Russian Black Bread

One savory use for chocolate 🍫: Russian Black Bread.  It contains both unsweetened chocolate and coffee, along with caraway, fennel and onion.  It has a rich earthy flavor, that goes equally well with butter and jam or with heavy soup.  So much fun to make.  This is a preview of a recipe that will be featured in There are Herbs in My Chocolate — the revised and expanded edition!

Russian Black Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Russian Black Bread contains both unsweetened chocolate and coffee, along with caraway, fennel and onion.  It has a rich flavor that goes equally well with butter and jam or with heavy soup.  Traditional black bread contains only rye flour, and uses a sourdough starter, but we wanted something that would rise a bit more and have a somewhat less intense flavor.  In Russian culture, bread is a symbol of friendship, and is meant to be shared and often given away to friends.

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
¼ tsp. sugar
¼ c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 c. strong espresso, hot
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. dark rye flour
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
½ Tbsp. salt
¼ c. bran
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds, plus ½ tsp., divided
½ tsp. fennel seeds
½ Tbsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
2 tsp. all-purpose flour

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

Combine the espresso, molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, butter and chocolate.  Stir frequently until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, rye flour, all-purpose flour. Set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer, combine two cups of the mixed flours, with the salt, bran, caraway, fennel and shallots and mix on low.  Add the yeast mixture and then the espresso mixture.  Continue mixing on low until the ingredients are combined, then beat at medium speed for three minutes. Return the speed to low, and pausing between additions, add half cup measures of the remaining mixed flours (you will not need all of the mixed flour), until it forms a firm sticky dough.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 4 to 6 minutes, until the dough becomes springy and elastic.  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 ½ to 2 hours.

Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds and set aside.

Punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a round loaf and place seam down on a greased baking stone sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned and sound hollow inside. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.