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Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

Updated September 18, 2017

2 1/4

teaspoons active dry yeast


tablespoons apple cider vinegar


tablespoons unsalted butter


oz unsweetened cocoa powder


cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2

cups medium or dark rye flour

1 1/2

cups Gold Medal™ Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


tablespoon caraway seeds


teaspoon fennel seeds


tablespoon instant espresso powder


tablespoon minced shallots or red onion

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  • 1

    In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, sugar and warm water. Let sit about 10 minutes until foamy.

  • 2

    Heat cup of water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate in a small saucepan until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.

  • 3

    Whisk together whole wheat, rye and all-purpose flours in a separate large bowl. Set aside.

  • 4

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flours, bran, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots (or red onion). Mixing on low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

  • 5

    At low speed, add 1/2 cup remaining flours at a time, using a spatula to scrape excess flour from the sides of the bowl. Add just enough flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to dough hook and knead about 5-8 minutes on medium speed — adding 1 tsp all-purpose flour at a time if needed for dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl — until smooth and elastic (or knead by hand on floured countertop for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic).

  • 6

    Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

  • 7

    Turn out risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into round or sandwich loaf and place either on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (for round) or in a lightly greased loaf pan (for sandwich loaf). Cover lightly and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Slash an X in the top of the round before baking (this is not needed for the sandwich loaf).

  • 8

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread until deeply browned and 200-210°F when an instant-read thermometer is inserted in the bottom center, about 45 to 50 minutes. Allow bread to cool completely on cooling rack before slicing.

No nutrition information available for this recipe

More About This Recipe

  • I’ve been trying to build myself a bucket list for years.Sometimes, along with “write a book” and “go to Greece,” I think “write bucket list” should go on my bucket list!One thing that is on my rather paltry bucket list is “bake pumpernickel bread.” Pumpernickel – light or dark – is one of my absolute favorite types of bread, and I knew that making it at home would be a real treat.Of course, this Russian Black Bread isn’t quite pumpernickel. The bread does taste strikingly similar to my beloved pumpernickel, and the ingredients — rye flour, molasses, cocoa powder — seem to fit the bill. But it just wasn’t quite the same. So I’m on the fence as to whether or not I’ve actually “baked pumpernickel bread.” Regardless, it was still the treat I’d hoped it would be.I can’t say I’m disappointed in my slightly off-track endeavor — this bread renders a flavor so rich and dense that it is, dare I say it, better than pumpernickel! I only say this because I’ve eaten pumpernickel so often that this bread offers a new dynamic of flavors – a refreshing change.I know the list of ingredients is rather intimidating, but I don’t recommend cutting corners with this bread – each ingredient significantly serves a purpose in creating that unique black bread flavor. The result is delicious on its own, with butter or with mayo and fresh, sliced tomatoes as a simple, late summer sandwich. It’s bread worthy of putting on a bucket list and crossing off as soon as possible.

Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread

This recipe comes from Jeffrey Hamelman, a Certified Master Baker (one of only about 130 in this country), and a well-known teacher and author. In spite of the ingredients, the bread doesn't taste like coffee. It has a real “bite,” which enables it to go well with winter soups and stews. Sliced thinly and spread with butter, it’s also perfect for all manner of smorgasbord-like toppings. Note: Read the recipe all the way through before starting, so you'll know how much time it takes.


  • 3 to 4 slices (71g) re-baked bread (See "tips", below.)
  • a scant 1/3 cup (21g) coffee beans, ground
  • 1 3/8 cups (312g) boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g) water
  • 2 1/4 cups (230g) medium rye flour
  • 2 ounces levain or a stiff (dough-like) sourdough culture
  • all the slurry
  • all the refreshed sourdough
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (19g) vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (14g) salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (152g) medium rye flour
  • 3 1/4 cups (390g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • black caraway seeds (a.k.a. charnushka)


To make the slurry: Break the bread into pieces, sprinkle with the ground coffee, and pour the boiling water over it. Mix it all up so the bread is good and wet. Cover tightly and let sit overnight.

To make the sourdough: Mix the water, rye flour and stiff sourdough together in a non-reactive, medium-sized mixing bowl, and let the mixture sit overnight, covered, preferably for about 16 hours, at a temperature of about 65°F to 70°F.

To make the dough: Put the slurry in a blender or food processor and blend until the bread is fairly well pulverized.

Scoop this into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Add the sourdough mixture, oil, salt, yeast, and the flours.

Learn more

Exploring the world of whole grain bread

Mix until well-blended, then let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.

