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Black Bread

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Black bread

Quite a bit like Marmite, you either hate or love this bread. Treacle gives it a sweetish, burnt taste and the seeds – especially fennel – come through so distinctly that you need to love that aniseedy flavour to enjoy it.

It’s certainly unusual – looks and smells like cake but surprisingly good as a meat sandwich, I would hesitate though to put butter and jam on it in spite of all that treacle.

I baked it in my new La Cloche – it’s a clay Dutch oven which looks like this. It’s a lovely thing and I can wholly recommend it, especially for sourdoughs. This time I placed the shaped loaf in the cold dish to prove, then into the oven it went and heated up very quickly, but I think La Cloche works the best when pre-heated, and bread goes into it when risen.

Truth be told it’s brown bread rather than black – I imagined Pumpernickel type of thing but what it really resembles is a chocolate cake gone wrong, but in a nice way.

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 325ml cold water
  • 150g rye flour
  • 2 tsp fast action or 15g fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsps instant coffee or a small cup of espresso (proportionally less water if the latter)
  • 75g black treacle
  • 3 tsp fennel and caraway seeds
  • 50g butter
  • 150g root vegetables (carrots and parsnips) coarsely grated
  • 425 strong white flour
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • oil for kneading
  • sesame seeds

Spices for black bread

METHOD
Mix 225ml of the cold water and 50g rye flour in a pan and bring to the boil. Let it cool, and then stir in the yeast and sugar. Leave for 45 minutes covered with cling film. Heat the rest of the water with the cocoa, coffee, treacle, seeds and butter until melted, then leave to cool to room temperature. Stir into the yeast mixture with the grated vegetables. Add the remaining rye flour, the white flour and salt and mix to a sticky dough.

Spread a little oil on the worktop surface and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until smooth, stretchy and not sticking to your hands – you can do it in a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment. Shaping black bread

Shape into a ball and place on an oiled baking tray or in a Dutch oven dusted with semolina or polenta. Brush the top with water and sprinkle sesame seeds all over it, pressing them into the surface. Place the tray or dish in an inflated plastic bag (just blow into it and tie the ends!) and leave to prove for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. When ready to bake, slash the top of the dough in a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C/350F/gas 4 and bake for 20-25 minutes more. In a Dutch oven take the lid off at this point and bake until dark, crusty-looking and well-baked at the bottom.

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