Black Bread, redux

We decided to give this bread another try after so many of our readers wrote in to give their takes on Black Bread.

Are we glad we did? YES.

This new recipe is wildly easy, dense, and incredibly authentic tasting. In part, because it tastes like beer. The flavor of the beer really comes through in the finished loaf of bread, a deep, earthy bitterness that is countered by the small amount of honey.

The inside of the loaf is soft, almost crumbly, while the crust bakes hard, ideal for a bread bowl for a bit of Sister’s Stew.

Try it! Try it!

Black Beer Bread Recipe

Yes, I made this recipe up, but it is so straightforward and the ingredients so simple that I believe it could easily have been made well back into history, not to mention in the Northern reaches of Westeros. Bread making and brewing have gone hand in hand practically since they were both begun, and it’s only fitting that they should come together in this delicious bread.

Makes two loaves.


  • One 12oz bottle of warm dark beer, such as stout or porter
  • 1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4-5 cups flour (we used 2 cups white flour, 2 cups rye, and 1/2 cup whole wheat) plus 1/2 cup for working.

In a small bowl, add the yeast to the beer and allow to sit for 5 minutes until foamy. To this, add the egg and honey. Combine dry ingredients, then add gradually until you have a cohesive, workable dough that isn’t too sticky. Knead about 5 minutes, then cover and let rise for at least 1 hour.

Punch down mixture, and divide in two. Shape into your desired loaf, then let rise for at least 2 hours or refrigerated overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 450F. Dust the loaf lightly with flour and slash top.

Bake for 25-30min or until the crust is nicely browned.  Let stand for at least 15 minutes.

55 thoughts on “Black Bread, redux”

  1. Pam says:

    Hi, was wondering how the egg and honey get incorporated to the recipe? And the kneading time, is that similar to the oat bread, which was about 8 minutes? This looks great, just hoping for a bit more detail. Thanks!!!

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Fair point- I’m on it! :)

      1. Pam says:

        Thanks, I appreciate it. Loving the blog and all the recipes!

  2. Rebecca Murray says:

    Oh, yum. Looks like I’m going to be baking bread this weekend!

    1. Rebecca Murray says:

      Made 2 loaves of this over the weakend. I have to asy, it tastes very much like a less-sweat Boston Brown Bread and went great with Beef stew. For the person who said it came out very heavy: Are you sure you let it raise enough in the first place?

      1. Lissa T. says:

        I gave it at least 3 hours. I probably could have given it more, but even in that time it didn’t seem to have risen at all. I figured i probably did something wrong, chalked it up to general inexperience and called it an experiment and a lesson learned.

      2. Rebecca Murray says:

        Ah. Problem explained–it didn’t raise properly. It sounds like you might have either old four (didn’t have enough gluten), had old yeast (yeast is a living organism and needs to be healthy to perform well) or the beer was too cold. (yeast also needs to be warm to grow).

    2. Rebecca Murray says:

      Just tried this again using oats instead of rye flour (because I’m out of rye flour). I didn’t grind the oats; I soaked them in the beer till they were soft and mushy. I then added the yeast to the oats-and-beer mix for an additional 10 minutes. Very earthy texture and a bit lighter taste.

  3. Matt says:

    I see you’ve not subscribed to the “bread in five minutes a day” belief that kneading and punching down are unnecessary. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      I’d be curious to try! I come from a kneading/punching family, so it’s hard to break away from that. If any bread would be up for the challenge, I think it might be this one! :)

      1. Lissa T says:

        I actually tried baking this bread over the weekend and, inexperienced bread maker that i am, i was decidedly negligent in my kneading and punching; couldn’t have been more than a minute of kneading, with maybe… two punches ;)
        The bread came out EXTREMELY dense (each loaf is pretty heavy, and they’re not huge loaves) but surprisingly soft inside, slice-able and tasty. i ate a slice with some pepperoni… awesome.
        It’s just… very, VERY dense.

