I suppose I’ve resisted long enough. Charcoal baking was a big thing a while ago, I kept seeing all sorts of breads, desserts, drinks using this shocking, funky ingredient. I decided to give it a try and loved playing with it. There is no real taste of charcoal, it is more a visual experience. Charcoal can interfere with the absorption of some drugs, but the amount used in baking is very small, so I would not be worried about it.  If you are into trivia, a French chemist, Mr. Bertrand, first found out the power of activated charcoal to absorb toxins and prevent them from causing harm in animals. Then, in 1813 he went on to do a sort of “chemical performance” live, consuming an amount of arsenic that could kill a horse, but previously mixed with charcoal. He survived to tell the tale and proved the power of charcoal as an antidote. A few years later, another French scientist, Mr. Touery, swallowed a huge amount of strychnine in front of the French Academy of Medicine, and survived it. Gotta love the French!  I hope you try charcoal in your baking, but please, leave the arsenic and strychnine out of it…

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

475g bread flour
25 g rye flour
120 g sourdough starter at 100%
10 g salt
2.5 g activated charcoal
380g water

Mix everything with a KitchenAid in low speed with dough hook for about 4 minutes. Adjust consistency with additional bread flour if the mixture seems too loose.

Transfer to oiled bowl and bulk ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough at every hour. At the end of four hours shape as a round ball, and place in a banetton heavily floured, sticking it in the fridge overnight.

Invert on parchment paper, moisten the surface with a little water, place a stencil on top. Dust with flour over the stencil, and lift it very carefully. Score the bread in a way that will not interfere with your design.

Bake inside a Dutch oven at 450F for 30 minutes, removed the lid, leave it in the oven for additional 15 to 20 minutes, if necessary lower the temp a bit in the final 5 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The charcoal powder I got is this one. Beware it is a very fine powder, so when you open the bottle and remove that little inner protection glued to the top, use caution. It flies everywhere. I mean everywhere. You catch my drift. Charcoal drift.  So far, I’ve only used it in bread and crackers (sourdough and regular), and really love the look, although I admit not everyone is fond of it. Some people are just turned off by breads with “unusual” color. As you probably figured it out, I am not part of that crowd.

Charcoal bread next to a cheese platter would look very nice, and of course, what could be better in a Halloween party?  Keep that in mind… I am actually planning my next sourdough charcoal adventure, and it will involve kalamatas. Taking black to the limit!

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