2012/02/05

Black Bread

Living in Lithuania, we ate a lot of dark rye bread, as it was extremely common. You'd have it for breakfast with cheese and salami, you'd have it as a beer snack, cut in sticks and fried, with fresh garlic and salt rubbed on it, you'd put butter on it and make sandwiches. It was dense and heavy and smelled of caraway and molasses.

You can find this kind of bread here in Portland sometimes, but not anywhere we typically go for groceries, and so when a friend of ours who happens to have a Russian husband posted that she tried this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it turned out brilliantly, I had to give it a go.

As with any bread, it's a time-consuming process, but well worth it if you like a good dark rye bread. It turned out wonderfully, the best bread I've made so far. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients
  • 2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F, 40 to 45 C)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce (about 29 grams) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 cups medium rye flour
  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 cup bran
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.
  3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. Add yeast and chocolate mixtures in small amounts while mixing with a wooden spoon or bread hook. Mix until smooth and beat for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I left them whole)
  5. Add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, mixing until dough becomes cohesive and starts to pull away from the sides of bowl. It will be very sticky but firm.
  6. Scrape dough off spoon or bread hook, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
  7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds. Place rounds seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it with knife or razor blade.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350°F (177 C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.
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