The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Modern Bakery, Oak Park, Michigan Russian Black Bread

sipagolda's picture

Modern Bakery, Oak Park, Michigan Russian Black Bread

I grew up in Oak Park, Michigan. We had a fabulous Jewish bakery, Modern Bakery, that made great rye bread (the inspiration of Zingerman's Bakehouse in Ann Arbor's Jewish rye bread) and they also made a bread called Russian Black Bread. I have looked at all the recipes for Russian Black Bread and they don't resemble that bread at all. It had a very coarse, wet crumb and had a very long shelf life (as long as it didn't get moldy it didn't dry out). Anyone know about that specific bakery's Black Bread. BTW sometimes it had raisins and the bread was a large long square loaf that was sold as slices from the original loaf. Thanks

suave's picture

Was it sour or sweet?

sipagolda's picture

Please explain.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, sipagolda.

The breads I have had that were called "Russian Black Bread" have been very similar to Jewish Pumpernickel. There is a recipe for pumpernickel in Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" that is very good. He may have a different recipe for "Russian Black Bread." I can check when I get home.

There is also a recipe here on TFL for "Russian Rye" that I have made. It is very heavy and tasty, but different from Jewish Pumpernickel.

Here's a link to Greenstein's Pumpernickel:

And to the Russian Rye:

Take a look and let me know if either of these looks like what you are after.


sipagolda's picture

I have eaten many a "Jewish" pumpernickel and none of them were anything like the bread I'm looking for. The color was that of well tempered 85% cocoa solids chocolate but I know after speaking once to the original baker/owner that he added no colorants, something often added to pumpernickel breads to make them dark.

Also the texture was very coarse and wet something that I have not found in pumpernickel recipes or even those I've had in Jewish bakeries.

Thanks for the tips, if you can think of anything else keep me posted.

b_elgar's picture

Wow! I remember the Modern Bakery. I remember Star, too.

We called this dark pumpernickel, often with a golden slurry crust, "Russian Pumpernickel." It was a wonderful bread and I have never been able to reproduce it here at home, although I confess that I have not attempted it in years, and I'd like to think my baking techniques have improved since then.

I remember all sorts of terrific baked goods from those Jewish bakeries - not just the fabulous breads - the rye, cornbread, Vienna, bulka, challah, but the cakes and pastries were great, too. Coffee cake, banana cake with chocolate frosting, 7-layer, kichel, sprinkle cookies - all delicious stuff.


sipagolda's picture

Oh, the kichel, so light and airy I still remember after all these years. And the chocolate cupcakes so good. For those though I found a recipe that compares very favorably but not for the black bread.

LindyD's picture

There's a Modern Bakery on West Nine Mile in Oak Park.  It would not be surprising if it was the same - I grew up on the east side and a couple of the bakeries I remember from my childhood are still operating. Of course, back then I was more interested in the pastries and sweets than good bread.  ;-)

Jeffrey Hamelman has a recipe in "Bread" which he calls Black Bread.  The ingredients include medium rye (60%), high gluten flour (40%), old bread, ground coffee, oil, water, salt and yeast.    Don't know if it's similar to the bread you seek, but it sure is an interesting formula.

sipagolda's picture

Same bakery, different owner...terrible products. The original baker/owner sold the bakery a number of years ago and the new baker is not nearly a worthy successor. And he doesn't even make the black bread.

I once spoke to the owner about the bread and he spoke in jargon that at the time I didn't understand but the one thing I remember is that there was no coffee or chocolate added for color.

Thanks for responding.

flourgirl51's picture

Did this bread have caraway seeds in it? Were the raisins dark or light?

sipagolda's picture

No caraway seeds, although the the top had some cracked wheat on top, I think. And I'm sure about the type of raisins but the more I think about it they were probably light.

gabigal's picture

I grew up in the state of Washington so am not acquainted with your Modern Bakery but am very fond of Russian Black Bread.  My recipe is from a 1971 book called Cooking with Gourmet Grains that was put out by the Stone-Buhr Milling Company in Seattle Washington if you haven't found a recipe to your liking yet.

sipagolda's picture

Thanks I just ordered the book on Amazon. I can't wait to get it.

isobel gildon's picture
isobel gildon

I just came back from a great two weeks in Chicago. Whilst there I visited the Russian tearooms downtown opposite the Art Institute. At lunch we were given the most amazing black bread - the colour of very dark chocolate. It was moist and tender and chewy - no caraway seeds, thank God! Back home in England none of my bread books have anything like it. Anyone out there have a recipe?

sashacow's picture

I grew up in the same neighborhood, back in the early 90s when there was a great influx of Jewish Russian immigrants to the area.  There used to be a decent Russian food store on the corner of Lincoln and Greenfield, next to the 7-11, but I don't know if that's still around.  It had passable russian bread, but it was baked in Ontario and shipped in.

