I’ve made rye bread once before during the blizzard of 1993. My taste buds have been calling out for rich, dark rye bread, the kind that is meant to be served warm with creamy butter straight from the churn (haven’t had that in years!). And when my Ambassador of Flavor Daniel asked me to cook something from Russia, I knew exactly what to bake.
I did some digging and found dozens of recipes for Russia’s famous black rye bread, and I was intrigued to learn that many call for both chocolate and coffee for coloring and, of course, flavor.
I tweaked and refined until I came up with two variations of the same recipe. The first batch without shortening was actually a mistake – a phone call arrived while I was adding ingredients and the dough got kneaded without shortening. Oops! The result was heavy and dense like those small squares of party bread sold in American delis, but it tasted altogether delicious. The second batch with shortening resulted in a richly textured rye perfect for sandwiches, with a darker color than the first batch.
Substitution: Since my family does not like onions, I created this recipe with dried orange peel instead of a more traditional onion powder to add a jolt of flavor.
Russian Black Rye Bread
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup water (110 degrees)
2 1/2 cups water
1 square unsweetened chocolate (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
2 Tablespoons crushed caraway seed
2 teaspoons instant espresso
2 teaspoons dried orange peel
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening (OPTIONAL – see notes)
2 cups 100% bran cereal (not flakes)
3-4 cups rye flour
3 cups white flour
1. Combine yeast and 1/4 cup warmed water in small bowl. Stir gently then set aside.
2. In saucepan, heat 2 1/2 cups water and chocolate until chocolate has melted.
Add sugar, salt, fennel seed, caraway seed, espresso, dried orange peel, vinegar, molasses.
3. To make more dense party bread, omit shortening and proceed to next step. To make sandwich bread, stir shortening into mixture until well blended.
4. Fold bran cereal into seasonings. Allow to absorb liquid for several minutes.
5. In large mixing bowl, add bran mixture to 3 cups rye flour. Stir to make soft dough. Add yeast mixture and stir until well combined.
6. Begin adding white flour to mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough is slightly stiff.
7. Rub white flour over clean countertop. Turn dough onto floured surface.
8. Using heel of your hand, push dough down and away from you. Sprinkle with flour, fold dough onto itself, then knead again. Continue the kneading process for approximately 5 minutes until dough is soft and pliable.
9. Place dough in oiled bowl and allow to rise approximately one hour.
10. Turn dough onto counter. Divide into 3 equal portions. Shape into round loaves, cut an “X” into the top of each loaf to allow a second rise. Place on baking sheet and let rise for one hour.
11. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool loaves on wire rack.
Beauty Tip: Don’t add a dusting of flour to your dough ball, unless you like the look of the bread on the left in this photo. Next time I’ll add a wash of egg white to the loaves before baking for a glossy crust.