        1. Needs Mead says:

          We’ve actually got a half of one of our similarly weighty loaves sitting out on the counter for a science project of sorts. It’s been there for nearly a month at this point, and I’m fascinated that it hasn’t seemed to grow any mold yet. Truly, a winning, durable, hearty bread for The Wall, or Sisterton. :)

    2. Kyrina (@Kyrina) says:

      I know this is an extremely reply but there is an art to the no- and low-knead breads. The way they tend to work is that it’s a more liquidy style bread dough with a longer resting and raising time. In doing so, you get a dough that effectively develops the gluten as it rests and it forms entirely as you manipulate it into shape. It’ll still never really be as tall of a loaf as one made through kneading.

  4. Katie says:

    My friend and I made this today. The bread was absolutely delicious! Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. We are total novices at this, so we were a little unsure at first whether to dissolve the yeast in water first or in the warm beer. (Like I said, total novices. :p) We did use the water. We also used 2 1/2 cups wheat flour, because rye was unavailable. We served this up with some butter and honey. Couldn’t have been better! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Danielle says:

    Made this on Sunday night! I’m mad at myself that I didn’t take a picture. This was the first bread I’ve ever attempted and it came out great! Thank you so much for creating and maintaining this site!

  6. Matt says:

    Made this last night pre-Thanksgiving. I was quite sure I screwed it up royally. Proofing didn’t seem to go well, so I left it sit out at room temp all night. Plus the dough was way too sticky when I first started working it. I resolved to having some screwed up bread. However, after baking it this morning I proved to myself once again that people have baking bread for thousands of years without all the fancy what-nots and high paid chefs telling you how difficult it is-the bread turned out great. A great crust, and a nice soft interior. Very delicious. Thanks for the recipe, ladies!

    1. Charles says:

      I did the same thing. Let it sit all night at room temperature and baked it in the morning, and it turned out great!

  7. Megalomaniac says:

    I made this the other night, but I ended up using more rye flour to compensate for not having whole wheat flower, and I used my homemade English Breakfast Stout (which had about 1.5lbs of grain steeped in it prior to the boil), the bread was more of a tan “Faded Dark Earth” colour despite the stout’s blackness, and very dense but very good. I was worried that my homemade beer still has plenty of active yeast in it that it would make the bread over rise like that episode of “I Love Lucy”.

  8. Aaron Jozwiak says:

    I’ve tried to make this twice and have yet to bake my dough. The first time I used Dragon’s Milk (a oak barrel aged ale from New Holland Brewery in Holland, MI) and the other time a milk stout from a craft brewery in Pennsylvania (forgot the name). The first time I poured the beer in first and then added the yeast to the beer (by pouring it over, letting it sit for a minute, then stirring the yeast in) and I didn’t get anything approaching foamy. The second time I placed the yeast in the bowl and then poured the beer in and the mixture foamed to fill up 3/4 of the bowl instantly.

    Both cases I used the ratio of flour mix you have listed (using bread flour as the white flour).

    In both of the cases I mentioned, the dough didn’t seem to rise at all. It was just a heavy lump of dough. I’m wondering what I may have done wrong in either case. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Also, when you call for warm beer, do you mean just warm (i.e. room temp) or warm and flat?

    1. Rebecca Murray says:

      How fresh is the flour you are using? What kind of yeast are you using and how fresh is it? (i.e. bread yeast, fast rising yeast, left-over from Christmas last year, ect.) Also, where are you putting the dough to rise? Are you covering it? If so, with what? (towel, wax paper, oil, flour, ect)

      The beer can beer room temp. No need to let it go flat. Aslo, “till foamy” can be interpreted as “till disolved.” If the beer is foamy when you pour it in the bowl, the foam will actually go down. The dough needs to be warm to the touch but not hot for the yeast to be able to work. The dough is very moist, so I usually flour it then loosly drape a tea towel over it and let it stand in a dark, draft-free counter in the kitchen. And fresh is best with flour and yeast both.

