“Inside, the hall was immense and drafty, even with a fire roaring in its great hearth. Crows nested in the timbers of its lofty ceiling. Jon heard their cries overhead as he accepted a bowl of stew and a heel of black bread from the day’s cooks.” (GoT)

Black Bread

Our Thoughts

While this recipe is undoubtedly far too complex for much of Westeros (coffee? chocolate?!) , it’s one of the only recipes we found and loved for “black bread”. Sadly, it comes out a sort of ordinary brown color, but the flavors in it are wonderful. If you concentrate, you really can pick out the taste of molasses, coffee, and chocolate. Very yum.

We have heard that bamboo charcoal is occasionally added to baked goods in some Asian countries, and literally turns a loaf of bread black. We’ll keep our eye out for that, and report back… :)

Black Bread Recipe

This is a variation on traditional Russian black bread..  The preparation takes a while, so start early!

Makes 2 large loaves, or 4 smaller ones

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • 1/2 cup bran
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

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 and LET COOL. If it goes in hot, you will murder the yeast, and end up with the densest biscotti bread you’ve ever encountered.

Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine two cups mixed flours, bran, salt, and espresso. Slowly add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth for three minutes. Gradually add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins form a ball. It will be very sticky but firm.

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 towel and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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. 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.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned. 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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57 Responses to Black Bread

  1. TBD says:

    What does ‘Gently deflate dough’ mean?

    • Needs Mead says:

      After the dough has risen, you punch it down. If dough is allowed to rise too far, it will collapse under itself, and that compromises its structure. Punching the dough down and allowing it to rise again (harder and stronger!) makes for better bread.

  2. Hannah says:

    I always thought black bread just meant pumpernickle, but this recipe looks AMAZING.

    • Needs Mead says:

      If you’re opting for store bought bread, I think pumpernickel would be delicious with Sister’s Stew! We couldn’t find any at our Whole Foods, so *sigh* we just had to make some bread. :)

  3. Lenna says:

    When I make a similar recipe instead of using instant espresso powder I’ll replace the 2 cups of water with 2 cups of coffee that has been cooled slightly. This has the added advantage of warming up the entire loaf to get the yeast rising right away.
    Just a thought.

  4. April says:

    I love black bread, an awesome recipe I used is at Smitten Kitchen .com . It’s pretty similar to yours, I believe,but it has a minced shallot which adds a nice flavor (and maybe moisture?). Really excellent with a slice of cheddar. By the way, I’ve been reading for awhile and I love your blog :)

  5. Tami in Ruidoso says:

    Wonder what a touch of black food coloring paste would do? Not liquid food coloring, that would change the composition and texture of the baking process, but the paste fc, like Wilton’s. The coffee and chocolate sound wonderful…is the chocolate a cocoa powder or the unsweetened baking bar?

  6. Eleanore says:

    The bamboo charocal idea might be not very healthy. It’s like eating coal, which is pretty much half of what is bad about cigarettes.

  7. Nathan Schattman says:

    Our Central Market has a black russian bread, rye?, that is very very good. That’s what

  8. Nathan Schattman says:

    Damn. Wrong key. That’s what I envison.

    Also, had a ground turkey version of the medieval pork pie tonight. Other change was using piri-pire instead of black pepper. Truly, it was gobbled down.

  9. cloudcontrol says:

    I’ve tried the bamboo charcoal bread, from the bakery chain BreadTop. We have it here in Melbourne (Australia) too.
    http://www.mailintalks.com/2009/05/20/bamboo-charcoal-roll/
    They make it pretty garlicky. :)

  10. Jennifer says:

    AAAGGGHHHH!!! For those of us who are still slogging our way through Dragons, could you please use spoiler alerts? I promise I’ll try to read faster!!!

  11. Anna from Finland says:

    I always thought the black bread to be something like finnish rye bread. Google ruisleipä(or ruisleipa). That is naturally black, and not sweet usually.

  12. Jutah the Juggler says:

    When can we expect a recipe for Wedding Pork Pie?

  13. notyan says:

    Black bread is actually an essential part of German cuisine and has nothing whatsoever to do with chocolate (or bamboo charcoal wth?). It’s a simple rye bread, sometimes mixed with wheat, and not to be confused with pumpernickel. To get a better idea, simply google “schwarzbrot”.

