The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I need a recipe for very dark bread. Can I make it black?

Taran's picture

I need a recipe for very dark bread. Can I make it black?

Hi... I am new here :)

I am part of a historical re-enactment group (the SCA) and my household and I are creating a medieval feast this October! As part of our feast, we wanted to do something kind of silly and special and use our kingdom's heraldry in a dish.

The dish itself is a sort of cheese lasagna, and we want to put a thin slice of black bread on top to make the image. In order to work it must be VERY dark. It is supposed to be black, and I want to get as close as possible to black.

The flavor, as long as it goes with cheese (both sweet and savory) doesn't matter. The bread will be baked in tubes to make the shape we need, then sliced and toasted with bits of cheese to decorate it.

I have done a lot of searching for dark bread recipes, but no one seems to have made one available that focuses on the darkness of the color. Understandably, most are more interested in the flavor, but I am not. Very little of my black bread will be eaten, it is mostly an edible decoration so it doesn't have to be the most fabulous recipe ever.

One thing that I prefer in the recipe is that I want it to be medieval compatible (that is not using modern ingredients like coffee) although an actual historic recipe would make my day!

On another note, I am a total novice baker (though other members of our feat team are pretty good!) so if you want to give me tips to make bread darker, please make them simple so I don't get lost in the baking jargon. It's a little overwhelming!

Thank you,

-Taran mac Tarl'a Glyn Dwfn, An Tir

gary.turner's picture

Try Boston brown bread. It's a dark brown quick bread made with rye, corn meal, whole wheat and molasses. Very much complements savory dishes and fillings. An alternative would be a 100% rye sourdough pumpernickel. Both breads use long, low temp cooking to encourage a Maillard reaction for improved flavor and darker bread.

The first is not medieval, the second is.



dabrownman's picture

chocolate malt bread is as dark as i have seen on the site - and it is delicious so no need to make it as a decoration.  You can get a small packet of squid ink and add to her mix and get it really dark.

You can also add chocolate, instant coffee,barley malt syrup and molasses to get a dark bread darker.

Taran's picture

Gary- your second link isn't working for me, sadly. thank you for the other one though,it is very different from anything I have seen before and is sounds fun to try!

I don't think adding chocolate or molasses will work for me, and I know instant coffee wont. All of these things were rare (if not unknown) in Medieval Europe. If I can't find an authentic recipe, I at least want one that is historically plausible.

What is squid ink?

gary.turner's picture

I've noticed that the pumpernickel link sometimes has a very slow response. Keep  trying; it's well worth the effort. I forgot to link to my post on making Boston brown bread, so here 'tis,

The soda and the corn suggest a more creative anachronism than you want, so don't tell anyone the recipe. ;-)



pjkobulnicky's picture

is tough unless you want to use something like soot or some other byproduct of incomplete combustion, of which there was a ton in olden days. Otherwise, dark brown is what you get and that means some very rough and dark molasses (treacle) with other dark flours and a long'ish bake to further darken the loaf. 

Laura T.'s picture
Laura T.

Perhaps you could somehow incorporate wild or black rice for a source of black colour?

MisterTT's picture

Almost all Lithuanian rye breads are made with roasted rye malt and sometimes barley malt syrup. They are a very dark brown, almost black in color and are called juoda duona (black bread in English). It looks something like this picture, only without the sesame seeds:

I gather that since you want a medieval times recipe, these type of breads would suit perfectly - their tradition goes back centuries. My great grandmother used to bake black bread, but sadly I do not have her recipe.

I have been able to get a pretty accurate result by using an adaptation of Andy's rye breads and PiP's Borodinsky formula. I use the Auerman process, but it must be noted that it is doubtful that it was used in medieval times. Anyways, the formula is as follows:

1. Rye sour with altus:

Rye sour 5 %

Whole rye flour 30 %

Altus 3.5 %

Water 35 %

Total 73.5 %

Develop sour for 18 hours at 24 C.

2. Scald

Whole rye flour 20 %

Altus 3.5 %

Boiling water 40 %

Salt 1.5 %

Honey 6 %

Roasted rye malt 5 %

Total 76 %

Combine ingredients except water, then scald with the water and mix thoroughly. You can prepare this the night before baking and keep on the counter. If you prepare this on the morning of baking day, let it cool sufficiently before making the sponge.

