Black Bread – Чёрный Хлеб

Black bread has been a staple of the Russian cuisine for centuries. We love it with a bowl of Borsch, topped with cheese and kolbasa, with caviar or smoked fish and with just about anything else.

We were taught to love and value bread by our parents and grandparents. I grew up hearing stories that my grandparents told of the years when they were starving and would have paid any money for a loaf of bread. Bread is the symbol of life and is one of the most respected foods in the Russian culture. I will always be thankful to have learned these lessons from the people who had lived through the years of war and famine.

I discovered this recipe on smittenkitchen.com.  When I tried it the first time, I was amazed that it really did taste like Russian black bread, which is almost impossible to find in America. Ever since then, I have always used this recipe.

Russian bread is traditionally made with rye bread a  sourdough starter. In this recipe, instant dry yeast is used, but there are so many other ingredients that intensify the flavor of this bread and create an unbelievable hearty, crusty loaf that is still soft in the center. Whenever I bake this bread, I cut into it while it’s still warm and smear it with some butter, watching as it seeps into the brown, crevices. As the bread bakes, your kitchen will be perfumed with its wonderful aroma and you will feel as though you are in a Russian izbushka (cabin), just about ready to take out the baked bread from the large brick oven:).

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm  water. Set it aside for 5-10 minutes until it foams. Meanwhile combine the 2 cups water, molasses, vinegar, chocolate and butter  until the chocolate and butter melt. Set aside to cool off. It needs to be cooled to at least 105-115 degrees, otherwise it will kill the yeast. I usually pour the mixture in a bowl and place the bowl in an ice bath. It cools down so quickly.  Whisk all the flour together in one bowl. Set aside. Grind the fennel and caraway seeds in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.

Grinding spices from seeds will give you so much more fresh flavor. When a spice is ground, it’s oils are released and you will get such an intense, wonderful flavor. If you buy spices that are already ground, they start to lose their aromatic oils immediately after being ground. By the time you actually buy them at the store, they have lost a lot of their flavor. The way I look at it is a coffee grinder is cheap and grinding spices takes only a few seconds. I have nothing to lose and the flavor is incredible. 

Combine 2 cups of the mixed flour, bran, ground fennel and caraway, instant coffee, onion powder and salt. Mix in a large bowl of a standing mixer. (You can also make this bread by hand, using a large wooden spoon and kneading by hand.) Add the yeast mixture and the cooled off but still warm chocolate and butter mixture. Mix to combine. Keep adding the rest of the flour a little bit at a time until the dough is sticky and firm. Knead the dough on the counter top until it’s smooth. Place into a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until it doubles, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

 

Sometimes I nestle the bowl in an electric heated blanket. It will rise much more quickly. Another trick is heating the oven to 200 degrees, turning it OFF and then placing the dough inside. Don’t do this if you’re using a plastic bowl:).

When the dough has doubled, divide it in half and shape each into a round loaf. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, (sprinkle with cornmeal, if yo like, and place the bread loaves on top of the cornmeal. It will give a great crunch to the bottom crust of the bread once it’s baked.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside until it doubles in size, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Preheat the oven to  350 degrees. Make and X slash on top of each loaf right before you put it in the oven, either with a sharp knife or a razor blade. Bake 45-50 minutes, until the loaves are well browned.

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Black Bread

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By olgak7 Published: August 17, 2012

  • Yield: 2 loaves

Black bread has been a staple of the Russian cuisine for centuries. We love it with a bowl of Borsch, topped with cheese and kolbasa, …

