Saturday, 20 July 2019

Charcoal overnight sourdough bread

I think this might be the blackest post I have ever uploaded here.  And that was the dream.  Black as coal.  Black as velvet.  Black as night.  Not quite as admirable as Martin Luther King's dream.  But charcoal bread was something I have wanted to try for ages.  Well, ever since I saw my friend Yaz's black ravioli with beetroot filling.  I was amazed and delighted at just how black it was.

Before starting to make this charcoal bread, I did a bit of reading.  It scared me.  People were talking about charcoal sucking out the nutrients and not being suitable for anyone on medication because it might make it less effective.  It seems this charcoal packs quite a punch.  I wondered if I should add more water or oil because it might dry out the bread.  After reading some recipes, 20g seemed a reasonable amount to add to my regular bread recipe, which makes 2 loaves, or more usually 1 loaf and 8 rolls.

When I added the charcoal, it looked like dirt and I had to stir it well to make sure there were no lumps.  It was blacker than my wildest dreams.  Just look at these photos of the mixture.  I use fine semolina for shaping the dough and it does give a light dusting.  When I showed my mum the photos of the bread she said it looked like Collingwood bread (that is black and white stripes for anyone not familiar with AFL football).  But I couldn't think of alternative flours to use.  Ground black sesame seeds occurred to me but I am not sure if it would work.  And the semonlina did not take from the blackness.  A colleague asked if it was hard to check if it was baked because you would not see it go golden brown. But with the semolina you could see a tiny bit of colour.

One note to make about charcoal powder is that is can leave colour behind but not much.  If you get a bit of the powder on your hands and wipe your face you will look like a chimney sweep.  When I hand kneaded it, the colour washed off my hands.  I had worried it would leave colour on my table but it didn't.  The main residue left was a tiny bit of grey at the bottom of my old mixing bowl where the glaze has thinned.

I often make one loaf and then rolls so we put the rolls in the freezer for lunches.  When the bread came out of the oven I was so pleased I took a couple of warm rolls over to a friends to eat with cheese spread for lunch.  Then I took a fresh roll to Sylvia to eat before gymnastics.  And the rest went in the freezer.

I was really chuffed by the results of my charcoal bread.  It was still lovely and soft.  I was not sure if it dried a little quicker than my regular bread or had a tiny bit of grit or if I was just being paranoid.  I have shown photos of it to quite a few people and did show and tell with my bread at work and gave some to a colleague to taste.  Everyone was amazed.

As well as eating it with cheese spread, we had it with stew for dinner, Sylvia ate it in a fried egg sandwich, I had some with nut roast.  One of the most interesting ways to eat it was spread with vegemite.  I was fascinated to see that compared to the black of the bread, the vegemite looked brown.

Charcoal bread is not quite as impressive as the first landing on the moon (hard to believe it is 50 years ago today and still blows my mind) but this is definitely a great small step for me!

More overnight sourdough bread recipes:
Carrot, onion and poppyseed bread
Chocolate, cranberry and apricot sourdough bread 
Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts
Overnight sourdough bread with mashed potato
Savoury monkey bread
Sourdough fruit bread with poppy seeds
Sourdough cheesymite scrolls

Charcoal overnight sourdough bread
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 2 loaves or 16 rolls or a mix of both

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
20g activated charcoal powder
18g salt
950g of flour

[A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  (Make sure you stir in the charcoal well so there are no lumps.)  Use hands to mix if required.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Shape into a loaves (or cut and shape into rolls - if doing rolls I let them rise in the casserole as they don't need much in the way of slashing but slashing loaves is hard in the casserole).Place on a floured surface and cover with the lightly greased clingwrap or beeswax.  (I used semolina here.)  Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.  While the loaves rise, preheat oven to 240 C.  I use enamel casserole dishes and don't heat them but used to heat them when I used ceramic casseroles.

Slash the loaves and put in the heated casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin).  Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid/foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Then reduce oven heat to 180 C .  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.  If needed, return to oven for another 10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

On the Stereo:
So Frenchy, So Chic: the unofficial soundtrack of the French Film Festival


  1. That looks great Johanna. I really love charcoal as an ingredient especially around Halloween time! :D

  2. Johanna. Wow, your charcoal breads are blooming amazing. I am so pleased you got to experiment with the charcoal flour and your very wise, to freeze it too. Look forward to see what you do with it around Halloween. I will look out for it in the UK but part of me doubts I will find it here.

  3. I absolutely love this! Well done!

  4. I tried it and add chocolate chips it taste amazing!!!

  5. Have you found a way to minimise or remove the grittiness? I love the look of my bread, and especially love the taste but have yet to get over the grit!

    1. Anon, I am sorry to say I haven't solved the grittiness of the charcoal mixture - love to hear if you get ideas!


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