Dark Winter Rye Boule, It Isn't Over Yet

This week has felt like a week of Mondays, strung together.  I interviewed a worker on Misty Brook Farm on Sunday.  (Who was charming.)  And the co-owner of The Wine Bottega on Tuesday.  (Also incredibly charming.)  Did a ton of writing.  (Please note: I am now out of charming adjectives.)  Worked all week, like a regular human.  And cursed at the wind (the wind!) today because it was so cold. 

What I really want right now is for someone to do my dirty dishes, and pour me a glass of wine. 

But that someone will have to be me tonight.  So I hope you’ll forgive me if I'm curt.  In fact, this pretty much sums things up: winter rye boule.  Because it’s (still) winter.  But also because it’s the variety of rye I bought from Misty Brook Farm.  Which they grow themselves and mill at their farmhouse, just down the road from their farm shop in Barre, MA.

Some winter rye, a little molasses, hint of cocoa, and a bit of caraway seeds was all it took to transform everyday bread into a dense and lovely loaf to chase out the end of winter.  While many dark ryes rely on caramel coloring to get their hue, this version uses the cocoa and molasses to impart a milk chocolate tint that deepens as the bread bakes.

The recipe borrows from Jim Lahey’s no-knead method of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.  So you can mix it up the ingredients in a bowl on your counter.  And then clean the dishes.  Or do the laundry.  Or—better yet—open a bottle of red.

Dark Winter Rye Boule


2¼ cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ cup rye flour
½ tsp active dry yeast
1½ tsp kosher salt
1½ cups cold tap water
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
cornmeal, for the bottom of the bread
2½ tsp whole caraway seeds, divided


In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, and salt.  (Start this process 15 to 22 hours before you plan to eat the bread.)  Fill a measuring cup (or small bowl) with the water and vigorously whisk the molasses and cocoa into the water until it turns dark brown.  Add the liquid to the flour mixture and combine the ingredients using a rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms (it will be wetter than standard bread dough), add more water, if needed.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 18 hours in a warm, undisturbed spot.  During this time, the dough will double in size and become puffy.

To start the second rising of the dough, scatter a handful of cornmeal in the middle of a clean kitchen towel.  Add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the dough and, with floured hands, take it out of the bowl and gently stretch the dough by tucking the sides of the bread together to meet at the bottom (if it is too sticky to handle, add a little bread flour); continue this process until the seeds are fully incorporated and the top is smooth.  Shape into a round ball.

Place the dough on the cornmeal, sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ teaspoon of caraway, and cover with the sides of the kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours (until it rises slightly).  30 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, set the oven at 475 degrees and place a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven or roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid on the middle rack of your oven.  (Be sure your pan can withstand the high heat and avoid pans with plastic parts.)  Preheating the pan helps the dough expand rapidly to produce a chewy interior and a crispy crust.

After 30 minutes, take the pan from the oven and remove the lid.  Gently place the dough into the pan, cover it with the hot lid, and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover the bread and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  (If you are unsure, the internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees.) Let cool fully on a wire rack before slicing (1 to 2 hours).

-I baked this bread in a BreadPot, which I got for Christmas.  I also found some ceramic pots at T.J. Maxx which have worked well in the past.

-You can find Misty Brook at the Somerville Winter Farmers' Market on Saturdays.


  1. This looks great! I love rye bread and I've been trying to get a rye starter going for the past week. My plan was to make traditional Finnish bread this weekend, but, sadly, the starter, probably in part due to my drafty apartment, has yet to really take off. I may just have to make this bread in the meantime. And, to take care of my starter frustration, I think I'll be following the advice to open that bottle of red.

    Thanks for sharing; I'm intrigued by the addition of cocoa powder.

  2. Hey, who doesn't want someone to do the dishes and bring them a glass of wine? In fact, I may end up putting this on my birthday wishlist in perpetuity... :) This bread sounds so hearty & dark & delicious. I love the idea of adding cocoa powder.

  3. Junsui- What heartbreak! I hope this bread helps you over your sourdough slump. I adjusted the proportions of cocoa and molasses from the book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and it really created such a nice dark chocolate hue after being in the oven, without any discernible cocoa notes. I wish you and your starter lots of luck!

    Eileen-I think you are on to something: bread should always be an important birthday component! I love dark rye ... and have yet to really find a loaf in Boston worth eating ... so I took matters into my own hands. I like to think the molasses and cocoa plus rye and caraway pretty much makes this a health tonic by way of bread.

  4. This loaf looks so gorgeous! Admittedly, I rarely stray very far from the usual Tartine routine, but I think that I may try tweaking the Tartine formula this weekend based on this recipe. It's been a long while since I've had rye bread with caraway.

  5. Katie: I'm jealous! I've yet to try Tartine's recipe because making the starter always gets in my way (and scares me a little, for some unknown reason). I need to suck it up and just do it!

    1. I was lucky enough to have gotten my starter from a friend. Maybe you should explore that avenue?

    2. The Tartine adaptation was a success! I basically followed the percentages for molasses, cocoa, and caraway provided in the BBA (3%, 2%, and 1% or so, respectively) and incorporated that into a 25% rye, 75% bread-flour dough. It produced a less lofty loaf than usual (which is to be expected, given that rye has less gluten than wheat), but the crumb was still very airy. I'd forgotten how much I like rye with caraway!

      P.S. This might be an odd thing to try, but I've discovered that labneh is a very good spread for this bread. Goes splendidly with the caraway. (I've been putting labneh on lots of things since I started cooking from Jerusalem.)

  6. Yeah! Oh, I'm so glad! (The rye has been a port in the storm for sure this past week.) I think the labneh sounds like a wonderful addition. Now I'm off to find a starter from someone (maybe I should try MY BOYFRIEND ... he has one at his restaurant, I believe: duh. I forgot about that.)