It is ridiculous to think that on a site where I have shared twenty-nine bread recipes that I have yet to tell you about my favorite bread. Way to hold out Deb, right? I mean what were the other breads, just teasers? Well, yes.
I’m not sorry, though, because my favorite bread contains perplexing things like chocolate, bran, molasses, shallots and fennel seeds, things that any sane person would know are completely insane to intentionally put in the same place. It has seventeen ingredients, which also goes far to explain why I don’t make it more often. (Remember, I’m the person who ran out of cinnamon making cinnamon rolls; do you actually think I can be counted on to have seventeen things at once?) Put all of that together and you’ll see why I know this bread is a hard sell.
But when I do make it, I kick myself because it’s so ridiculously delicious, shame on me. It would be worth it if it had 34 ingredients and took all day, but the bread itself is relatively simple and the outcome is deadly. Along with that Big Crumb Coffee Cake and Soft Pretzels, I demonstrated this bread at The Pioneer Woman’s Lodge to a small group this past weekend, which means that you’re really owed this recipe.
I’m talking about my beloved recipe for Russian Black Bread, a pumpernickel bread for people who think that standard pumpernickel with its paltry seven ingredients is just not trying hard enough. Before someone pointed me to this one, I’d been floundering around, looking for a black bread good enough to impress the Russkies in Alex’s family, but it wasn’t until I saw this ingredient list that I knew I’d found The One. I mean, you don’t put caraway, cider vinegar, espresso powder and butter together in the same place — intentionally — unless you’re utterly confident that it could be no other way.
Trust me, it could be no other way.
One year ago: Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
Two years ago: Tequila Lime Chicken + Green Onion Slaw
Russian Black Bread
Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible
If you’d like to be like the Russkies, you’d slather this with butter, top it with caviar, throw it back with some ice cold vodka and then head to work on a Monday morning. If you suspect you’re made of equally-charming but perhaps slightly less robust things, you might toast it with some butter and eat it with your scrambled eggs, or use it to make a pastrami sandwich that would make Katz’s seethe with jealousy.
I actually have mentioned this bread before on the site, but only in passing. I included it in an article I wrote for NPR on Zakuski more than two years ago, but I think it’s overdue to come back home here.
Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce 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
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Special equipment: Spice grinder (optional), instant-read thermometer
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 and let cool to lukewarm warm.
3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed 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 always make my black bread this way.)
[Note: This, or any bread, can also be made by hand, simply mixing the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and kneading the dough on a counter until springy and smooth.]
5. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm.
6. Scrape dough off paddle, 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. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.
8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed 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; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan.
9. Bake in a preheated 350°F 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.
428 comments on black bread
Ah! This is what I’ve waited for! I love, LOVE pumperknickle bread. The best PBJ sandwich in my world is made on pumperknickle. So is the best pastrami and swiss, grilled. Thanks, Deb!
I adore black bread! I love it with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or as a sandwich with cherry jam, swiss and smoked ham. Your bread is beautiful!
SOO excited to try this!!!
oh and the world of blogs just got ten times better knowing that you and P.W. are now friends. loved all the accounts of your visit and can’t wait to try the bagels (once i get a burst of bravery).
Thanks! I’ll be updating the bagel post in the next week, as we made a slight variation. But the original remains good as gold.
Hi, you are an inspiration and I enjoy your site though I only just discovered it. I see you like making bread, have you tried charcoal bread (think the Japanese do them)… now they are really black! Apparent it’s good for health.
Yummy, this bread sounds fantastic! Also, I’m dying to know if you picked all the coriander out of the asian noodle salad at PWs? Wasn’t sure if you could handle it, especially now that you’re expecting :)
Anne — SO BUSTED. I totally did. I tried to be discreet.
Ok, my pantry is only missing the fennel seeds and bran… but soon, this bread will. be. mine.
Not sure my constitution is as sturdy as the Ruskies, but the idea of eating that bread with butter AND caviar AND a couple of shots of ice cold vodka before work on Monday morning sounds awfully appealing to me.
you shot that in pw’s lodge, didn’t you. i recognize it. that bread looks out of this world delicious. i can almost smell it through the laptop screen.
Wow. This looks fabulous. I can’t wait to try it and see how all of those ingredients work together.
Mmm…. that looks so fantastic, especially with that list of ingredients. Can’t wait to try it!
So many “The bread bible” books out there… This is why we have to come HERE and rely on you!
This looks so different and unique, as far as breads go, that I can’t wait to try it!
Interesting mix of ingredients- yet looks so yummy! I love making bread and trying out new recipes, especially when they contain wheat flour. I only wish my waistline liked it as much as I do!!
I can’t say thanks enough! Black bread is also my favorite. I tried several different recipes with no luck. I occasionally have a family member bring me back a bread mix from Europe, but alas, its gone within weeks. Can’t wait to try this.
Interesting! I’ve never seen anything like this before.
This looks SO fantastic. :)
My family is all too familiar with my ongoing struggle with my archenemy: pumpernickel. It’s my favorite bread but I’ve yet to make a good loaf from scratch. (I bake a loaf of some type of bread almost every weekend). I’m so glad you did a post on this, because I’ve tried the recipe that you linked to (twice) and while the flavor was great, the bread was super heavy and too tough (made for great croutons, though). I had the same trouble with the light pumpernickel recipe you posted here a while back. Is it supposed to be that dense or are my skills failing me?
You know, I love it when I learns something new from the blogs. Having heard of brown bread, I have never heard of black bread. I thought it was a simple play on words and an exageration, but then I looked at all these ingredients and I understood.
To be honest this looks like the black mole of breads. Chcolate, nuts, shallots, many ingredients, be labor intensive. I made mole and i realized that there is a complexity of flavors that comes out of all these layers and goodness. YUM.
Wow! That list of ingredients IS fascinating. But coming from you, I totally trust that the bread is stellar!!
Deb – I love all your recipes and all your photos. I’m not sure I’ve commented before – although you always have me drooling over my keyboard. I have to stop this time, though, and ask: can I use instant coffee (the granules) rather than instant espresso powder? Are those two things the same, or totally different – or somewhere in between?
wow! love the touch of expresso powder
I found this on the other posting… I know, I’ve made it, and it’s wonderful.. http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/03/mighty-russian-morsels/ But it seems that it is TOO dense, and does not rise very much, what could I be doing wrong? I’ve made it twice with the same results. My yeast is fine b/c it has succesfulyl risen everything else just fine…
This bread was one of the very first things that I made from your website. It totally sold me on your brilliance. However, I must say that I’m glad to have some photos of the process to go along with the recipe ’cause my loaves are way goopier than your lovely ball in that thar photo. They always seem to melt out and make weirdly flattish psuedo-loaves. I assumed it was because my dough was too wet but they always taste so darn good that I’ve been afraid to mess with the recipe…any thoughts? Oh, and congratulations on that bump!
This is my absolute favorite type of bread! The darker the better and I didn’t have a good recipe. Can’t wait to give this a try. Thanks Deb. (By the way what a hoot to watch you and Ree hanging out and cooking together. I can only imagine how good the lodge smelled after two days of your baking!)
I haven’t had black bread in…. forever.
Made your rhubbarb coffee cake today. Used frozen rhubbarb, mine’s only 2″ high at the moment. Left it to drain overnight and it was fine.
I’m sooo new age, I thought you needed a bread mixer to make a loaf of bread. But than again I still think it’s elves that bake my cookies in my oven. That loaf is a sight for store-bought-bread-sore eyes! I think it is time for me to up the complexity factor in my own baking.
Laura — No reason you can’t use instant coffee powder. Espresso has a stronger flavor, that’s all. You might use a pinch more to compensate.
Kelly — Hm, not sure. It is on the dense side, being a whole grain bread, but not nearly as dense as the black breads you can buy at Russian stores. It should be more dense than a white loaf, however, so perhaps what you’re getting is actually correct.
i don’t know what could be more perfect than your light wheat bread… its become a weekly staple around here… so i am very excited to give this favorite bread recipe of yours a whirl… thanks so much for sharing – your recipes, your images, your enthusiasm, and all your good news…!
Wow. That is ambitious. And though I consider myself pretty half assed in the kitchen, I might be willing to stretch myself for this one.
I am so trying this ASAP.
That’s a lot of ingredients for sure. Funny to hear so many people say it’s their fave, and we’ve never heard of it! We’ll need to do more research for sure.
shayna…i think i’m having the same problem as you!! guess i need to add more flour…
Thanks for sharing with us your favourite bread recipe!!! Seventeen ingredients sounds like a lot, but I’m sure every single one of them is worth it and they make for a fantastic, rustic, heavy, filling bread!
Is this pumpernickel??? This is my favorite kind of bread!!!
This bread is amazing! I’ve made it several times in the past year, after reading your NPR.org article (‘Zakuski: Mighty Russian Morsels’). My Russian family (and non-Russian friends) absolutely love it. Thanks for so much, Deb. And congratulations!
Looks fantastic! I need to ask though, why the plastic wrap during the rising process? I wondered the same on the cinnamon rolls, but dutifully followed the directions. I have been making bread for a long time and never used it before – just a tea towel over the bowl in a nice warm place.
Wow…what a combination of interesting ingredients in that bread! The dough looks like chocolate cookie dough (Chocolate Toffee Cookies, anyone?). Loved hearing about your visit to PW’s haunts, can’t wait to read your version of the events. Did Alex ride a horse and move some cows?
Alexandra — It’s a darker, more intense pumpernickel.
Eunice — To keep the dough from getting a skin. You want to protect it from the air.
SCW — Alas, the weather was plum awful all weekend and nobody was out on horses, not even Marlboro Man himself! We were supposed to work cattle with them on Monday morning but the ground was too wet. Instead, we fed calves and drove around to see the horses and cows.
This looks soooo good. I love black bread too toasted with egg or tuna or egg and tuna on it. Althought, this recipe will put a strain on my mise-en-place bowl set…might have to get more. Thanks!
Wow! That looks super yummy, but I’m wondering if the espresso powder is absolutely necessary? I don’t take to caffeine well.
You can really sell a recipe! I think I have no choice but to try to make this now. I think I’ll wait til I go to my parent’s house because they have things like a mixer with a paddle and a full spice drawer. I can’t wait!
Wow, I wish I could have been at the Lodge with you and Ree when you demonstrated this and all your wonderful treats!
Wow, that looks intense. I need to try it! I’d like it the Russian way, I’m thinking, but without the caviar. Just the butter and vodka. :)
I visited a little Russian Village here in Alaska this past weekend. Let me tell you they know a thing or two about bread. You can never go wrong with Russian bakery! Even the IGA store had an amazing bakery section as all the bakers are Russian women. Since it is a two hour drive, I may have to try this recipe to get my Russian Bakery fix!
I’ll have to try this after I’m come out the other side of the show I’m in. Right now there isn’t time to measure out my cocoa for a hot chocolate, much less measure out the umpety-ump seeds for the bread!
You may have just mentioned in in passing, but when I first saw this in the NPR article, I latched on and have made it frequently. It is awesome, and sure to impress anyone. I’m in culinary school to be a pastry chef, and after one student made a disappointing black bread from Hamelman’s “Bread” book (admittedly a stellar bread book, but a totally lackluster black bread recipe) I whipped this up at home and brought in samples. This rich, full, complex bread was just what she had been trying to achieve, and even our chef was impressed! Thanks for sharing Deb!
I’m salivating just thinking about this bread. Shallots…how perfect is this!
This looks absolutely divine. Bring on the 17 seemingly mismatched ingredients!
I’ve been eating pumpernickel and onion pretzels this week dipped in my mom’s homemade pimento cheese. I’d much rather slather it on a slice of this. This Southerner LOVES pumpernickel bread, but it isn’t easily found around here.
So. I’m trying to become friends with the 17 ingredients and such…
Thanks for sharing!
I am an American living in Ukraine and Russia. All I can say is that most of this recipe would be a head-scratcher here. The black bread here, called “Ukrainian” is simply delicious and much more simply made and in huge quantities daily. Having a warm piece of this Ukrainian bread is as close to heaven as possible.
Chocolate in the local recipe? No way. Caraway and fennel??? Forget it, that is central Europe, not here. Espresso, shallots and cornmeal. They do not exist in the universe of how they prepare bread here. There is almost nothing authentic about the recipe, I am sorry to say.
Why do you foam instant yeast? I have never bothered – I thought that was kind of the point of using the dried stuff? Is it just to check it is still active, or is there another purpose with which I am hitherto unacquainted?
Eleanor — Exactly. It is not necessary to get it started, but it does give you some insurance that it’s still alive.
Absolutely beautiful. It looks intimidating, the long list of ingredients, but I might just take on the challenge. It reminds me so much of the bread I devoured as an exchange student in Germany a gazillion years ago.
Is the delicious dark bread served at The Cheesecake Factory black bread?
Delicious!!! Will added to my list of bread recipes to bake. I have been on a bread baking frenzy since I got my KitchenAid stand mixer. Can’t wait to try this one.
oh silly silly deb. don’t you know your readers are made of hearty stock? we don’t scare easily and really…this doesn’t look all that intimidating. besides…we trust you. if you say it’s worth it, baby, it’s worth it. ;-)
And speaking as someone who actually HAD some of this fabulous bread last weekend, I can easily vouch that every one of the 17 ingredients is worth every second of assembling — Deb, that was awesome stuff! :)
I went to the store today and bought everything I need to make the Rhubarb crumb cake. Except, unfortunately, rhubarb. Apparently the military commissary where I shop doesn’t carry it. I hope I find it easily at a local grocery store because I already volunteered to make it for two social functions this weekend!! :)
I can believe that you have 17 things at once, because my first response to your photographs for this post was “Good lord, how many matching bowls does this woman own?” Surely you have 17 of them.
I’m impressed, I’m just a bit stunned I guess.
I just love Russian black bread and haven’t had a good one since my dad used to go down to Houston Street on Sunday mornings and get them. So gooood! Thanks!
My family is Russian and we don’t drink vodka or eat black bread! Probably a travesty. Maybe my babushka thinks it’s too ingredient-y or something.
Still unsure about the no vodka thing though.
This bread looks wonderful, but I was wondering if you have a go to olive bread recipe? Quite frankly, I’m addicted and wanting to make some delicious rolls. Plus, I trust your buds. Thanks!
ACLS — These were taken at the Pioneer Woman’s Lodge. She has a thing for nesting bowls. I have exactly four bowls that match. If I ever unpack them.
