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Black bread flavoured with with treacle and fennel seeds, with the addition of cocoa and coffee giving it dark colour. Crust speckled with sesame seeds, it's not quite as dense as Russian black bread and not as seedy as German pumpernickel. This is the Marmite of breads which you either hate or love, for its sweetish, burnt taste and the aniseedy tang.
Hate or love this bread, it certainly is an interesting loaf. The apparently odd list of ingredients including rye flour, wheat flour, fennel seed, grated raw carrots and parsnips, coffee and sugar produces a unique result. Treacle gives it a sweetish, burnt taste and the seeds, fennel and caraway, come through so distinctly that you need to love that aniseedy flavour to enjoy it.
It’s certainly unusual: bread that looks and smells like cake but makes a surprisingly good material for a ham sandwich. It's a little squidgy when sliced fresh which is very visible in the picture below: just shows how much rush I was in to see what it was like when cut.
As for baking technique, anything goes. I baked it in my cloche, a clay Dutch oven which looks like this. It’s a lovely thing and I can wholly recommend it, especially for sourdough. But if you haven't got anything like that, or a cast iron casserole dish with a lid, use a lightly oiled, heavy baking tray.
If truth be told, the bread is dark brown rather than black. Dan Lepard, whose book 'Short and Sweet' inspired me, calls it black and so will I. I imagined it would be more like Russian or German black bread while it turns out to have a characteristics all of its own. The most it really resembles is a chocolate cake gone wrong, but in a nicest possible way.
black breadServings: one loafTime: about 2 hours
- 325ml cold water
- 150g rye flour
- 2 tsp fast action or 15g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp. cocoa
- 2 tbsp. instant coffee or a small cup of espresso (use 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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. When ready to bake, slash the top of the dough in a criss-cross pattern.
6. 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.