Russian Black Bread

This is an interesting recipe…

99.999% of the breads I make are pretty basic combinations of flour, water, salt, and yeast. It’s rather amazing that how you play with those four ingredients can create such a variety of different breads.

This bread, on the other hand, reads like a science experiment! There are a score of ingredients – and ingredients you don’t often see in a savory bread – like cocoa powder and espresso powder. And every one of them work to create a decidedly delicious loaf!

The basic recipe comes from King Arthur Flour… I don’t know how authentic it may be, but it’s a damned good loaf!

Russian Black Bread

  • 1 1/8 cups (255g) lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (106g) pumpernickel or rye flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (43g) dark corn syrup or molasses
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (18g) black cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon rye berries
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups (298g) bread flour, divided

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces, 121g) of the bread flour.

Mix to make a thick batter-like dough.

Mix in the remaining cup of flour and knead for 7 minutes, or until the dough becomes soft and elastic, but may still be somewhat sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Russian Black Bread

After the first rise, shape the dough into an oblong loaf.

Russian Black Bread

Place in a greased standard loaf tin, cover with greased plastic, and let rise until almost doubled, about 60 to 90 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. When the dough has almost doubled, brush or spray the top with water, dust with pumpernickel or rye flour, and score (slash) the top.

Bake the bread for about 35 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you thump the bottom.

Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it on a rack before slicing.

Russian Black Bread


It’s one of those loaves that’s pretty much perfect in every way. It has a great crust, a soft crumb, and it’s just loaded with flavor.

I didn’t have black cocoa so I used Scharffen Berger Dark Cocoa Powder. Any good cocoa powder will work, but Dutch Process is probably better…

I also added some rye berries for a bit of crunch – just a teaspoon. The fennel seeds added a really nice surprise. Again, just a teaspoon.

This is definitely a keeper recipe!

Russian Black Bread