The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ingredients of a very dark/black recipe anyone?

kadde's picture

Ingredients of a very dark/black recipe anyone?

Hi all,


I'm really keen on knowing which ingredient is responsible for the very dark almost black color of some breads. When I make bread, regardless of the recipe at most it's grey. Sometimes a little darker, but never deeply brown/black.

I read that dark sugar might be used or roasted malt. Yet, I can't exactly pinpoint the cause of the deep dark color. So anyone any ideas on which ingredients might darken the bread?



LindyD's picture

Those are two ingredients mentioned by Jeffrey Hamelman in his book "Bread..."

The ground coffee is used in his Black Bread formula and the blackstrap molasses is an ingredient in the Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel formula.

Dark sugar and roasted malt might add color, but they'd also add sweetness.

It could well be your flour that is causing the greyness. What type of flour are you working with?

[Edited to fix typo]

janij's picture

In King Arthur's whole grain bread book there is a recipe for Dark adn Soft restaurant dinner rolls that uses cocoa to acheive the dark color.  It is 2 T to 4 1/2 c flour.  The rolls are pretty good. 

Paddyscake's picture

The color is from molasses, coffee and dutch processed cocoa. It is 2/3 bread and 1/3 rye flour.


dghdctr's picture

Looks great.

--Dan DiMuzio

ladychef41's picture

Caramel coloring is also used on occasion for a darker bread.... Personally, I would rather have a lighter bread using only molasses and not use the other ingredients just for their "coloring properties".  Strictly personal preference.



merkri's picture

I just posted this in another thread, but I've found that buckwheat honey also gives a surprisingly dark color to a rye bread.

Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

I grind a flour from dark chocolate malted wheat berries I purchase from a brewery supply store.  I make a mash with this flour and it imparts a very dark color to my breads.  I use this because I do not like the taste of molasses.

kadde's picture

Sweet, thanks guys! I use whole meai wheat, some bran now and then, spelt.

So the options would be:

  • molasses
  • buckwheat honey
  • coffee
  • cacao
  • dark chocolate malted wheat berries

What I'm after is the darkest bread I can get, for both taste and health. I don't like to add sugar, sugar derivates or honey. Coffee is good (coffee adict here), so that is an option. As are the berries.

To answer with another question @ LindyD: what kinds of flour give the darkest result and is there a nutritional difference?

And thank you all for the replies, much appreciated!

LindyD's picture

what kinds of flour give the darkest result and is there a nutritional difference?

Hi Kadde.  I have Bob's Red Mill organic dark rye, Arrowhead Mill organic rye, and KAF medium rye.   I use the dark rye for my rye sourdough levain because it's the cheapest of the three.

Nutritional info:  Bob's,  Arrowhead Mill and KAF

I've made rye breads with the Arrowhead Mill and KAF flours.  As I recall, the Arrowhead Mill crumb was darker than the KAF, but it certainly wasn't "black." 

It may sound strange given August 1 is tomorrow, but I've not been able to bake any rye breads this summer because we've had record-breaking cold here.  My house hasn't been 80F since I shut down my woodstove; we still need down comforters at night.  So my baking has been restricted to sourdough and bagels, which are pretty forgiving of the cool environment.

The black colored crumb is obtained through artifical coloring or, as Jeffrey Hamelman explains, through a long, slow bake  throughout the night (in a wood fired oven) so the starches in the rye are slowly converted to sugar, resulting in a deep brown crumb.   Sounds like that might be fun to try in a kitchen oven.

Hamelman sees the addition of caramel color as bastardizing rye - I won't even go into what he thinks of marble rye, except to say that there's some heat in his words.

Am sure that Dan DiMuzio has had a greater selection of rye flours to work with, so maybe he has some suggestions.

dghdctr's picture

Hi Kadde,

I seem to recall a German baker telling me that true Pumpernickel (or black bread) gets it's dark color from well-toasted (caramelized) bread crumbs being added to the dough during the mix.  Jeffrey uses black strap molasses in his formula, as Lindy already stated, but that has me wondering if that isn't a substitute for the bitterness that might be contributed by bread crumbs that had been toasted too long (burned) before addition.

To the best of my knowledge, "blackstrap" molasses are what's left after you've boiled the heck out of sugarcane and removed the sweeter residue (sweet molasses) that's leftover from processing sugar,

Personally, I've tried the double-strength coffee method, and the blackstrap molasses, and I'm not crazy about either.  The bread tastes either like coffee or like asphalt if you're not careful, just for the sake of obtaining some color.

Jeff uses old bread as it is, and that isn't surprising to me, as bakers generally throw nothing away.  At least, they don't if they own the place.  George Greenstein (hope I have the spelling correct) also mentions this in his book on Jewish baking.  Have leftover danish?  Grind them up and make a filling for danish pockets.  Leftover cake scrap?  Let it stale, then grind it up and use it for decorating the sides of finished cakes, or as more filling for danish.

I think the reason we might not see the well-toasted bread crumb addition in home baking books is that most folks don't have lots of leftover quality bread going stale, so this method is hard to apply.  Also, it's kind of a pain to purposely toast stale bread and then process it into crumbs.

Heck, I used to wonder why the meatloaf made by a French chef/instructor was so fabulous, and he only demurred when asked, but I saw him collect many leftover brioche loaves to add to his meat mixture.  All that butter!  Mystery solved.

Now I'm gonna have to go and research this a bit . . .

--Dan DiMuzio

pmccool's picture

Seems I read not so long ago that the dark color of pumpernickel and other "black" breads came from a long overnight bake in a wood-fired oven.  It was the baker's way to maximize his output.  By putting one last batch of bread in the oven before retiring for the night, when the oven was substantially cooled down but nowhere near cold, the baker could eke out a bit more production from his last firing of the oven.  The long bake at lower temperatures then caramelized the sugars already in the dough, leading to the dark color.

That's what I remember, anyway.  Keep in mind that a short pencil beats a long memory, in my case.


LindyD's picture

You're right on.  Our posts crossed in cyberspace on their way here.