Chleb żytni razowy na zakwasie (Polish Sourdough Rye Bread)

Our supermarket bakery used to make a żytni bread that was our favorite.  It was dense and most, 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.  It was a 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 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.  

We’re about to start on our second loaf, and I have another batch of starter “cooking” on the kitchen counter.  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 sour dough starter.  Which also makes sense; this area used to be part of Prussia.  


1.2 kg of rye flour type 200 (about 12 cups), divided
850 ml of warm water (4 1/4 cups), divided

1.5 tsp salt (I felt it needed more salt, I may even double it next time)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (next time, I will omit these, our favorite version doesn’t have them)
50 g of sunflower seeds (1/4 cup; from now on, I will use at least one cup)
50 g pumpkin seeds
(1/4 cup; these, too, will be omitted next time)

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


  • 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

* 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. 

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