3. Sponge

Rye sour 73.5 %

Scald 78 %

Total 149.5 %

Let sponge ferment for 3-5 hours at room temperature. Fermentation should be very active.

4. Final paste

Sponge 149.5 %

Whole rye flour 45 %

Water 20 %

Total 214.5 %

Mix final paste until all flour is hydrated. Let rest for 20 minutes, then shape. Proof takes about one hour, less in summer. Bake at 225 C for 10 minutes, then at 175 C until the center of the loaf reads over 90 C. For a 1.5 kg tin loaf this can take an additional hour. If you the loaf burns, decrease the temperature next time. Rye breads don't need to be baked at too high a temperature.

Note: the hydration of the final paste is 95 %. If you want to make the bread darker, use barley malt syrup instead of the honey in the scald. I do think that the rye malt will make it dark enough to suit your purposes. The taste is quite extraordinary as well. Have fun!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I myself love to eat dark bread,

...but if you want it dark, try squid ink.  That will get you charcoal black.

dabrownman's picture

a mini Mini Oven or at least her twin and, since I am already a twin, that would make us triplets :-)

pepperhead212's picture

The blackest ingredient I have ever used was corn tortillas burned to black cinders, then ground up in black mole. I was amazed that there was no burned flavor in the mole, though I'm not sure that would be true if it was used in bread.

dabrownman's picture

moles, and there are dozens of examples, like moles of all kinds and there are hundreds, use torn tortillas to thicken the mole but, even in black moles, they usually are not charred to cinders since they would lose their thickening proerties.  What is darkly taosted though, is the bread that is also a favorite mole ingredient.   Along with the seeming 40 oither ingredients in the mix,  black mole can have 6 different chilies alone - maybe more:-)

Happy baking.

dabrownman's picture

liquid with a black beer too - certainly authentic bedevil roots there.

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but hardly a pumpernickel with only 28% rye flour.   Good crust color!

Abelbreadgallery's picture

Yes I know. This is a fake Pumpernickel bread adapted to the mediterranean palate. We are not used to eat those german black ryed breads. We find it too heavy, so this is a light version:

Dragonbones's picture

Ah, fellow SCA! I've been inactive since moving to Taiwan, but loved it, back in the day.

You could use black sesame seeds or poppy seeds, affixed with an egg glaze atop a bread made dark using one of the above period ideas. The seeds (esp. sesame) would add a textural contrast that is more interesting than plain bread.   Squid ink is just the ink that squids squirt when fleeing prey. It was used in ancient times for writing, so the ingredient was certainly around. Whether or not anyone used it in food, I can't tell you. 

Will you do a flatbread? What is your device? It will be very hard to bake a loaf and then cut a complex device from it, but you could do a flat bread, already shaped like the device. You can even have some three dimensionality to it if you like. 

BTW, if you have trouble shaping it because it springs back, cover it and let it rest 5-10 minutes to let the gluten relax, then try again. Bake, and then brush with egg white, sprinkle very heavily with black sesame seeds, and pop back in briefly to set the topping (but be careful, seeds burn easily, so use a lower rack, and lower the temp a little).

Since you are a novice baker, I recommend running a test bake, a few days early, so you have time to iron out any problems.

Please let us know how it turns out, and happy feasting!

Don Martin de Suero y Tresguerras, formerly of the Marche of Tirnewydd, Middle Kingdom

Taran's picture

Sounds like a perfect excuse to start up a new branch  or at least claim the land for your kingdom. My branch "owns" Antarctica because some of our members work there and planted a flag.

I am in the kingdom of An Tir, and our populace badge is a yellow and white checkerboard with the head of a black lion.

I am going to bake the bread in a custom-made "tube" to get the shape so each slice will be the shape I need. Sort of like those horrible sugar cookies with the Christmas trees that you slice and then bake. I think it should work out since many of the recipes called for covered pans anyway. My mom has a bunch of bread tubes (flower, star, heart) that she used for making little sandwich platters for parties or pot lucks. They were super easy (my mom almost never cooks, and even more seldom bakes) and always came out perfectly.

I plan to do several test loafs in bread tubes to decide which recipe to offer at the feast. Any edible (but not dark enough) experiments will be put out on the sideboard as snacks. I hope to make this simple dish creative enough to get people asking for the recipe. This is my household's first feast, so we wanna make it good!