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Black Russian Bread recipe

Updated on November 15, 2015
Elyn MacInnis profile image

Elyn spent the last 30 years in China, coming home in the summer to cook American food and have fun doing craft projects with her family.

Russian Black Bread - the secret is in the cocoa

Have you ever tried Russian Black Bread? I grew up on it in New York City. Our local bakery's version was dark brown, filled with raisins, and didn't have caraway seeds, which was a relief, since I don't like them! There was something very special about it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. This special fragrance, a hint of something rich.

What is its secret ingredient? Ssshhhhh! Don't tell!

Chocolate / Cocoa powder and coffee. No wonder I was addicted.

When I make this bread and a friend tries it, they turn around and ask me for the recipe. I am now officially putting it online with instructions so I can just send them to this site instead of writing it out every time! Welcome friends!

I have put lots of instructions about bread baking on this page. If you already know how to make bread and just want to try the recipe, it is at the bottom of the page.

New York Russian Black Bread just out of the oven

russian black bread recipe
russian black bread recipe

This is the concise version of the recipe without all the other notes in case you are already a bread baker and don't need any help or suggestions! But I have added a lot to the instructions below, and even if you make bread, you might find something new here, perhaps about making bread with a thermometer, or something else. So please do continue down the page!


  • One packet active dried yeast
  • (2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dried yeast if you don't have packets)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of warm (105 to 115 F) water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups medium rye flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or all-purpose if you prefer)
  • 1 cup bread flour or more if needed to get the right consistency
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups raisins or dried cherries
  • 3 -4 Tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 Tablespon water


  1. Put the dried yeast into lukewarm water with the molasses, mix and let it proof for about half an hour.
  2. Add the coffee granules, the cocoa powder, the rye flour, and the salt. Mix well with a spoon.
  3. Add the whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour and 1 cup of bread flour and knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. In a clean bowl, add the oil and swipe the oil around the bowl using the dough ball so that it is covered in oil. Let rise until it is tripled in bulk.
  5. Take the dough and roll it out thinly, sprinkle the raisins on it and roll up like a jelly roll. Knead until the raisins are thoroughly distributed. Let it rest for a few minutes. Cut the ball of dough in half, and shape into loaves. Put the cornmeal on the baking sheet, and the loaves on top of that. Cover and let it rise in a warm place on the baking sheet for about an hour, until doubled in bulk.
  6. Before baking, take an eggwhite and one Tablespoon of water and beat it together until thoroughly mixed. Carefully wipe the top of the loaf with the egg white mixture. This will make the loaf shiny when it is done.
  7. Cook for 35-40 minutes at 375 (190C). To test to see if it is done, see the comments below.
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Waking up the yeast - The first step

Black Russian chocolate bread
Black Russian chocolate bread

Since yeast is a living organism, albeit a very simple one, I have always enjoyed the part of bread baking where you wake up the yeast. Where I live in Shanghai, China, the houses are very cold in the winter, often not getting above 50 degrees F (10C) during the day. That means that it is impossible to make bread, unless you give it some warmth so the yeast can do its thing.

Wouldn't you rather wake up in a warm and toasty place rather than a cold one? That is why I use warm water to wake up the yeast before I make bread.

Mix in a bowl:

One packet (2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dried yeast, if you don't have packets)in

1 and 1/2 cups of warm (105 to 115 F) water and mix thoroughly..


1/2 cup molasses

Let sit for a half an hour in a warm place or until slightly foamy.

Temperature facts about yeast

I love my thermometer

Here are some interesting temperature facts about yeast.

105° F-115° F (41° C-46° )

Temperature of the water to mix with packets of dried yeast to wake them up.

120° F-130° F (49° C-55° C)

Temperature of the water for activating yeast designed to be mixed in with the dry ingredients in a recipe.

130° F-140° F (55° C-60° C).

At this temperature, yeast will die. You will get no more bubbles in your bread.

200° F (100° C). Temperature of the middle of the bread if baked properly.

My favorite new tool for making bread - Digital Cooking Thermometer

If you get a waterproof version, you won't have to worry about getting it wet.

Why would you want a thermometer? I never understood about how good it was until I tried one. When you have a thermometer, you have no stress about the temperature of the water - whether it is too hot or too cold. The bread rises quickly and smoothly, and your end results are perfect.

Sweet Bread or Bread with a little Salt - Which do you prefer?