That’s funny, I had bowl envy. I was just thinking to myself, “Ooooh, I wish I had those bowls.” None of my dishes match. I kind of like it that way. I recently was introduced to you via a successful tasting of some Irish Car Bomb cupcakes from a friend. H-E-A-V-E-N. Even if I don’t buy all 17 ingredients I love salivating over the pictures!
17 ingredients – I am impressed! It looks great though – I can almost smell it.
This looks absolutely worth all the trouble!
This looks so wonderful! I’m sure my fiance and I will love it – what with the chocolate and all. Thanks for posting!
Wow! What an insane ingredient list. But if you say it works, then it works, because Deb can do no wrong…. ;)
This looks delicious…but why did you close the comments on boozey baked French toast? I have important information! I used 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup cream, and 1 cup buttermilk…and it tastes like cream cheese!
Kelly — No idea they were closed. It must be one of those spooky ghost things that happen in WordPress! They’re open again.
I think I’m in love. Gotta go grab me some rye flour, and I have the other 16 ingredients. How awesome am I? What’s even better, I live with a bunch of white-bread fuddy-duddies, so this baby’s ALL MINE! Boy, am I gonna gain like 30 lbs. Thank you Deb for sharing!
Looks great, surely worth the effort. Many years ago I invested about $5 in two dozen little Pyrex custard cups. They stack and take up practically no shelf space, and are the most useful thing I own. Mise-en-place, ho! BTW, you have a mother’s hands. Can’t wait to see them filled with your own baby!
I love this bread recipe. I am just curious though if it tastes more like a dessert than bread. Would it be good for making sandwiches. Great blog!!!!
Treehouse — It is a savory bread, not sweet.
I can almost smell how delicious that is! And I can’t wait until we get to try our hand at school (I’m a culinary school student).
the best sandwich is made with this bread toasted, and slather with mayo., fried egg, swiss cheese and sliced papery thin red onion. OMG. Of course, you need PLENTY of fresh ground pepper on your egg before you put the cheese which softens upon laying atop your egg. pure bliss.
Good thing you had so many nesting bowls to use for all those ingredients :)
Oh my, this is a must try. We will put it on the back burner of our mind and bring it out at a perfect moment. Thanks for sharing, finally? best from Santa Barbara, s
Oh wow I *love* dark, flavorful breads like this. My grocery store has a beautifully black bread, but it lacks any interesting flavor. I can’t wait to give this a try soon.
I decided to look at other black bread recipes to compare this one, and low and behold, I found an almost identical one in the 1981 BHG cookbook! It didn’t use the whole wheat flour or the shallots, but otherwise, it’s the same! Who woulda thought? I will be making this one today. The shallots will definately be in there as I think they will really add that extra somethin-somethin to the bread!
I LOVE Russian Black Bread! I have a similar recipe that lacks the cornmeal and shallots and is so amazingly delicious.
I’ll have to try your recipe next!
My dough was still very very gooey and not coming together.Had to add at least another half cup of flour. It’s still rising as I write, I wonder how it will turn out…
Thank you for the fabulous instructions! I can’t wait to make this!
We have been making bread in our home since December..no more store bought loaves. This looks so divine and I love having another recipe I can add to my repertoire.
Do you think this bread could work without the caraway seeds? I really enjoy dark breads, but I have a strong aversion to the taste of caraway seeds.
Re, caraway seeds and other ingredient questions — There’s no reason to put any ingredient in this (or any other recipe) that you do not like. Most of the 17 ingredients are just flavorings, use or skip them as you prefer.
I’ve made a similar bread without the vinegar, fennel seed, shallots or espresso, and I have to say that whether this is “authentic Ukrainian” or not, these additional ingredients are going to bring my bread up a “whole nuther notch”. Thanks!
Love it! I can’t wait to try it. And I’m glad you had a good time in Ree’s kitchen! Everything looked fabulous!
I echo that it is worth making- well actually I say that, but I did not do the making. Just the eating. I’ll get back with ya next week and let you know how it goes!
This looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try it. One question–you say “bran” but do you mean wheat bran or oat bran?
Deb, I am loathe to ask the question, but when you call for bran – do you mean wheat bran? please clarify!
Ooh, two questions in a row! Wheat bran. But if you only had oat on hand, I don’t see why it would work, though it tends to be more coarse.
Deb – do you have a brand to recommend for the wheat bran? I’m finding it hard to get for some reason…
I usually use it, and find it, from Bob’s Red Mill.
That bread looks very hearty and delicious. A lot of ingredients but worth it.
Anyone know how this compares to those black bread loaves they feed you at Outback?
Mavel Tov, blessing and all good wishes for your darling & your new babe – what a fortunate child to have you for a Mum – so interesting, smart & beneficial to so many people.
Coline, from Manitoba, Canada
Those photographs are particularly beautiful (and the layout is so nice!). Who took them?
I love this bread; I made it from your NPR piece, and I’m so glad it’s cooled off here in the city so I can make it again.
One thing — I think your yeast equivalents are off. I think most yeast packets are 1/4 oz (7 grams), which is the equivalent of 2 1/4 tsp. of yeast. So two packets is actually 1 1/2 T. (This means that the amounts on the cinnamon swirl buns, on your site and bon appetit/epicurious are wrong, too — 2 1/4 tsp. is one envelope, not two.)
I thought you should know — in part because your bread recipes have inspired me to get a bigger jar of yeast, so now I have to measure it out, rather than just use the packets.
Can’t wait to make the bread again — and the cinnamon buns, too! Thanks!
Excellent point, and worse, I already knew that. I blindly retyped this, and will make that change now. (Fortunately, a little too much yeast won’t hurt any recipe. It simply makes it grow faster.)
This is NOT a hard sell. All you needed to do was say, “black bread.” It’s been too long since I’ve eaten good Russian black bread. Must make this soon.
I’ve been making breads by hand for a few months now, but got a Kitchenaid stand mixer (which I have named Julia, because I enjoy naming inanimate objects and the first recipe I used it for was from Mastering the Art of French cooking)for my 15th birthday last week and can’t wait to use it to take on more complex breads. That is, assuing the planets align or something and I have all the ingredients on hand.
Thank you thank you thank you! Enjoying bread like this with a nice slathering of unsalted butter and raspberry tea is one of my favorite memories of my Mom. Bless you for posting your favorite bread recipe- it’s bound to become one of mine! (You’re bound to have moments like this with your own impending baby as I do with my own four… and I hope you’ll share those moments with us!)
Beth Hensperger books are THE BEST!
I have been making all of our bread lately, but getting bored with the same ol’ recipes… this is NOT same ol’ and this is NOT boring – I can’t wait to give it a try! I give myself 3 or 4 tries before I actually manage to start it AND have all the ingredients for it at my house!
Looks delicious and I will be making this when I am motivated enough to go and get some rye flour. Jewish and Eastern European foods are kind of hard to come by in Australia, we have a pretty small Jewish community. I think about 0.5% of the total population. By the way, all of you Aussies out there struggling to find matzo and matzo meal, Jewish groceries probably have it but seeing as I don’t live near any, I stumbled into Macro Wholefoods today, and, among dense loaves of pumperknickel and organic rye flour I saw MATZO MEAL. And in the next aisle, MATZO! They only have stores in Sydney and Melbourne but I think they’re expanding to regional areas and other states soon.
I’ve learned that instead of using a thermometer to check for doneness, you can knock on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hallow, it’s done baking!
are you cutting that bread with a non-serrated knife? it’s blowing my mind…
Melissomatic — It was killing me. Despite the kitchen being fantastically well-equipped, the serrated knife was either AWOL or dirty and I have never missed my bread knife so much. But then I looked out the picture windows at the ranch and the bulls and the vast, open green space and decided I could make do with just a Wusthof Santoku (yes, I’m making fun of myself a little, but it did feel that dramatically touch-and-go for a moment! I really love my bread knife that much.).
I’d like to invite you to Lithuania – we have the best traditional black bread, called “Bociu” :) It’s my favourite one, for me black bread is even more better than any white bread.
I made this today and you are right, it’s only the list of ingredients that makes this seem like it might be too much work. This bread is outstanding, the dough even smells wonderful!
I had to go to Whole Foods for the rye flour since the local chain grocery stores don’t carry it, but that’s the only thing that I had to go look for. Oh, and I forgot about the whole wheat flour and was out of that so I just used a combo of rye and a little white. Plus, I had to crush some All Bran cereal for the bran, but I figured, it’s only bread..it will cope! It more than coped!
I love that hint of fennel and the shallot that comes through in the aroma while baking. There are so many strong flavors in this bread and they blend so well, it makes you concentrate on what you’re tasting. I’ve eaten WAY too much bread and butter today, but it’s just so good it blocks my common sense and will power!
Thanks for FINALLY presenting this! Now onto those Ranch Rugelach that started to distract me…
Okay, Deb. I must be a little thick-headed when it comes to this particular recipe, since no one else who’s made it apparently had these questions. First, in instruction #5, you say to add the the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Then step #6 says to gradually add flour mixture. So I’m assuming that the flour mixture in that next step is the remaining flour from step 5, right? In my case, I didn’t have any left since it took the entire amount before the dough pulled away from the sides. The other thing I wasn’t clear on is step 8, where it mentions the cornmeal mixture related to the parchment lined baking sheet. I couldn’t tell if I’m supposed to only use that cornmeal mixture if I bake them as rounds (which I am), and only underneath the dough. Or does it mean to sprinkle that mixture on the top of the loaves, whether or not you use a pan? Can’t wait to taste it. Thanks!
Bookmarked! Sounds delicious and reminds me of the bread I used to eat back home, in Poland :)
Emilie — You’re right, that is totally confusing (and wrong). Have fixed. Step five was correct, adding flour in step six unnecessary.
As for the cornmeal mixture, I have consistently forgotten every single time I’ve made this bread to sprinkle the top of it. So I’d call it optional on either. If you want that extra crunch, sprinkle it on either, if not, skip it. (Have updated this too.) Thanks for your keen eye!
Just finished eating my third slice of my still-warm attempt at this wonderful recipe — it’s deee-licious! Thank you so much for sharing this great bread! My husband loves a good “black” bread, as do I, and he has pronounced this the best we’ve had. I’ll be making it again. And would you believe, I actually had every single ingredient in my kitchen except for the shallot.
Your blog is simply a delight. Thank you.
Substitutions that worked fine: I didn’t have espresso powder, used brewed coffee instead– about a cup, replacing the water (so 1 cup water, 1 cup coffee for liquid); also I didn’t have an ounce of unsweetened chocolate, used unsweetened cocoa powder (3 Tablespoons) and an extra tablespoon of butter. I’ve always been scared of dark/rye breads because of the wet dough and my lack of stand mixer, but this was a breeze to hand mix!! and delicious. THANK YOU
Help. I have been to three grocery stores here in Pittsburgh this morning and could not find bran or rye flour. Even went to Trader Joe’s in the middle of our wonderful marathon – which was an adventure in and of itself. Is there an online site to buy this stuff or am I just going to have to hunger for this wonderful bread. Thanks for any help here.
I went to the Kansas City open market yesterday strictly to visit the spice man for my caraway and fennel seeds, I am next going to our natural foods store for the rye flour and bran, I am on a mission! I can’t wait to try this recipe. Funny thing, I printed this recipe off of my local NPR site a while back, I’ve given it out to “baking friends” that want to try something new all inspite of me never having made it, I remember reading the ingredients and thinking it will be a winner… Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to share your gems with us!
Mmmm… thank-you for this amazing recipe! My first time using a “real” bread recipe (I usually use the NYTimes recipe).
We will toast and top with mushrooms sauteed with white wine, thyme and parsley for dinner tomorrow.
Sweet black bread is the best. Like the kind they serve at Outback or Cheesecake Factory…delicious.
This looks like one bread that Nigella made on one of her shows and I missed the everything except the last part where she was speading some cream cheese-like things on it! And I thought it look so good!
Ok Deb, please help. I am not an experienced bread-baker, so I may have made an elementary mistake here. But I tried to bake this last night, and the dough never really rose. After the first 2 hours I thought maybe it did a little (but didn’t double), but after making it into 2 round loaves I knew something was wrong, and the loaves didn’t rise at all, and silly me I kept hoping that they would be okay and went ahead and baked them, but they were simply small, heavy dough-rocks. I know my yeast was active, cause by the time I went to pour it in, it was all foamy. How cool were you supposed to let the chocolate mixture get? I have a sneaking suspicion that it was too warm when I poured it in and I killed the yeast. My only other thought was that I over-kneaded it. I want to make this again, so do you have any advice? I am dying to taste the deliciousness of this bread!
Alta — A too warm chocolate mixture can kill the yeast so that might have been it, sorry to hear. I wouldn’t worry very much about over kneading it — it is very difficult to do so by hand, slightly easier (but still, rarely happens) in a Kitchen Aid or other machine.
Thanks Deb! I will remember to cool down that chocolate mixture next time. I kneaded by hand, so I guess I won’t worry about that. Thanks again!
I made this bread Saturday (with the 2tbs of yeast because as soon as I saw it I printed it out). It was outrageous. I’m always on the prowl for a good pumpernickle recipe and have one that is OK. This will be my new standard. I was thinking of adding raisins next time? (why not go for 18 ingredients?)
Wow! This bread looks divine. I love that it has 17 ingredients. Even though I’m in the midst of exams, I feel like running out and collecting all of them so that I too can have this amazing bread. I can almost smell it baking up in the oven right now!
Hah! Took a deep breath and made this bread yesterday – and it turned out really good and was worth the second trip to the grocery to rescue the caraway seeds left in the cart. Thanks for the inspiration and courage, Deb!
Now, what do you think of using up more of the 17 ingredients to make bagels?
What a BRILLIANT idea. Pumpernickel bagels, next big bagel project.
Linda – I feel like Trader Joe’s should have had it, did you track down an employee to ask? I’ve been in some stores where they carry things like rye flour and bran only in their “organic” food section, instead of in their baking aisles. Bob’s Red Mill is usually the brand I end up finding…I think you can order from their website as well, but I’d give the stores another go first–I hate paying shipping on anything ever!
I haven’t made black bread since college…I had a history teacher who had lived in Russia, and she mentioned it in class one day. I found a couple of recipes for it and became obsessed with its deliciousness. None of my recipes had shallots though, so I’m doubly intrigued! I hadn’t thought about this in years, but I’m going to have to add some things to my grocery list…thanks Deb!!!
