Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Russian Black Bread

I found this recipe for Russian Black bread or 'Chorni Chleb' from Smitten Kitchen almost two years ago. I printed it out and tucked it away in hopes that I would someday get a handy dandy stand mixer. Well someday finally arrived and I got to putting this bread recipe into motion.

Whew! Was this bread ever a lot of work, even with a stand mixer. There are a ton of ingredients that I didn't have on hand. So, in order to keep within my grocery budget, I'd just buy one ingredient here and there, waiting for it to go on sale.

Finally, I accumulated all the necessary items and set to work. I had such high expectations that I was a bit disappointed with the results. I didn't think this Rye bread tasted any better than any other rye bread I had previously. Now don't get me wrong. This bread was good. REALLY good. I just don't know if it was worth all the effort. I'm going to try out some less complicated recipes for Rye bread to find out for sure. With all the steps in the recipe, it is a wonder that I only made one mistake! I accidentally cut the dough before the 2nd rise. I tried to fix it by reshaping the dough but it was difficult considering I had already coated the dough in cornmeal. As a result of my error, the dough rose horizontally, rather than vertically. Oh well. The plus side to this was, even though the bread didn't rise how it was supposed to, it still tasted really good. Surprisingly, for a bread that didn't behave like it should have, it wasn't super dense. We made short little sandwiches with the bread and they were rockin awesome! Also, this was first time in my bread making that the yeast got super foamy. This gives me real hope that I'm making progress in my bread baking skills.

Russian Black Bread from Smitten Kitchen Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture. 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 1/2 to 2 hours. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.

Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.

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