I have lots of friends who want to stay away from sugar and try to cook as many vegetables as possible. And then I have lots of friends who live in the kitchen making cakes and cookies and sweet breads. Which sort are you?

What do you think of bread that is a little sweet?

Ingredients I use... Expresso gives added flavor

Adding the flour

Stir in and then mix:

1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules

2 cups medium rye flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix well.


2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup bread flour -or enough to make a sticky dough. Turn it out of the bowl and let it rest for a few minutes.

The final dough should be sticky. Breads with rye flour are always a little sticky.

But it shouldn't stick to your hands or the table.

Add additional flour and knead the dough until it is sticky but not sticking to your hands.

Wash your bowl and add

2 Tablespoons oil to coat the sides of the bowl.

Turn the ball of dough into the bowl and wipe it around so it is covered in oil, and then let it rise until the dough is tripled in bulk. This may take a while depending on how cold your house is.

How can you tell if you have kneaded the dough enough?

Under kneading dough is easy to tell because the dough is not smooth and elastic. Just knead it a little more.

Over kneading dough isn't too easy to do if you are doing it by hand. But if you are using a machine, you might run into this problem.

Make sure to check your dough every few minutes if you are using a stand-mixer. The dough shouldn't feel

dense and tough. If you have over kneaded it, folding the dough over and flattening it out will be difficult. In over kneaded dough, if you fold it over, the fold won't stick together with the rest of the loaf. Let it sit for a while before you try to shape it into a loaf, which will give the gluten some time to relax.

Over kneaded doughs make for hard crusts and dry middles. I have made several over kneaded loaves, and still enjoyed them. Makes great toast, and good French toast.

What next? Adding raisins

After your dough has risen

After you have let your dough rise until it is tripled in bulk, you can add the raisins. Add

1 and 1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries

Sometimes I mix the different kinds of raisins, both golden and black into the dough. I have also put in dried cherries, which is a fantastic addition.

You can put the dough on the table and roll it out until it is thin. Then sprinkle the raisins or cherries over the dough, Roll it up into a jelly roll, and knead it a little more to spread the raisins around.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with

3-4 Tablespoons of cornmeal

where you will be putting the loaves.

Cut dough into 2 pieces, shape into loaves, and put them on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Rising bread - Sometimes it is hard to be patient when the bread is rising...

Russian black bread recipe
Russian black bread recipe

I tuck my loaves in for a rest while they rise. Where I live it is too cold in the house in the winter, so I have to put them on top of some cork mats and a book or two over the oil-filled electric radiator that keeps us warm in the living room.

They are very sweet looking, aren't they?

It can take the bread a long time to double in bulk, which is what you want it to do, especially if your house is cool or cold.

Some bread makers like to put their bread in the oven and turn it on briefly to warm the oven and bread, I always mess up and get distracted by the telephone or some other issue, and then it just cooks. So - now I just practice patience and let it rise slowly at a slightly lower temperature.

Next step - once the loaves have risen properly

This is an artistic touch.

Before putting it in the oven, take

1 egg white and beat it with

1 Tablespoon of water.

Brush the egg white/water mixture gently on top of the loaves. This will help make the loaves shiny when they are done baking. You don't have to do this, but it makes it more beautiful.

Cook at 375F (190 C) 35- 40 minutes.

How do you know when your bread is done cooking?

Two ways to decide if your bread is properly cooked

1. Have you ever heard of people thumping on watermelons to see if they are ripe? A hollow thump instead of a muffled thud is the sound people look for when inspecting bread to see if it is done or not.

Strike the bottom of the loaf with your thumb, like beating a drum, and see if it sounds hollow or not. This is the way I check.

2. Another reason I love my digital cooking thermometer is that you can use it to check the interior temperature of your baking loaf. Stick the thermometer into the center of the loaf (make sure you get to the center) and check the temperature reading. Although some breads will be thoroughly cooked at 190 F you can be sure they are completely baked at 200 F.

It is always a good idea to cook a loaf a little longer than risk it not being cooked enough. Dry is better than doughy!

Don't forget you can check the temperature of your oven with an oven thermometer. I have always had one in my oven, ever since I was a child. Our oven never had temperature dials, so I learned early how to gauge the temperature by watching the flame (it was a gas stove) and the oven thermometer.

Gorgeous Black Russian Bread - Cooked and out of the oven!

Russian Black Bread recipe
Russian Black Bread recipe

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