    • Sina says:

      That’s what I always thought, too, but then I’m German and I grew up with “Schwarzbrot”. I do think however that at the wall and in northern Westerosi kitchens this good old plain rye bread fits in much better than anything with chocolate or coffee… here’s what it often looks like: http://www.baeckerei-kleeberger.de/img/bauernbrot_big.jpg (For me this pretty much is what the word BREAD means… there are hundreds of different kinds of bread in Germany, but this is THE thing.)

    • Amazon_warrior says:

      I always assumed that, too. Though I’m not German, I’ve had quite a lot of contact with Germany and its food over the years (in fact, I currently live there), and I do like a nice bit of schwarzbrot. :)

  14. Angela says:

    I made my black bread yesterday and added a touch of gravy browning to the chocolate mixture. Then forgot the molasses until after I had already stirred in about 2 cups of flour. At that point I was in love with the aroma which quickly changed for the worse after adding the molasses. I may reduce the amount by half in the next batch.
    The texture of the baked bread is fantastic, almost like heavy cake. Crumbly, dense, so rich in flavor. We made scotched eggs for breakfast this morning and ate it side by side with toasted black bread from yesterday. Such a sensational breakfast! We had coffee but I remarked to my husband, “A beer would be lovely with this.”
    His reply. “That’s my wife,” (ironic tone)

    • Needs Mead says:

      Hey, there’s a long standing tradition of beer with breakfast in Westeros. One of the only advantages of avoiding dodgy medieval water! Next time, how about a coffee porter or stout? :)

      • Angela says:

        It was the overall heaviness of the scotched egg and the black bread for breakfast that made me think a light ale would round it all out better than the coffee I had with it. In the summertime anyway! Coffee Porter would be grand in the colder months.

  15. Alexander says:

    Hi
    I think the author means Hapanleipä made on rye which is a traditional bread here in the nordic countries.

    Traditional Finnish Blak Bread ” Hapanleipä”
    Taken from http://www.recipelion.com/Sourdough-Breads/Finnish-Black-Bread-Hapanleipa

    Ingredients

    3 packages active dry yeast
    4 cups warm water, 105 F to 115 F
    7 to 9 cups of dark rye flour
    2 teaspoons salt (optional)
    Additional flour for shaping

    Instructions

    A Heavy, Tangy, Sourdough Rye. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add 2 cups rye flour and beat to make a smooth mixture. Sprinkle the top of the dough with 1 cup of rye flour. Cover tightly and let stand in a warm place for 24 hours. The second day, add 2 cups of the rye flour, stir, and let stand 24 hours more.

    Stir in the salt and the final amount of flour, but do not exceed nine cups. Knead, by hand or in a heavy duty mixer, for 30 minutes. The dough should be very sticky. With damp hands and a dough scraper, shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl again. Sprinkle with just enough flour to make the top of the dough dry. Let rise 1-1/2 hours in a warm place. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide into 2 parts. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and cover with a thick coating of dark rye flour. For a loaf with a hole in the middle, shape each half into a round loaf about 8 inches in diameter.

    With a floured finger, press a hole in the center of each loaf. Brush loaves generously with water and sprinkle with a generous coating of rye flour. (The reason for this shape use to be storage – the Finns would bake them in massive quantities and store them by stacking them on poles or hanging on ropes.) When cutting this shape – simply cut thin wedges. For round loaves, shape each part into a ball. Roll the ball around on a rye floured board into it resembles a huge chocolate drop with a slightly pointed top. Place loaves on the baking sheets with the point upwards. You may put both loaves on the same sheet if it is large enough. Brush with water and sprinkle the tops with more flour. The extra wetting and heavy sprinkling with flour produces a very thick, hard crust that helps keep this loaf (if uncut) for a long time. Place shaped loaves in a warm place till they have flattened out, spread apart, and the tops appear crackled. Place a large pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill the pan with boiling water. Bake the loaves for 1 hour or until firm. Wrap bakes loaves in towels or waxed paper to soften. Do not try cutting this loaf until it’s cool.

    As it is, the loaf does take some effort to cut. If you don’t have a chainsaw, :) just patiently work away with a bread knife. Believe me, the taste is worth it! When you make this bread, you need to plan ahead. It takes 48 hours for the dough to sour. It slices best on the second day after baking. Apparently you can keep this rye bread refrigerated for several months, or freeze them. Historically the Finns baked these loaves twice a year (spring and fall) so I would guess they have great keeping qualities. All I can guarantee is that they last quite nicely unrefrigerated for about a week–that’s about how long they last in my house!!