Thanks Deb for a great recipe. I am learning to bake bread and this is the first recipe which has turned out well for me so far :). However, I think my bread turned out a lot denser than it looks in your pictures (though I still loved it!!) – I kneaded by hand and maybe I did not knead enough – when you say knead until “springy and smooth” does it mean that if I poke a finger into the dough it should rise back up? Separately, will the windowpane test be a good way to test if this bread has been kneaded adequately or will the coarser grains make that not-viable?
Deb, help! I tried to make this, and the dough was EXTREMELY sticky. I was scraping it off my hands while kneading…and I even added an extra cup of flour. I can tell by the pics that this dough is supposed to be softer than white bread dough, but this really seemed too wet. During the second rise (on the pan) the dough just spread out and made sort of a flying saucer shape instead of a nice round loaf.
Also, how in the world do you slash the top without losing the rise?
Love your website, btw…everything else I’ve made has been perfect!
If yours is too sticky, you should add flour until you get a kneadable dough. If your bread deflates when you slash it, it has probably risen too much. That said, a slash should be quick and with a very sharp knife or blade, and should barely disturb the loaf.
Happy Mother’s Day Deb!
Be still my beating heart. You have made this Russian girl very happy. I’ll still buy the Russian bread at my local Italian bakery (they have one with raisins, too) but now I don’t need to.
Just to second Alta – I think that I killed the yeast with the chocolate as I didn’t read all the way down to comment 121. Perhaps to help those newer to bread making, a quick note in the recipe to beware! Second batch was fantastic, though. Cheers
We made this today. It was good, I guess I’m just not a fan of rye though. I ate the “pumpernickel” bread at the cheesecake factory and thought I would like this… not the same. I hope you are not offended by this, but do you know how they make their brown bread?
Help Deb! I have made this bread three times now, and the second two times I have had the flying saucer problem as Erica mentioned above. I added more flour the third time because I thought that my dough was too wet, but it didn’t help. I still got a flat loaf on the second rise. Why is this happening and how can I avoid it? I am letting it rise too much? I am barely letting it rise for 90 min (but it is huge, with big bubbles). It is a delicious bread, nonetheless!
Huge with big bubbles might mean that it has over-risen. Different climates and kitchen temps can lead to bread rising faster. You want it to just double, not feel overly loose or seem like it deflates a lot when you press on it. You should check out my bread tips post.
This sounds more like pumpernickel than black bread, at least the way I know it. My Latvian grandmother used to make black break that was more of a cross between rye bread and sourdough. Dark and dense with a grainy rye flavor but with a tang to it. I wish I was into baking while she was still alive so I would know how to make it. :(
I made this bread last night (twice!) and it worked well and tastes good. I’m not a fan of rye, but my husband loved it! I made it for my mother-in-law who loves black bread. That said, I thought it might be “blacker” like the black bread at Central Market, but it was the same color as your photos, so I did it right. I had to go all the way across town to find the rye flour, but found a box of “wheat bran” at our local HEB.
So…my comedy of errors! I set the dough to rise in my turned off oven, assuring myself that I had no reason to turn on the oven in the near future. An hour later, I suddenly had a great idea to turn pitas into pita chips for the hummus I had just made. Great idea! Turned the oven on to 375. Yeah…cooked my dough. Had to start completely over. Was not pleased. Especially since it was 8:00 at night by then. I tried to crush the seeds in a bowl with an ice cream scoop but after five minutes they looked exactly the same! So I just threw them in. I sprinkled the cornmeal mixture on top, but most of it fell off after baking – all the seeds anyway. I baked one round in a cake pan and one just on a cookie sheet. The one on the sheet spread out into a giant cookie about 2 inches thick! My husband ate that one and we sent the other one overnight to my mother-in-law, at a cost of $32. So, this has been the story of my 45 dollar, 8 hour loaf of bread.
thanks to alta for the tip! i’m pretty good with gauging the water for the yeast but it didnt even occur to me that i might have killed the yeast with the hot water from the stove!
The inside remained moist, despite prolonged baking time, and i believe the hot water was the cause. But my mother and I loved the flavor!
Also, was I the only person who wound up with an extra 3/4 cup of flours left? Seems like a lot.
My poor Russian mother misses black bread so much! From what I’ve been told, most “Black Bread” we have in the states is what Russians would call “Grey Bread”. The baker I spoke to told me that there is some ingredient, common in Russia, which we do not have here. I believe it was a kind of yeast. I may be wrong, but that is probably why unique ingredients like espresso and chocolate are used to imitate the flavor. Anyhow, it still sounds delicious and I’m looking forward to making some! :)
My Latvian co-worker is pregnant and was missing the food of her homeland. I gave her a loaf and both she and another co-worker (Belarussian) were practically drooling. She reports that it is excellent, and I trust her judgment :)
To those with rising issues: perhaps you just need patience? I did my first rise in the microwave after nuking a small glass of water to get the air moist, and it doubled beautifully in about 90 minutes. The second rise wasn’t as marked, but still enough to give a lovely shape. The loaves are still dense, but that’s how they’re *supposed* to be. There are photos of my loaves up on my blog. Great texture and flavour (though maybe a little too much caraway for my personal taste, might try a little less next time).
Thanks for the great recipe!
This is an excellent recipe–I made it tonight, and have been working hard to keep myself from devouring an entire loaf before tomorrow morning. As others have indicated, my first attempt was not so successful: I didn’t let the water/chocolate/molasses mixture cool enough, and it killed my yeast. Today I made it before doing anything else, and let it get down to room temp, and had no problems with the rise. The bread itself is amazing–dense, flavorful, incredible. I’ve been eating it with some Kerry Gold salted butter spread on top–perfect! Thanks, Deb!
Hello. I made this black bread yesterday. I found the dough to be very wet and sticky even after I added all the flour (I used all-purpose rather than bread flour, don’t know if that made a difference). I ended up adding about 3/4 c more flour to make it knead-able without sticking to the counter and my hands. But it rose great and the loaf turned out fantastically! Tasty and sturdy but not too dense. For me, it slices better the second day. Thanks for the great recipe!
I have a question: is the molasses you use for this the liquid form or the sugary granule form?
Liquid. I’ve actually never seen it granulated (unless you’re thinking of brown sugar).
I’ve been lusting after this bread since September when I searched your website for easy bread recipes to make at school (i.e. bread with far fewer ingredients than this one). Home for Christmas, I used my mom’s ingredient cabinet and only had to buy a few more. I didn’t read the comments before I baked, so I now realize I got lucky having two beautiful loaves! I used instant coffee instead of instant espresso, forgot the fennel seeds, didn’t grind the seeds (I know it was optional…but I wanted to, just didn’t have a grinder), used dark rye instead of medium, and oat bran instead of wheat. The recipe withstood all these minor changes and we consumed the whole loaf in about an hour and a half. Ate it with leftover Christmas ham, with goat cheese tomatoes and cucumbers, and with butter and apple butter.
Thanks for the recipe!!!
Nice bread :)
i would like to know if anyone has tried this in a loaf pan. i love the taste of this bread, but want desperately to try it a vehicle for some good deli meats. i thought about trying it in a loaf pan and adding 1-2 tsp of vital wheat gluten. any thoughts on this? does one cool it in a loaf pan? please respond ASAP. Hungry kids to feed!
Yes, you can make this in 2 loaf pans. It’s been a while since I did it but remember it working fine. You can pop it out of the loaf right away and cool it on a rack. In fact I could go for some with some deli meats right now, if you are sharing…
This is a question from a novice bread maker ;o)
whenever I have tried to make plain white bread or some other bread, mine always comes out with the consistency closer to cake than bread. What I am doing wrong? I knead the breads by hand for at least 20 minutes.
Thanks and love your recipes and writing!
Just made this for the second time and it’s even better this time. I love the complex flavors and with a bit of cream cheese, salmon lox, and capers it beats regular bagel for breakfast any day. I decided to wrap one and freeze it for later. Any tips on reheating? I’m thinking 350 for 20 minutes or so?
Wandered onto your site from a google-images search of russian black bread, after reading about it in an exhaustive but recipe-withholding bread bible.
Just had my first slice. Am in love.
These pictures are so helpful to understand the right consistency after kneading.
Though it was in a very warm place, I felt it necessary to let the dough take it’s time on the first rise. In all, three-ish hours, but this could be because I have heavy-footed roommates? (whether or not it’s a valid concern, I’m always hyper-aware of their footsteps through the kitchen when I’m rising bread.)
Anyways, absolutely wonderful.
I’m new to bread baking and want to make this bread today to serve tomorrow. How should it be stored overnight? And since it makes two loaves……… does it freeze well? Thank you!
Seriously, this bread is one of the best things I have made all year. Also, an absolutely ESSENTIAL (in my mind) addition was raisins. It made literally a WORLD of difference. Add raisins, people! I’m not kidding! Not that this bread isn’t fantastic on it’s own. I mean, it is truly a work of art. But I can’t emphasize raisins enough!
Great bread. I made this yesterday by hand. It’s been humid here, and I live by the ocean, but the dough was super sticky. I ended up mixing up a small extra batch of flours and added about an extra half-cup from that. I also had very excited yeast, so the first rising took less than an hour for some reason. The stickiness was much improved after the first rising.
Ate some yesterday with fresh cream cheese and cucumbers, and this morning with homemade strawberry preserves. Yum!
I just made this bread today. Like JanetP (comment above), I also live by the ocean and had super sticky dough. I probably added an extra 1/2 cup of flour as well (only AP). It was still a bit sticky after first rising, but definitely improved. I also only baked the bread for 30 mins (I had my oven preheating for at least 30 mins before I put it in). I have yet to taste it (letting it cool) but it turned out fabulous (looking at least)!
Wow, waaayyyy better than I imagined. Thank you so much. I think I will start making it on a regular basis.
Just made this bread. Absolutely lovely. Thank you so much!
When you say ‘bran’ do you mean the shredded bran cereal or bran bud cereal or bran flour? Thank you.
I used wheat bran. Bob Red Mill sells it, as do other brands.
Thank you for the quick response – it is greatly appreciated.
Judy — No problem. The original recipe never specified the type of bran but I imagine there is some flexibility here, if, say, you only have bran flour or another format of bran.
Just tried this recipe looking for a good pumpernickel bread recipe… best bread recipe I’ve ever made, and I’ve made quite a few! Excellent taste and great texture. But this is probably not a good recipe for a first time bread maker as it is a little more complicated than most. Still, well worth the effort. Thanks for such a great recipe!!
I have to admit that every time someone makes and enjoys this recipe, I clap a little. I would make it every week if I could. I love it that much and glad others are getting to it!
This recipe sucks! It does NOT rise!!! I have tried it three times.
This was a challenge (particularly for the boyfriend–I got a little testy halfway through), but we really love our end product. This is a great bread! It’s not too too rye or pumpernickel-y.
1) Spices–we didn’t have a spice grinder and it didn’t matter. I really felt like the whole seeds were not going to be good, but it is a moist, chewy bread.
2) Rising–In our humble opinion, the issue may be the warmth of the place your dough is trying to rise in. I called my mother, baking sage, and she suggested having it rise in the oven after *very* slightly making it warm. (I might suggest turning it on to your lowest setting for two minutes and then turning it off, sticking the bowl in, and leaving it off. Even vent the heat a bit before you stick it in.) This made a HUGE difference. The dough rose like a champ.
3) Flatness–IOHO again, I think the issue here is the shape you give the loaf before you do the second rise. Mine is flat too. My mother the baking sage called it–I didn’t shape it into a high loaf.
Look at Deb’s pictures. Big pretty sphere of a loaf.
Hello! My friend Chloe just made this bread and her boyfriend told me about it. Hi Chloe! Anyway, my question is about freezing: 2 big loaves of bread is a lot for me to eat all at once. What can I freeze? The unbaked dough? If so, after which rise do you freeze? The baked loaf? Thank you for what I’m sure is a fantastic recipe.
You can freeze it any of those ways. I usually just freeze an extra loaf as soon it is cooled off. It’s so much fun to find later in the freezer.
Fantastic pumpernickel bread! Made it last weekend to have with pork chops and kraut, it was perfect. Our trick for rising was to put the bowl of dough into a large foam cooler that had a pan of warm water on the bottom and covered the cooler to keep the moist warmth in. The dough rose to grand heights! Made 2 impressively large loaves, one of which we froze after baking/cooling. Husband thought the ingredients were kind of weird at first, but they all come together to make a flavorful bread.
Can I make this recipe in a bread machine on the dough cyle?
Looks interesting! Can i bake a bunch of smaller rolls?
Yes, this bread is the Holy Grail of all Russian breads. The black, the sour, the sweet, the sticky, the rich, the dense, the marvelous all of the above, the one that you slather with butter and cover with feta and cucumber and freshly salted anchovies, and chomp away. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. I have made it twice already and it brings memories. Oh, the memories… I will never go to a Russian goods store again – their half frozen half stale mockery of a bread is over with!
Oh, forgot to add that some bread makers add crushed coriander seeds instead of fennel seed. It’s got a little kick to it, but I love it!
This is the bread recipe I have been searching for! It is barely cool enough to slice, but I couldn’t wait – oh. my. goodness. I only wish I had a cheese at home that is worthy of this bread. I can’t wait to share it with friends.
I just made this bread last night. It is a frosty, snowy cold morning in Maine and it has become the perfect breakfast toasted and spread thickly with butter. After my morning farm chores this bread and a cup of coffee is heaven. Thanks for sharing. I will never be able to buy one of those ridiculous store excuses for a pumpernickle again….
My mother came back from visiting her parents in Naples, FL, and they had had pumpernickel raisin bread. She told me she wanted to find a recipe to make it in the bread machine. Pumpernickel raisin bread? Okay… “But you can’t get yourself to put 4 ingredients into the bread machine to make white bread. I’ll make you some.” I used this recipe (which I’ve made before), minus the shallots, using 1 teaspoon of ground caraway and 1/8 t of ground fennel for half a recipe, and adding a bit more water (I use KAF, which has a high protein, and I find it easier to work with a wetter dough anyway). I used 1/2 cup raisins, soaked for a few minutes in hot water, then drained. I made the bread in a loaf pan, rather than free form. My mom loved it!