Continue kneading and mixing — by hand or mixer — until the dough is well-developed. Because of the high percentage of rye flour in this dough, it'll never become smooth and elastic, as an all-wheat dough would just knead it for 8 to 10 minutes, doing the best you can.

Place the dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover the bowl, and let it rise until you can leave a fingerprint in it, about an hour.

Turn it out onto a floured board, and divide it into two pieces. Shape these pieces into rough rounds, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Shape into firm rounds, trying to form tight, seamless balls, and place the loaves on a piece of parchment. Cover them, and let them rise until they're about two-thirds of the way to doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450°F.

Slash the surface of the dough, making either one cut across the center, or a cross. Stay away from the "shoulders," or edges. Repeat with the other loaf.

Thoroughly mist the surface of both loaves with water until they're quite wet, sprinkle with seeds if you wish and, by sliding a peel under the parchment, slip the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes, reduce the oven heat to 400°F, and continue baking for a further 10 to 20 minutes. When the bread is done, the temperature at the center should register about 200°F to 210°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack.

Store, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Tips from our Bakers

Don’t have any starter? Here’s a recipe for homemade sourdough starter. If you're making it from scratch, you'll need to feed it for 5 to 7 days before it’s ready for baking. Want a head start? Purchase our classic fresh sourdough starter – it’ll be ready for baking soon after it arrives at your door. Looking for tips, techniques, and all kinds of great information about sourdough baking? Find what you need in our sourdough baking guide.

Russian Black Bread

Bread holds a seriously high place in Russian culture. But not just any bread. They like their bread dense and hearty, with a flavor that will knock your socks off.

Russian Black Bread is their classic bread: hearty, dense and flavorful. All qualities that make for the perfect bread for snacking or pairing with a winter soup.

Black Bread is a rye bread, and ryes tend to be higher in fiber, darker in color and stronger in flavor that bread made with solely wheat flour. They can be light or dark, depending on the ingredients and the ratio of rye flour to wheat flour.

Black Russian rye bread

Unless you’re reading this story in your grandmother’s Brooklyn or Minnesota kitchen, a loaf of dark bread just out of the oven, you may be part of the vast majority of people for whom dense rye breads are a bit out of the comfort zone. You may run across old-world loaves like these, on your table if you’re lucky or maybe at a Vermont bakery, the loaves stacked in a dark mosaic, but in this country it’s mostly the more familiar baguettes and country whites that we buy and bake at home.

But if your experience of rye bread has been limited to grocery store loaves, then you’re missing out on something extraordinary. And if you’ve never baked breads like these -- chewy ryes, dark breads studded with nuts and seeds, black pumpernickels layered with as many intricate flavors as a great ale or stout -- then it’s not just a good loaf you’ve been missing, but a whole new world of baking. Or, more exactly, an old one rediscovered.

Loaded with flavor from whole grains, often from nuts or seeds, and sometimes from long hours on the oven floor, loaves of rye bread built the bakeries of northern and eastern Europe and migrated to this country with the bakers that created them. And although they can sometimes require a bit more technique than a loaf of white, and often a few more ingredients, they’re surprisingly easy to make at home.

The payoff? Loaves with stunning flavor, texture and depth. Breads that have complexity and staying power and the ability to pair with strong ingredients instead of fading into the background of a meal. Breads that can form the centerpiece of meals, almost the meal itself.

“When you get hooked” on rye breads, says master baker Peter Reinhart, “you really get hooked, just like when somebody falls for a strong IPA beer. Then all of a sudden nothing else satisfies you.”

The cornerstone of old-world breads like these is, of course, the flour. Instead of wheat, these are breads built with rye flour, as that grain could grow in the less hospitable climate. Rye is a hardier grain, and the flour is also more mercurial than wheat flour, with less gluten and more bran and fiber, which means the doughs absorb more water and have a tendency to become dense and gummy. For this reason, most rye breads are not made with 100% rye, but with a combination of wheat and rye.

The exception to this loose rule is sourdough rye bread, which is what most bakers who fall in love with rye bread usually end up baking, and which, of course, is a whole other story. By using sourdough, the acidity of which creates a small chemistry experiment in your bread bowl and oven, you can make loaves using all rye flour -- beautiful, complex loaves that bear as much similarity to store-bought ryes as artisan-made baguettes do to Wonder Bread.

Sourdough starter controls the enzymatic activity of the rye flour with its natural acidity, preventing the crumb from getting gummy while adding a beautiful complex flavor to the bread. And since baking with sourdough isn’t any more difficult than baking without it -- the hard part is making and achieving a strong starter -- it’s worth considering as the logical next step in old-world baking.

