Saturday, September 28, 2013

Black Bread

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This is a European peasant bread that gets its color from the ingredients used to make it. Black bread can range in hue from cocoa brown to a near ebony, depending on the nationality of the cook who bakes it. Each of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have their own version of the bread. All of these "black" breads are made with made with a base of rye flour, but because of its low gluten content the rye is mixed with higher gluten grains to produce lighter and higher loaves. True or not, many people believe black bread is extraordinarily nutritious and can sustain life on its own for long periods of time. They point to the siege of Leningrad, where rationed portions of the bread are reported to have kept the population alive for 3-1/2 years. While I believe bread is the staff of life, I think that this narrow view overlooks the fact that a huge percentage of the population died of starvation during that period. Leningrad is probably a better example of survival of the fittest than a paean to the merits of black bread. I digress. Sorry. Today's black bread comes from an old recipe developed by James Beard. It lacks the velvet grain of a German pumpernickel, but has a flavor that's hard to beat. Like many of Beard's recipes, this bread claims no country as its own. It takes the best of several breads from several countries and kneads them into a singular, flavorful loaf that's sure to please. Here's the recipe.

Black Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, courtesy of James Beard


3/4 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup cold water

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee

4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water + additional water as needed to form dough

2 cups dark rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached flour + additional flour for kneading

1 egg white beaten with 2 tablespoons flour


1) Add cornmeal to cold water and mix in a bowl. Pour mixture into saucepan containing boiling water. Stir until thick and bubbling. Add butter, salt, sugar, caraway seeds, cocoa and instant coffee. Stir well. Remove from heat.

2) Place yeast in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup warm water; stir to dissolve. Add flours, adding more warm water as required tp produce a thick, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured board. Knead, adding more flour if required, to form a firm but elastic dough. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat dough on all side. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide dough into 2 portions and shape into two free-form loaves. Place on baking sheets covered with cornmeal. Allow to rise until almost doubled in bulk. Brush bread with beaten egg-white. Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow. Transfer to cooling racks. Yield: 2 loaves.

This recipe is linked to:

Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting

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