A delicious honey and rye sourdough bread inspired by a recipe from the modern Polish recipe book Wild Honey and Rye by Ren Behan. It has a lovely sweetness from the honey, especially in the caramelized crust. The crumb is soft and light from the milk. A delicious loaf!
Once you get into the habit of making sourdough, you will never want to eat any other sort of bread. We do keep a packet of bread yeast for emergencies, but nothing beats the long slow rise of sourdough for flavour. Admittedly, it does take a while to make, but it’s a mainly hands off process; just leave the dough to do its own thing and get on with something else. You will be rewarded with a delicious loaf that is infinitely superior to the mass-produced fast-rise bread that is sadly sold everywhere.
Learning to work with sourdough takes time and practice. You need to get to know the process and get a feel for how your starter behaves. Your location and the seasons can affect your loaf, so bakers need to learn to adjust. The majority of our recipes are fuss free and easy for the less confident cook, but for sourdough we really do recommend you take the time to do a course, and get hands-on with some dough.
This honey and rye sourdough bread is made with a 50:50 mix of rye and white bread flour; the liquid is a mix of milk and water at the same ratio. Cutting the rye flour with white bread flour makes the dough much easier to handle than one of 100% rye. Avoiding wholemeal wheat flour gives the loaf a lighter crumb and adding milk to the liquid helps with this too.
How to Make Honey and Rye Sourdough Loaf
1 – Measure out the water. Reserve 20 ml. Dissolve the honey into the remaining water.
2 – Whisk the honey water through the ripe rye leaven.
3 – Add the flour. There is no need to premix the flours. Just slowly add them to the liquid, mixing to form a rough, shaggy ball of dough. Leave for an hour.
4 – Add the salt to the reserved water. Then sprinkle the salt water over the dough. Stretch and fold the dough 5–6 times to incorporate the salt water into the loaf. The dough will still be very underdeveloped, looking loose and with the characteristic slightly gel-like rye consistency.
5 – Leave to rise for 4–6 hours, depending on room temperature. The dough is ready when it has visibly increased in size, and feels light and spongy to the touch. Our kitchen was rather cool on the day we baked, so this took about 6 hours.
6 – Form the dough into a loaf shape and rest it on the counter top (seam down) for 10–15 minutes. Coat the inside of a banneton (proving basket) with rye flour. Transfer your loaf, seam up, into the banneton to prove for a further 1–2 hours, again depending on room temperature. We cover our banneton with a shower cap. It’s ready when the dough starts to lose springiness.
7 – Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220°C/Gas mark 7 for 25 minutes with a dish of boiling water set in the bottom of the oven, or use a Dutch oven or preheated baking cloche.
8 – Turn the oven down to 200°C/Gas mark 6 for a further 20 minutes, and remove the lid of the baking pot. The loaf is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Honey and Rye Sourdough Loaf
- 150 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 150 ml milk
- 2 tbsp honey
- 80 g sourdough leaven ((ripe, using equal quantities of flour and water). )
- 200 g rye flour
- 200 g strong white bread flour
- Mix the water and milk, and measure and reserve 20 ml. Dissolve the honey into the bulk of the liquid.
- Add the salt to the 20ml reserved liquid, and stir to dissolve.
- Add ripe leaven to the honey, milk and water mixture, and whisk together.
- Add flours to the liquid. Add both types of flour slowly to the liquid, mixing together form a rough dough. Leave for an hour.
- Sprinkle the salt liquid over the dough. Stretch and fold the dough 5–6 times to incorporate into the loaf.
- Leave to rise for 4–6 hours, depending on room temperature. The dough is ready when it has visibly increased in size, and feels light and spongy to the touch.
- Form the dough into a loaf shape and rest it (seam down) for 10–15 minutes. Coat
the inside of a banneton (proving basket) with rye flour. Transfer your loaf, seam up, into the banneton to prove for a further 1–2 hours. It's ready when the dough just starts to lose springiness.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220°C/Gas mark 7 for 25 minutes with a dish of boiling water set in the bottom of the oven, or use a Dutch oven or preheated baking cloche.
- Turn the oven down to 200°C/Gas mark 6 for a further 20 minutes, and remove the lid of the baking pot. The loaf is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow
to cool completely before slicing.
- Use up leftover leaven in our leftover sourdough leaven loaf
Wild Honey and Rye – About the Book
The recipe for this rye and honey sourdough bread was inspired by my friend Ren’s debut cookbook. Read about it here.
Ren was born in the UK to Polish parents, who taught her about her heritage and about Polish food. It is this heritage that makes the book so special and so accessible to a British audience. Her modern recipes are seasonal, fresh and tempting. They are also totally achievable with ingredients from the supermarket. The new twist on the classics she grew up with is refreshing and inspiring; this is food for the modern home and family.
The book covers everything Polish. There are traditional breakfasts, snacks, soups, hearty classics such as bigos, street food, puddings and bakes. There is even a chapter on flavoured vodkas. Some dishes are versions of old family recipes. For others, Ren takes inspiration from recent trips to Poland and the emerging modern food scene.
Core ingredients include grains (millet, buckwheat, barley), apples and berries, mushrooms, beetroot, leeks and cabbage. Caraway, poppy seeds and dill feature heavily. Many of the recipes are lighter versions of classics; the barley or buckwheat parcels look light and fresh. There are endless twists on pierogi, and the bakes and cakes will see you though afternoon tea and bake sales for years to come.
The book has a simple, modern feel with beautiful minimalist photos.
