Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

My great-grandfather, Josef Zawisza, was born on March 18, 1890.

Josef (21) married Genowefa Samotyk (18) on January 14, 1912, in Perry/Wyoming County, New York. Why they were so far south of Buffalo, I don’t know. He was born in Poland (I am still trying to find out exactly where in Poland) and she was born in Austria. They had five children during their marriage, including my grandmother, Genowefa Zawisza.

New photo by Leah MacVie / Google Photos

In 1930, Josef (40) and his family lived at 295 Amherst Street, in Buffalo, NY. He was a Coremaker – someone that makes sand cores for metal castings or clay cores for iron pipe or metal cores for building tile. It is so interesting to me that my ancestors built the city that I live in. My grandfather on one side laid the streets and my grandfather on the other helped to construct the buildings.

Two years later, at the age of 42, Josef died. The cause of death is unknown. He was buried in Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Cemetery, Cheektowaga, New York.


At first, I chose bread because I wanted to find and make a Polish bread recipe. Bread is such a staple of our diet and history as a civilization, but also how very fitting for someone who helped to lay the foundations of the buildings people in my community live in. This recipe is a variation of a 90-year old Polish woman’s recipe, so you know it is good and authentic!

The process of bread baking still mystifies me- what is happening during the proofing process and what is yeast? In my Mafalda recipe, I document what I had learned about the yeast process. This recipe contains yet another process where part of the bread rises overnight. I wondered why this was needed. As I discovered, proofing is about letting the yeast eat up the sugars from the flour. The yeast then excretes gas and alcohol, which makes the bread rise and gives it flavor.

The are some other things I learned about bread baking that I am doing all wrong. First, once the loaves are shaped, they should rise in baskets lined with undyed clothes. Baskets help the loaves keep their structure and shape during the final proof. Second, bread should be baked in a dutch oven. I have a few of them, but I rarely use them for baking bread. Finally, the bread should be scored before it is popped in the oven.

Serious Eats has a wonderful series of bread baking and more here that I am going to continue to read. Eventually, I will learn more about why a spray bottle will slow my crust from forming too early.

Print Recipe
Polish Sourdough Rye Bread
Servings
3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups rye flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
Servings
3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups rye flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
Instructions
  1. The night before making the bread, in a large mixing bowl, dissolve one packet of yeast and the sugar in 2 cups of water. Let stand until foaming, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rye flour until the mixture is smooth. Cover and let stand overnight.
  2. The next day, dissolve the remaining package of yeast in the room temperature buttermilk in a separate bowl.
  3. Add to the rye flour mixture and mix in the baking soda, salt, bread flour, and caraway seeds. Stir to combine. It is easier to mix in the flour a little at a time.
  4. Knead or mix in a mixer until the dough has become a smooth and coherent mass, about 8 minutes. You want the dough to be smooth, not too sticky and not too dry. Depending on your ingredients, you may not need all of the bread flour or you may need a little more.
  5. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl or the same bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the volume has doubled.
  6. After the hour, divide the dough into three pieces and form each piece into a loaf. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.
  7. Heat the oven to 350. Before placing the loaves in the oven, score the top of each loaf 3-4 times with a razor or knife. Bake in a dutch oven or on a pan. Then bake for about 35 minutes or until the bottom of the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

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