Black Russian Rye Bread
2 packets of active dry yeast (1/4 oz each containing 1 1/2 TB for a total of 3 TB)
pinch of sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water (about 105 - 115'F), divided
1/2 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups rye flour
3 cups unbleached bread flour plus 1 TB, divided
1 cup wheat bran
2 TB caraway seeds, plus 1 optional teaspoon, divided
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 TB instant espresso powder
1 TB minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal
In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine the remaining 2 cups of water, molasses, apple cider vinegar, butter and chocolate, stirring often. Once the butter and chocolate have melted, allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl coming yeast, sugar and 1 cup of warm water. Let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. During this time it should get foamy.
In a large bowl whisk together the whole wheat flour, rye flour and all purpose flour (except for 1 TB of all purpose flour). Set aside.
In a large bowl for your stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups of the mixed flours, the bran, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso powder and shallots. Turn the mixer on low. Add in the yeast mixture and the chocolate mixture. Mix until smooth and then turn the mixer up to medium speed and continue mixing for 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer speed down to low. Add 1 cup of the remaining flour mixture at a time, just until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and begins to work its way up the paddle. This is a very sticky yet firm dough. Be careful not to add too much flour. When pressed, the dough will spring back. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
Place the dough onto a well floured surface and knead by hand until you have a smooth and springy, yet dense dough.
*if you prefer, add the dough hook to your mixer and knead over low speed for 2 or 3 minutes and then finish by hand with a few kneads.
Form your rich dark brown dough into a ball and place it into a large greased bowl, turning once to cover the dough with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled...about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Towards the end of the rising time, combine the cornflour, remaining TB of all purpose flour, the optional tsp of caraway seeds and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350' F
When your dough is ready, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cornmeal mixture over the parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into balls by pulling the edges down and around to the bottom of the ball and pinching to form a seam. Place each ball onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until almost doubled in size and puffy....about 45 minutes to an hour. I do a two finger test by pressing 2 damp fingers into the dough a little. If the indent springs back right away, the dough is not yet ready. If it springs back very slowly...they're good to go.
With a serrated knife, slash an X in the top of each ball, about 1/4" deep.
Bake the loaves for about 45 - 50 minutes, until they are crusty and sound hollow inside or your instant thermometer reads 200 - 210'F.
Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.
Because the loaves start out to be so dark, you will not be able to easily notice them browning while they're baking.
Pairs Well With
From the Los Angeles Times Food Section, dated almost 2 years ago....January 13, 2011. Yes, it took me that long to get around to making this bread. I could say it's worth the wait but at the same time, I kick myself for not making it sooner.
It's not the kind of rye bread you want to use for say...a Ruben or a Patty Melt. It's a side bread. One to eat along with your salad and dinner. There's a hint of sweetness to it from the molasses. It's rich, dense and just wonderfully flavored. Just give me a slice (or 2 or 5) and some butter, and I'll be perfectly content.
Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It's a lot easier to make then you'd think.