There are recipes for all tastes (including vegetarian options) and the vast majority of ingredients are easy to find in any British supermarket. A beautiful, personal book, full of family anecdotes and memories. You feel Ren is in the kitchen, chatting to you and guiding you though every step.
One for every keen cook and armchair culinary travellers.
We received a copy of Wild Honey and Rye from the Publisher, Pavilion. Price £20.
Dear Helen and Ed, thank you so much for your thoughts on Wild Honey and Rye and for adapting the honey and rye loaf so beautifully to a sourdough. Polish bread is most often made with a sourdough starter and I’m sure your tips and explanations will be really helpful to those wanting to have a go. I always really enjoying eating Polish cake with you at Sowa, and I hope to do so again soon.
Thanks Ren, I am sure that the yeasted version is the way to go for a book, sourdough is so tricky unless you have done a course. More cake at Sowa soon!
Wow! Thank you for sharing this recipe. It looks like a really nice one for the winter months. Would go down great with some hot tea or mulled wine!
it would be perfect with both!
This is a type of bread you most likely would eat with a little of butter on it…but I wouldn’t use it as a sandwich,I think it looks amazing just as it is!!
exactly. all it needs is a smear of butter.
I’ve never been a huge fan of sourdough but I bet with the honey it tastes now x
It is so god – lovely sweet honey flavour in the crust
I love sourdough bread and this one sounds and looks so good!
It is so so good!
This looks so delicious! It looks like a proper hearty bread to have with a hot soup on a cold winters day!
it is absolutely ideal with soup in the winter!
Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes
Great tips on working with sourdough, combined with the honey it sounds delicious and a must try recipe!
Thanks Jemma. It really is very delicious with the honey flavour.
It’s a must try recipe, sounds delicious, I love rustic bread perfect with hearty soup. thank you for the detailed recipe.
Thanks Jagruti. we love our sourdough here
Oh my goodness, I want to take that whole loaf and dip it in a big ol’ bowl of soup right now. YUM!
it is amazing with soup. Perfect autumnal fodder
Marie | Yay! For Food
I love sourdough bread! The addition of honey sounds wonderful! I wish I had a slice right now.
this recipe is certainly a keeper!
I really wish gluten free would look this good. You did an awesome job on this bread :-)
you can of course do 100% rye in a sourdough, but it really is far more solid. But still delicious.
oh this looks so delicious! I’ve been on a homemade bread kick lately & will have to try this
Homemade bread is the best by far!
Great recipe and some solid tips in the write up. I made mine a little wetter with 30 ml’s of extra water. If you don’t mind working with a wetter dough it can help keep rye from getting too dense. Either way this bread is so flavorful that it won’t last long.
We generally work with a higher hydration, but a slightly drier dough is so much easier for less experienced bakers to handle.
Hi, the recipe calls for 150 MLS water AND 150 MLS milk. I used both although the directions dont say anything about the milk. Now after 5 hours I have a soupy mess that will not hold any form. I hope it will work by adding more flour, but I’mnot sure if I should proof it again. Can you please provide more explanation on this? Is it water OR milk? Or are the flour measurements off?
Thank you. Looks like a good recipe, if it works.
Thank you for your comment. The recipe uses both the water and milk for 300ml of liquid, and a total of 400g of flour, and 80 g of ripe leaven (50/50 water and flour), so it’s a relatively wet dough, but still can be handled and formed into a loaf.
I have just sampled the Honey Rye loaf sensational!
My husband reckons its the best bread Ive ever made!
I did proof it in the fridge overnight as I ran out of time
and I modified the temp to suit fan forced oven 20 degrees less.
Im thrilled and look forward to experimenting with more recipes on your site.
I am so pleased Toni, thank you for letting know.
Looks delicious! Will try it today or tomorrow. Can I leave it in the fridge overnight instead of 4-6h at room temperature?
Absolutely. We often raise our sourdough overnight in the fridge.
Delicious bread! Thanks for the nice, straightforward recipe. Some seeds added in make it even better, in my opinion :)
Hi Helen, I’m planning to make this in a few days….it looks so good!!! When you say rye leaven…..is that just a rye starter or have you used a starter then made a leaven with it? Thank you!
Yes, I mean fresh, ripe rye starter.
My bread is much stickier in the middle (both times that i have made this). Is it just a case of cooking for longer? The taste is lovely though.
Cook for a bit longer, or add a little less. A higher hydration gives more of that lovely sourdough texture, but does make it harder to handle.
Loved this recipe! Only the second sourdough bread I’ve made. My starter is made with rye flour so I was glad to find an easy rye sourdough recipe. It’s light and has a sort of fruity taste to it. I liked it because it doesn’t have a very strong sourdough taste to it, unlike regular white sourdough. I only had skimmed milk (1%) on hand so was a little worried that it wouldn’t work but it did!
For the “cover for 4-6 hrs” part, can this be left longer? Overnight?
would this work with 100% rye flour?
You can leave overnight in the fridge to rise. 100% rye is tricky as it doesn’t have gluten and the resultant loaf can be very heavy.
Do you think letting this rise overnight would be ok? 7-8hours instead of 4-6?
Thanks in advance!
It should be, but it might need to go into the fridge!
The 80gr rye starter is that after it has been fed or do I take the 80gr and first feed with equal flour and water making it 240gr in total?
80gr just sound very little?
Going to bake this tomorrow so feeding my starter tonight.
It’s 80g of starter after feeding- 20% of the weight of flour (80/400), which is my usual ratio.
I am allergic to white flour can I substitute spelt flour
Hi Margot, I don’t think that it would work that well as spelt contains very little gluten, you need the white flour with the rye to have enough gluten to easily get a rise.