The more I explore the trends and tastes of Polish food, the more I see how much it’s ever present in Lettuce, who is 100% Polish. Not that this is a bad thing at all. Just funny how I never put two and two together.
I’ve known Lettuce going on 9 years (holy crap…). Between living in close proximity in law school, daily quickfire emails and long travel adventures, there are ingredients and eating habits that I have always attributed to her. The girl loves open faced sandwiches. She also cooks with leeks and dill more than anyone else I know.
One of the things that we get most excited about when traveling is the complimentary continental breakfast that runs standard in most European hotels. It takes little more than a crusty roll and tasty jam to pique our excitement and when I asked her what a typical “Polish” breakfast was, she said, “well, it’s a lot of just bread and jam and maybe some Farmers’ cheese. You may have to do more research to come up with something more exciting than that.”
But wait, jam and bread IS exciting. At least to me! Therefore, I set off to make a traditional Polish Twarozek, or sweet curd sandwiches which is basically Polish rye bread, topped with some Farmer’s Cheese and powdila, a sweet prune jam.
If you’d have told me I’d be doing this a year ago I’d have scoffed at you due to my former, irrational aversion to making yeast-y things. However, in the past seven months, I’ve gotten really excited about trying to make new yeast-based bread and so I was all ready to throw myself into making my own Polish rye.
There are a lot of recipes for rye bread out there. Some require a bread machine (which I do not have). Some require a sourdough starter (which I was too lazy to make). I tried THREE different recipes for this, searching for one that is dense, but not a ROCK, with a crusty top and soft and seedy inside. The first one I tried I really wanted to work- the author’s picture was so pretty, but I suspect the recipe didn’t have enough water for my climate, because my dough was dense, dry and did not rise. The second one was similar to the first…it rose a BIT more, but was still not right-too brick-like. Third time’s the charm, and while it didn’t have that thick, tough crust I was hoping for, everything else came out the way it should. You can use a loaf pan, but I wanted that rustic look and went without.
Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup rye flour
¾ cup water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 TB caraway seeds
1 TB toasted pumpkins seeds
1 TB toasted sunflower seeds
1 TB sesame seeds
2 tsp salt
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer (or any bowl if you’re mixing by hand). Mix and knead the dough until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- Let the dough rise in the bowl, covered, till it’s doubled in size, at least two hours and as many as four.
- Knead the dough to force out gas and redistribute the yeast and shape it into a rectangle about an inch thick. Let it rest for ten minutes covered with a towel.
- Shape the dough: Starting at the top of the rectangle, fold the dough over on itself and pound it down to seal it. Keep folding and pounding until you have a squat, tubular shape.
- Put the dough top side up onto a floured cookie sheet. Cover with a towel and let it rise for an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
- When the second rise is done, slash it lengthwise down it the center, and bake for a half hour. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F. and continue baking till done, another 15 to 30 minutes.