bread · sourdough · traditional Russian recipe

Rye Malt Bread, Two Versions

Black Bread with White Seeds

After my French and Italian posts I figure out it’s high time I posted something on Russia. And particularly Russian bread, after all I have this kilo of fragrant rye malt which I brought from Kirov! I’ve searched for the black bread recipes using rye malt in Russian language this time and selected some of them. I even found a recipe of the Italian sourdough bread with rye malt, I wonder if they really use it there. I will share with you two recipes, one is leavened bread and the other requires sourdough culture (I now have separate pages for the yeast and sourdough bread recipes). But before that, here’s a photo (followed by inevitable reflexions…) from our Grandpa’s birthday, the table is usually so… usual with slight variations, that I felt as if I travelled back in time.

birthday table

{on the plate with store-bought gateaux there’s a piece of Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake from the ever-trusty}

With all the respect to my grandparents, they do live in the Soviet past and always seem to be failing in adjusting their ways to what they see on the TV and around them (ahhr, this mighty TV!). As long as I remember myself, there were these talks initiated by my Grandpa over destroying the entire country (USSR) and leading it to a complete mess. There’s always this looking back, the regret (or better offense, almost a personal offense if we talk about my Grandpa) of the whole thing coming to the end. My grandparents live in this sort of a secluded world, they have their TV to tell them about some stupid news they believe and they have their short walks to get their bread (they have only recently discovered that in a huge supermarket you can get so many kinds of cheese and they all have names for them…) and this is it. Their perception of what’s going on comes from TV mostly and they do believe it, honestly (why do you say this or that, we sometimes ask them, and they answer, well, that’s what they say on TV!). And they have their old ways which sometimes drive me crazy, not because they’re so old-fashioned because in many ways I’m old-fashioned too, but because they’re so groundlessly… self-deprecating and even miserable.

This photo has triggered some reflexions in my mind. I am not sure whether this is a true tradition, these caviar-on-bread and champagne and cheese+sausage… or just doing the same thing almost without any changes. But then what IS a tradition? It just seems to me that the contemporary Russia has not yet developed any traditions, everything we’ve got either comes directly from the past or is a derivation of the past habit. Well, there are surely new trends etc etc but then they are mostly taken from other countries and we’re so proud we’re marching alongside the rest of the oh-so-developed world. This why it’s so hard to find a very good traditional restaurant in St Petersburg (I cannot account for Moscow), they’re mostly a disappointing tourist trap, but some of the better places have appeared which is a good sign.

When we were travelling in our car round the ‘nearest’ history-loaded Russian towns, I frequently had this feeling, yes-yes, here were are in Russia at last, there’s something here that speaks to my soul, to my roots. But I could not seize this something, it was the atmosphere, the nature, the details. And all those children we were interviewing in St Pete and in other cities, they all throw in this ‘I will tell the Americans about our traditions’ phrase. We sometimes asked them to be more precise and they gave us all those cliché. But, really, in my ordinary life I can hardly tell you what Russian traditions there are still, cause so many of them disappeared due to all sorts of reasons (USSR being one of them), plus what was left after destroying so much of the Russian traditions in order to build a better country got all so much mingled with the new Soviet quasi-traditions (I mean, they are a bit too young to call them traditions perhaps?) that now there’s not just a mess, there’s… a gap and we’re busy filling it up with some unified-standardized-globalized ways. We were so eager to renounce our old ways, embracing everything which was coming from the outside and would help us be cool and modern and new. And here I should better stop and turn to one of the culinary traditions which is perpetuated from the indeed old days, that is eating (if not baking yourself) black (rye) bread, something like Borodinsky or Darnitsky.

Black Bread with White Seeds

No sourdough needed for the first bread! And all those raisins and pie nuts are my addition, so you can obviously leave them out (and also be more careful when baking than I was, which resulted in this OVER browned crust : ). The recipe is from a site dedicated to everything about the bread machines and as I have none but liked the recipe… I just adapted it to my needs.

Black Bread with White Seeds

Here’s the recipe of Black Bread with White Seeds (Cherny khleb s belimy semechkami), translated and adapted from which will make a soft chewy brown bread


  • 2 glasses of wheat flour (Russian glasses are bigger than cups, about 130g of flour each)
  • 1 glass of rye flour
  • 1/2 glass of white seeds – and here I opted for pine nuts + raisins (they’re not seeds, I know : )
  • 2 tsp dried yeast – I used instant
  • 1 glass water (that is 200g)
  • 4 Tbs of bran – I used dark rye bran
  • 3 Tbs of rye malt
  • 70g of boiling water
  • 2 Tbs of vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt


First, make a zavarka – pour boiling water over the rye malt (ohhh, the aroma is so… ryeish!) and leave it aside, so that it cools down a bit. Mix the wheat and rye flours with the yeast, bran, sugar and salt. Add water, oil and the malt mixture. Knead the dough and leave it for two hours in a warm place (I left it for a longer time).

