62. Russian Black Bread

If you suggested that I put chocolate, coffee and onions into a loaf of bread a year ago I would have probably checked if you were feeling ok. It sounds vile doesn’t it? But then often the most unexpected ingredient combinations produce the most interesting results. Intrigued by the traditional Russian Black Bread I stocked up on espresso, caraway and fennel seeds ready for this strange bake.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Russian Black Bread

I was not disappointed. This is an extremely flavoursome and dark loaf. I found this recipe originally in a Jamie Oliver magazine but adapted it (as per usual) to fit my ingredients. It was supposed to be for 2 loaves. As I was expecting this bake to be a bit on the odd side, I wasn’t convinced that I could consume 2 entire loaves of it. So I scaled it down. (Feel free to double the ingredients if you would like to stockpile Black Bread.)

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

Considering how much sourdough bread I’ve been baking recently I have transferred some of my newly acquired bread skills into this bake as I like to split my bread baking into manageable chunks to fit in around work and enjoying life. Using the fridge to prove my dough overnight is a great help. This means the flavours develop slowly and deepen. it also makes the dough easier to handle, especially if the dough is a wet and sticky or enriched with butter. Fridge proving produces a firmer more pliable dough, that needs very little kneading! Result!

Russian Black Bread Recipe

  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp/70g treacle (molasses)
  • 40g butter
  • 40ml espresso
  • 13g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 350ml water
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 30g strong wholemeal flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g rye flour
  • 70g bran
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small shallot (diced)
  • * approx 100g Rye Flour (you may need more or less) to help bring the dough together if it’s too sticky when kneading

Russian Black Bread Method

1.  Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

2.  Add cider vinegar

3.  Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Russian Black Bread: Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

4. Pour in the chocolate liquid and mix together either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. You may not need to add all of the liquid, or if the dough becomes too sticky, gradually add a little more rye flour until it comes together into a ball, (or a slightly less sticky mess.)

Russian Black Bread: Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

5. Knead for 10  minutes (by hand or using an electric mixer – I used my Kitchenaid dough hook).

6. Cover your dough in a large bowl with cling film and prove either overnight (up to 24 hours) in the fridge or at room temperature for 1-2 hous until it’s doubled in size.

7.  Knock back the dough after it’s first prove. Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Russian Black Bread: Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

8. You could prove it directly on a baking tray if it’s firm enough so it won’t spread too far. I wanted to make mine pretty so I proved it in my round banneton basket, which I coated with wholemeal flour first.

9. Cover your loaf with a shower cap or oiled cling film and prove for 2 hours at room temperature.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night or at room temperature for 2 hours

10. Pre heat the oven (and a casserole pot with a lid) 30 minutes before the end of your loaf proving time at 250 degrees C. (See the Hot Pot sourdough method for more details)

Russian Black Bread: Second prove done. Ready for baking!

Second prove done. Ready for baking!

11. Sprinkle the bottom of the hot casserole pot with ground semolina and gently tip the proved loaf from the banneton into the hot pot. Use a razor blade to score a design into your loaf to help it cook evenly. (I went for a heart shape but you could try a few other designs.)

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

12. Bake with the lid on at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn it down to 220 degrees for the final 40 minutes. Check that the bread is baked by tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow it done. If not, pop it back in the oven in the pot with the lid on for 5-10 more minutes.

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

I love how the wholemeal flour (that I used to dust the banneton with when proving the dough) bakes into the loaf, providing the perfect contrast against the rich brown bread peeking through the heart pattern. It even holds onto it’s circular imprint.

Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

Apparently Russian Black Bread is best served with lashings of butter or caviar! The Russians sure know how to live! This bread is soft, pillowy and very rich. It’s a very unusual bread with hints of aniseed and licorice from the caraway and fennel seeds. The treacle also adds depth to the licorice tones without making the bread overly sweet.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

It’s a wholesome, fluffy and filling bread. The bran, rye and wholemeal flours are balanced with a dash of white flour giving an unexpected light texture. I could imagine this bread being a perfect accompanyment to a hearty stew or soup with a thick coat of butter. It is very rich so, as predicted, I didn’t manage to finish the loaf this week, it’s resting in the freezer for my next round of extra special sandwiches.

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

It just so happened that I purchased some pickled herring and seaweed caviar (a much more affordable caviar at £2 a pot!) from Ikea last weekend so I had to hand some pretty impressive sandwich making ingredients. In hindsight, pickled herring may be a bit of an extreme pairing for Russian Black Bread which is almost a entire feast all by itself. The herring overpowered the flavours somewhat, but the caviar works very well indeed.

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38. South Korean Sweet Potato Cake with Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

This recipe was inspired by what I had left in my fridge. One lonely sweet potato. Upon returning from holiday to Amsterdam I needed a quick and exotic bake for my sister’s birthday. I wasn’t entirely sure that everyone would enjoy a South Korean sweet potato cake but hey, this is what you get when your little sister sets up an international baking blog challenge!

