Within Russian villages, traditional winter foods, preserving techniques and family recipes are handed down from grandmother to granddaughter (ot babushki k vnuchke). In the spirit of giving, Essentials’ Megan Chalmers has reinvigorated a selection of the finest European winter treats including this Russian Black Bread recipe – perfect for pairing with seasonal delights such as Beef Stroganoff, Pork Trotter Kholadets and pickled wild pine mushroom salad.

Russian Black Bread

Makes 2 loaves

14g dry yeast (2 average yeast sachets)
1 tsp sugar
4 tbsp molasses
75g butter
1 shot of extra strong coffee
25g 70% chocolate
4 tbsp cider vinegar
230g wholemeal plain flour
230g organic whole rye flour
400g strong bread flour
125g natural dark malt powder
2 tbsp caraway seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp salt
2 shallots, finely diced

Preheat oven to 180C


1. In a jug, mix dry yeast, sugar and 100ml lukewarm water and stir until well combined. Set aside for about 15 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.

2. In a saucepan, heat the molasses, butter, coffee and chocolate with 500ml of water and stir until the chocolate and butter have melted.

3. Stir in the vinegar and remove saucepan from heat.

4. Using a KitchenAid with a dough hook attachment, place all flours and dark malt into the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Note: this can be mixed by hand.

5. Add caraway seeds, fennel seeds, diced shallots and salt to the bowl, followed by the molasses/coffee/chocolate/butter mixture and the activated yeast mixture, and mix together on a medium speed setting for 5 minutes until the dough comes together and is smooth.

6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well.

7. Mould the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

8. Return the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a further 2-3 minutes.

9. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, shape into round loaves and place them on a lined baking tray.

10. Cover the shaped loaves with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour, allowing to rise again.

11. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes until brown on top and cooked through. Note: each loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Russian Borodinsky Bread

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