I made this bread for a brunch crowd on New Year’s Day. Not even a crumb left! Due to the contents of my kitchen I ditched the caraway seeds, substituted coco powder for the chocolate & instant coffee for the espresso. Amazing & Delicious! Thanks so much for such a fantastic recipe!
My two rounds are proofing right now… can’t wait for this bread! It smells like pumpernickle heaven! Thank you!!!
This is brilliant, brilliant bread. I made this for my aunt for Christmas with the addition of raisins. We went out for dinner one night and the restaurant served black bread with raisins and she was so excited about it she bought two over-priced loaves talking about how much she missed Zabar’s version of this bread and I thought, “I can’t let this women live her life without bread she loves.”
I made her two loaves, one to eat immediately, one to freeze, and now I’m always on call for when she runs out (she already has).
Thanks, Deb, this was tremendous.
I made it today, halving the ingredients for one loaf. It is WONDERFUL! Like some other commenters, I found the dough was still very sticky and I had to add extra flour (all purpose and rye) to the mixer. (I always weigh flours, so maybe that had something to do with it.) Regardless, it is a killer recipe and I’m making it again next week to bring as a gift to a friend’s ski house. (With some caviar and vodka, too – thanks for the idea!)
This bread is fabulous! And that is an understatement. . . .
I am making this right now. It’s currently in it’s first rise. I am serving it warm once baked with slow cooked split pea and ham hock soup.
I made two loaves today and they turned out great! I have no coffee know-how and didn’t find any espresso powder or instant coffee in the house so I ground a bit of dark roast coffee that I found lurking in the back of the cupboard. I thought (after it was on it’s second rise) that, oops!…perhaps I would taste lovely little bits of coffee gravel in each bite, but no- it was perfect! Great recipe.
These are gorgeous loaves. I made the bread today to adorn the cups of french onion soup I am serving tonight
I loved making this bread! It was the fist yeast bread that I have ever made, in fact and I am quite pleased with the results.
I was so pleased by this recipie and the process that I made a video to share with you!
Russian black bread contains less than 7 ingredients. this recipe is a joke….
That would be like saying there is only one Russian Alex (the one that is my husband) and that all others are jokes!
I just tried this over the weekend, and it was AMAZING! I only had wheat pastry flour on hand, however, so no rising and no gluten, but they made incredible bread sticks. Everyone who tried them loved them! Thanks so much for sharing this!
I made this last week and it was divine. We’ve eaten it as wonderful ham and cheese sandwiches with local mustard, as a base for fried eggs with avocado, with butter and a sprinkle of sea salt, and just plain. In fact, every time we walk by someone cuts off a slice. And my boyfriend asked if I would stop buying sandwich bread and start making this every week instead. It’s that good.
I also brought a loaf to my local Swedish-heritage luncheon and they declared it the best rye bread they’d had since leaving Sweden. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was supposed to be a Russian bread. :o)
My kids have just arrived home from school and demolished nearly one loaf of the Black Bread I made this afternoon (and there’s only two of them 8yrs old and 10yrs old).
Thanks from another deb! I used to make a black bread similar to this (when we lived in Chicago in the early 1990s when my kids were little) – you cooked the grated onion in some boiling water and added the seeds to soften, and it also included coffee and chocolate. It was somebody’s contributed recipe to _Gourmet_, so up in the letters section early in the issue, which they do index now on Epicurious, but I had despaired of finding it by searching and was ready to start rifling my dusty stacks of mags, guessing at the date & month. This morning, bored in a meeting, I did a quick search on pumpernickel on my iPhone, and this was the 2nd hit. Yay!
This was the first bread I made with my new stand mixer (yay!) and I wrote about it here on my blog. For not being a very successful bread maker and all the steps in the recipe, I think I did a good job. I only messed up once! The bread turned out tasty but flat-ish. I plan on testing out some other Rye bread recipes to see how they compare to this recipe now that I have a whole bag of Rye flour in my pantry. Thank you so much for sharing your bread recipe!
I made this on Sunday. It is exactly the second time I ever baked bread, the first time being last Tuesday. Despite my newby-ness, I religiously followed your recipe and ended up with two round loaves of extraordinary loveliness. My husband fell in love with me all over again. His co-worker said that this is the best bread she ever ate in her whole life and offered to marry me. I kid you not! It was enjoyable and easy to make and I am happy to now have this recipe in my little box of miracles. Thank you, thank you for sharing this recipe and I appreciate your generous nature in making the world a more lovely and tastier place!
This is a great bread! Thank you for sharing. I would like to suggest that you add a note about the dangers that the overwarm chocolate mixture can pose to yeast health. Mine was still hot when I was ready to incorporate it, and if I hadn’t known to wait I would have wasted an awful lot of good ingredients and quite a lot of time. I know that there are novice bakers out there, like @Alta, who won’t know better.
Hi Deb, Your recipe looks amazing. Have you tried making dark buns for grilled bratwurst using this recipe? I have searched unsuccessfully for a rye or pumpernickle brat bun recipe. I would like to try this recipe to make those buns but don’t know how many buns to make and what the oven temperature and time should be. Any ideas? Thanks.
I just made this bread this afternoon and it was lovely. So hearty and complexly flavored. I will make this again in the future, but since this a cold weather bread, perhaps I’ll wait until it’s soup season.
I tried the Russian Caviar from here http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7870158 and it totally did not work. There is way too much vinegar and I never thought I’d say this (a store is never as good as home made) but it tastes nothing like the Russian store. The Russian store is way better. Maybe one day you can try this recipe and fix it? It’s really a great dish if it’s done right. The bread in this post is amazing but I’ve never made bread and it looks really involved. I will try it one day when I am mentally ready. Thanks for posting.
Anna — The recipe is exactly the way my MIL likes it — loads of vinegar, intensely garlicky. However, I do know that others make it more mildly. There are recipes for eggplant caviar all throughout the Mediterranean, some like my MILs, but milder, others with ingredients like shallots, lemon and even mint!
OK – this is in the oven right now and it smells absolutely wonderful. Yeast breads have long been a major source of cooking intimidation for me and I only recently started trying to learn (I gained more confidence when I finally conquered my other fear – pie crust – thank you JoC and thank you Ms Deb!). I must confess to having some trouble with proofing. Not the first rise – that’s fairly simple to judge – it’s the second that gets me! When the loaf/ball/roll is already formed and waiting for baking. This time was no different.
I made the dough last night and let it rise in overnight in the refrigerator. I think this may have been a mistake (2 tablespoons seems like a lot of yeast to this baking novice and I think I over proofed it). I let the dough warm to almost room temperature (impatient) and formed the balls. After a few *hours* they were still not doubled in size so I slashed the tops and threw them in the oven (more impatience). As I say, they are baking now and I have my fingers crossed.
Anyway, i’m done whining about my lack of teh skillz. I am determined after all to master this. The point is – thank you for your site and all it’s helpful tips. The only reason the first proofing is not generally a problem for me is your helpful post on “beaming bewitching breads” and its tip in poking the dough with a flour covered finger.
I WILL CONQUER THIS. I WILL. :)
OK – this bread is delicious.
Mine came out kind-of dense, but I think it was supposed to (?) because it’s good. It has a really rich and hearty flavor and although I hate fennel and won’t eat shallots (I am an extremely picky eater) this bread is ridiculously good.
So thanks! I will be making this again. But maybe not proofing it overnight. Because I feel like I’ve been working on this FOREVER.
Thank you for your reply and the link. This is kind of silly but I do not trust anyone except you, not even David Lebovitz. Everything I try outside your website never comes out right.
I loved Russian black bread growing up in Russia and terribly missed it here, and miss it still. I do not think any russian store has actually gotten it perfectly right. But this Russian Alex guy is right. I doubt it had many ingredients other then flower, yeast, water and sugar but your bread is something different. I will try it one day. Yeast scares me for now. I have never used it. I don’t even know what it looks like.
Just made this for our newly arrived Ukranian exchange student and she has declared it ‘just like in Ukraine!’. I adapted this for the bread machine so that we’d have fresh bread for dinner even if it’s hectic. Delicious! The crust could use a little ‘oven love’ but still outstanding. We traveled through Ukraine about 3 years ago and fell in love with the food – especially the black bread. I was told by our former Ukranian exchange student now in Kiyv that salo (basically lard) and garlic are the traditional Ukrainian accompaniment.
How do you adapt this for the bread machine? I recently inherited an old one (without instructions) and now I’m too lazy to make any bread without it …
I made this and it’s FANTASTIC. Came out exactly as yours did. GORGEOUS.
Just made this bread (a no-knead dark rye at http://noknead.com/recipes/loaf-breads/dark-rye-no-knead-bread-loaf-recipe.php) and was surprised at the nice sandwich-bready texture with very little labor. I’ve made the recipe in your post as well in the past, and now I’m wondering if I can figure out a no-knead version of this crustier loaf in your post, but with far less hands-on time. Both breads are yummy, but quite different from each other. Ideas?
I am making this bread for my wife’s birthday. She is from Thailand and did not grow up eating bread. She only enjoys dense, moist breads, and she usually will buy pumpernickel at the grocery.
5:00PM – I left work and headed to the grocery to purchase the ingredients. I guess I should have realized that some of these ingredients would only be found at a Natural Foods type store, but I didn’t, so I went from store to store (5 in total) until I finally found rye flour and bran (I got wheat bran).
8:00PM – I finally got back home. I planned on using my homegrown sourdough starter in place of some of the yeast in the recipe, so I needed to proof the starter for 3 hours before it was ready to use.
10:00 – I figured the “chocolate mixture” would need to be room temperature, so I put that together. I realized I had espresso grounds, not instant espresso powder, so I ground that really fine and used that in the recipe instead. (we will see how that works).
11:00 – I started gathering and assembling ingredients. I decided to pulverize the seeds in a mortar and pestle, but that didn’t work so I ended up grinding them into a coarse powder.
11:10 – My wife wandered into the kitchen wondering what I’m making and I shooed her out, saying it was a surprise. She tried to snoop a bit before she reluctantly left.
11:30 – I saw that the dough was getting a bit stiff and I still had about 1/3 cup of flour left. Against common sense (I tend to follow recipes to the “T” the first time I use them and adjust in following attempts), I added the remaining flour. The Kitchen Aid mixer started to really struggle (and this is their high end model with plenty of power) and I think I smelled burning gears.
11:35 – The dough ended up very stiff so I didn’t even need bench flour to hand knead. It will probably be ok though. I had to call it a night so I placed it in a large plastic container in the fridge overnight. I’ll take it out and let it rise at room temperature when I get home from work. Then I will divide it and place it into loaf pans.
…to be continued
Good luck, Rod! I hope it works out.
continued…the next day
6:00PM – When I got home from work I took the bulk dough out of the refrigerator and let it rise until doubled. Since it started out cold it took about 6 hours.
12:15AM – I gently deflated the dough, divided it into two, and placed in loaf pans. I had worried it would be too dry since I felt I added a bit too much flour at the end, but the dough was very moist and handled easily…and smelled great! Since it was late I placed the loaf pans in the refrigerator overnight, planning to take them out in the morning and let them rise while I was at work (I was getting off work early to prepare my wife’s b-day “feast”).
…the next day
7:00AM – I went to take the loaves out of the refrigerator but saw that they had risen quite well and were already a little above the rims of the pans. I was concerned that they would over-rise if I took them out then, so I left them in the refrigerator.
1:00PM – As soon as I got home from work, I took one pan out and placed it in a warm place to finish rising. Everything looked good for a 4:00 bake.
4:00PM – I placed the bread in the preheated oven and sat there watching it for 45 minutes (just kidding…I only watched it sporadically for about 10). At about 35 minutes I checked the internal temperature and saw that it was at 183.
4:50PM – After 50 minutes of bake time, I checked the temp again and it read 200, so it was ready to take out of the oven. While it was cooling, I prepared the rest of the meager (yet delicious) fair. I served salmon asparagus soup along with chicken artichoke sandwiches (which I needed the black bread for).
5:30PM – Ta Da! Dinner is served! The first words out of my wife’s moth were “Wow, this is great bread!”. And this coming from a person who does not really care for bread.
My own verdict on the bread is that it is fantastic, but with a caveat. It has a very strong flavor so I would not recommend serving it with delicate or bland foods. If you want a bread that is just there to hold ingredients, choose a different recipe. However, if you want a robust bread filled with complex flavors, this is highly recommended!
Thank you for providing this recipe.
arghh…”my wife’s mouth” not “moth”.
My flat smells divinely of freshly baked black bread. Great recipe – so easy to follow. I didn’t have any instant coffee, so brewed some strong coffee and replaced 1 cup of water with 1 cup of coffee and it was gorgeous. Also used oat bran and mixed it with the flours by accident – but it still turned out! Bringing a loaf of this and some mini soft pretzels to watch the Rugby World Cup final at a friend’s tomorrow night. Even if the All Blacks lose, the people eating my bread will surely be happy! Thanks!
I need to make tiny ones, like the size of a profiterole, that I am going to stuff as party snacks. Do you think this recipe would work for that?
Thank you for the recipe and the terrific photos! It is my regular dark bread recipe now with the only alteration being the inclusion of my sourdough starter and the omission of the vinegar (I thing the starter gives enough “sour” where I don’t need the vinegar.
My son brewed his own dark craft beer this morning, and I couldn’t bear to see him throw away all the beautiful dark and amber grains when he was done. What does anyone think about substituting some of these spent beer grains for the bran in this recipe?
I don’t know enough about beer grains to know if they’d work but if they seem similar to you to the bran, no reason not to give it a spin.
It took a few tries, but the dark spent beer grains worked beautifully. The only other change that I made was to add some wheat gluten to make it rise a little better and give it a softer texture. Thanks for posting this recipe.
I have a question about the bran. I grind my own flours so there isn’t any loss of bran in my flour. Do I still need more bran or could I just increase the amount of each flour by a 1/2 cup to compensate ?
I tried making this last night and was excited for the results, but unfortunately was a bit disappointed. while it certainly had the flavors of pumpernickel or black bread, it was not nearly as dark as your picture and I thought the flavor could be a bit stronger. I also think I may have underkneaded (about how long of kneading by hand? It seemed quite “springy” to me) and maybe underbaked it, as I didn’t have an instant read thermometer. It came out OK, but not great and IMO, not dark enough. I did use a cup of brewed espresso substituted for one of the cups of water instead of the instant espresso. Also, like some others, I had to add at least a cup more flour to get the dough to hold together (my house is always very humid). I think maybe this is why mine wasn’t as dark. I think I’ll up the chocolate another half ounce, reduce the water by a bit, and maybe use the ground espresso instead of brewed espresso next time. Let me know your thought on this!