      1. Aaron Jozwiak says:

        In no particular order:

        I bought the yeast, rye flour, and whole wheat flour fresh (bread flour was on hand and less than 4 months old), as well as the yeast.

        The yeast is just the pre-measured packets at the amount listed in the recipe. It’s a dry active yeast from the local grocery store.

        As for putting the dough to rise, i leave it in the bowl i mixed it in and covered with a clean dish towel, putting in a shady corner of the kitchen.

        I’m going to give this another whirl tomorrow and see what happens.

      2. Rebecca Murray says:

        Try using your oven as a proofing box. Turn your oven on to “warm” for about 5 minutes then shut it off. Place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom rack and the covered dough on the top rack. This should help the dough rise. Also, make sure you are kneading the dough well. Whole grain breads need to be kneaded more than conventional bread to help develop gluten. Gluten has a bad rep because some people are sensitive to it, but it is the stretchy bit that allows the bread to hold the gasses produced by the yeast, aka “rising.” This dough is wet enough that you don’t need to beat the heck out of it, but if you are having trouble getting it to rise, a little more kneading might help.

  9. elShoggotho says:

    I prefer sourdough, but that’s a matter of personal taste. Just make a dough out of two pounds of rye flour, a pint of water, and a tea spoon of salt. Cover and let sit for a few days, until a characteristic scent fills the room. That’s the natural yeast feasting on the rye. Put a quarter aside (to freeze for next time), form two loaves out of the rest, cut the surface crosswise. Preheat the oven to full heat, put the bread in on a low tray, let it bake for at least 30 minutes, better 45. After ten minutes, turn the heat down to 390°.

    1. Rebecca Murray says:

      Yum! Now I’m going to have to try this one, too! Do you make the bread as-is with nothing else added or do you use the sourdough starter in a typical sourdough recipe?

  10. heather says:

    Wow, this bread is sooo good. Made some beef barley stew and decided half way through that store bought bread was not going to cut it so decided to try this bread out as I had most ingredients except the beer. So I went out and found a dark chocolate stout from a local brewery only offered during the holidays. I also didn’t have regular honey, only espresso infused. Seriously some of the best bread ever…there were these little hints of chocolate in the bread and it came out this gorgeous dark color that I thought was burning at first but must have been from the beer, super crusty outside and ohh so soft on the inside. Your recipe is awesome and so is this site.
    Cheers from Canada :)

  11. Eyeska says:

    I’ve baked this one once so far to great effect, and decided to make a BIG loaf (ie: not splitting it out) and it’s in the oven right now.

    I have two questions, though:

    1. Would you mind posting pics the next time you make this? I am curious about my results vs. yours (ie: mine does NOT rise in the oven a whole lot, and while the first time it came out it was gorgeous and crazy dense and totally delicious, my slashes in the top both times have stayed pretty much where I left them). Plus, you know, your pics are awesome. :D
    2. The egg – is this something that could be omitted in favour of more liquid? I’m somewhat new to bread baking, but in other areas I find that a single egg is quite replaceable, and I have some vegans/folks allergic to egg in my life.

  12. Emmeri says:

    I’ve made this recipe twice and it’s turned out great both times. I only did two things differently: a) I made rolls instead of breadloafs and baked them for about 10-12 minuts b) I put oil over the dough during the first rise. They rolls were excellent!

    If people are having a problem with the proofing step make sure the beer is slightly warm. It shouldn’t be hot but I just warm it up slightly on the stove. It poofs up within 5 minutes.

  13. Joe says:

    I made two loaves of this today but made one small tweak, I added 3 tbs. of unsweetened dark cocoa. It turned out heavy, which to me is perfect for this type of bread. I loved this so much, it will be come a regular for our household =)

    Thanks for all the great work here, I will be purchasing the book come May!

  14. davos says:

    If I choose to let it rise for the recommended 2 hours do I keep it in the fridge during this time

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Nope, you can just keep it under a damp dish towel on the counter or in a greased bowl. The fridge is an option for overnight rising

  15. davos says:

    What does it mean to punch down mixture

    1. Needs Mead says:

      When the dough has risen, and is puffed up, you “punch it down”, which basically means deflating it. Depending on the mix of flours used in this recipe, it might not puff up too much, which is OK. Just follow the rest of the directions, and you should be fine. :)

      1. davos says:

        Thanks can’t wait to make this with the thick seafood stew

        1. Needs Mead says:

          Terrific pairing! Hope you love it!

  16. Betsy Vane says:

    Hi there – wondering if anyone’s tried baking this specifically for trenchers for the Sister’s Stew? I know you can just make smaller loaves and hollow them out, but I’ve seen recipes that are specifically for trenchers, and was thinking about adapting this in that way. Any thoughts?

    Thanks for these fantastic recipes – I am planning a Feast of Ice and Fire for my family the day before Christmas, and will be making several recipes from your cookbook and then giving the book as presents to everyone!

  17. ravendance says:

    I just made this today and divided it into four trenchers to fill with my lazy version of SIster’s Stew (which is just chunky potato soup with various seafood added and seasoned with Old bay). Oh my…it was wonderful! I used Shock Top End of the World Midnight Wheat ale and incorporated oats like Rebecca Murray, and the bread ended up a perfect density with a touch of sweetness. The only issue I had was that the recipe doesn’t mention what sort of pan to use or if it needs to be prepped in some way, so I used the same method as for the Crusty Bread and baked them on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, and they ended up sticking pretty badly when I went to take them off. Any suggestions?

  18. Kyle says:

    Not to sound lazy, but how does this fair in a bread machine?

  19. Kari says:

    Made this bread today. Took half the dough and turned them into faux doormice.

    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      I love them! The tails are so cute! :D

  20. Daniel Etherington says:

    I’m intrigued by this one – but I reckon I might try and re-create it in a more authentic way using a natural bread leaven and beer barm, how it would have been done in the Middle Ages (and in Westeros) when bakeries and breweries were found side-by-side. We didn’t really get commercial yeast until after Louis Pasteur in the late 19thC.

    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      I agree that this would be the very best way to make this bread! I’ve made several trub breads, with great success. :)

      1. Daniel Etherington says:

        Hi Chelsea. That’s interesting – so trub is the sediment at the bottom of a fermenter, while barm is the foam on a wort. Both nice old-fashioned ways to approach baking! (I wish I had some home brew going or a brewery next door…going to have to be inventive.)

        1. Daniel Etherington says:

          So I’ve finally made a bread with beer barm. It’s not a black beer bread yet – that’s my next step.
          But thanks for the inspiration!

          1. Chelsea M-C says:

            Beautiful! I love when brewing and baking come together! :)

          2. Daniel Etherington says:

            Me too! I’ll try and make a proper black beer bread next.

  21. asparagussy says:

    Love this recipe! Mainly because it is delicious and I am not a bread maker, but it came out so well my first time around (raves at brunch!). In total I’ve made it 3 times with one failure – the second time – which I am pretty sure was due to the high alcohol content in the beer I chose (about 10%). Yeast die when the alcohol content is too high, so I’m guessing I killed the little buggers rather than “proofing” them. I’ve noticed several other people have had trouble and I wonder if that isn’t the problem for them, too? Aaron Jozwiak mentioned one beer he tried with poor results, Dragons Milk by New Holland Brewery. It is 10%ABV, so that would be a possibility.

  22. Kelly says:

    I can’t wait to make this! Probably a dumb question, but I’m more of a cupcake baker :) When you bake the bread in the oven, do you put it on a cookie sheet? Or just stick it in there on the rack? And how do you know if you need to use 4 or 5 cups of flour? Thanks :)

  23. Elaina says:

    I don’t know what I did wrong but I added like 8 cups of flour and its still not forming a “cohesive mass” :( I double checked and i definitely used 12 fluid ounces of beer but for some reason it was way too much liquid! What did I do wrong?

  24. Erik Stark says:

    So, I’m planning to make this for a get-together with my friends next month.

    My question is about how large are the two loaves this recipe makes? I’m going to have about 8 people total, and the last thing I want is to find out I didn’t bake enough bread for everyone to enjoy.

    Will this recipe make enough, or should I consider doubling? And if I double the recipe, do I double everything? Like two bottles of beer, 4 cups white flour, 4 cups rye flour, and 1 cup whole wheat?

    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      Definitely double- hardly anyone can resist fresh baked bread!

      1. Erik Stark says:

        Will do. Thanks!

  25. Jo says:

    I made this for a party, but left out the egg and whole wheat, and used less beer since people kept saying the dough was sticky. Apparently rye flour doesn’t hold together well. I made it three days ahead. Though it wasn’t the least bit mouldy, I practically sawed through the rock hard crust. But the inside was still nice and soft, thanks to said crust, and I loved the earthy taste paired with the beef stew. I don’t make this often due to the difficulty of shaping and slicing, but it’s definitely a go-to bread whenever I feel like a strong meal.

  26. Es says:

    Awesome recipe! Thank you for posting. Is there a Song of Fire & Ice excerpt you’ve found that mentions black bread?

  27. GwenB says:

    I am going to have to try this recipe and add some spent grains.

  28. Nam Et Ipsa says:

    Why I changed the recipe:

    *Traditional breadmaking is conceptually simple. Flour, water, salt, yeast, labor, time, heat. It’s best not to over-complicate it.

    We can justify the honey: it feeds the yeast and maybe contributes a little softness and flavor to the final loaf.

    We can justify the beer: both as an homage to the intertwined origins of beer and bread, and (at least if we use a dark enough beer) to add flavor to the final loaf. Don’t bother with a light beer; you may as well use water.

    I have a hard time justifying the egg: traditional hearth bread would definitely not contain egg, and one must ask its purpose here. Softness? The honey and beer will to some extent cover that, and kneading and shaping the dough properly will cover the rest. To aid in rising? The yeast, and (again) kneading and shaping properly will cover that. It’s no wonder you think you need to add egg to help it rise when you instruct to “punch down” the dough. You waited an hour for the yeast to do its careful work, only to immediately undo it with a heavy hand? Why? That is not how we make bread.

    *You seem to WANT your bread to be dense. Why? Dense bread is badly-made bread. Under-proofed, over-kneaded, or both.
    To make consistent bread, you measure your ingredients by weight, not volume. 1 cup of loosely-packed flour vs densely-packed flour is quite a variability, as is a flat teaspoon of salt vs a heaping teaspoon. The most important ratios in your bread are the ratios of flour to salt to yeast, and you want them to be precise. The water is somewhat more forgiving, but it’s generally best to err on the side of wet. It’s harder to work with (you get used to it) but it produces far superior bread.

    Black Bread, third time’s a charm

    Time required: To do this right you’re going to want to spend about 7 hours making these two loaves. You will be able to “do other things” for about 4 of those hours, but not consecutively, and not without being able to return to the kitchen. You can’t rush good bread.


    1 kg flour
    22 g salt
    2-12 oz bottles (~700 mL) of dark ale (nothing lighter than Dunkelweizen, preferably stout or porter) at room temperature
    50 mL water
    1 packet (~7 g) active dry yeast
    2 tbsp honey
    “1 egg” (I’m leaving this in only because the original recipe called for it. I seriously doubt it’s necessary and definitely not traditional.)


    stand mixer with dough hooks
    second mixing bowl
    dough scraper
    clean surface to work dough, and flour to dust it
    2 proofing baskets (bannetons) and proofing cloths (couches)
    (In practice, this means any bowl with an 8 to 10 inch diameter, and any clean linen cloth that won’t leave fibers sticking to the dough.)
    1 oven capable of reaching 500F
    1 dutch oven or oven-safe pot with lid (steel or enamel works best)
    Corn meal or corn starch to dust the pot
    spray bottle containing room-temperature water
    a bread lame (a sharp non-serrated knife or razor blade will work)

    1. Autolyze the dough: Add beer first into stand mixer. Agitate until flat. Add flour and “egg”. Mix with dough hooks at medium-slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with spatula to ensure full mixing. Continue until your dough resembles a uniform “shaggy mass”. Let stand in mixing bowl for 1 hour.

