Friday, June 10, 2011

Russian Black Bread

I've never made rye bread before. I always find bread recipes with multiple types of flour and ingredients to be rather daunting. This recipe was no exception given it's abundance of ingredients. Deb from the Smitten Kitchen raves about it though. She mentions it as being her absolute favorite rye bread. I figured if that was the case there must be something special about this bread then. So I went for it.

The only way I have ever had rye bread is cut into cubes and served with dill dip at parties. I know that it  is generally used for reubens and such sandwiches, but I am not a big fan of meat so I opted to use this with bread dip. Of course, you can always just toast it up with some butter. You can never go wrong with buttered toast, no matter what the type of bread.

Anyways, as I was putting the ingredients together and forming the dough, I was disgusted with the smell I was getting from it. Haha makes you want to make this bread, right? Well, I was a little bit put off by that too, but I kept on trucking through it, hoping that once it bakes it not only smells better, but tastes better than it smells. Luckily it did! So if you go to make this bread, rest assured... it does taste better than it smells. The dough was also way denser than any yeast bread that I have ever worked with before, which was discouraging... I thought I did something totally wrong. And it never quite got as elastic as I am used to when kneading doughs. I read somewhere that working with rye dough is totally different than regular dough. That proved to be absolutely true. As all the differences popped up in the rye bread making process, I thought it was going to come up a disaster. It came out perfect! Crazzzzzy. I did not expect to actually get it right. The texture was chewy and almost grainy, the flavor's ended up balancing well, and it worked fantastic with bread dip! I might use the rest for a grilled swiss sandwich or something : )

Look at the ingredients closely by the way. Rye flour... whole wheat flour... molasses... bran... unsweetened chocolate... if I didn't know any better, I would say that this bread is pretty good for you too! Extra bonus : D

See this link for more detailed photos of the process.

Russian Black Bread
adapted from "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger 

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

In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.

Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.

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.]

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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