My husband home brews; I make cheese. This year, we gave our friends gifts with bottles of his sturdy oatmeal stout, small blocks of my aged smoked cheddar, and mini loaves of this black bread. It all seemed like a fantastic idea until we realized that we (or, OK, take credit where it’s due: it was all me and my poor planning) had forgotten to make enough bread for US to enjoy, too. Guess I’ll be forced to make more! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
I am wondering if you can make this dough in a bread machine and then bake it. It sounds wonderful and really like to try it.
I love your recipes usually… but I had some problems with this one:
1. I had to add more flour, like others, since the dough was way too soft.
2. I baked it… no instant read thermometer… the top half of the bread was done beautifully, but the bottom was mushy and un-baked. Put it back in the oven, but at that point it just became dryer… the bottom half never finished rising…
I wonder why?…. would more time in the oven fix that?
I as well brew beer and always have spent grains left over. Always use them right away, dry them in the oven to I’ll into flour or freeze them, otherwise they getbreally gross and stinky. I like to dry my grains and mill into flour, I find the whole grains are really chewy.
One question I had is what you think about a dough hook compared to a paddle like you mentioned. I’ve never made a bread dough with a paddle.
That sounds really good! I usually use a dough hook too, though I’ll occasionally use the paddle just to mix the wetter ingredients.
I am just starting to bake my own bread (only about 4 loaves in) and thoroughly enjoyed trying this recipe. My only disappointment was that the end product seemed a bit dry. It looked beautiful, and was delicious toasted, but not so great untoasted. Is there anything I should watch out for during the process the next time I make this, that might help with the dryness? (I mixed by hand, btw. I don’t have a stand mixer — yet.) :) Thank you!
This is the most incredible recipe for black bread. It definately tastes Russian:) I think the texture is much better, though. The flavors are a perfect combination.
This was my first try at homemade yeasted bread in the last 10 years or so. Delicious! I worked the dough completely by hand and, like others, found I needed to add almost an additional cup of flour (1/2 C. rye, 1/2 C. ap, 2t whole wheat) to get the dough to a workable consistency. Definitely worth it, and I will definitely be making this again! Thanks, Deb!
Looks amazing, and I’m sure this is pretty fun to make. And I can only imagine the wonderful smells you’d get when you’re cooking it…
I don’t suppose there is any way in the world that I could make this recipe using wheat-free flours, is there? I’m guessing it would ruin the texture. :( What do you think?
thank you for the recipe, deb! i really, really enjoy this bread! i live at altitude and i often have difficulty with yeast breads but this one works great and everyone always goes crazy over it. :-)
After months of drooling over this recipe, I finally managed to get together all the ingredients (one advantage of living in Germany: every food shop sells about ten different kinds of flour) and it came out PERFECTLY! The bread was soft and moist on the inside, but the crust very substantial. The flavor is just divine–although I grew up in NYC and have fond memories of pumpernickel bread (and pumpernickel bagels), this tops ALL of them. Thank you Deb for your amazing recipes…you have never steered me wrong.
Really delicious! I finally made this bread today! My modifications (since I couldn’t get hold of all ingredients): susbtituted bran by adding more whole wheat and rye flour. Had not caraway seeds but added a bit more fennel seeds instead. Used one espresso cup of strong coffee instead of instant espresso powder. May have used more flour than the recipe prescribed, as I added while kneading until the dough was springy and soft, but not sticky.
Baked for about 70 minutes until the bread was 98 degrees C in the center (used a baking thermometer). The very bottom of the bread is a bit too moist and I’ll bake until 100 degrees C next time. Nonetheless, the bread it mouthwatering delicious!! We’ll have it with cream cheese, salmon and dill later today. I love your blog and visit it almost daily, thank you, Deb!
You’ve made my week! We used to live in Lithuania, and had this bread all the time (also called black bread there). I’ve missed it! Just made the recipe today, and it turned out delicious. Thank you!
Hey Deb. I just made this bread the other day and it is INCREDIBLE. I am still a bit of a newcomer to baking bread, and often have trouble with active-dry yeast. After a few previous experiments with other bread projects, I discovered I could roughly replace the active dry with instant, nixing the 5-minute soak in water. My question is this: what brand of active dry yeast do you use? I theorize that my allegedly “gourmet” grocery store stocks questionably aged yeast. Thanks!!
So glad you liked this bread. This is one of the recipes in the archives that I always clap a little in my head when someone falls in love with it as we did. In another life (the one where I was always well-rested and didn’t have sinkfuls of dishes always stacked up), I’d keep loves of this in my freezer at all times. Alas! That wasn’t your question: I use Fleischmans or Red Star, and I usually buy a jar. But I ran out last week and bought packets instead; I bake less bread these days and it seems best to stick with yeast that’s vacuum-sealed until I open it.
Deb – I am going to make this bread tomorrow and i have 2 questions. I want to serve it for lunch in 2 days. I usually do a cold rise over night and then brig the dough to room temperature, shape, do last rise and bake. Any reason that process will not work with this bread?
Also, hate to sound stupid – but is wheat bran whet you buy in the cereal; isle?
I think it’s sold in the cereal (or grain/flour) aisle. It’s usually sold as Miller’s Wheat Bran (Bob’s Red Mill has a great one). In a pinch, I suspect that grinding up bran flakes or bran cereal (preferably unsweetened) would also work.
I just want to thank you VERY much for helping me to feel peas of home every time when I make this wonderful bread. I come from small country called Armenia which is close to Russia and having this bread just takes me back home and satisfies my cravings. Thank you very much again.
I just made this last week. Gosh! It was delicious. I ate so much of the dough…it was hard to actually get it into the oven :) Thanks for all your wonderful recipes!!!
This sounds like a great recipe for a typical American bread that you guys call “russian” – why? For a life of me i do not know. I was born and raised and traveled a lot while i was living in Soviet Union, never have I tried, seen or even heard of bread like that. But allas, enjoy it.
BTW, GREAT BLOG.
I love smittebnkitchen! I bumped into your kitchen only 2 months ago. I have made black bread at least 3 times already. I also made mini soft pretzel, NY bagels, And Oh your challah bread! Simply the best. And so easy. All these are bookmarked and have become my weekly must-bake! My husband and all my friends like them. Thank you for your wonderful site, Deb. Great job, great blog.
Hi Deb, dough for my first attempt at this bread is rising as I type. You mention up in comment 233 that you would keep loaves in your freezer. I am thinking of freezing one of the loaves for later. What is your process? Foil? Foil then plastic? How to you go about thawing/reheating? Thank you for your fabulous site. I made the broccoli rabe pasta last night and it was delicious!
Hi Deb …. would you be able to share with me the exact brands of unsweetened chocolate (including % cacao), light or dark molasses and instant expresso you use? These ingredients can be bitter by default. I am new to baking with bitter chocolate. Without some direction, my concern is I will wind up with a bread that has a great texture yet a bitter taste. Bitter is not palatable for me. I’m fine, though, with an unsweetened taste or a savory taste. Thanks very much for what you can advise.
Hi Joanie — You should not find the bread bitter. I have made it many, many times over the years, always using different ingredients (everything from Baker’s to Scharffen-Berger chocolate, Grandmas to Plantation molasses) and these are very minor ingredients in a large loaf. That said, you can always skip or half them if you don’t think you’ll like them.
I realize this is a very old post, but I had to tell you how much I love this bread! I’ve been drooling over the recipe for weeks and, finally having found some bran, I made it today. Half a loaf disappeared almost instantly.
We’re clearing out our pantry in preparation for a move, so I used an odd combination of flours to get rid of what we had without buying more, and it still turned out so delicious. I can only imagine how it will taste next time – just as the recipe suggests.
We made this bread today exactly according to the recipe and it turned out AMAZING.Thanks for being awesome. :)
Thank you for this recipe!!! I just baked the bread and ate it right out of the oven. The bread came out mouthwatering, scrumptious, absolutely delicious. The crust was awesome yet the texture inside was moist and soft. I made samll buns and I ate them cut in half and smeared with butter and jam with a cup of coffee. Perfection! XOXO
hello. do you know the total weight of the dough prior to baking??
thank you, kim
Hi Kim — Sorry, I never checked it.
Ahhh. Yummmalicious bread. Great flavors, moist with a nice crust. Made it yesterday and we couldn’t help ourselves – eating it warm with butter, cream cheese, jam, etc. Thanks!
I have had my eyes glued to this recipe for years but never had the chance to give it a try until this weekend. It is absolutely my new favorite bread to make – balanced flavor, rich and hearty texture. Amazing!
I was also able to make it gluten-free, which I’m sure made it a little different from the original product, but it still had a great crust and crumb. If anyone is looking to do the same, I used buckwheat for the rye, and brown rice and coconut flours for the all-purpose/ww (not respectively – but still significantly less coconut than rice), and cut back a little bit on the flour and added about 2 T cornstarch. As may be obvious, I used oat bran and not wheat. I think the buckwheat helped keep some of that pumpernickel-reminiscent flavor.
Even though this is a very late comment, I just had to say, after looking at this recipe a million times and thinking “ugh, so much work, if it comes out terrible I’ll be so upset” I finally bit the bullet and tried this recipe today. After some mild panic (my biggest bowl is not quite big enough for comfortable hand-mixing of that much dough, and it was making things difficult to judge, so I was a little light-handed on the flour before trying to begin kneading I think) because the dough was so wet it was just smearing/sticking to my board, I managed to knead in enough extra flour that I could get it into an oiled bowl. Where it proceeded to rise beautifully and quickly, so I started to get more hopeful about the whole thing. I baked it in two loaf pans (because it still seemed like really wet dough, and I didn’t want it spreading all over the place), and…it rose into tall beautiful loaves, came out perfectly, and is seriously not only the finest bread I’ve ever baked, but probably the very best bread I’ve ever eaten. I am so happy I finally talked myself into it. I added 5-ish tablespoons of Vital Wheat gluten flour stuff to my flours, and used wheat germ instead of wheat bran (because that’s what I had), and skipped the cornmeal sprinkling on top, but otherwise followed your recipe to the letter and I cannot even tell you how happy I am, having just eaten several slices for dinner alongside some nice creamy garlic soup. Thank you, Deb!
Miss B — Yay! For some reason, whenever someone makes this deeply buried in the archives recipe, I have to respond and say “YAY!” because you’re now in the club! You know how great it is. It’s been too long since I’ve made it.
When you posted this recipe, I was nearing the end of 3 years in Moscow, Russia. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe to see if it takes me back to the heady, hearty warmth of a Russian bakery!
A recipe which sparks 250 comments across 3 years must be something special. Can’t wait to give this a go!
I divided the recipe in half and made it in a bread machine. Like many I used what I had for ingredients but I did have all the right flours. I brewed strong coffee and cooled it instead of espresso powder, and used bittersweet chocolate instead of unsweetened. I added Vital Wheat Gluten and the texture was amazing.
Thank you for a rich hearty savory loaf!!!
Now this is bread! Wow! It really is not that difficult to make, and it is worth far more than the effort. My 15 month-old can’t get enough of this. :-)
My only adjustment was mixing about 1 Tbsp of barley malt in the warm water-yeast mix in place of the pinch of sugar. The yeast loved it, btw.
This is an amazing recipe. The bread is some of the best I’ve ever made and robust, tasty and filling. I use malt when proofing the yeast, which has always given a deep, honey colour to regular loaves, and I also used black treacle in place of molasses because I’ve had a tin kicking around the place for ages (switched to molasses now and it does a better job in the bread). Lacking a shallot I used dried onions the first time I made this, which give the oniony flavour but not so much physical onionness as either small firey onions or shallots. I’ve never seen instant espresso so I substituted a cup of very strong coffee for one of the cups of water.
Progressing to this recipe from my usual loaves was quite interesting because the dough, when kneaded before rising, is like a rich paste, and takes much longer to rise. The stronger flours and bran support the loaves in the final stage and before putting it in the oven it is much more sturdy. I have made this stuff four or five times in the last month. an outstanding recipe! Thank you.
Deb! You were already kind of a blogging hero of mine, but this takes the cake (or bread, rather). This was perfect, and made me and my Lithuanian family super duper happy; I see many more batches in the future. Thanks!
Not to start trouble, but it looks like your recipe was copy and pasted onto “Inn at the Crossroads,” without giving you the credit you deserve. >:-(
I wouldn’t care so much if they didn’t have their own cookbook, cause now it feels like they made money off of other people’s published recipes….
Just make this bread for a for-reals russian zakuski party – the birthday party for my father-in-law. Everyone loved it! Everyone ate with caviar and said it was just like back home. Thank you so much!
ps – come back to SF for your book tour! I was out of town when you came through the first time, and I live just a few blocks from Omnivore Books!
All I can say is marvelous!!! I was looking for a good dark bread to have with my corned beef and literally stumbled over your blog, then found your cookbook at my library, wonder what hole I’ve been in? Well I’m a Jersey girl in central KY where they do biscuits, not lovely crusty breads. I so miss Katz’s and the bagels and bialys from NJ and NY
I used instant yeast, and reduced it to 1 1/4Tbsp rose like a charm!
Thanks for the recipe
Have you ever made this using a sourdough starter in place of yeast? Also, I noticed several comments about sticky or too wet bread dough. That can be a problem sometimes for those of us who mix by hand. I always let the dough rest for 30 minutes before kneading to allow the dough to fully hydrate. Cuts down on the kneading time and don’t need to add extra flour.
Hi I made this yesterday and I followed your recipe exactly, except I mixed and kneaded the dough with my Kitchenaid mixer and I added some additional rye flour. It was a real success the only thing I may do differently next time is to cut down the sugar content a bit since the molasses is quite sweet anyway! It really turned out well and I got the ingredients we do not usually have on hand at the “Bulk Foods” store nearest to us!
Looks good but why are there no weights- especially for a bread recipe
We can add them… see more:
Looks good but singularly failed to rise. The yeast activated fine, but I think adding to the flour with hot chocolate / butter / water mix killed the yeast ! Something perhaps to be aware of for another time. (metric would be helpful for this European reader but I have a set of cups for this eventuality).
I am going to attempt this black bread recipe using a sourdough starter instead of yeast. Any suggestions?
