Eastern European Black Bread Recipe

Homemade sourdough bread
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  • Total: 13 hrs 15 mins
  • Prep: 12 hrs
  • Cook: 75 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf (26 slices)

Eastern European black bread calls for a rye soaker prepared 24 hours ahead of time, a rye soaker made 15 hours in advance and a sourdough starter you've made a week ahead. If you don't want the preservatives of purchased bread, all this labor is worth it.

Black bread is normally baked in a Pullman pan because the lid protects the bread from getting too dark during its long bake. For best results, weigh all ingredients instead of using volume measurements.

SHORTCUT: Purchase a live starter to cut down on ripening time.


  • Soaker:
  • 2 1/4 ounces cracked rye
  • 4 ounces cool water
  • Rye Sour:
  • 9 ounces whole rye (pumpernickel) flour
  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/2 ounce ripe sourdough starter 
  • Dough:
  • 6 ounces water
  • All of the soaker
  • All of the rye sour
  • 7 1/2 ounces ripe sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
  • 4 1/2 ounces high-gluten flour (14% protein)
  • 8 ounces whole rye (pumpernickel) flour
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed (coarsely ground)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (not rapid rise)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Steps to Make It

Note: If you don't have a starter already going in your refrigerator, follow these instructions to create a traditional one. This takes about 1 week unless you purchase a live starter, which will cut a few days off the ripening time.

  1. For the Soaker: Combine the cracked rye and water in a small, nonreactive container. Cover and let soak overnight.

  2. For the Rye Sour: Combine the rye flour, water and starter and mix until smooth. Dust the surface with rye flour, cover and let stand for 12-15 hours.

  3. For the Dough: Heat oven to 500 degrees. Coat the Pullman pan and lid with vegetable spray. Dust the pan only with rye flour.

  4. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or ​a large bowl if mixing by hand) using the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low for 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and knead on medium for another 4 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

  5. Transfer the dough to the prepared Pullman pan, leveling it off. Dust with rye flour and slide the lid on the pan. Let rise for 45-50 minutes or until it is within 1 inch of the top.

  6. Place pan in oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and bake another 15 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake until done, about 45 more minutes.

  7. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Since black bread tends to have a gummy interior, it must sit 24 hours before slicing. This bread freezes well.