Russian Black Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

Elena Molokhovets, the Mrs Beeton of Czarist Russia, wrote of making bread on a country estate: of keeping sourdough cultures alive from one baking to the next by the simple procedure of not washing out the wooden troughs in which the dough was mixed; of drying flours in front of the fire before they could be used to make bread; of putting white loaves to prove in a tub of cold water - when the loaves rise to the surface, they are ready for the oven; and of making wheat loaves with skimmed milk or yoghurt, but rye bread with water.

‘Black’ bread - which was the food of peasants rather than princes - may have been more brown than black, but might contain wheat as well as rye. Its sourness is sweetened by molasses, which also help colour it. This recipe uses toasted breadcrumbs, again it helps the colour, but it also makes a lighter loaf. In Germany it is common practice among professional bakers to recycle stale rye bread in this way.


The leaven

The Dough

  • 4 tablespoons molasses
  • 250 ml/9 fl oz hot water
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh yeast
  • 120 g/4 oz fine rye breadcrumbs, toasted
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
  • 200 g/7 oz wholemeal rye flour
  • 200 g/7 oz wholemeal wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the leaven in a bowl and leave in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for 15-24 hours.

    Mix all the ingredients for the leaven together in a bowl and leave in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for 15-24 hours.

  2. To make the dough, dissolve the molasses in the hot water, then add the yeast. Add the breadcrumbs and the spices, and mix together. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Add the leaven, then the flours mixed with the salt. Mix to a dough, then turn out on to a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Do not make the dough too stiff.
  3. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for 2 hours, until doubled in size. Turn out on to the lightly floured work surface, knock back and mould into a round loaf. Prove on a warmed greased baking sheet, covered with oiled clingfilm, at 26°C/80°F, for about 45 minutes. Do not overprove. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8.
  4. Slash the bread with a small cross on the top. Bake for 15 minutes, spraying the oven with water from an atomizer two or three times in the first 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and bake for another 30-45 minutes. The bread is cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.