Ren says: I have to confess that I am not a regular baker of bread, though it is a skill I would love to incorporate into daily life. I particularly like sourdough breads and most Polish bread begins with a zakwas, or sourdough starter. This simple honey and rye loaf, however, is for times when I just want to use store-cupboard ingredients. It is particularly good with butter, twaróg (Polish soft cheese) or cream cheese and honey, but it is equally good when served with eggs, and it can be toasted. I like to use a mixture of rye and white bread flour, and I also add a sprinkle of caraway seeds, as is traditional in Polish baking; the caraway seeds are optional.
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup lukewarm water
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup lukewarm whole milk
2 tbsp runny honey
7g (one packet) fast-action yeast
250g/9oz/2½ cups rye flour – or use wholemeal or spelt flour – plus extra for dusting
250g/9oz/2 cups strong white bread flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 tsp vegetable oil, for greasing
Mix the water and milk together, add the honey and stir until dissolved. Tip in the yeast, whisk and leave to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Put the flours and salt, and caraway seeds if using, into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and stir in the liquid yeast mixture until the dough comes together.
Dust a work surface with rye flour. Tip the dough onto the surface and knead it for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.
Grease a clean bowl with oil and put the dough into the bowl. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place until the dough has roughly doubled in size. This may take up to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
Tip the dough out onto the work surface, knead it briefly, then shape into an oval loaf and place on a large oiled baking sheet. Slash the top with a sharp knife and bake for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown all over.
Leave the loaf on a wire rack to cool before slicing.
Excerpted with permission from Wild Honey & Rye Modern Polish Recipes (Pavilion Books, 2017)