Old World Style Black Bread

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Peasant woman in Perm Province, 1910I made this recipe a lot during my crazed Nut and Berry days of the 70’s. There was a little market down the street that sold bulk flours, hard to find dried fruits and spices and all the nuts you could carry. It was fun while it lasted as I explored the world of bread baking. My two mainstay recipe books were the Tasajara Bread book and the Sunset Cookbook of Breads. Both books are still around, though I would have a seriously hard time justifying $99 for a new copy of the Sunset, as I paid $1.50 for mine in 1970.

 

One of the secrets that great bakers will use in their brownie recipes is to save the extras from their cake baking efforts, the trim edges  or domes from a squared cake or a round. These pieces are allowed to sit and get dry and then ground into course crumbs which are incorporated into the next batch of brownies. This Black Bread is similar, the recipe makes one large loaf, as you finish the loaf, save the heels and other trimmings so that you can toast the crumbs to add to your next batch.

 

Two other items to note. The original recipe calls for Postum. (Developed by C W Post of cereal fame in 1895) Sadly this product has been discontinued by Kraft Foods. The reason Postum is so good is that it is actually a toasted wheat product. It was touted as a substitute for coffee, though it really had a different flavor than coffee. Being grain based this was the ideal flavoring and coloring agent for a bread that you wanted to come out really dark.

 

There are a few recipes for postum floating around the internet, but it takes several hours to make so you will probably just want to use instant expresso or cocoa as a substitute

 

Garee (California) said:

So here is your recipe altered for next time:

5 cups wheat bran (moderately ground in coffee grinder/Hodgson Mill)
4 cups bulgar wheat (ground moderately in coffee grinder/Bob’s Red Mill/could probably use wheat berries)
2 cups coarse ground corn meal (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup molasses (unsulfhured/Grandma’s)

 

Mix these together by rubbing the molasses into the grain and then bake in a 275 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours until it is dark, but not burnt. Be sure to stir and turn it often as it bakes.

 

Toasted Wheat Berry Drink

 

Or you could buy the remaining jar for sale on Amazon for a mere $150.00 (yeah right!)

http://www.amazon.com/Postum-Original-8-oz/dp/B0004JR8SE (oops looks like its been sold)

(not an affiliate link)

 

So here we go: Remember recipes are guidelines (Training wheels so to speak) you may have to adjust this according to your tastes. Also, yeast is very finicky; some days it does and some days it doesn’t, so the rising times are merely guesses, your mileage may vary.

 

3 teaspoons Postum or substitute instant expresso coffee

2 cups hot water

4 tablespoons dark molasses

2 cups fine bread crumbs toasted until dark (this is where you will use the heels and pieces in future batches)

3 packages of yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cups rye flour

1/4 cup melted butter or other shortening

2 teaspoons of salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 teaspoon postum or instant coffee mixed with water for a brush on coloring of the finished loaf.

 

I have seen several recipes on the internet with many additions to this basic recipe including carrots, onions, caraway and fennel seed, let your tastes be your guide.

 

Rye flour has no glutenous properties so it is the white flour that carries this mixture and enables it to rise. Since there is so little flour you need to be patient while it rises, as it will take some time.

 

First you need to soften the toasted crumbs. Mix the instant coffee or Postum in a large bowl with the molasses and bread crumbs. Let this sit for 20 minutes or so until the crumbs are totally soft. While you are waiting for the crumbs to soften, dissolve the the yeast and sugar in the 1/2 cup of water.

 

Now that the crumbs are softened you can stir in the rye flour, ginger, salt and shortening to the crumbs mixture. Next add the yeast filled water and stir this until thoroughly mixed. It will resemble a thick paste.

 

Butcher Block Cutting Board

30x30x14 inches End grain Maple butcher Block

Now take the white flour and spread it onto your counter or breadboard (until I bought my butcher block I used a simple piece of 3/4 inch maple plywood). Pour the flour directly on the board in a large circle and scrape the rye /crumbs mixture onto the top of the flour. This is a little tricky, you want to keep your hands covered in flour as you begin to knead the flour into the rye paste.   The original recipe suggested to invert the bowl over this and let it rest for 15 minutes, but it is not necessary.  It will soon form into a silky dough. You may need to add a bit more flour to get the consistency that you want.

 

This whole process could also be done in a larger mixer like a kitchen aid, where you would simply add the white flour to the mixing bowl until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl. Now it is time to let the mixture rise and develop. I usually put the loaf back into the bowl with a tiny amount of oil to prevent sticking and let this sit for an hour or so to rise. This develops the gluten so that when you shape your loaf it will rise again more easily.

 

When it has risen you want to turn it back onto the board and shape your loaf. You can shape it in a round ball or a longer loaf depending on how you intend to serve it. After you shape the loaf and turn it onto a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled lightly with corn-meal to prevent sticking. Once again cover the loaf with a dry dish towel and set it in a warm place for an hour or so to rise. I usually set the covered bread directly on top of the oven while I pre-heat the oven. (Do not get it too close to any direct heat)

 

The final step is to take the last coffee/postum mixture and paint the outside of the loaf for a good coloring before you put the loaf into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. The HOT oven for the initial 15 minutes will give you the maximum chance of good rise when the loaf goes into the oven. After that you want to turn the oven down to 325 for the next 30 minutes or so that it will take to finish it.

 

This black bread is excellent with cheese, breakfast eggs or salads. You could even make it in a round shape cut a top circle and scoop it out for an edible spinach dip bowl. Remember to save the pieces for the next batch. These can go into the freezer and last a long time between batches.

 

Enjoy,

Michael Brown

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