This was actually quite quick to make, the most time being spent peeling and dicing the sweet potato so it could be boiled and mashed into a gloriously orange mush.

Mushed Sweet Potato

I love sweet potatoes and have been eating them a LOT in my preparation for the Great North Run which is (gulp!!) next Sunday!! They promise many vitamins (A, C and B6), antioxidants AND they have anti inflammatory properties! Perfect for soothing those aching joints and muscles post running! ..So this cake is (almost) practically healthy!

Creamy butter and sugar

I started by creaming the butter and two types of sugar together with my handheld electric whisk for about 5 minutes until it became lighter and fluffy.

Then add one egg at a time and vanilla and keep on whisking

Then add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time,vanilla and keep on whisking until they’re incorporated completely. It take about 5 minutes to whisk the mixture up until it’s very light and fluffy.

Lots of fluffy eggs, sugar and butter

Then onto the dry stuff. In a separate bowl I mixed together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Dry stuff, flour, baking powder and salt

Then to stir in the milk to the sweet potato along with the syrup (as I don’t keep maple syrup in my cupboard I substituted it for golden syrup 🙂

IN with the syrup!

Stir it all together until it’s a milky sweet potato soup

Sweet potato soup

Then to gently fold in a third of the flour to the fluffy eggs and butter mixture

Folding in the flour

And then fold in a third of the sweet potato soup

Folding in the sweet potato soup

And alternate folding in a third of the flour and a third of the soup until all the ingredients are incorporated creating an orange flecked liquid batter.

All in!

The original recipe was to make two 9 inch round cakes. But I wanted one big cake and I love my lazy cake pan (PushPan) and use it at every opportunity I get! It really speeds up the process as it’s really non stick and leak proof! AND my favourite bit! No lining required! No wasted paper and effort. Just a quick spritz with cake release et voila! One quick cake! I wish I could afford more of them.

Just baked. Look at that deep brown!

I used one 9 inch tin to cake all of the batter in a 180 degrees C (or 350 degree F)  oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Until it’s baked evenly, with a golden top. This cake shrank back beautifully from the sides of the tin too to tell me it was ready for eating. I made sure it was done by sticking a cocktail stick in it and it came out clean on my check.

I always leave a cake to cool in it’s pan for at least 15 minutes before turning it out to cool fully on the wire rack. I learnt this the hard way as I once took my Christmas cake out of the tin straight away and it fell into 3 massive chunks in my hands. I did shed a tear at this after waiting patiently for it by the oven for 5 hours. They definitely need a bit of cooling to hold their shape! (Luckily I managed to stick my cake back together with jam and a bit of marzipan to cover the cracks and no one knew the difference!)

Tester sweet potato cupcakes

I was worried that this cake might be a bit odd on our English palettes so I made some tester cupcakes alongside my large cake. I needn’t have worried! It was delicious! I has only meant to try the corner of one cupcake and 2 minutes later the whole thing has disappeared into my tummy. It’s quite a sweet and slightly savoury sponge. A bit like carrot cake but without the grated carrot texture. It’s also a lot more moist than carrot cake.

You could stop here as the recipe didn’t give any sort of filing or frosting and the cake is sweet enough to eat as a sponge in it’s own right. HOWEVER if like me you want to take things a step further I found an amazing recipe for Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting, which is very reminiscent of rice pudding with a whole can of evapourated milk but with dessicated coconut instead of rice. Delicious! And what I love even more about this recipe is it takes 15 minutes with no trace of icing sugar to be swept up from every corner of your kitchen afterwards! This is a great alternative to buttercream which my family aren’t a huge fan of.

Throw into a pan egg yolks,  evapourated milk, sugar and vanilla

Choosing my heaviest sauce pan I added the sugar, egg yolks and milk to it along with the vanilla and stirred it all together

Continue to stir over a medium heat for 12 minutes until it thickens

Once it reaches the ‘pudding’ stage (it’s as thick as pudding) take the pan off the heat, throw in the dessicated coconut and Bob’s your uncle you’ve made coconut custard!

Then it needs to be cooled completely before spreading it over your cake.

Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

As Mary Berry ‘s sage advice is to include a little of what’s in your cake on your cake so I lovingly adorned the cake with slices of coconut too.

South Korean Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut Custard Frosting

I was very pleasantly surprised by this cake and the combination of coconut custard. This was my very first ever attempt at making custard too and given the opportunity (and a spoon) I could merrily eat the whole pan of it by itself. That would definitely warm you up on a winter’s night! It was so sweet and comforting. You probably couldn’t eat more than one slice as it is quite a dense cake but I’m always up for a challenge. Now I’m thinking about it again I wish I had another huge chunk to tuck into! I’m happy to report that my sister enjoyed it too!

Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut frosting a sideways glance

Things I used to make South Korean Sweet Potato Cake

  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cubed, boiled, and mashed
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (golden syrup)

15 min  Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

Things I used to make Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

  • 1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut