Saturday, 10 September 2011

Black Bread (Bam-a-lam)

They kind of look like your grandfather's bedroom slippers, eh?
In old Russian superstition, it is believed that all the bread you wasted when you were alive will be weighted out upon your death. If it is greater than your own weight, you will be condemned to hell for eternity.

Pretty strong stuff, but it shows the importance of bread to the culture. Also the scarcity. Of course we should all be very conscious of waste - and learn from those cultures that are masters of re-purposing foods. Old bread becomes part of the starter for this new bread. Also, this loaf has coffee in it, so those carbs won't put you to sleep.

This is a delicious bread, maybe an acquired taste if you are not a rye lover, and excellent with smoked meats and strong fillings. I also like it toasted and liberally slathered with triple creme brie. Probably not what the earlier Russians had in mind, but delicious nonetheless.

And, not something I generally say about breads - but you can really taste the coffee.

Go ahead and challenge yourself this weekend. Happy baking!

Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread
reprinted from King Arthur Flour

This recipe comes from Jeffrey Hamelman, a Certified Master Baker (one of only about 130 in this country), and an engaging writer as well. After stints at various bakeries both in this country and abroad, Jeffrey ran his own bakery in Brattleboro, Vermont, for 14 years. He was named captain of the 1996 Baking Team USA, where he led that team of American bread bakers to its first and very memorable victory at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. Following that, he was an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, until a deep desire to return to Vermont brought him to King Arthur. We're very happy to have a baker of his incredible knowledge and skill "on staff." KAF

Jeff says, "This is an interesting bread, not for everyone. I made it every Friday for many a year. It uses up leftover bread, which gives the new bread a richness of flavor. Brinna tested this recipe, and she says, "In spite of the ingredients, this bread doesn't taste like coffee. It has a real 'bite,' which enables it to go well with winter soups and stews. It might also be perfect with pickled herring and onions. Slice it thinly and spread with butter.

"To proof and bake this bread, parchment and a baking stone are advised. And, because it has so much rye in it, don't expect it to spring in the oven as much as a wheat-based bread.

"Read this recipe all the way through before starting, so you'll know how much time it'll take. You'll need to make the slurry and refresh the sourdough culture the night before baking."

2 1/2 ounces re-baked bread*
3/4 ounce ground coffee (from a scant 1/3 cup coffee beans)
a scant 1 1/3 cups (11 ounces) boiling water

*Slice 3 or 4 pieces of bread, about 4 1/2 to 5 ounces fresh. Bake on a cookie sheet in a moderate oven, turning the pieces from time to time, until the bread is very dark, "just this side of carbon." This can take up to and more than an hour, depending on the moisture in the bread. (So you might want to take advantage of the heated oven and roast a few potatoes at the same time.)

Break the bread into pieces, sprinkle with the ground coffee, and pour the boiling water over it. Mix it all up so the bread is good and wet. Cover tightly and let sit overnight.

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) medium rye flour
2 ounces levain or a stiff (dough-like) sourdough culture

Mix the water, rye flour and stiff sourdough together in a non-reactive, medium-sized mixing bowl, and let the mixture sit overnight, preferably for about 16 hours, at a temperature of about 65°F to 70°F.

all the slurry
all the refreshed sourdough
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) vegetable oil
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) medium rye flour
3 1/4 cups (13 ounces) King Arthur Bread Flour
black caraway seeds (a.k.a. charnushka) optional

Put the slurry in a blender or food processor and blend until the bread is fairly well pulverized. Scoop this into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sourdough mixture, oil, salt, yeast, and the flours. Mix until well-blended, then let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. Continue kneading and mixing—by hand or mixer—until the dough is well-developed. Because of the high percentage of rye flour in this dough, it'll never become smooth and elastic, as an all-wheat dough would; just knead it for 8 to 10 minutes, doing the best you can.

Place the dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover the bowl, and let it rise until you can leave a fingerprint in it. This will probably take around an hour. Turn it out onto a floured board, and divide it into two pieces. Shape these pieces into rough rounds, and let them rest for 5 minutes. Shape into firm rounds, trying to form tight, seamless balls, and place the loaves on a piece of parchment. Cover them, and let them rise until they're about two-thirds of the way to doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. To slash the surface of the dough, make one cut across the center, or a cross. Stay away from the "shoulders," or edges. Repeat with the other loaf. Thoroughly mist the surface of both loaves with water until they're quite wet, sprinkle with seeds if you wish and, by sliding a peel under the parchment, slip the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes, reduce the oven heat to 400°F, and continue baking for a further 10 to 20 minutes. When the bread is done, the temperature at the center should register about 200°F to 210°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack. Yield: two 1 3/4-pound loaves.

(I let mine rise in well-floured brotforms, and omitted the slashing)

Nutrition information per serving (1/34 of bread, 40g): 105 cal, 1g fat, 3g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 168mg sodium, 111mg potassium, 1mg iron, 10mg calcium, 49mg phosphorus, 42mg caffeine.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 2, Winter 2000 issue.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!