Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread

star rating (6) rate this recipe »
Recipe photo

Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread

star rating (6) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

This recipe comes from Jeffrey Hamelman, a Certified Master Baker (one of only about 130 in this country), and an engaging writer as well. After stints at various bakeries both in this country and abroad, Jeffrey ran his own bakery in Brattleboro, Vermont, for 14 years. He was named captain of the 1996 Baking Team USA, where he led that team of American bread bakers to its first and very memorable victory at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. Following that, he was an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, until a deep desire to return to Vermont brought him to King Arthur. We're very happy to have a baker of his incredible knowledge and skill "on staff."

Jeff says, "This is an interesting bread, not for everyone. I made it every Friday for many a year. It uses up leftover bread, which gives the new bread a richness of flavor. Brinna tested this recipe, and she says, "In spite of the ingredients, this bread doesn't taste like coffee. It has a real 'bite,' which enables it to go well with winter soups and stews. It might also be perfect with pickled herring and onions. Slice it thinly and spread with butter.

"To proof and bake this bread, parchment and a baking stone are advised. And, because it has so much rye in it, don't expect it to spring in the oven as much as a wheat-based bread.

"Read this recipe all the way through before starting, so you'll know how much time it'll take. You'll need to make the slurry and refresh the sourdough culture the night before baking."

2 1/2 ounces re-baked bread*
3/4 ounce ground coffee (from a scant 1/3 cup coffee beans)
a scant 1 1/3 cups (11 ounces) boiling water

*Slice 3 or 4 pieces of bread, about 4 1/2 to 5 ounces fresh. Bake on a cookie sheet in a moderate oven, turning the pieces from time to time, until the bread is very dark, "just this side of carbon." This can take up to and more than an hour, depending on the moisture in the bread. (So you might want to take advantage of the heated oven and roast a few potatoes at the same time.)

Break the bread into pieces, sprinkle with the ground coffee, and pour the boiling water over it. Mix it all up so the bread is good and wet. Cover tightly and let sit overnight.

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) medium rye flour
2 ounces levain or a stiff (dough-like) sourdough culture

Mix the water, rye flour and stiff sourdough together in a non-reactive, medium-sized mixing bowl, and let the mixture sit overnight, preferably for about 16 hours, at a temperature of about 65°F to 70°F.

all the slurry
all the refreshed sourdough
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) vegetable oil
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) medium rye flour
3 1/4 cups (13 ounces) King Arthur Bread Flour
black caraway seeds (a.k.a. charnushka)

Put the slurry in a blender or food processor and blend until the bread is fairly well pulverized. Scoop this into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sourdough mixture, oil, salt, yeast, and the flours. Mix until well-blended, then let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. Continue kneading and mixing—by hand or mixer—until the dough is well-developed. Because of the high percentage of rye flour in this dough, it'll never become smooth and elastic, as an all-wheat dough would; just knead it for 8 to 10 minutes, doing the best you can.

Place the dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover the bowl, and let it rise until you can leave a fingerprint in it. This will probably take around an hour. Turn it out onto a floured board, and divide it into two pieces. Shape these pieces into rough rounds, and let them rest for 5 minutes. Shape into firm rounds, trying to form tight, seamless balls, and place the loaves on a piece of parchment. Cover them, and let them rise until they're about two-thirds of the way to doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. To slash the surface of the dough, make one cut across the center, or a cross. Stay away from the "shoulders," or edges. Repeat with the other loaf. Thoroughly mist the surface of both loaves with water until they're quite wet, sprinkle with seeds if you wish and, by sliding a peel under the parchment, slip the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes, reduce the oven heat to 400°F, and continue baking for a further 10 to 20 minutes. When the bread is done, the temperature at the center should register about 200°F to 210°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack. Yield: two 1 3/4-pound loaves.

Nutrition information per serving (1/34 of bread, 40g): 105 cal, 1g fat, 3g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 168mg sodium, 111mg potassium, 1mg iron, 10mg calcium, 49mg phosphorus, 42mg caffeine.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 2, Winter 2000 issue.


  • star rating 03/02/2015
  • Laurel from Venice
  • I love this bread. I'm making it for the third time and can hardly wait until it's done. I paid attention to what others said about the coffee and used a mild grind, also because I'm caffeine sensitive, de-caf. I always use a bread recipe as a guideline--don't have levant, so used my starter, so added a bit less water. I used light whole wheat instead of all purpose flour, and after adding the rye, just kept adding the whole wheat until the consistency seemed right (3 cups instead of the 3 1/2 recipe called for). But the basic flavors of this bread are, to me, almost unbelievably delicious.
    Laurel, that's exactly how we recommend approaching bread baking: use recipes as guidelines, yes, but let your baking instincts and the texture of your dough guide how much water and flour to add. This will ensure that your dough is properly hydrated depending on the humidity, the moisture-level of your flour, the temperature...and all those other unnamed variables that make bread-baking such a fun adventure. Good luck and happy bread baking to you! --Kye@KAF
  • star rating 05/27/2014
  • mgb from KAF Community
  • I, too, found the coffee taste too prominent. If you make it, don't use an espresso roast.
  • star rating 12/25/2013
  • gigi from
  • I loved this bread. While it took longer to make, I really enjoyed the process. I preferred the flavor and texture of this bread over more popular black rye recipes that use dry active yeast and over a dozen ingredients. Not only did this bread taste great the day I baked it but, the flavored improved over the few days we enjoyed this loaf. This is my favorite rye bread recipe
  • 07/22/2011
  • from
  • star rating 08/10/2010
  • Andrew from Norfolk, VA, USA
  • This was fun! The bread *I* got out of the recipe (but see below) is dense and somewhat cake-like, intensely flavorful with a nice tang. It's very dense, the crust is thick and fights back in a very gratifying way. Mine, however, DOES taste like coffee. I used freshly ground french roasted beans, though, and maybe that has something to do with it. What would have been a help to me is more discussion of textures: My "slurry" wasn't pourable at all -- it was a pile of moist crumbs. How much rise are we looking for in the sourdough portion? What's the texture of the final dough supposed to be? Mine was a very firm dough, possible to knead by hand, but I had to grunt, and forming the rounds had to be done carefully to avoid tearing the surface (although it could be done). It would have been nice to know if this is what the author had in mind! 5 stars for the bread, it's yummy. I'm dropping the overall rating to a 4 star, on account of I wish the recipe had more information in it! I am confident that, whatever you do, you'll get a delicious product out of it, though. Whether or not it's the product intended!
    Hi Andrew, sounds like it would be a good idea to drop the baker's hotline an email with your questions. We can always double check with Jeff for clarification.
  • star rating 08/24/2009
  • LauraMH from Pennsylvania
  • Long to make and fussy. But WONDERFUL bread. is not the hard moist black bread I ate in Russia--what I have been trying without success to find a recipe for. Excellent bread worth the effort. But not REAL Russian black bread.