    2. Bloom the yeast: About 15 minutes before the dough is ready, combine the yeast, water, and honey in a bowl. Mix only until no dry yeast is visible. Let sit “until foamy”, about 15 minutes.

    3. Add yeast mixture and salt into dough, turn mixer back on medium-slow until dough doesn’t look or feel grainy with salt. Then turn up the mixer to medium-high for about 5 minutes until dough forms a solid well-ordered mass with visible gluten fibers. You will notice the transition from shaggy mass to ordered dough. Do NOT over-mix.

    4. Lightly oil the inside surface of your second mixing bowl, and CAREFULLY transfer dough into it. Use a dough scraper to prevent the dough from pulling and tearing away from the original bowl as much as possible. Cover the second bowl with a clean towel and let sit about a half hour. Then uncover and GENTLY fold dough in half (i.e. fold it once over itself). Cover again and let sit until dough volume increases by ~50%, which should take about an hour and a half.

    5. Transfer dough CAREFULLY (as above) to lightly floured clean surface. Quickly and using as little pressure as possible, use the dough scraper to cut the dough in half, then form it into two balls by folding the dough edges into the center sequentially from four different directions (as though you were folding a square piece of paper so the corners end up at the center). Don’t squeeze the dough. Place the balls seam side down. Separate the balls enough so they won’t touch as they settle. Lightly dust the tops with flour, cover with the towel used above, and let sit for about 15 minutes.

    6. Repeat the folding technique (the intention is to create a tight dough surface to prevent gas from escaping) and place balls back, seam side down, for 5 minutes. In the mean time, rub enough flour into your linens to coat them, but not so much that a lot of flour falls off when you lift them. You don’t want the dough to stick to them but you don’t want a ton of dry flour coating them during baking either (baked flour is NOT bread). Place the couches into the bannetons, and gently flip each ball of dough (seam side UP) into its respective bowl. Cover the tops of the dough with the flaps of the couch, and refrigerate for about 90 minutes. You will know when it’s time to take out when the dough has increased in size by 50% again, and you lightly poke it and the hole doesn’t repair itself in a few seconds. 30 minutes before this process is complete, preheat your oven to 500F with the dutch oven or pot (but not the lid) inside it.

    7. When it’s time to bake, take out the (hot!) dutch oven and lightly sprinkle the bottom with corn meal or even corn starch. Flip one of the dough balls (seam side DOWN) into it. Leave the other in the fridge. Lightly spray (don’t soak) the top of the bread with some water. The purpose of the water is to delay the formation of the crust so the bread doesn’t harden before it fully rises. As deftly as possible, use the lame (knife/blade) to slash a few half-inch-deep cuts into the top of the loaf, from end to end. It’s best to keep the blade at a 90 degree angle to the dough if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

    8. Cover, place in the 500F oven on a rack as close to the heat source as possible. Time 15 minutes. Set oven to 450 and time another 15 minutes. Remove lid and time another 20 or so minutes, until the crust is a nice and dark and well-formed. If in doubt, leave it in longer. It’s easy to undercook bread, relatively hard to overcook it.

    9. Pop the loaf out of the pot (a good whack should dislodge it without anything ending up stuck to the pot) and CAREFULLY transfer to a wire rack to cool for an hour. Prep the oven and the pot for the second loaf (back up to 500F, make sure there’s no chunks in the pot, put it back in the oven) and begin again from step 7.

    Voila, you have “traditional” beer-based hearth bread in the shape of a traditional round loaf.

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