This delicious honey and rye sourdough bread, is inspired by a recipe from the modern Polish recipe book – Wild Honey and Rye by Ren Behan. The bread has a lovely sweetness from the honey, especially in the caramelised crust. The crumb is soft and light from the milk. A delicious loaf!
Once I started getting the hang of making sourdough I don’t ever really want to eat any other sort of bread. We do have 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 – leave the dough to do its own thing and get on with something else. Making sourdough rewards the baker with a delicious loaf that is infinitely superior to the mass produced fast rise bread that is sadly all too popular.
Learning to work with sourdough takes time and practice; you need to get to know the process, get a feel for the how your starter behaves and also how your location and the seasons affect your loaf. 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. By cutting the rye flour with white bread flour, the dough becomes much easier to handle compared to one of 100% rye. And by not using a wholemeal wheat flour the helps give the loaf a lighter crumb, which is also helped by adding milk to the liquid.
With 300ml of liquid to 400g of flour – a hydration bakers’ percentage of 75%, this is a relatively wet dough, but I find that I get a better crumb with a looser and more hydrated dough, especially when using flour mixtures like this rye/wheat mixture.
The easiest way to make sure that the honey is well mixed in is to dissolve it into the water then whisk through the ripe rye leaven, reserve 20ml of the liquid to add with the salt once the dough has some time for an initial rise.
There is no need to premix the flours, just add slowly them to the leaven, honey and water mixture, slowly mixing as you go into a rough, shaggy ball of dough. Leave for an hour then add the salted water.
When adding the salt stretch and fold the dough a few times to incorporate it into the loaf. At this stage, the dough will still be very underdeveloped, looking loose and with the characteristic slightly gel-like rye consistency. The addition of honey didn’t speed up the bulk raise: our kitchen was a little cooler on the day we baked, so this took about 6 hours.
Form the dough into a loaf shape, allowing to rest on the counter top (seam side down) for 15 minutes then transfer to a banneton coated with rye flour to prove for about 2 hours. We usually cover out banneton with a shower cap.
Bake in a preheated baking cloche (you could also use a Dutch oven) for 40 minutes, removing the lid half way through.
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
The recipe for this honey and rye sourdough bread was inspired by by friend Ren’s debut cookbook – Wild Honey and Rye, published last month by Pavilion books, you can read the story behind the book here.
Ren was born in the UK to Polish parents, who taught Ren about her heritage and, of course, Polish food. I think that is this heritage that make the book so special and also so accessible to a British audience. Her modern Polish recipes are seasonal, fresh, light, tempting and totally achievable with ingredients from the supermarket (most of which have a Polish section these days), I find the modern twist on the classics that she grew up with both refreshing and inspiring, this is food for the modern home and family.
The book covers everything from the traditional Polish breakfasts, snacks, soups, hearty classics such as bigos, street food, to puddings, bakes and an entire chapter on flavoured vodkas. Recipes are modern twists in classics inspired from culinary traditions passed down through Ren’s family to recent trips to Poland and the emerging modern food scene.
Core ingredients and flavours appearing through the book are grains (millet, buckwheat, barley abound), seasonal fruit and vegetables – mushrooms, beetroot, leeks, cabbage, berries and apples. Spices and herbs include caraway, poppy seeds and of course dill. Recipes are lightened up, the barley or buckwheat parcels look light and fresh, there are enough twists on pierogi to stop you ever needing more ideas, and the bakes and cakes will see you though afternoon tea and bake sales for years to come.
The book is beautifully, and minimally photographed – concentrating on the food, which adds to the modern and simpler feel.
There are recipes for all tastes (plenty of vegetarian options) and the vast majority of ingredients can be sourced from any British supermarket. Beautifully and personally written with family anecdotes and memories you feel that Ren is in the kitchen chatting to you and guiding you though ever step.
One for every cookbook collection, lovers of Poland and Eastern Europe and armchair culinary travellers. Buy a copy and reappraise Polish food.
We received a copy of Wild honey and Rye from the Publisher, Pavilion. Cover price £20
Another delicious baking recipe inspired by traditional continental cooking is the Rosca de Reyes – Spanish Epiphany Cake.
Or for something quick and easy, make my three ingredient tinned fruit cocktail cake.