I have a nostalgic childhood memory of a black or near black bread that used to appear on the table at family get togethers in the East End of London just before and after the war. Once in a while that memory returns strongly enough to encourage me to start yet another futile unsuccessful search to discover what this exotic bread was…….. futile that is until last month when I came across This video on YouTube under the name rus brot.
It is in Russian with English subtitles and it was the opening shot of the finished loaf which stirred those old memories. However I was surprised to see that the bread was actually Borodinsky bread created using a 1940 recipe, a bread I am familiar with from other recipes and from Stanley Ginsberg’s “The Rye Baker”, but always shown as a tinned loaf and a rather lighter colour. None of those had previously given me that Eureka moment that said “this is it”.
So of course I had to bake one for myself. It is quite a complex recipe requiring a two stage levain build, a scald which has to be kept at 63-65°C for five hours, a pre dough and a final dough mix but my first problem was getting hold of the 50g of red rye malt flour called for in the recipe, which as others have found is rarer than hens’ teeth. But I happen to have some rye grain and my new toy, a Mockmill 100, so how difficult could it be to malt it myself? A quick search on this site resulted in an entry from dabrownman dated March 2012 which gives the method complete with ample photographs, so thank you for that Dab.
After that I just followed the recipe using my own milled rye flour and Marriages Strong white instead of the 150g of first clear wheat flour called for which is unobtainable in the UK (unless someone tells me otherwise) and here is the result.
It is quite delicious although not quite as open crumbed as I would like even for a wholegrain rye loaf.
So having had my “Eureka” moment the doubts are starting to set in. I have now seen other loaves on the rus brot channel which might also have qualified as my childhood black bread and my own attempt turned out to be more mahogany than black so if anyone out there can suggest or guess at what bread might have been baked and sold to the largely Jewish immigrant families of London’s East end before, during and after the second world war I would be more than pleased to hear.
As a post script, for anyone interested, rus brot has a collection of 15 videos of Russian and German bread recipes including the Borodinsky which are in Russian with English subtitles. They can be found Here