I love to make this break but since I mill my own flour, I can only use the grains that I can mill them myself. Could you rework the flour component so it’s easier for me and I was wondering if I can make it with Kamut flour?
Thanks a lot
Dennis, I’m interested to use sourdough starter vs yeast. Please post if you found something interesting.
I am Russian, born and raised. There’s no chocolate and espresso in authentic Russian bread, and please don’t call us Russkies, it’s offensive.
Hi Olga — I’m married to a Russian who is not remotely offended by my joking around, and whose family thinks this is the best black bread they’ve ever eaten. It’s okay not to feel it is authentic, or even to dislike the recipe outright, but a more helpful comment would be responding as to how you liked it if you made it.
Hello! This bread looks fantastic, I cannot wait to give it a try! I was wondering if you could freeze it once it’s baked? I know that you mentioned that you don’t usually freeze things. But, I was wondering if this was freezer-compatible! Thanks!
Kay — I don’t, but I freeze this often because it makes two. It holds up great.
Ooh, question! For the unsweetened chocolate, do you think it’d be fine to use cocoa powder instead? I misread the ingredients list, and don’t want to go back to the store for just that one thing if I can avoid.
Also, this is going to be one of the very first times I’ve attempted bread… All previous attempts have been brick-like failures, so I’m gonna read your bread tips post multiple times, cross my fingers, and hope, because this sounds and looks delicious.
earfull — It’s such a small amount, you’ll be fine with cocoa. Enjoy!
Wow! Hundreds of comments over the course of several years! Gonna make this, I’m dreaming of that flavor. Fact or fiction, an interesting tidbit is that pumpernickel got it’s name when Napoleon was offered a chunk of a rough black peasant bread. He took one bite and said in disgust it was only “bon pour Nicole” good for Nicole, his horse. A fun story!
Just made this, exactly as written except subbed oats for bran, as I didn’t have any on hand, and it is perfect. I mixed everything by hand in a very large bowl, and put one loaf in the fridge to slow down its second rise, as my oven is tiny and can only fit one loaf at a time, and they both came out perfectly (the fridge loaf rose a little bit more). The only problem is that now I have to keep all of these ingredients in my pantry at all times so I can have this bread regularly!
making this for about the third time, it’s just wonderful! i have a quick question, i read some concerns in the comments about over-rising bread and i think i have this problem frequently because i use bread-machine yeast and don’t alter the quantities at all. what exactly happens to the final product with over-rising? why is it an issue?
thanks from a long-time fan (first time commenter)!
Noga — Overrisen breads collapse and seem excessively dense. If yours seems doubled/proofed long before the suggested time, move onto the next step.
Thanks for the quick reply! I’ll keep that in mind with next week’s bread.
Wonderful bread. I omitted the caraway seeds as I didn’t have any, and I tend to find the flavour a bit too much. I also cut a bit too deeply into the rounds when I made my x, but that was a primarily aesthetic problem.
We demolished one round with a good borscht last night, and the other one is waiting for some pastrami and cured meats. Thanks for putting this recipe up!
I’m about to make this delicious-sounding bread, and have been encouraged by all the comments and substitutions. My usual routine is to follow a recipe exactly, especially in baking, but since I don’t have all the ingredients at hand, I’m going to try subbing oats for bran and cocoa powder for chocolate. I’m sure it will be great – can’t wait to begin! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes – I love your commentaries that accompany the recipes – make it feel as if you’re cooking and baking with a friend!
Made this today in celebration of the Sochi Olympics and the round loaves turned out great. Made as directed with the change of using Pero instead of the instead expresso powder. We served it with real butter which brings out more the individual flavors in the bread as opposed to eating the bread plain. Thanks for sharing a great recipe!
I am a huge fan of yours; the recipes, photographs and your style of writing are tremendously enjoyable. But this recipe begged a response from me and dragged me to the light. Made this yesterday for my Russian boyfriend for Valentine’s day, since he’s always going on about the varieties of bread in Russia and how black bread is so amazing! It was my first time baking bread (or anything with yeast, really) and, of course, I dove into the deep end…
It was a quite nerve-wracking, since I had to do everything by hand (mixing, kneading, shaping it round etc.) I pored over your bread baking tips and this recipe, but somehow still managed to make a snafu (mistakenly thought it was 3 cups whole wheat instead of 1/2; only realized the error after adding the 2nd cup of whole wheat to my rye… tried to frantically remove 1.5 cups of the wheat from the rye, which was clearly not going to happen. Managed to remove 1 cup of mostly wheat before realizing it was a lost cause, so I just added 2.5 cups of AP and had some mixture left over…) I also had no instant read thermometer, but read on the comments that one can “knock” the bread for a hollow sound? So there I was, knocking the bread and trying to figure out what was hollow…
All in all, it was quite the experience, and despite all these issues, the end product was terrific, for my first stab at it anyway! I think it was a bit denser than it should be, but having never eaten black bread before, I have no idea. My boyfriend’s helpful comment was that it had all the right “tastes” but was not what one gets from the stores. He is a strange, mythical creature who eschews home-baked bread in lieu of the store-bought ones… Apparently, this is also NOT his favourite black bread, since he doesn’t like the seeds (thank goodness I ground them as much as I could in my magic bullet) and whatever other reasons… Just when I was ready to chuck the freshly-baked round at his head, or eat my way through the sorrow, he finally ate it (with some smoked ham) and thought it was terrific! Certainly not better than what one buys in the store, but best home-baked bread he’s had… And given that one can’t buy the Russian bread in stores here (certainly not in VA), it was better than nothing. High praise indeed :P.
The second rise eluded me a bit, especially for the 2nd round that I stuck in the fridge to bake today… I didn’t know how to “proof” the second rise? Do I again stick two fingers, but maybe off to the side? After I removed the 2nd round from the fridge, it took so long to rise again (a case of arrested development, I suppose! :P) It was still smallish, but I didn’t think it would rise anymore, so I just baked it…
Thank you again for your patient instructions and helpful photographs! I relate to you quite a bit, probably because of your Russian other-half; keep those Russian recipes coming! I am about to try my hand at the Sharllotka next; I’ll let you know how it goes! I was about to try to try the golubtsi, but found out before I cooked it that my boyfriend loathes it. Thank god for small favours, I guess, because I am Indian and don’t eat meat! :)
Nivia — Thanks for your note! I agree that this black bread is quite different from the Russian stores, but nothing I’ve had from one (possible we go to the wrong ones and all that) has tasted terribly exciting to me, usually just processed, mild, salty. But we all like what we like, no harm in that. For the second rise, ensuring that it has doubled with the two finger test is not necessary; just using the time suggestion should be enough. The first rise is that one that always seems more variable to me, so it’s nice to have an additional way to check it.
With the Sochi Olympics happening, NPR ran your article again (or maybe my browsing habits just pushed it to the top of the ‘suggested reads’ section). I am taking Russian lessons from this dear old Russian woman and she insists on feeding me after every lesson. I protest feebly and then sit down to an absolute feast every time. To show my appreciation to her, I wanted to attempt a Russian dish and bring it over for the next lesson. The black bread looked like a great, if intimidating, option.
Unbelievable. That was absolutely superb. I read through the bulk of the comments and had all of my questions answered. Then I dove in. I didn’t pay much attention to the proof times (I’m a novice at baking) so didn’t finish until about 10:30 at night, but as you promised, the prep was easy and the result is so hard to describe. It is still haunting my taste buds.
Thank you for the amazing work you do on this blog. You’ve pushed me from timid microwave cook to fearless Baker, cook, etc.
I’m in heaven–so far. For many years now, I have been on the pursuit of the perfect dark rye raisin bread recipe–and for years every loaf has failed to rise properly. I was close to giving up and buying it from my local restaurant that has the best I’ve ever had. (They shared their recipe, but has ingredients like malt and caramel I can’t find). Tried a new recipe yesterday, and threw it away after yet another loaf failed to rise. Back at it this morning with your recipe. I must say the experience was vastly different than all my dark rye attempts so far, and my bread is RISING!!! A few comments that would be great to get input on: first, I decided to use ceramic for all stages versus my big metal bread bowls–including the yeast phase. (I used two packets as the recipe still says 2 packets). Wow, the yeast rose beyond the little bowl so I knew something big was happening. I didn’t have bran, and thought it would work fine without it (who knows…we shall see)–but added a cup more of wheat flour instead. I too feared I had not cooled the molasses -chocolate mixture enough, but with the yeast overflowing, i poured it into a glass container and went ahead and slowly added. I was really surprised how much liquid I was adding (soupy-ish)–but after the 3 minutes of medium speed, it was fine. I also added all of the flour, slowly, to the bowl and kept just a bit for kneading. Now, a huge smile came across my face when the dough was actually springy! Like dough should be! I needed it and felt like I was making white bread the consistency was so beautiful. I put it in a ceramic lasagna pan for fear my metal bowl may be the culprit to rising (???)–and covered it with plastic wrap, and it’s growing so nicely–quickly, in fact so this time I’ll probably go to stage two at 1.5 hours vs. 2 hours (other times I’ve waited 5-12 hours…). I am going to add raisins at this stage–don’t know if I should have added them before (???)–I’ve plumped them up in a little water so they are juicy. Stay tuned…
Hey Deb can I sub whole wheat flour for the rye flour?
Mariam — Theoretically, it should work. I haven’t tried it. It will, of course, change the flavor profile.
hi, wondering if its ok to let my bread rise overnight and bake tomo? if so, how do i go abt it? covered? fridge? etc thanks
I just tried this recipe yesterday for a Game of Thrones premier dinner. I had to sub dark rye flour for medium rye flour and oat bran for wheat bran, since that was all I could find at Ye Olde Safeway. But it turned out really well! Delicious bread, very moist and flavorful. I can’t wait to enjoy it again for lunch, toasted with ham and cheese … mmm.
This might be a silly question, but do you know if it’s all right to use ground espresso beans instead of instant espresso powder?
Also, I left a comment back in March with a question about baking a couple of pre-wedding cakes for my dad, using your wedding cake recipes. Your advice was so helpful, and people at the reception kept coming up to me saying it was the best cake they’d ever had. Thanks again for your help and for your part in making that day special. Your blog continues to be my favorite thing.
Christie — Thank you; I’m so glad it worked out well. Ground espresso beans are fine. The only difference is that, well, they actually have better flavor, however, they will leave some grit behind while instant espresso dissolves. But I don’t think a tiny, tiny amount of grit in a big loaf of bread will even be noticeable.
This bread was fantastic! I see there are a few people who have asked this already, but I can’t seem to find an answer.
Is it ok to let the dough rise overnight in the fridge? Once you take it out, how long do you need until you can pop it in the oven?
If you freeze the dough, when in the process should you freeze?
Ilana — Yes, you can chill it in the fridge to slow the rise, up to 24 hours. Once you take it out, if it’s doubled, let it come back to room temperature for a bit before baking it. If it hasn’t, let it finish rising at room temperature before baking it. I’m not a huge expert on freezing doughs but I’d expect it to freeze best after the first rise (i.e. press down, pat into disc and freeze).
My new boss is Russian, but he left there when he was a teenager. I was not familiar with Black Bread, but I told him I would try to make one and he could judge whether or not it was any good.
He was in Heaven! he said the smell was amazing and took him back to when he was a boy in Russia. He said it smelled and tasted like Riga bread – first I was hearing about that variety of Rye bread – and it was one of the best Black Breads he has had in decades.
Even after allowing for a certain amount of flattery and nostalgia, I think that’s a big compliment! really great recipe, which I will try again
I’ve been pining over this recipe for weeks now and I think I’m finally going to make it! I saw in your FAQ that you can convert it into weight measurements (this is my first time making bread and I feel like it would be more accurate if I use a food scale) so I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind posting the weights. Thanks for your time(:
I wish I would have read through the comments before I started. I tried to make this bread today and when I added the steamy chocolate mixture I thought “I wonder if this will kill the yeast? Well, Deb didn’t say ‘wait for it to cool'” so I poured it in. It hasn’t risen at all in the two hours since I finished kneading. Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow after letting the chocolate mixture cool. The smell is amazing and I can’t wait until I get to try it.
Sarah — Oh, no! I’m sorry for the trouble. I don’t think I ever mentioned it because I usually just barely heat it, only enough that the chocolate and butter will melt with a bit of stirring, so more like lukewarm by the time they’ve melted, which is fine with yeast. It’s little consolation now, but I agree it would be helpful to warn people, will add.
Deb, thank you. I am happy to report I tried the recipe again and it turned out to be great.
Do you think this recipe would work as rolls, just cut into smaller sizes and with an adjusted baking time? I’m dreaming of pumpernickel type rolls for Thanksgiving- specifically dark but still somehow tender and soft. Is it possible to get that soft tenderness you’d get with a white roll but still the deep dark flavor of a pumpernickel?
Sarah — You can definitely make this into rolls. The bread has a wonderful, tender texture but it is a wholegrain bread — it has more sturdiness than a white flour dinner roll.
I am looking for a black bread recipe like this except with whole ground spelt flour in place of the wheat and all purpose flour. My daughter is allergic to wheat. I cannot use any all purpose or bread flour. Any thoughts on converting this recipe to handle spelt flour? I have a grain mill and grind my own spelt berries.
Thanks for any help!
Just wanted to say thanks for a wonderful recipe Deb! I baked off about half the recipe as rolls as a test run for Thanksgiving since I’m bringing them to dinner at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. (about 14-15 mins if anybody else decides to go that route) They turned out delightfully tender and wholesome- one with a cup of coffee was a great breakfast.
I have made this bread twice now. It is delicious and though the ingredient list is long, I almost always have all of them on hand. The first time I made it I subbed minced onion in place of the shallot and I would just go with whatever you have on hand as there is no difference in the final product. I opt to make two round loaves and bake them side by side on a cookie sheet at the same time, they barely fit but it works. My only issue has been with slashing the dough. Both times one loaf came out perfect and the other I must have slashed too far and it looked partially collapsed. I am an intermediate bread maker and usually just do one slash successfully…maybe the cross slash just isn’t my jam? Next time I will just do the one slash, as I am assuming this would make no difference in the final product (or does it?). regardless, than you for such a fab recipe that is equally good toasted with butter as it is slathered in cream cheese and smoked salmon, or a hunk as a side to sweet and sour cabbage soup, or the base for a toasted corned beef sandwich…
This looks delicious! I’m new here so quick question; if I don’t have a spice grinder but still want to grind the seeds, would a food processor work, or is it too big of a mechanism to do the job? Thanks!
Elizabeth — Too big; you can also leave the seeds whole. Or try them in a mortar and pestle.
I meant to mention in my comment above that I don’t buy active dry yeast, I only use instant yeast. It comes in a small vacuum sealed block, it lasts in the freezer or fridge for years (good brands are SAF or Red Star instant yeasts), and you don’t have to bother fussing around blooming it in warm water and all of that business. You just dump it right in any bread recipe with the flour. I used 1 Tablespoon in this recipe and added it along with the water it was supposed to be bloomed in from Step 1 to the melted chocolate mixture. Just make sure the chocolate mixture isn’t to warm. I use an instant thermometer to make sure it isn’t over 120F, as that will kill yeast.
I’ve made this bread a few times and it’s one of the most satisfying breads I have tasted in a long while. I make the entire two loaf recipe into one pan loaf. I like the texture and added height.
So happy to have found this recipe again! It is a stupendous bread to serve with a hearty vegetarian vegetable soup. Yes, it is stick-to-your-ribs-dense…..the better to soak up soups and gravies….
I made this bread last night and we ate it tonight with vegetable soup and cheese. It was absolutely delicious. It is a very dense bread but the crumb is surprisingly tender and soft and the flavor is complex and unique. I didn’t have fennel seeds and I didn’t do the cornmeal topping. I used onion powder instead of fresh shallots. And like Mels (above) I used Red Star instant yeast and skipped feeding the yeast and waiting for it to bloom. I dumped everything in the mixer and it came together beautifully. I made the tops slashes plus four extra slashes along the side because the boule seemed to have a lot of surface tension and I didn’t want a blow out. Tomorrow we are going to use the rest for sandwiches. The dough smelled horrible but the bread smelled and tasted sublime. I gave a loaf to my daughter to take home to her Russian husband. I can’t wait to hear his feedback.
Hmm, I was just looking for recipes for Russian black bread, and found yours and was about to go and whip one up but first I checked another site, and lo and behold they have one of your images (uncredited) on their post about black bread. You might want to contact them: https://russianreport.wordpress.com/russian-cuisine-main-salads-soups-desserts/russian-black-bread-%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9-%D1%85%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B1/
Yikes, thanks for the heads up. Hope you enjoy the bread (we are still obsessed with this).
So keen to try this recipe, but I love pumpernickel bread with peanut butter and honey. I’m not sure any i have tried previously had onion in it. Can anyone report on how strong the shallot flavour is in this bread and whether I would lose flavour complexity if I omitted them?
Rosie — It’s very mild but there’s no reason not to skip it if they’re not your thing.
Just retired, live alone, so I decided to learn to bake bread. So many recipes out there, but I don’t care if some say this one is not ‘authentic.’ The kudos speak, for themselves!
Will be trying next week. Do you need the instant read thermometer? I live in the country. Also, when I ate in some Russian restaurants in NYC, they had buns, dark bread-like with raisins. Could you use this dough to make buns, and use raisins in the loaves or buns? Love reading the comments.
I tried this a couple times and it tasted great! I absolutely love the flavor. But my dough keeps coming out super sticky, to the point that its almost impossible to knead and im scraping it off my hands with a spatula. The dough is so sticky it seems like i should be using way more flour, but i don’t want to use too much. So i was wondering if it would cause huge issues with the recipe if i only used 1- 1 1/2c. of water instead of 2?
So, the thing is, sticky doughs are good. They’re scary to work with, but they make tender, moist breads (and not dry/sturdy ones). It’s okay if you have to scrape a little. If you still feel it needs more flour, I’d recommend only adding 2T extra at a time, kneading it in and letting the dough rest (so it absorbs) for a full 10 minutes before adding any more. You can also let the dough rest for 10 minutes before adding the flour, as this too can help it feel less sticky when it’s time to knead. I wouldn’t go in the direction of reducing the water, especially a reduction as significant as you’re suggesting. If you think of flour and water running proportionally to each other, removing 1/2 cup of the water would be like dropping the dry mix by almost 2 cups, and removing 1 cup of the water would be like halving it altogether.
Hi Deb, You saved my self-esteem this weekend with this recipe. I was on my second try of a whole wheat bread recipe from one of Peter Rhinehart’s books and it flunked again, but the loaves from this recipe turned out BEAUTIFULLY. Plus, everyone knows pumpernickel/black bread is way better than whole wheat, anyway. Thank you!
Was a little skeptical at first so I cut the recipe in half as there are so many bread recipes out there that just don’t turn out, but I was immensely impressed with this one. It is one of the best breads I’ve made yet so it’s definitely a keeper.
Since there is always one or two ingredients I don’t have, as usual, I had to substitute onion powder and garlic 2:1 for the shallots, old fashioned oats (ground) for the bran, and red wine vinegar and water 2:1 for the apple cider vinegar. I also substituted 1/4 cup of the bread flour with high gluten flour. and came out with a loaf with great texture, height and taste.
Thank you so much for a great recipe.
your light wheat bread converted me from smittenkitchen-bakery-recipes-agnosticism to a full blown fan of your breads.
Writing from Europe, I found the gram measurements in the light wheat recipe a great help. So I thought, I should probably share my gram measurements for your recipe with others who don’t get the hang of cups and ounces:
16g dry yeast or one cube (42g) of fresh yeast)
125g warm water
450(works for me)-500g water
62g apple cider vinegar
28g dark unsweetened chocolate (seems to be nonexistant in Germany, I used 90% cocoa)
100g whole wheat flour
375g dark rye flour (I used homeground, so pumpernickl for the Americans, medium rye might pack denser)
385g bread flour (German Type812 didn’t have other, should correspond to American AP or light bread flour)
1 double shot of espresso (didn’t want to buy powder, so no grams here, sorry)
half a small shallot, chopped
My approach to the whole melting and cooling stuff was to heat half the total amount of water in a kettle, pour it over butter, molasses, vinegar and shallots and blend with a blender. Then added cold water to fill up. Added yeast, when thermometer read 35C. Kneaded in sturdy kitchen machine, very sticky dough.
What a fantastic recipe!! Thank you so much!
thank you so much for the weight measurements
I have made this bread several times and tonight I made it for my daughter’s Russian /Belarussian Mother-in -law and she said it wasn’t Russian black bread, “it is American Black Bread” and of course there is no such thing. Anyway she said she loved it and ate lots of it. I was disappointed. She said, “it is different” but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Oh well. I still love this recipe.
Would this recipe work in a bread machine?
Just wonderful. Followed exactly and removed right at 210 degrees as others have mentioned the bread being dry. Beautiful texture and flavor- best eaten slightly warm with butter. Thanks for a delicious recipe, Deb!
Could you please remove the errant apostrophe from “it’s paltry seven ingredients”?
Yes, but just for you. :)
In the process of making this RIGHT NOW….but curious why a regular dough hook for the mixer isn’t used to blend AND knead the dough since it’s already in the mixer ??? Yeah, I get the Zen of hand kneading, but ya know….
Anyway, looking forward to the finished product. Am making porchetta today and will make sandwiches with all of the above tomorrow…maybe throw on some pickled beets and arugula to finish.
Made this recipe the other day. While the flavor is good, the consistency is quite dry, with the bread falling apart when sliced. My question is the Bran. I used wheat bran, because it was not specified which kind in the recipe. I have a feeling that this added to the end point dryness. I followed the recipe, otherwise, to the letter. What bran did you use? Any help appreciated.
I made this just as written and it turned out great: very flavorful and assertive, and with a good smooth texture. I would skip the cornmeal/flour mixture on top, but otherwise good stuff!
(I had all the ingredients in the house except for rye flour!)
After an unsuccessful hunt for a “real Russian bakery” on Fairfax Ave in L.A., I decided to make my husband Russian Black Bread. After searching the web, i saw Smitten’s recipe which looked so interesting – complex flavors and ingredients. All I can say is this -a total winner! The bread was dense, fragrant, packed with rich in flavors that everyone loved but no one could identify. Chocolate and shallots? Coffee and molasses? Bravo, Deb. This will be be part of our food repertoire for many years. And like your upcoming new cookbook, it was a day-long labor of love.
Thanks for the great, if somewhat crazy recipe.
We will certainly try it once.
And still congratulations to your interesting and beautiful blog.
Irina and Walter
Hello, I felt compelled to leave a comment after my attempt at this recipe today yielded brilliant results. This is some sort of magical, miracle bread! I think it’s my most perfect loaf ever in terms of shape and crumb. The colour is beautiful and it’s so damn tasty. Thank you, Deb, for sharing this.
The details: I followed the ingredients list exactly – half measures of everything to make a single loaf. I mixed everything and kneaded (for eight minutes) by hand. I would say I’m an intermediate bread baker. My past experiences with rye led me to keep a bowl of water on the side, for keeping my hands wet while kneading. It seems counter-intuitive maybe, but this keeps the sticky rye dough perfectly manageable.
I live in New Zealand and it’s the middle of winter right now, cold and wet, but I was running a dehumidifier in the room where the rise/proof took place, and I used a heat pad. Maybe this had something to do with my dough now being wetter than Deb’s, but the first hour of the first rise had me worried that I had killed the yeast with my chocolate mix (even though I let it cool) – barely any growth. But after 2 hours it had taken off. Proofing was also slow but my instincts after 1 hour told me to put it in the oven even though it was probably only about half-way to double-size.
I set the oven to 200°C for the first 10 minutes of baking and then reduced the temperature to 175°C for the remaining 35 minutes. It sprung up beautifully by about the 15 minute mark, a perfect, regular-sized loaf. After the slow proofing, this was a pleasant surprise. I couldn’t help myself and sliced into it after a couple of hours of cooling – perfection.
Sorry for the long comment! I hope somebody finds these details useful.
Hi Deb. I have been aching to make a Rye bread for so long. After reading so much I settled on your copy. First, it is by far the most flavorfilled Rye we have ever tasted. That said, and that is everything or it should be, I stumbled into a few challenges. First, it took 2.15 hours o double. Second, my second proof did no double my loave…you see I split the loaf before its first rise for ease. I washed the loaves with a cornstarch wash and a shower of the leftover flour mix. So the size loave are the perfect fit for a single serving of creamy spinach dip, or cheezy potato soup or etc…. but i was wanting a great loaf to slice for Pastrami sandwiches, or tuna, or etc….
Would you be a love and help me critic how I may alter what I did wrong. Thank you for this recipe share <3 Karen
I am so sorry for all my mis-spelled words….I should have checked before I signed on
It’s so hard for me to say for sure what happened. Sometimes yeast takes longer — did you use active dry? — or it’s cool where you are etc. But it definitely sounds like it didn’t rise enough.
This looks delicious. Deb, is there any way I could sub molasses with either grape or pomegranate. I am in Palestine and cannot get my hands on US style molasses but have bottles upon bottles of homemade (e.a. mother-in-law made) fruit based molasses.
Did you know that “Black Russian “ bagels also have onions/ shallots? They are dark like pumpernickel with a little something which I detect as onion-y flavor. Please sample one and let me know! Must be authentic Black Russian not a domestic imposter 🤣
I’m so intrigued by this bread it’s not even funny. Well, ok, I was intrigued by your amusing “I found a text editor…” on insta and was like, wait, the bread sounds crazy good and where can I find this text editor because her pist looks amazeballs.
Here’s a question, do you think this bread could be made using barley flour or all rye? I have a tough time with wheat, so a non wheat flour would be ideal. What are your thoughts? Thanks and Happy New Year!
That should say POST. So sorry!!!!
Yum! This was my first time making yeast bread (but I’ve made a lot of your other recipes). -I couldn’t resist! It sounded too good! I had to use espresso instead of instant espresso, and white vinegar instead of apple but it turned out very wonderful and delicious! Crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside. So much flavor! Thank you! 10/10!
I made this bread yesterday, followed the recipe exactly and it came out just PERFECT. Beautiful color, interesting texture, rich deep flavor, and satisfying in every way bread wants to be satisfying on a cold winter day. Thank you so much for this delicious bread recipe. (Hope you will say “Yay!” when you see this comment!)
I love your blog. In fact, I just read ALL comments with a response from you!
I am not a bread baker ; but I am intrigued by this recipe. Is it even wise for me to try this since I am a bread baker virgin? I noticed that some ingredients are optional. Is it ok for me to omit the coffee and shallots? I hate coffee and can’t imagine the taste of shallots in bread! Also, how does one deflate bread? I still have to look st your Tips posting and apologize if some or any of these questions are answered there.
Thank you so much for the non-meat version of split pea soup. I was prepared to eliminate the meat. Anxious to try it!
Yes, an amateur can definitely make this. I promise you will not taste either coffee or shallots in the end, but it builds a larger flavor that is excellent. Regardless, feel free to skip them. To deflate, just press it down with your hands. More bread tips here.
This was fun snow day project! I’m a total beginner when it comes to bread but I managed to bake up a decent loaf. Towards the end of the mixing process I had a dry, crumbly mixture instead of the sticky dough, and I realized I forgot to add the water to the molasses/cider/chocolate/butter mixture! Oops. I added the water right into the dough and it came together. I love the rich, complex flavor of this bread. I’d definitely make it again.
Some notes: I cut the recipe in half to make one loaf. I left out the seeds because I didn’t have any and I don’t like the flavor of caraway. My grocery store only had dark rye flour and Bob’s Red Mill wheat bran, so that’s what I used.
Excellent! I made it just as stated and it is perfect. I left the spices whole as I like my bread with lots of character. To help with the rising (it is zero outside right now so not a warm place anywhere) I turned the oven on for 30 seconds to get it slightly warm then stuck the bread in there to rise. Worked beautifully.
Only two changes:
-I used my dough hook for a few minutes instead of hand kneading
-I will skip the topping next time. It didn’t really add anything to the bread and was 3 times the amount needed.
Thank you for this excellent bread recipe!
Deb, I tried this and loved it! The only thing is that the cornmeal felt kind of weird on top. Doesn’t it typically go on the bottom of bread? Don’t get me wrong, it tasted good, I just felt weird doing it.
I also went a little rogue and made mine a “black russian” style by using everything seasoning on top instead of more caraway. Best of both worlds!! yum!
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever put it on! Good to know.
This bread is amazing, I made it twice yesterday because the first time I forgot the bran (couldn’t figure out why the dough was so sticky, so I kept adding bread flour until it felt right. I liked the loaf with the bran more than the other, but only by a touch, they were both incredible. Seems like a very forgiving recipe.
