Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pain Noir - 'Black' Bread with a Twist

This is a bread I have been 'threatening' to bake for a long time. I say threatening, because, for me at least, it is a very unusual bread. I have made many breads using AP flour, of course. And whole wheat. I have even made some using rye. But the color and the texture of this bread is so unusual, for me, that in a way I was a little intimidated. Also, the flavorings. This bread is dark, dark brown. Almost black. Hence the name - Pain Noir - literally Black bread. The color comes from two sources: dark, bitter-sweet chocolate, and molasses.

And here is the problem, the molasses. Molasses, especially blackstrap molasses has a very strong flavor. Sharp, bitter and a little sour. This recipe, if followed exactly from Bernard Clayton's encyclopedic New Complete Book of Breads, ends up, in my opinion, too sharp. Too bitter. Too sour. And so, I have adapted it, just a little to lessen the flavor impact of the molasses. The result is a wonderful, almost creamy textured bread, with a soft crust. Black as coal, almost and, toasted, with mustard, perfect with cold-cuts, or a nice sharp cheese. Definitely, worth trying and tweaking to your palate. Let me know what you think.

Here's What You'll Need:
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup cold water
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
1 oz. (30g) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (or 1/3 cup potato flakes)
2/3 cup rye flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup AP flour
 1 egg, beaten
coarse salt for garnish

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Stir the cornmeal into a pan with the boiling water. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the cold water. When the mixture is only just warm, stir in the yeast.

2. In a small pan, melt together the butter with the chocolate. After they are combined, let the mixture cool.

3. In the large bowl from your mixer, combine the cornmeal mixture, the chocolate mixture and the molasses, honey, salt, caraway and mashed potatoes. Beat this altogether with the paddle attachment (or a large spoon) until smooth. Add the whole wheat flour to form a shaggy dough. Cover and let it stand to ferment for about an hour.

4. Add the rye flour. Remove this very shaggy dough to a floured work surface, and, using a scraper, lift and fold the dough to knead it for up to 8 minutes.. This dough should be quite sticky and hard to handle. Add AP flour liberally to keep it from sticking to the work surface.

5. Place the elastic (but sticky) dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise for about 1 1/3 hours until doubled in volume. When finished, remove the cover, punch it down, the form into a ball. Let the dough rest for another 15 minutes.

6. Shape it into a round loaf, and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F (190 C) about 20 minutes before baking time. Paint the loaf with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Slash the loaf 3 or 4 times just before baking.

8. Bake for about 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack.


  1. Such an interesting bread. I bookmark the recipe for future reference. Thank you for sharing.

  2. In step number 3, you write "Add the whole wheat flour to form a shaggy dough." Yet, there is no mention of whole wheat flour in the ingredient list. Please clarify if there was a typo or an omission, and what the correct recipe is.
    I look forward to making this bread.
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the tip-off. This is indeed a typo and I will correct it. The recipe calls for 2/3 cups of whole wheat flour, along with the AP flour and the rye. Sorry for the omission.

  3. You're welcome. Keep up the great blog!

  4. עליתי עליך כשראיתי את המלח של מלח הארץ. :)

    1. אתה צודק במאה האחוזים! אני ירושלמי כבר הרבה זמן יליד קנדה. יש לי גם בלוג בעברית http://www.kikarhalehem.blogspot.com אבל האמת היא שאני כותב בו הרבה פחות. תודה שכתבת ותמשיך לשלוח הארות/הערות.
      שנה טובה

  5. Oh what an incredible looking bread. I must try it soon.