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bear by san

March 2017



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she's shaking the tears from her eyes as she picks up what's left of the night

This is a DAY OF VICTORY. I've been trying for something like seven years to figure out a Ukrainian black bread (Kleb) recipe that actually works, and produces the sort of loaf I want.

Ukrainian Black Bread January 2011 007And I have finally gotten very, very, very close.

Kleb Recipe

Here is what I did:

In one bowl, I combined:

10 oz rye flour
1 tsp ground-up caraway seeds
1 tsp ground-sup fennel seeds
10 oz cool water

In another bowl, I combined:

1 cup unfed sourdough starter
8 oz water
9 oz rye flour.

I covered both bowls and left them on the counter all day yesterday and then overnight.

This morning, I got up and combined both bowls of fermenting glop in my stand mixer. I added:

2 tbsp of molasses
1 tbsp of oil
1 tbsp of butter
2 tsp vital wheat gluten
8 oz (approximate) bread flour
1 tbsp espresso powder*
2 tbsp cocoa powder*
2 tsp high-acid yeast
2 tsp kosher salt

I was going to add more wheat flour, because I really did not have a dough at that point: I had a thick batter. But you know, I decided that the fact that all the recipes I had said that the dough should be "sticky" might be a euphemism for "batter," and I have previously made the mistake of putting too much damned wheat flour in the bread and creating a ROCK.

I scraped the batter onto a silpat floured with rye flour and kneaded it by hand until it kind of came together into a loaf, in a very floppy saggy only-touchable-because-of-dry-flour-all-over-the surface kind of way.

I then oiled my dutch oven (which is a small dutch oven, just big enough for a Cornish game hen) and flopped the loaf in. It would not actually stand up as a loaf, so I wound up pressing it into the pan. I covered the pan and stuck it in an oven I had prewarmed to about 150 degrees (I keep a pizza stone in my oven, so it retains heat well) and ignored it for an hour or so. By then, it had puffed up to the top of the Dutch oven, about a doubling in size.

I took the lid off and let it grow up a bit higher. Then I brushed the top with whole milk and (leaving it in the oven) I set the oven to 425, because I wanted to encourage as much oven spring as possible. After it beeped to let me know me know it was hot, I let it bake for an hour.

Ukrainian Black Bread January 2011 002 And then I shut the oven off, left the oven door closed, and left it in there for another three hours with the oven light on. This is an attempt to reproduce the old Slavic overnight style of baking, where you stick the next day's bread in the oven after the current day's dinner is cooked, and leave it there overnight.

It's damned good. A little dryer than I want, but since rye bread can be hideously gummy, that's okay.**

The texture of the top crust is perfect--leathery, hard. Just brilliant. The side crusts, alas, are spongy: I need to find a way to make the loaf stiff enough to stand up on the pizza stone itself, so I can get a proper crust on all sides, without turning it into a rock or a pancake.

Ukrainian Black Bread January 2011 005But in the meantime, after most of a decade of trying, I have a GIANT LOAF OF REALLY GOOD BREAD AND I KNOW HOW TO DO IT AGAIN.

*next time I may try bitter chocolate and coffee, but hey, I had this stuff this time.

**Next time I may add a little cream or honey (or both) to improve that.*** Also it could use about twice as much molasses. Or maybe the honey will fix that. Also, next time ditch the vegetable oil and use 4 tbsp soft butter.

***I will also drop the actual baking time to 40 minutes. The oven was not quite cool when I took the bread out, but it was only pleasantly warm, and I handled the cast-iron dutch oven with bare hands.

Bonus: via kafkonia, Original Wonder Woman design. Check out those mighty thews.


So it's the molasses? I've been wondering where the dark in dark rye comes from, but even my whole grain rye comes out tan.

But cocoa powder? Whooda thunkit?
chocolate, coffee, and molasses.
Actually, if I remember my basic Russian, "Kleb" is just the generic word for "bread." Black Bread is specified as "Chyornie Kleb." The distinction might be a back formation, but that's the current understanding of the terms.
Yes, but we're talking about a part of the world where bread IS black bread. Or it was, in my great-grandmother's day.
Oh, awesome. I dropped a link to the recent L.A. Times article in Chaz's journal, hoping it would lead back to you, remembering delivering rye flour to you oh those many years ago. This recipe sounds like the best of sourdough, no-knead, and chorniy kleb.
Didn't actually have time to read the LA times article, but I have been craving black bread for days.

It's pretty awesome. It does get some kneading, in the mixer, but... well, it's really more like batter.

I need to get it moister and blacker and fix the crust now. But this is a creditable effort.
There's nothing more satisfying than the creation of something for the first time. Esp. when it's a loaf of bread.
I'm copying this off. Sounds delicious!

Next time I may add a little cream or honey (or both) to improve that.

Just wondering if buttermilk would have been part of normal recipes of the time, rather than cream. Buttermilk does do a grand job of fixing a small amount of fat everywhere, making it all more moist, without making a large difference in taste. IMHO, anyway -- I'm biased, coming from the US South as it were.

Re: Next time I may add a little cream or honey (or both) to improve that.

Possible. Although modern buttermilk isn't much like actual buttermilk. It might be worth a try: I keep some around in powdered form for baking.
Neat! My household has only begun its forays into bread-making with a bread-making machine... and to be honest, it's really my husband who's been making the bread so far. He's got three loaves to his credit now. :D

Eventually I want to be able to make the loaves of black bread. German, for me.

Do you have any suggestions on how to store it, though? We don't have any "bread keepers," as such, and most of my Tupperware/plasticware seems entirely unsuitable. And while we can reheat and steam our bread to soften it up again, it tends to become like crusty rocks due to no storage. (I'm starting to think I may need to make bread pudding with our leavings...)
I'm not sure bread keepers are worth much.

We just wait until it's cool (very important), and then store it in a ziplock bag. If it's more than you can eat in a couple of days, stick it in the fridge. Bread also freezes beautifully. We cut big loaves in half and freeze half for later.

Some milk fat will keep bread fresh longer, by the way. But it does affect the texture, making it softer and more sandwichy.
Message me your address once again...I sends to you an unglazed baking dish, superior to your dutch oven for this purpose. The irregualrities in the surface make for much better crust - allow some air to circulate, etc. Also, it's kind of like a tall-sided pizza stone in that it absorbs and radiates heat back into the loaf. We use ours all the time.
You are like the best random internet friend ever.
Congrats! I know that's hard to do.

I have been hovering around this one bread recipe for years, trying to work up the nerve to try baking it. It's called Walnut Stout bread, and it calls for cocoa powder, fennel, rye flour, and Guinness, and of course, walnuts. Your recipe reminds me of that. Someday, I will know the taste of this bread ...
Sounds tasty to me!
I should start this with an admission that I love German bread so my love for this recipe might be somewhat suspect. But I wondered if you've tried making "the Grant loaf" which is meant for whole-wheat but I found performed wonderfully with dense rye flours which I had previously used to make door-stops. I found a big bag of dark, chunky Roggenmehl and we ate these loaves for months with pumpkin seeds scattered over the top.

It won't have the depth of your recipe above (I'm sure you could fix that) but it seems like it would be a natural addition to your experimentation. The Grant loaf is sort of a predecessor to the "no-knead" loaf that was popular last year, as part of the point is to use more liquid than one would expect from a dough. It was your reference to batter that made me think of it - this dough isn't kneaded but instead spooned into a loaf tin.

I use the Grant Loaf recipe in Linda Collister's Bread from Sourdough to Rye but there's a number of versions online.

"If you love your husbands, keep them away from white bread . . .If you don't love them, cyanide is quicker but bleached bread is just as certain, and no questions asked."
Doris Grant - Telegraph
Never even heard of it before. Thank you for the pointer. *g*