Russian Black Bread – черный хлеб

“Work hard/well and bread will grow!” claimed this Soviet era poster.

черный хлеб (chor-nee  klebph) Black Bread:

No staple is so important to a Russian table as bread. Especially black rye bread. In times of trouble Russian black bread has meant the difference between starvation and life itself.

In Russia bread has its own laws, regulations and even price controls. 

Black bread

In times of plenty and celebration, Russian black bread is a symbol of wealth and health.  And so we present one of the very best recipes for hardy, thick, deliciously healthy Russian black bread. 


4 cups unsifted rye flour
3 cups unsifted white flour
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 cups whole bran cereal
2 tbsp. crushed caraway seed
2 tsp. instant coffee (or powdered, used, coffee grounds!)
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
2 pckg. active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vinegar (or 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup DARK molasses
1 square (1 oz) UN-sweetened chocolate (or Baker’s Redi-Blend)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup COLD water (*icy* cold!)


Combine the rye and white flours.  Mix thoroughly (use a large bowl) 2-1/3 cups of the flour mixture, the sugar, salt, cereal, caraway seed, coffee, onion powder, fennel seed and un-dissolved dry yeast.

Combine 2-1/2 cups of water, vinegar, molasses, chocolate and margarine in a saucepan.  Heat over LOW heat until the liquids are very warm.  Margarine and chocolate do NOT need to melt.  Gradually add the mixture to the dry ingredients and beat for about two minutes with your mixer, scraping the bowl from time to time.  Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture. Beat at HIGH speed for about two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Stir in enough additional mixture of the flour to make a *soft* dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Cover and let it rest for about 15 minutes.  Then knead until smooth and elastic – where it gets that special sheen well-kneaded dough gets, about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough may be sticky, but that’s OK.  Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top of the dough as well as the bottom. 

Cover and let it rise in a warm place, free from any draft. The oven is a great places and the pilot light keeps it warm. If you use an electric stove turn the oven to about 100 degrees and keep the door closed.  When the dough has doubled in bulk (usually about an hour), punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Divide in half.  Shape each half into a ball about 5 inches across.  Place each ball into the center of a greased 8-inch round cake pan.

Cover, and let it rise in the same warm place, free from draft, until
they’re both doubled in bulk again, usually about another hour – depending on the weather outside.  As any experience chef will advise, never bake bread while it’s raining.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until done (depending on the weather).  Meanwhile, combine the cornstarch and the ice water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just starts to boil; continue to cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  As soon as the bread is baked, brush the cornstarch mixture over the top of the loaves. Return the bread to the oven and bake for another two or three minutes, until the glaze is set. Remove from the pans and cool on wire racks.

You can live on this bread with nothing else to eat for months at a time. During the Nazi siege of Leningrad, residents ate this bread with hardly little else for almost three and a half years. 

Black rye

There are more great Russian black bread recipes at this link.

Here is a link for easy measurement conversions.

Okay, another absolutely wonderful recipe for Russian readers is this one for a delicious black bread from Irisecka on Russia’s blog portal.

For Russian readers, this is the link.

Estonian Barley Bread:

This bread has been around for centuries, and it is not only healthy, but very delicious! The recipe and photo comes from this interesting blogsite.

bread barley estonian

Ingredients for Karask – Traditional Estonian Barley Bread
4.5 ounces Farmer Cheese
1 cup Keifer (or Yogurt)
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup Barley Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking soda

1) Preheat the oven to 200 (C) which is 400 (F).
2) Line a rectangular baking pan (5 x 10 inches) with parchment paper.
3) Combine the farmer cheese, kefir, egg, salt and honey in a bowl and mix until smooth.
4) Stir in melted butter.
5) Combine the flours with the baking soda and add to the batter. Mix well.
6) Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. To check whether the bread is ready, insert a wooden toothpick into the center. When the toothpick comes out dry, the bread is done.
7) Serve with butter or honey or jam. Serves 8.

6 thoughts on “Russian Black Bread – черный хлеб

  1. I have baked this bread several times. It is fantastic. Even my Russian friends say its a great tasting bread. And with the amount of ingrediants you have to buy,you can make several loaves. I love it and will continue to make it.If you want a taste of Russia,this is a good start.


  2. Pingback: A taste of Russia with Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel « The Mendeleyev Journal

  3. I have a question about your black bread recipe. The ingredients list has seven cups of flour (4 rye and 3 white) but the instructions in the first two paragraphs seem to suggest using only 3 to 4 cups. Am I misunderstanding the recipe instructions?


    Abe Wischnia
    Santa Clara, CA


    1. mendeleyeev

      Our apologies Abe. This recipe was designed in Monastery settings and thus the ingredients as shown make 2-3 loaves. The instructions are per loaf.

      Liked by 1 person

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