside down, so you have greased the top of the dough. Cover and leave in a warm spot until doubled in size which should take about an hour.
- This can be baked as one large loaf or two smaller loaves. I cut the dough in half and using my hands shaped each half into a rectangle, probably 9 x 12 inches, start at the smaller end and tightly roll into a spiral. Tuck the ends underneath and place on a baking sheet which you have greased or lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Whisk together the egg and milk, brush the top and sides of the loaves. Sprinkle with caraway seeds if you’re using them. Make 5 diagonal slashes across the loaves with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when you tap the bottom, and the internal temperature should be between 195 and 200. Cool before slicing.
If you don’t have a food processor or your work bowl is too small, finely chop the sauerkraut, and prepare as you would any other bread dough, in a mixer with a dough hook or in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
Keywords: Polish Sauerkraut Bread Rye