  16. dharms says:

    I think the Westerosi black bread would be very much like sour black bread in todays’s Scandinavia and Russia. Just rye and sourdough, not any wheat or artificial coloring.

  17. aisling says:

    We also have a bread called “black bread” in Finland that the other Finnish posters seems to have forgotten, it’s the svartbröd to be found in the south-western, Swedish-speaking archipelago of Finland, especially on the Åland islands. It’s not a sour bread as the traditional Finnish, dark rye bread, it’s sweetish thanks to the use of dark sugar syrup. The dark colour comes from using malt, yes, the same malt you use in beer, and this in combination with a long time in the oven gives you a dark bread that stays good for long without being dry.
    http://www.aland.com/se/mat_och_nojen/mat_nojen_recept/alands_svartbrod

    This was what I thought of when reading about the black bread.

  18. HF says:

    I liked it; it’s a nice recipe. But for a ‘proper’ ;) black bread (or „Schwarzbrot“ in German) I recommend this one from the land with the largest variety of breads:

    SCHWARZBROT

    This kind of bread comes from a central region in Germany, where it is very popular. The taste is rich (especially for people from countries where only wheat breat is consumed). In Germany, this kind of bread is eaten with butter or with a rich, robust cheese (Old Amsterdam, for example) – as you can see, it’s quite medieval. ;)

    Here is a picture of a commercial black bread: http://hype-media.de/clients/klein/teaser_brot.jpg

    Preparation [I tried to convert metric into US measures]:

    Sour dough
    50g primary dough (from the last time you baked this bread – tricky when you do it for the first time…) [1,8oz]
    250g medium-fine whole-grain rye flour [8,8oz]
    ca 250ml water [1 US liquid cup]
    Mix and let stand for 12 hours at about 26°C [79°F].

    Yeast dough
    300g medium-fine whole-grain rye flour
    ca 320ml water [1 1/3 US liquid cup]
    5g fresh yeast [0,18oz]
    Mix and let stand for 12 hours at room temperature.

    Primary dough
    Sour dough (see above) {-50g [1,8oz] for the next time…}
    Yeast dough (see above)
    200g whole-grain fine (!) rye flour [7,0oz]
    25g salt [0,9oz]
    Mix and let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.

    Put plenty of rye flour and potato starch on your worktop, spread it well.
    Put dough on worktop and flatten a little bit with wet fingers. Form a ‘brick’, then round the edges by turning the dough in your hands. The surface should be dry from the flour on your worktop.
    Let dough piece stand for 5 minutes.

    Now stretch the dough piece by rolling two opposing sides down and into the bottom of the piece. The ‘brick’s’ final ratio should be about 4:2:1 (length:width:heigth) – but it’s not that important.

    Wrap the dough piece into a floured dish towel, put it upside down in an elongated bowl or basket and let it prove (until a dent by your finger no longer – or just very slowly – smoothes itself).

    Baking:

    Pre-heat oven to 250°C [482°F]
    Drop dough piece onto a floured wooden board, spray some water on the surface and put it into the oven. Pour half a litre of water on the oven’s bottom or a low-hanging baking tray.
    Bake for 15 minutes at 250°C [482°F], then for at least 60 minutes at 180°C [355°F] until the surface is dark and smooth.

    After taking the bread out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes. „Schwarzbrot“ can be eaten while still warm (great with some butter and cheese), though most rye breads in Germany are left for 24 hours until consumed.

    • Rachel says:

      When I was a teen I worked at a bakery for a Polish woman who made amazing European breads. One of them was a black Russian bread. I remember her saying that it was 75% sourdough and I still remember the wonderful sourdough taste of the bread. Unfortunately all of her recipes were huge batches and in metric so I was never able to replicate most of them. Also, she had me mostly making the sweets anyway. I only helped with the breads a little. I want to try your recipe at some point when I can find some time.

  19. Lori Krishnan says:

    This is essentially the same as a recipe I snagged from NPR’s Kitchen window a few years ago. The only thing missing is a minced shallot. A lovely choice for the black bread. I’ve even won a baking competition with the version adding minced shallot. It’s excellent with smoked salmon and/or mustard butter. Or just butter. :) Lovely work ladies.

