German Black Bread

Years ago, I was in West Germany (Schwarzwald, the Black Forest) for many months on a work assignment. While there, I ate a very interesting bread known as Black Bread. It was incredibly dense and interesting and like nothing I had ever had before. This last weekend, I decided to give it a go.

First of all, this is not a normal bread. It’s made up almost entirely of crushed rye berries (most would call them seeds or grain), with a tiny bit of sourdough starter. The first stage of creating this bread called for a fermentation of the starter and berries and it looked much like porridge.

After the initial fermentation, more rye berries were added and then there was an additional fermentation cycle. Finally, the porridge was massaged by hand until the berries showed some inkling to stick together. I must admit I added a small amount of APF to help with things stick together, but not enough to change the character of the bread.

Then off to a slow oven for many (3-1/2) hours and I ended up with this loaf:

The recipe indicated I should wait until slicing, but I went ahead and gave it a try shortly after it came from the oven. Not bad and close to what I remember from my time in Germany. I did manage to put it aside for a couple more days and then tried it again and the texture was improved. My daughter was present at the time and she liked it so much that now that loaf is hers 🙂

I may try this again in the future. If I do, I think I’ll try and get some dark rye berries (not available locally) to make the bread even blacker.

I’ve been working on my Sourdough, all the live-long day!

No, my name’s not Dinah and there’s no one else in my kitchen 🙂

However, I have been tending to my sourdough starter daily, trying to achieve that characteristic tangy taste. I started this starter from scratch only about two weeks ago (I’ve read of some that have been in existence for 150 years or more!). Each day, I remove a couple of cups of batter and replace it with fresh water and flour. In the beginning, it mostly smelled yeasty, but now it’s getting a bit sourer daily. I’ve also increased the volume and hence had to move it to a larger container since the old one kept bubbling over.

So, what to do with the cast-off batter? How about a nice stack of pancakes which I made following this recipe:


The two cups of batter made 10 pancakes. So light and fluffy and very tasty 🙂

Now that the starter is developing some flavor, I decided to make some more bread. This time, utilizing two different styles of recipe. The first recipe, called Sourdough Bread III from All Recipes, used quite a lot of starter (1-1/2 cups) plus normal yeast and yielded a quite nice looking boule.


It had a firm texture which sliced very well and will surely be a part of some yummy sandwiches soon:

The second recipe, Sourdough Bread I from the same site, used only 1 cup of starter and no yeast. It also took a very long time to rise/proof – about 4 hours for the first rise, then I formed a nice looking batard and left it to rise overnight. When it came from the oven this morning, my wife kidded that it looked like I was cheating and had gone out and purchased this one!

She was right, this is the best sourdough bread I’ve ever made and one of the best I’ve ever tasted 🙂

Sponge it up!

Sourdough bread is made by replacing [at least part of] the yeast with a culture, also known as the sourdough starter or sometimes “the mother.” I made this starter on Friday using this very simple recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour
2-1/4 tsp dry yeast (one packet)
2 cups warm water

This was placed in a large bowl and stored in a warm spot while it bubbles away. I put mine on top of the refrigerator. Note: make sure your bowl/vessel is big enough as the culture will expand quite a lot in the early stages. After a day or so it should be moved into the refrigerator until ready to use. Mine now looks like this:


The next step for sourdough bread is to make a sponge using the starter. Again a pretty simple recipe:

1 cup sourdough starter
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups warm water

Mix well in a large bowl and place in a warm spot and leave for at least 12 hours. Here’s what mine looks like, ready to make the bread today (Sunday):


Look at all of those bubbles! To create the final dough, add these to the sponge:

1 pkg active yeast (2-1.4 tsp)
1 cup warm water
1/2 Tbsp sugar

Mix the yeast first in a separate container and let it dissolve fully. Then add

4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter or shortening
1/4 tsp baking soda

Mix it all together and you’ll end up with a fairly loose/sticky dough:


I had to work in another 1/2 cup of flour to make it smooth and elastic.
Here’s what it looked like after the first rise of around one hour:

And the final product – two large boules – quite tasty, but I think it could use a bit more salt 🙂