Otherwise, I think the bread you are looking for is described in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters book.  He has several recipes for 100% Russian rye breads made with a rye sourdough starter.  His basic Russian rye Bread has a very wet crumb, and a very authentic flavor I remember from Russia.  He also says that the very dark color of the bread comes from rye malt extract, which is hard to find here.  Very good book, highly recommended.

sipagolda's picture

The use of rye malt extract and the sourdough starter sound like what I remember the baker telling me way back when. I will try to pick up the Whitley book.

Marni's picture

I don't know where you are now, but there is a bagel store in Los Angeles called The Bagel Factory that makes a bagel that matches your description, including the raisins.  It has bits of onion too.  Don't know if it helps, but you could see if they'll ship.


sipagolda's picture

I'm in Virginia but have friends in LA who might be able to send me some of their bagels. It's funny though because there use to be a bagel shop in Oak Park called the Bagel Factory. Wonder if there is any connection between the two.

europeanbakery's picture

Contact Little European Bakery in Atlanta (404-255-8200).  I think they may have just what you are lookig for - and they ship.  They have many Russian customer who are regular consumers of their bread.

moderndaughter's picture

Hi SipaGolda,

Sorry I can't fill in the details on the Russian Black bread, but I was thrilled to find your kind words here. Of course, as you can see by my subject line, my dad Martin Weiss owned Modern! And you're correct, he sold it in the late 90's.

He doesn't reveal much about his recipes, but if you want to write to me directly, join the fan page I created for the bakery on Facebook (just put Modern Bakery into the Facebook search and you'll see the front of the store) and if you have a specific question, maybe I can get you an answer.

Thanks again for all your nice thoughts.



RebelWithoutASauce's picture

To achieve a darker bread without adding colorants like cocoa or coffee, the technique used in Germany and Russia I believe is to bake these part rye loaves at a lower temperature for much longer. This of course, changes the flavor, probably to be closer to what you are looking for.

Gwen's picture

This is one that I love. I had searched for a decent black bread for a long time.

 Black Bread

  • 3 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 ½ cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
  • ¼ cup dark molasses, unsulphured preferred (I've been thinking of trying to use prune lekvar instead but haven't tried it yet)
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups dark-toasted fine rye bread crumbs
  • *(I use any European type breads for this. I save all ends and scraps of breads in my freezer and then [marked as 'old bread'], when ready to make this bread, grind them in the cuisanart (sp). We then toast these under the broiler until they are dark, but never brunt)
  • 3 cups stone-ground or pumpernickel rye flour (I use dark rye)
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup bread or all-purpose flour
  • (glaze: 1 teaspoon Postum mixed with 2 teaspoons water)

In a large mixing bowl dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water. Stir in the molasses, yeast, ginger and bread crumbs. Allow to stand until the crumbs are soaked and soft, and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Add the rye and whole-wheat flour, butter and salt. Stir thoroughly by hand or with a mixer. Measure the white flour, ¼ cup at a time, and stir in until the dough is a rough, shaggy ball that can be lifted to the work surface.

Cover the dough with a cloth and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Knead until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes. Early in the process it will be sticky (add sprinkles of flour) but gradually it will become more elastic (this can be done in the mixer with the dough hook if you wish).

 Place the ball of dough in a bowl and pat with greased fingers to keep the surface from drying out. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the dough is puffy to the touch and has risen to twice its original size. 1 ½ hours.

 Turn the dough onto the floured work surface, knead out the bubbles, and cut into 2 pieces. Form each into a round ball. Let rest three minutes.

 Press each ball into a long, flat oval under your palms or with a rolling pin. Double over and pound several times down the middle of the long piece with the edge of your hand. Fold over, seal and roll back and forth under your palms to fashion an 18"-long loaf. Repeat with the second piece.

 Second rising: Cover lightly and leave to rise until double in size, 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

 Make three crossways slashes in the loaf and bake in the oven about 35 minutes or until the bottom crust yields a hard, hollow sound when tapped. The loaves will be crusty and a deep brown, almost black.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a metal rack. Freezes great.

windsunsurf's picture

Well strange or not, I remember the black bread but, my Bulka was baked in  3 pound coffee cans and smelt like vodka, proofed enough for a snoot full and raisins /sultanas Sold in meat markets, that had Kielbasa. The black bread was always served with chicken soup. But  the Bubka was on the sweet side, smaller treats . As I said one could get a rise from the vodka. No Holy Bread here. Sold in Yonkers NY wperhaps from a Ethnic Bakery