“The real thing,” says certified master baker Jeffrey Hamelman, who started baking German breads 34 years ago and has represented the U.S. at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, “puts you on your knees.”

Sourcing good flour, always important in baking, becomes even more so, as rye flour -- not as popular in this country as wheat -- can quickly grow rancid if left too long on a store (or a home) shelf. Buy flour from a reliable source and store it in the freezer.

A good loaf of rye, like Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “real Jewish rye,” requires very little more than a percentage of rye flour, a bit of malt syrup (you can use honey or even table sugar), yeast, flour, salt and water.

Indeed, this simplicity is part of the reason home-baked rye is so good. Traditionally, black breads and pumpernickels were baked overnight, using the residual heat of the oven, and get their distinctive color from a long, slow caramelization of the bread itself in the oven. Short-cut commercial ryes get their hue from caramel colorings and are laden with fillers that mask the true flavor of the breads.

These badly made breads can put you off the real thing for good. “My relatives in Russia used to tell me that black bread was used to plug door holes,” said Beranbaum.

But done well, with balance and proportion, baking a simple rye bread at home, even without a sourdough starter or a massive Teutonic oven, can be revelatory.

“For me the key was the seeds,” Reinhart says of baking old-world breads at home. “Seeds have so much flavor and they give you an excuse for having a dense bread.” Nuts and seeds can be toasted for added flavor, but don’t toast them if you’ll be sprinkling them over the bread, as they’ll burn during baking.

But although seeds help compensate for not having sourdough in a bread, they also suck up a lot of the moisture in a dough, as does the rye flour itself. Many traditional rye or multigrain bread recipes call for a soaker, which is pretty much what you’d think it would be: an additional step in which seeds, bran, whole grains or whole-grain flours are first soaked before being added to the dough. This step is needed because these ingredients often require more time to fully hydrate than they’d get during ordinary mixing and rising time.

Because of issues of hydration, it’s important not to overcompensate by adding too much flour while kneading these doughs, which can be very dense but should not be stiff. This is one reason why making dark breads is often easier with a Kitchen-Aid or other mixer.

“In the beginning I did everything by hand,” says baker Beth Hensperger, author of “The Bread Bible.” “ ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘you need to connect with the ingredients.’ But when you have these whole-grain sticky doughs, the electrical appliances really come in handy.”

Mixing doughs by machine may not give you the same 19th century feel as kneading by hand, but it will ensure that you don’t add too much flour as the dough comes together.

And if you’re not already in the habit of weighing your ingredients, now is the time to invest in an inexpensive kitchen scale, as the different flours, as well as the brans, whole grains, seeds and nuts, can easily throw off a recipe unless they’re pretty accurately measured.

Another tip if you’ve just discovering these breads, points out Reinhart, is to divide up the dough into rolls instead of making a few large loaves. Rolls are easier to make and to control, and the dark, flavorful breads make fantastic sandwich rolls.

Dense, chewy rye and seeded breads also toast up extraordinarily well: Pair them with nubs of butter and good jams or marmalades, maybe a generous spoonful of Nutella. Beranbaum suggests topping her rye bread with unsalted butter, sliced radishes and big flakes of salt. Or turn slices of black bread into open-face or smorgasbord sandwiches, loaded with smoked fish or salumi. Even break off pieces and dip them into a pot of Swiss fondue, as they’ll hold up better than flimsy bits of French bread.

You’ll soon see that you don’t have to hop on a plane to Germany or live next to a New England artisan baker to discover the joys of freshly baked old-world bread: All you really need is a good recipe, a little patience and a pocketful of rye.

Russian Black Bread

Russian black bread is a staple in the Russian diet. It is served daily. It has a long history and is even credited for keeping folks alive after the Nazi’s invaded when ingredients were very difficult to come by.

Russian black bread has been a symbol of people’s well-being. The Slavs believed that people who shared a loaf became friends forever. I love that, it is pretty much my whole premise for International Cuisine. Sharing bread, a meal or a simple cup of tea, is the ultimate form of hospitality and a treasured memory.

The Russian black bread is black and sour, made with rye and a sour starter or leaven. It was much cheaper and more nutritious than white bread. The different grades of rye bread indicated one’s wealth. This recipe has numerous ingredients to make a rich and hearty loaf. Today the bread is ubiquitous, and we loved it with the beetroot soup known as Borscht.

If you would like to learn more about this most interesting country of Russia, be sure to check out “Our Journey to Russia” to learn more. You will also find more delicious and authentic Romanian recipes you are sure to love.

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Watch the video: Black Russian Terrier (January 2022).