Can you make this with sourdough starter instead of active dry yeast?
A character in a charming fanfic made this, and the author linked your recipe. I can see how you could use this bread to attract the one you love. Thanks! It’s delicious!
Love this recipe but I would love to have the flour weights so I don’t have to use so many measuring cups!
I just made this and it turned out amazing – I did 5oz to a cup on all the flours, except the rye flour, which I did 3.6oz/cup (for a total of 10.8 oz).
Wondering if I can make this with whole wheat sourdough starter instead of dry yeast. I have an abundance of it right now and looking for other types of bread to make.
I have had my eyes on this recipe for so long and I am finally going to try it tomorrow. I was just wondering how to store this bread? I am going to make the two loaves and want it to last for the week. Will it last so long and how should I store it? Appreciate if you could let me know at the earliest! Love your recipes! Thank you!
I store bread in the freezer. It’s the only way it seems like freshly-baked when used later.
WOWSERS! This was fantastic, thanks! I followed your recipe exactly for the loaf bread. I ground the seeds and omitted the optional grain/seed mixture that you put on top. Came out great.
Lunch, 1/2 peanut butter and honey sandwich with either a cup or bottle of yogurt.
Will my Artisan KitchenAid stand mixer be able to handle this much dough? If I’m going to pull together 17 ingredients, I hate to halve the recipe! Thanks.
I always use mine. I have a 5-quart (standard) bowl.
This recipe is great, thank you for posting it! There is nothing better than the smell of baking black bread, followed by black bread with a slice of cheese for breakfasts. Plus, no having to own a bread-maker.
I won the Blue Ribbon for this bread at the 2018 NM State Fair. I’ve had this recipe for many years…found it in Bon Appetit in 1985 and saved this recipe for all this time. I’m so happy you have shared it. It to is a cherished recipe…but one you have to go shopping for.
Could this be baked in a pre-heated round cloche @ 350 degrees, rather than the red hot temperatures used in no-knead baking?
I’d think so, but I haven’t tested it here of course.
This looks great! Could you please add weights when you get the chance? Thank you!
I’ve been making–very successfully!– Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread for nearly a year now but was ready to try something different. I split the recipe, used instant yeast, weighed the flour and used it all, had cocoa instead of chocolate, worried that I’d under-proved it, skipped the cornmeal bit and took it nervously out of the oven at 40 minutes (my new convection oven runs a bit hot). The rise seemed okay; hollow enough sounding. Since my husband stayed up past his bedtime to sample it, I made little tuna and pickle open faced sandwiches for a bedtime snack. Soo satisfying. In spite of everything, a very fine loaf! Grateful again to you.
I have just made the dough and it is on its first rise but I have realised that I don’t have time for the second rise and then baking it as I have to go out in a couple of hours. Can I put it in the fridge after the first rise and bake it in the morning? Or would it be better to do both and refrigerate it after the second rise?
Sounds delish I’m saving this for future adventures. I would like to swap an ingredient though… Any sentiments on how trading out whole wheat flour for oat flour would enhance or denigrade the recipe?
Love black bread! You can find it not only in Russia but also in Lituania. So delicious :)
Can this recipe, which I have made several time with great success both at sea level and at 7000 ft where we live now, be converted into bagels? If so how?
With great appreciation,
2020 New Skills Challenge for myself: bread-making. Flush with the success of my first loaf, a basic white bread, I plunged straight in here, allured by Deb’s magical text and having read every comment. It worked! Perfectly! This is the bread I’ve craved since moving to England 21 years ago – the bread of my childhood in South Florida, where every third person was a NY retiree, and my later life in the Northeast. I actually danced round the kitchen while I ate my first slice (and English husband looked on, bewildered). I’m thinking Pumpernickle-Raisin Bagels are now a possibility. Life. Changed…… thanks, Deb!
If I use Pumpernickel flour, should I omit the bran?
What is pumpernickel flour? (Pumpernickel is usually made from rye flour.)
must make this! do you blv i have all the ingredients except espresso powder (which has turned it o a rock)
I’d like to second the request for flour / ingredient weights. And the bread sounds amazing.
Oat bran or wheat bran? Can you please post using weight rather than cups Tbl etc? Thanks!
Since learning the basics of no-kneed white bread baking from a great bread baker 2 years ago, I’ve never bought a shop-bread again.
2 Months ago I did an additional course with him on Whole Wheat / Spelt / Rye breads as well as Brioche. Love Love Love the whole process of bread baking.
I normally leave my dough in the fridge in between stretching to give the yeast time to do its job slowly – it adds to the flavor and provides an all round lovely product. From what I’ve been told (and experienced myself) using less yeast, not rushing the process by using warm water, not proving in warm conditions (over 22 degrees C) over a longer period lessens the chances of thinking you are gluten intolerant while it is actually the masses of yeast and the rush that commercial bread is made in that cause that horrid lump in your tummy.
I plan on baking this bread within the next week or so, but will definitely skip the caraway seeds. Very much looking forward to having my first slice of this bread, dripping with fresh butter.
Thank you for this fabulous recipe! Easy to make & came out as delicious as it smells! A new favorite for me!❤️
A bit later in the evening…
Wonderful crumb, looks great; tastes great. Thanks; excellent recipe.
I have to stay home due to coronavirus, and have no bran or whole wheat, but do have rye and bread flours. Any idea how to adjust this recipe to not end up with a boat anchor from being to much of one or the other? Have everything else, and the time to try this is now! No bread left, especially not great bread!
For bran, you could use wheat germ (maybe grind it a little if it’s course) or even instant oats you’ve ground further (or chopped with a sharp knife into smaller bit). I’d use bread flour for the whole wheat.
If you don’t have bran what is a good substitute? Trying to avoid hunting it down in stores during quarantine
Anything flaky — instant oats, quinoa flakes, wheat germ, or even a more coarse whole-grain flour mix (I’d swap by weight).
This is my mountain to climb this week…..
I’m not sure what you mean by bran ?????
Also, I want to add raisins….. step 4 or 5?????
Wheat bran. I would add raisins at any point. If you plump them first, they will not draw liquid away from the bread. You’re in for a treat!
NOT pumpernickel bread !!! Pumpernickel bread is a hard , whole grain no flour product!!! What you’ve made is just a flour bread and you should learn facts before you erroneously publish your errors. Every German is laughing at your stupity
Hi there! If I only have access to *dark* rye should I proceed as the recipe is written or make an adjustment? Thank you!
It should work just fine here.
Hi Deb! Thanks as always for sharing all the delicious things with us!
I have a hobby of cooking for Formula 1 races in whatever country they are racing in (next weekend is Russia). I made this bread for the first time a year or two ago, and it has turned into my husband’s favorite bread (I also LOVE it). I’ll be making it again next weekend for this year’s race and given how excited he is, I felt I had to send a quick note of thanks!
I’ve come back to this after many years.
I will be making a gluten-fee version again and hopefully it’ll last more than a day this time.
Thank you for sharing it.
can more whole wheat bread flour be added, up to 1/2 of the bread flour?
Yes, but you might find it needs a little more kneading or moisture to get the ideal crumb.
so i made this last week & it was delicious, but i felt there was a slightly bitter after taste. i’m wondering if it was the instant espresso or the molasses (grandmas, not blackstrap) or something else & if so what should i adjust? thoughts? thx!
I don’t think either should have thrown the whole loaf of bread, and I often use Grandma’s without a problem. What kind of pan did you bake it in? I wonder if it was reactive…
Finally, I love this bread. And bakeries in my town rarely make it. I hound them all the time to make it but never do. So I guess I will just make it myself. I love your recipe by just looking at it. I want it made into round or oval loafs. Is there anything special to do to make this recipe in ONE giant loaf. It is going to be the center piece of Christmas dinner. My family goes crazy over homemade bread.
helpful hints like: temperature change, length of baking time, placement in oven…etc.
Same temperature, placement, but you might find it just takes forever and makes a monstrously huge loaf. Bread is done when it’s not doughy in the center, usually around 200 degrees.
Hello from Australia Dear Deb,
I am late to the party it would seem !
My partner is Russian and always raves about the black bread he remembers as a child … This is most certainly NEXT level and will be made on Xmas eve day.
I wanted to bake this for him and have russian caviar and vodka ;)
Allegedly, you can drink Ice cold shots of it all day and as long as you pair it with caviar you do not get drunk and wake up feeling fabulous ….
1. Can I use dark rye flour – I cannot find any light (but will keep hunting)
2. Also, could I use Bob’s red mill 1.1 gluten free all purpose flour ?
I know the rye is gluten etc – and we are not gluten intolerent per se …. – but usually I try to keep inflammation down through using Bob’s red mill products – but if this will compromise the bread in any way – then no way hosay !
Gluten free stuff has come a LONG way (baked goods used to all taste like old carpet ;) – ha ;)
2. I’m not sure without testing it; gluten is, of course, an essential part of bread-making.
And thanks for the article! I will enjoy it, I’m sure.
I made this and successfully swapped in some sourdough discard for 1 cup of the flour. This is very snackable bread. Delicious!
mine dont seem to have risen :( any tips? i made the no knead bread with success and wanted something more challenging.
after baking, they are incredibly dense and heavy – is that how they’re supposed to be?
If it doesn’t rise and the yeast was definitely good, give it more time. Sometimes in cooler winter kitchens, things take longer.
I am excited to make this bread for New Years brunch! Do you think it would work to do the first rising overnight in the fridge, so in the morning it would just need the second rise and it be baked? Thanks in advance- love your site so much!
Yes, that’s just fine. If it doesn’t look doubled from the fridge after the ovenight, let it finish at room temperature before continuing.
When you say this recipe can be baked in two loaf pans, do you mean 1 lb loaf pans or 1 1/2 lb loaf pans (ie 9×5 vs 8.5×4.5)?
I was thinking … either, i.e. both will work. (I thought that 1# pounds are usually 8x5x4.5 — at the bottom, 9×5 at the top, confusing most of us — and 1.5# were 10×5, longer, but I could absolutely be wrong on this!)
I want to know about pan size too. Pan measurements are usually taken at the top so an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 is smaller at the bottom. Do you think two of these would be too small? I am so excited to make this bread. Thanks, Deb.
Would dark rye flour work with this? Or light rye? Would I have to change the amount?
Yes, the bread is pretty forgiving.
I didn’t have as much rye flour as I thought so part of that was replaced with whole wheat. I also used instant yeast instead of active dry and spelt bran instead of wheat bran because that’s what I had on hand. It still came out really nice! It’s a fun dough to put together too. Thanks for the recipe!
As an avid bread baker, this was so delicious!! I also used ground spices, and subbed instant coffee for espresso since my store was out. Just a tip, could be nice for the future bakers to edit this recipe to include gram weight for the dry ingredients and liquid (I had to look it up individually, which was fine but kind of a pain!)
Made this today and it’s worth getting all the ingredients together. I needed to add a bit of extra flour. I also used instant yeast and added it in with the seed/espresso powder mix. The topping mix yielded way too much. I’d use 2 tb of cornmeal next time. Otherwise an excellent bread I happy I made.
I made this today and it was the loveliest rye bread I’ve eaten! Excellent with thick butter and jam. I made a few adjustments though that might mean it’s no longer actually ‘ Russian black bread’. I really dislike the taste of aniseed so I left out the seeds, I’m in the U.K. and black treacle is much more easily available than molasses so I used this and I didn’t have an shallot ( or onion) so left this out. I also only wanted one loaf so halved the recipe. Delicious.
I have been eyeing this recipe for years, but I’m still not a confident enough bread baker to attempt recipes without weight measurements. Any chance of an update on this one?
Jes this was one of the very first recipes with yeast I ever made – while weight measurements to make things easier I want to suggest you give it a try as written – the bread is worth it.
I have been making this recipe for years and always love it. I served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2008-2010, and black bread is one of the things I miss most from my time there. Today it feels very important to make this bread again. Ukrainians are wonderful, generous hosts. I remember my Ukrainian counterpart’s grandmother’s face whenever she would harvest dill from their backyard garden. She’d stick her nose right in there and pull back with unmitigated joy.
My heart is with Ukraine now, and I pray their sovereignty will be preserved that that good will prevail.
Do you prefer unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour for this?
Can you tell me how each affects the texture?
You can use either. Bread flour is great if you have it, but you’ll be fine if you don’t.
Made this bread twice now and while it tastes amazing, I cannot figure out how to get the bread to a nice, high rise that is at least 5 inches tall. I have limited experience making bread but I did start the sourdough hobby (made 30 boules since Covid) and I can confidently claim to have mastered “sourdough” bread making where the boule comes out picture perfect (~24 hour proof, 6 inches high, no cracks, etc.) and tastes soft/airy inside.
Are my expectations for this specific recipe unwarranted? Is it unrealistic to expect the same kind of rise when working with denser flours, commercial yeast, and such a amount of proofing (3 hours in this recipe vs. ~24 hours overnight)? Please, please, please advise.
Furthermore, I would like to detail where I went off script in my first attempt of this recipe. During baking, I attempted to bake the boule in a closed dutch oven for the first 20 minutes and then removed the lid for the final 30 minutes. I always do this with my sourdough boules so I thought “wouldn’t hurt here” if the concept was to create and maintain humidity while baking. Some recipes call for a pan of hot water underneath to create humidity so I thought I could replicate safely using the dutch oven. Second attempt I almost followed everything to a “T” but during mixing stage I did not incorporate the yeast mixture and wet mixture (molasses etc) slowly, instead I put it in all at once and incorporated slowly. Would this undoubtedly have an effect in the end product? In both attempts, the dough proofed to at least double the volume during both proofing stages within the allotted proofing times, so it led me to believe that whatever I did prior had little to zero affect on the final results. But I could be naive and wrong in thinking that!
I am definitely not practiced with sourdough, but two things for me lead to flatter breads: a softer dough, of course, and overproofing, so it’s beginning to collapse.
Is this bread actually . . . black? It looks paler than the pumpernickel of my childhood in the photo (but similar to current, sadder pumpernickel).
If it isn’t actually black, what could you do to change that?
Every time I eat a slice of blackbread topped with butter and sour cream with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, I find my mind taking me back (way back) to those trips with grandma, Nini, by streetcar to her house in Pittsburgh. She would tear off a hunk of crusty black bread dip it in sour cream and we would snack the whole trip! I surely love my Nini!