So how does this taste? Like the most moist and tender milk bread that happens to be black! See the piece of black bread to the left of the picture below?

I ate it at Grace Santorini. I spent days being indulged silly whilst staying at The Villa suite. The food there was very good and every morning breakfast, came with a varied spread of interesting breads. The black bread was the best -soft and I loved that it was black! The talented Chef Spiros, never did get round to givng me the recipe but I have replicated it, successfully! How did I get it black? I chose to use squid ink. Used in bread, it not only gives the bread an intense black colour but also a luscious moist richness. For those who do not like to eat squid, there is not a hint of it in the bread. This black bread is great to use for savoury or sweet sandwiches or you could shape them into dinner rolls. The bread keeps very well and are just as good toasted. 

My favourite way to have them is in a vietnamese style kind of sandwich. I roll up and tie a slab of pork belly. Simmer that with some apples and when it’s tender-soft, I refrigerate it, slice and use in cold cut sandwiches (& ramen noodles!). Of course, there must be some quick-pickled carrot and daikon. Yum.

Black Bread

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: ~25 – 30 minutes
Inactive: First rising ~1 hour
Second rising ~45 minutes
Final rising ~30 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Makes: 1 large loaf
Oven Temperature: 400F(200C)
Can recipe be doubled? Shape into 2 loaves. 
Make ahead? Taste best fresh but it toast well and can be frozen, tightly covered, up to 1 month.

Ingredients

3 cups (14.39oz)(408g) bread flour
2 Tablespoons oats
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 X 4g cuttlefish/squid ink*
1 cup milk1/4 cup water
* Scroll down to ‘Tips’ for more details.

Method

1. Mix the cuttlefish/squid ink completely into the milk and water.

I think my nails would look lovely in that shade.

Using a mixer
1. Use a standing mixer. A hand held mixer is not powerful enough to work the dough.
2. Combine all ingredients (except the liquid) into mixer bowl.
3. Make a well and add the liquid. Attach dough hook to the beater shaft. Start mixer at low speed to prevent the flour from flying out of bowl and all over the kitchen counter. Work up to medium-high speed gradually. Let the machine run for 7 to 10 minutes.
4. If the mixture does not seem to be coming together to form a dough, with the machine running, add 1 Tablespoon of water and let the machine go at it for 3 minutes. Work in more water the same way if required. Err on the side of a more moist dough. If there is dough stuck to the sides of the bowl. Scrape down.
5. If the dough is too wet, add 1 Tablespoon of flour and let the machine work it in for 3 minutes. Add more flour the same way if required. Again, err on the side of a more moist dough.
6. The dough should leave your fingers a little sticky but not enough to cause you duress. Most of the time it takes 10 minutes of machine kneading before I am happy to shape the dough into a ball. At this point, the sides of my bowl would be relatively cleaned of dough and the dough would have gathered up on the dough hook. It would look pliable and smooth.
7. Do the ‘window pane’ test (instructions below) to determine if the gluten has developed sufficiently.

Working dough by hand
1. Place dry ingredients on a flat working surface or a very large bowl and mix well.
2. Create a well in the centre of dry ingredients. Pour in the liquid and work it in slowly into the dry ingredients.
3. To start kneading, you have to work with pushing the dough out with the palm of your hand and pulling it back with your fingers.
4. At any point, if the dough is too dry or wet to work, you can add 1 Tablespoon of water or flour and work it in completely before adding more water or flour. Err on the side of a moist and not a dry dough. Your kneading surface should be clean with no dough stuck on it. You will know you are doing well when you find yourself working with a smooth elastic ball. This could take up to 20 minutes. The dough should leave your fingers just a little sticky but not enough to cause you duress.
5. Do the ‘window pane’ test to determine if the gluten has developed sufficiently.

The ‘window pane’ test 

1. Stretch a portion of the dough. If you can stretch it easily without it tearing too soon and it has the suppleness of a beautiful membrane, the gluten has developed enough; you have done a great job with kneading and you have a ‘window pane’. It’s a bit harder to see the ‘window pane’ on a very dark coloured dough so if the dough gives a good stretch, all is good.

