Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread

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 with us.

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." 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.

Read this recipe all the way through before starting, so you'll know how much time it'll take.

Prep
30 mins
Bake
40 to 50 mins
Total
19 hrs 20 mins
Yield
two 1 3/3 pound loaves
Jeffrey Hamelman's Black Bread

Instructions

  1. To make the slurry: 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.

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

  3. To make the dough: Put the slurry in a blender or food processor and blend until the bread is fairly well pulverized.

  4. Scoop this into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sourdough mixture, oil, salt, yeast, and the flours.

  5. Mix until well-blended, then let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.

  6. 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.

  7. Place the dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover the bowl, and let it rise until you can leave a fingerprint in it, about an hour.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Preheat your oven to 450°F.

  11. Slash the surface of the dough, making either one cut across the center, or a cross. Stay away from the "shoulders," or edges. Repeat with the other loaf.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Store, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Read this recipe all the way through before starting, so you'll know how much time it'll take.
  • Because this bread has so much rye in it, don't expect it to spring in the oven as much as a wheat-based bread.
  • To re-bake bread, 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.
  • Don’t have any starter? Here’s a recipe for homemade sourdough starter. If you're making it from scratch, you'll need to feed it for 5 to 7 days before it’s ready for baking. Want a head start? Purchase our classic fresh sourdough starter – it’ll be ready for baking about 24 hours after it arrives at your door. Looking for tips, techniques, and all kinds of great information about sourdough baking? Find what you need in our sourdough baking guide.