  20. Clamarnicale says:

    When I read black bread, I assumed it was something like the old Swedish paltbröd (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_EsDu_lo7Pg8/S2YidIDnIQI/AAAAAAAAGzU/mjF6byGSd68/s1600-h/Paltbr%C3%B6d+bloggDSC_0020.jpg), baked on wheat and rye flour and pig’s blood. As all blood food, it would be very nutritious with a high iron content, and it would keep very well when dried – suitable for long winters with hard work.

  21. black bread says:

    I’ve been a baker for a number of years, and have made some great black bread as well. No molasses in it and I used day old rye bread cubed and toasted tell very dark in color, I then soaked the toasted bread with the coffee and water and let sit over night. Came out excellent and relatively simple rye bread, just a little white flour like 20% of overall flour ratio
    Check out Jeffrey Hamiltons book Bread, he’s the baker for King Arthur flour company.

  22. Beth Dunsing says:

    I lived in Tampere, Finland when I was young, and their version of Black Bread was made with fresh blood from the butcher. We also ate Black Pancakes with lingonberries or arctic cloud berries, and Black Sausage, both also made with blood.

  23. Maeve says:

    There is this thing called black cocoa or onyx cocoa http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/black-cocoa-12-oz it will turn your backed goods nice and black :)

  24. Old Boar says:

    In Venice I had black bread that had been made with squid ink, lovely and salty. Not sure how many squid are north of the wall but it was definitely black as coal.

  25. I always assumed “black brad” was like the dark rye bread we used to get in Denmark. It’s compact and has a strong flavour and I hated it when I was a kid, but it’s very healthy and I bet it’s excellent with savoury dishes. At a guess I’d say it’s sourdough wich makes sense for medieval setting, and it’s got lots of wholegrain which also makes sense.

  26. ForWinterfell says:

    Not to be a buzzkill, but after reading this recipe and comparing some of the language to the recipe on SmittenKitchen (literally the last read “Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves” EXACTLY like the steps above) it’s kind of clear you ladies copy-and-pasted her recipe with a few changes and neglected to give proper credit. Which is a little dishonorable.

    http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/04/black-bread/

    Ned Stark would shake his head.

    • Needs Mead says:

      You are correct that this was the basic recipe from which we worked. In this way, and in many, many others, I’m a bit embarrassed to look back at all of the very early posts from the blog. We hadn’t quite worked out our system yet, and it shows. Thanks for filling in the link where it was needed! Clearly some of the earlier recipes need to be reworked a great deal.

      • Becky says:

        Yeah, this is a little concerning. Basic recipe implies that you used it as a basis – except for the shallots and a little of the commentary from the instructions, this is exactly the same recipe with exactly the same wording. It would be nice to put the link at the beginning of the recipe, saying that you found this recipe, and something like “adapted it slightly” from smitten kitchen. It begins to make me wonder how many of your other recipes have been borrowed from other people without proper credit.

        • Chelsea M-C says:

          I’m sorry if it seemed dishonest. As I explained above, this was an early post, and came before we learned about blogging etiquette and really hit our stride in terms of making our own recipes. I’m now juggling content for three blogs, and don’t have a great deal of time to put into revising earlier posts. Hopefully I can go back and make adjustments as needed.

          • Sense says:

            It doesn’t seem dishonest… it just is. In the time it took you to write that comment, you could hit “edit”, add “Recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen – link” and hit done.

            Voila.

  27. GLM says:

    Any suggestions for a traditional black bread, e.g., without espresso or chocolate?

  28. sam fig says:

    You could also use Buckwheat flour!
    It’s super strong and it goes well with toasted caraway seeds:)

  29. gyle says:

    Do you prefer this recipe to the one published in the cookbook?

    • Chelsea M-C says:

      Nope. I definitely like the cookbook recipe better- I think it’s more authentic.

      • gyle says:

        Thank you! Made it last night. Wow, delicious indeed. The porter really comes through.

        I also worked out a tasty recipe for the ‘Purple Wedding’ dish, “trenchers filled with chunks of chopped mutton stewed in almond milk with carrots, raisins, and onions” – for which your black bread served as the perfect trencher. (Also worth it to make the almond milk, homemade is worlds better than store bought.)

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