Letting it rise 3X

The first rise
1. Lightly oil/butter the bowl you will be proofing (rising) the dough in. Shape the dough into a smooth ball, stretching and tucking loose ends under.

2. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let it rise until almost double in size, ~ 1 hour.

The second rise
1. Knock the air out of the risen dough and reshape into a smooth ball, stretching and tucking loose ends under.2. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let it rise until almost double in size. It will take a shorter time to rise this time round, ~45 minutes.The third rise1. Knock the air out of the risen dough.
2. Shape your dough into whatever shape you like, remembering to stretch and tuck loose ends under so that you have a smooth dough. You could also turn these into dinner rolls.
3. To bake into one loaf, either place the shaped dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat or simply lightly oil the baking sheet.
4. To bake into dinner rolls, please browse instructions under my post, My Childhood Sugar Bread Rolls, where I give measurements for baking tray, how to shape the rolls, etc. Baking time for dinner rolls will remain somewhat the same, +/-10 minutes. Do however, reduce temperature for baking dinner rolls to 380F (190C).5. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let it rise until almost double in size. It will take an even shorter time to rise this time round, ~30 -45 minutes.

Baking
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F (200C). Place oven rack at the lowest rack level.
2. If you are baking bread rolls heat oven to 380F (190C) instead. Oven rack adjusted to lower middle position.
3. You can choose to slash the loaf or not. The benefit of slashing the loaf just before baking is it takes care of any weak spots in the risen dough. So instead of the loaf bursting open at a random weak spot (if there was one to begin with), you ‘create’ that weak spot by slashing the bread. Moreover, a slashed bread looks attractive. Do the slashing only when your oven is hot enough and your dough has risen enough. Choose to either dust your bread with flour or not just before slashing. I think the white flour on black bread looks rather dramatic. It takes practise to slash it at the correct angle and depth. I still do not always get it right. But practice makes perfect so might as well keep practising. It’s fun to slash bread dough.

Keep in mind:

  • sharpen your knife
  • glide and guide the sharp knife without pressing down (hold the sides of the dough lightly with your free hand to support – if that helps)
  • slash at a 30° angle
  • aim for a 1/4″ (0.63cm) depth
  • cut slashes that are more linear to the length of the dough.

4. Bake immediately for 25 – 30 minutes. When you tap at the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow.
5. If you are baking dinner rolls, it will take a shorter baking time, ~ 20 minutes.
6. Remove once cooked and cool on wire racks.

Tips

Where to buy cuttlefish/squid ink?
Unfortunately, most supermarkets do not sell them. You will find them sold in little sachets in gourmet stores or higher end supermarkets. Once you do find them, check its expiry date and buy a few to store.  They keep very well in the freezer. I use them on pasta, rice, to make pasta dough, and now on bread!

How to collect your own stash of cuttlefish/squid ink?
Can’t purchase it? If you have access to fresh squid, start collecting the ink bag. Assuming you know how to clean fresh squids, you would know that the small ink bag is located within the body cavity. It is that slippery, narrow, iridescent silver, tubular (ink) bag. As you detach the squid head from the body cavity, within what is pulled away from the cavity is the ink bag. Detach gently as only a thin membrane separates the ink. I store in a tiny glass bottle with a tight lid and freeze. I keep adding to it and when I have enough of a stash, I start using it.

Is there another way to get the bread coloured black?
Yes, if you can purchase bamboo charcoal powder. In fact, I believe a lot of bakeries go this route. It is tasteless. I have seen bamboo charcoal powder sold at baking supplies stores. I prefer using cuttlefish/squid ink as even though it imparts no tangible flavour to the bread, it does have a nice amount of oil in it that helps to bake a softer loaf.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Greek Gyros that almost always comes with french fries wedged in between those tasty meat morsels! I avoid eating french fries but I will not have Gyros without them!

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