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Set it aside for about 5 minutes until it foams.
  2. Meanwhile combine the 2 cups water, molasses, vinegar, chocolate and butter until the chocolate and butter melt. Set aside to cool off. It needs to be cooled to 105-115 degrees.
  3. Whisk all the flour together in one bowl. Set aside.
  4. Grind the fennel and caraway seeds in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.
  5. Combine 2 cups of the mixed flour, bran, ground fennel and caraway, instant coffee, onion powder and salt. Mix in a large bowl of a standing mixer. (You can also make this bread by hand, using a large wooden spoon and kneading by hand.)
  6. Add the yeast mixture and the cooled off but still warm chocolate and butter mixture. Mix to combine. Keep adding the rest of the flour a little bit at a time until the dough is sticky and firm. Knead the dough on the counter top until it's smooth.
  7. Place into a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until it doubles, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  8. When the dough has doubled, divide it in half and shape each into a round loaf. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, (sprinkle with cornmeal, if yo like, and place the bread loaves on top of the cornmeal.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside until it doubles in size, 45 minutes - 1 hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make and X slash on top of each loaf right before you put it in the oven, either with a sharp knife or a razor blade. Bake 45-50 minutes, until the loaves are well browned.

Comments

  1. natalya says

    I love how you write description. Your mind is so creative with all the little details, you should be a writer.
    Is the bread fluffy or its pretty flat?

    • says

      Thank you, Natalya! That’s the part that I enjoy the most – writing and describing food and it’s part in our lives:)
      The bread is somewhere in between. It’s not fluffy and soft like typical white bread, but since it does have all-purpose flour in addition to the whole wheat and rye, it’s not completely dense and hard.

    • says

      Tania,
      Molasses can be found in any grocery store. You might have to look in a specialty store for the rye flour. I bought mine at Whole Foods, if you are familiar with that store. Some regular grocery stores do have it, you’ll just have to ask them.
      Here’s another little secret. Go to the bakery department in your grocery store and ask them to sell you some of THEIR rye flour. Most of them bake rye bread and if you ask nicely, they’ll sell you some:).

  2. Oksana says

    I did it! I spent about 15-20 minutes at Fred Meyer getting all the ingredients for this recipe in their bulk section (I just didn’t know where everything was exactly), to my surprise getting a little of that and a little of this didn’t really cost much like I thought it would. Yesterday I made the bread, and it turned out beautifully. I think though, I was expecting something different, but the bread still tastes really good with some butter, or the russian kolbasa with garlic (amazing!).
    Olga, I do have a question, we are not fond of the caraway/fennel seeds that much, and I’m wondering if I can omit them next time I make this bread. I guess this is just a taste preference. Will the bread still turn out ok? Or should I just put less of each of those seeds? (I did grind them just like you said in the recipe).
    Another question: can I bake this bread in a bread pan to make it a bit taller. Will it rise and bake properly like that, because this dough is heavier than regular white bread.
    p.s. I’ll be baking your white bread again this week, we just keep eating it so fast!

    • says

      Good for you, Oksana!
      The caraway and fennel seeds are just for flavor, so if you don’t like them, just don’t put them in.
      I’ve never tried baking it in a bread pan, but I think you can give it a try.

  3. gail says

    I am a Canadian and my husband and I and our 3 children just came back from spending 5 years in Russia. We loved it and we love the Russian food. I wanna try this black bread recipe. My question is about the molasses. Do they use molasses in Russia? I never found it there and in asking my Russian friends we could never figure out what the Russian word for molasses was? I had brought some with me and used it in baking that I gave as gifts but when my friends wanted the recipes I did not know what to tell them to use where it said molasses. I always thought their black bread and kvass had a hint of molasses taste but it is still a mystery to me… Maybe you can answer my question.

    • says

      What a great experience for your family!
      No, molasses in not a Russian ingredient. This recipe was not created by a Russian. I’m not even sure if they have molasses now in Russia or not; our family moved to the US in 1992.
      I like to incorporated many American ingredients in food that we grew up loving and eating.
      This recipe is absolutely phenomenal and I love how it tastes.

  4. Domina says

    I’m going to cook this over the weekend! I’ve been wanting to make authentic Russian black bread and your recipe is the easiest to follow from all of the ones I’ve discovered online. Thank you! I can’t wait to eat this and to make some for my boyfriend and his mom, who are both from Russia :)

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