SING WITH ME! They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re altogether ooky…the, uh…breads that you bake with bamboo charcoal powder!
Okay, so it kind of loses something here but you get where I'm going, right? Because what could be more ooky and spooky than black bread? And I mean BLACK bread. Definitely the kind of bread you'd break with the Addams Family. And just in time for Halloween.
I was Googling black bread–as in the Russian kind–a couple of weeks ago (because apparently the 50+ bread books I have would have failed me) when the search results returned a few images of some seriously BLACK black bread. And immediately, I thought "How cool is THAT?!?" (very) then "How did they DO that?!?" And the answer is…Bamboo Charcoal Powder. Now I'll admit that it sounds really icky to be adding powdered charcoal into stuff you eat–not to mention that I had visions of having my mouth and tongue turn weird colors like they do when you eat blue ices–but everything I read said that the charcoal is pretty much tasteless. Apparently it has health benefits too but my typical reaction to that is basically, "Big whoop." Not that I'm not health conscious because I am—sort of—but BLACK BREAD! I think if you told me it was made with nuclear waste my reaction still would have been "Cool! I want some!"
Of course, I turned to Amazon for this mysterious ingredient, like I do for just about everything, and they did not disappoint. There it was, a few days later, enough bamboo charcoal powder to sink a ship. I'd better bake a LOT of black stuff. (I'm begging you, people, do NOT tell me bad things about Amazon because if you do, I'm just going to stick my fingers in my ears and sing "la la la, I can't HEAR YOU!" I try very hard to buy ethically but if I have to give up Amazon for the greater good of mankind I'm going to be very cranky. VERY cranky.)
Since the powder can be added to just about anything, I chose a bread–Overnight White Bread–from one of my favorite sources: Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. Other than the bamboo charcoal powder being a little, um…powdery so that you're working in a bit of a black cloud, there was little deviation from the standard recipe. Admittedly, the looks take some getting used to since the raw dough starts out as an unappetizing dead gray but by the next day it had darkened considerably and I had a pillowy, bubbly blob of black ooze, a little La Brea Tar Pit right there in my kitchen. My only regret is that I didn't have something black to dust my proofing baskets with but I actually ended up really liking the effect of the white flour against the black, black bread. And I was also kind of amused by the end result, since Ken (we're on a first-name basis here) recommends baking your bread until the crust is super dark. All I kept thinking when I pulled my black bread out of the oven was "Dark enough for ya, Ken?"
Of course, since Halloween is all about black and orange, I had to have something suitable to go with, right? I originally thought I'd throw some turmeric into my standard hummus, but really, what's more orange than…CARROTS! So I whipped up a batch of roasted carrot hummus which looked awesome against the black (and tasted fab too). And truth be told, you kind of need something to go with these black foods. Because those claims about the bamboo charcoal powder being TOTALLY tasteless? Not quite accurate. While the powder doesn't significantly alter the taste of whatever you add it to, there is a very slight, teensy weensy discernible…bitterness? Smokiness? Definitely a SOMETHING–not off-putting or offensive, mind you–just different, so a spread of some sort will help distract you from puzzling over it too much. The hummus, with its lemony, garlicy, spicy flavors, did the trick.
I'm a hummus junkie. I've been eating it and making it since the dawn of creation or at least my college days (cough1972cough)–in any event, way before it was as ubiquitous as it is now. But as long as I've been making it, I've never, ever used a recipe–it's an adventure every time. And so it was with the carrot hummus, although in the interests of having something to post about it other than "throw a bunch of stuff in the blender and smoosh it up" I actually wrote down what I did. (This, for me, is one of the toughest parts of blogging, since I'm a wing-it type of cook. I'll make something that's really good, think about sharing it and then realize that I haven't paid a speck of attention to what I did. Stream-of-consciousness cooking and food blogging are not a match made in heaven. I'm working on it.) Hummus is one of those things, though, that's fun to play around with so my recipe is really just a jumping-off point.
Novelty aside, in the end, good bread is good bread and this was good bread (and hummus). Unless I enter into a late-life goth phase, though, I don't think that black food is something I'll be making every day–although I'm already thinking about what else I can add my bamboo powder to (pasta? cookies? soup? oatmeal?)–but should Uncle Fester ever ring me up to say he's dropping by with Morticia and Gomez, I'm definitely set. Happy Halloween!
- 1000g all purpose flour
- 3-4 tbsp bamboo charcoal powder
- 780g water (90–95°F)
- 22g fine sea salt
- .8g (scant 1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast
- In a very large bowl or 12 qt. Cambro, mix the bamboo charcoal powder thoroughly into the flour. Add the water to the flour and mix by hand until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Add the yeast and the salt, sprinkling it over the dough evenly, then pull the dough over the top from all four sides to completely enclose the salt and yeast.
- Mix the dough by hand using the pincer/fold method (great video instructions here) until fully integrated. You can wet your hand as needed to keep it from sticking to the dough. When fully mixed, cover the dough and let it rise.
- Stretch and fold the dough two to three times, preferably during the first 1 1/2 hours of the rise (videos here again!). After completing the folds, cover the dough and let it rise overnight (12–14 hours after mixing) at room temperature. The dough should be 2 1/2–3 times its original size.
- Sprinkle flour around the edges of the dough. Flour your hands and remove the dough from the container/bowl to a floured surface. Divide the dough in half (check these videos).
- Shape each half into a fairly tight ball, then place each ball into a floured proofing basket, seam side down, and wrap each basket in a plastic bag. Let the loaves rest for about 1 1/4 hours.
- At least 45 minutes before you plan to bake, move an oven rack to the middle position, place two Dutch ovens on the rack and preheat the oven to 475°F.
- Gently turn each loaf out of its proofing basket onto a floured surface, then take out the heated Dutch ovens one at a time and remove the lid. CAREFULLY place each loaf into a Dutch oven, seam side up, cover and return to the oven.
- Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove the covers and bake for 20–30 minutes more.
- Remove the Dutch ovens and tip the loaves out onto a cooling rack. Let the loaves cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.
Based on Overnight White Bread from Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish
roasted carrot hummus
- 1 lb. carrots
- 5–6 tbsp olive oil (in total)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground (or 1 tsp ground coriander)
- 3–4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 2–3 lemons (or to taste–I like a lot of lemon)
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup canned chickpeas
- Preheat your oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Trim and scrub carrots (or peel if preferred) and cut into 1/2" thick slices. (If you use large carrots, you may want to cut the carrot circles in half.) Spread the carrots over the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with 3–4 tbsp of the oil, the toasted spices, and garlic and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt (flaky if you've got it) and freshly ground pepper to taste and toss again.
- Roast the carrots until they're soft and browned, about 30 minutes.
- Place the carrots and any browned bits and juices in a blender or food processor, add the lemon juice, chickpeas and tahini and process while adding the remaining oil. Scrape down as needed and continue to process until the hummus is as smooth as you like. You may want to add more lemon juice, oil or tahini to suit your tastes and to achieve your preferred consistency. Transfer to a container, drizzle with a little oil, cover and keep refrigerated.