Knead the dough once more, roll it out and scatter the seeds over it (here I added the raisins, just because rye bread and raisins are inseparable it seems):

dough, pinenuts and raisins

Knead the dough again. Shape it into a loaf (I made a sort of boule; there’s no mentioning of the second rise once the bread is shaped but while the oven was preheating, my bread got its second rise; I also slashed the top). The recipe says to bake it in the bread machine but here’s what I did – I preheated the oven to 200-220 ‘C and baked the loaf without any tin/pan for about 40 minutes, and I suggest covering it with foil after 20 minutes of baking (in Russian such bread is called podovy cause it’s baked right on the bottom of the Russian pechka, furnace, and the opposite is formovoy khleb, the one baked in a pan / tin etc.).

Black Bread with White Seeds

Result: The bread keeps well and stays soft long but be careful – if you add raisins like I did, the combination with yeast might be dangerous as the bread will become too soft and rubbery (where the crumb surrounds the raisins) if you keep it TOO long.

Black Bread with White Seeds

And talking about the crumb – it was wonderful. The pine nuts give a particular flavour to the bread, the raisins add sweetness (although I do not like them, to my taste they’re better than caraway seeds which are also associated with black bread here in Russia). And if there’s this crazy winter sun finally, you seem to make more photos than usual (there’s none now that I’m typing this, just this blueish white snow day).

Black Bread with White Seeds

And here is the second recipe, with rye sourdough culture this time. Compare the crumb and the crust of these two breads, this other one is more… Russian, I suppose:

Sourdough Rye Bread with Malt

Sourdough Whole Rye Bread with Malt (Rzhanoy khleb na rzhanoy zakvaske i obdirnoy rzhanoy muke) translated and adapted from will make a loaf of dense fragrant bread


For the opara (sponge)

  • 2 glasses of obdirnaya rye flour – which means the flour should contain bran. I used 300g rye flour + dark rye bran
  • 300g of rye sourdough
  • 300ml warm water – the amount depends on flour

For the dough

  • all of the 0para
  • 2 Tbs rye malt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander  – another typical spice for the rye bread in Russia, mostly associated with the Borodinsky bread
  • 1 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbs liquid honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs olive or sunflower oil – I usually use both
  • 1 to 1,5 glasses of wheat flour – according to the dough consistency


The fermentation of the opara – an essential element of the traditional bread baking process – will take 3 to 4 hours, so you’ll have enough time to go shopping or do whatever you need. Meanwhile you should also make the zavarka – pour 50ml boiling water over the rye malt and leave it to cool down.

Mix the ingredients for the dough, knead, shape your loaf – I chose a more common brick shape using a glass loaf pan:

Sourdough Rye Bread with Malt

…and leave it for rasstoyka (rising) for 1 to 1,5 hours. Bake in a preheated to 180 ‘C oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes (I had cover the bread with foil for the last 20 minutes of baking). Leave the loaf to cool completely before slicing.

While baking, the loaf cracked on the side creating this sort of an eave. The crust is superb, it makes a crunchy noise when cut.

Sourdough Rye Bread with Malt

There was no winter sun the day I baked it, but still I made quite a lot of photos, maybe because this loaf turned out a very close imitation of my favourite Russian black bread, this regular dark brown brick with a hard crust and soft dense moist crumb. So, such was the result!

Sourdough Rye Bread with Malt

There’s still a whole line of recipes waiting their turn to be published (there’ll be more of the Italian and French stuff for sure). I also decided to digitalize my recipes from 2009 which I used to print back then (surely I deleted the documents from my old laptop and emptied the bin! ; ) Now that I’m searching on the web for those which were successful, I cannot find almost half of them, ’cause either the sites / blogs do not exist anymore or the recipes are already altered, – and merely several years have passed!

Sourdough Rye Bread with Malt

Now that I’m finishing this post, the snow is melting frantically, making walking almost impossible without getting all soaking wet. I’ve noticed that the street running along the river has been painted (colourful feathers, a salamander, a bottle?) and with the puddles and the melting snow dripping from the trees, there’s an interesting effect being created. Listening to Greek radio and waiting for the spring to come and bring change.


7 thoughts on “Rye Malt Bread, Two Versions

  1. You mean the white thigs in the bread above? These are pine nuts! Or in the second one – than this is an ‘effect’ I get sometimes in my sourdough breads, a sort of white flour patches or something. I wouldn’t call the second recipe Borodinsky exactly, as Borodinsky is supposed to be dense (-ier) and moist. Here it is –
    Good luck and looking forward to hearing about your results!

  2. Thank you for the post! Using my sourdough starter, this made a wonderful, authentic rye bread. Making the Opara (prefermented rye) worked perfectly by overnight fermentation. And such a fantastic, crunchy crust! I’ve already made the bread four times this past month!
    I highly recommend it!

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