The Main Squeeze spotted this recipe on the same page as the Saffron Couscous, Chickpea and Lentil Salad she was making, ripped out of The Guardian Weekend magazine for 19 September 2009. It looked good. And it contained something I've never seen before in a bread recipe: a kind of roux, flour boiled in a liquid. That's a feature of the Stollen I often make at Christmas, but I hadn't seen the technique in a savoury bread before. And it came out beautifully, worth YeastSpotting too. 1 So, the recipe:

325 ml regular black coffee, warm or cold  
150 gm rye flour. I used stoneground whole rye.  
2 tsp crushed black pepper  
2 tsp anise, fennel or caraway seeds. I went with fennel, for a change.  
1 tsp dry yeast  
1½ tsp salt  
325 gm strong white flour  
1 beaten egg and poppy seeds, to finish. I used egg white only, and sesame seeds.  

The recipe says:

Put the coffee in a saucepan with half the rye flour (75g) and the pepper and seeds, whisk well, and heat until thick and just boiling. Remove from the heat, spoon into a mixing bowl and leave until warm. Add the yeast, mix well, add the remaining rye and white flours and salt and mix to a smooth dough. Cover, leave for ten minutes then knead the dough for ten seconds on a lightly oiled worktop. Cover, repeat twice more at ten minute intervals then leave for 30 minutes. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment. Using a little flour pat the dough out into a 20cm square then roll up tightly. Place the dough seam side down on the tray, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 45 minutes. Egg wash the top, cut 6 diagonal slashes across the top, sprinkle with poppyseeds and bake at 230°C/fan 210°C/450°F/gas 8 for 40 minutes.

It was after adding the remaining rye and the white flour that things began to go awry. The dough was for too dry, barely holding together. I almost panicked. Thank heavens for the interwebs. I searched for the recipe's name, found Dan Lepard's own forum, and discovered that this had happened to others and that the reason was probably that I had overcooked the flour coffee mixture. 2

Reassured, I added additional water, in 15 ml batches. In the end a total of 75 ml extra water gave the kind of consistency that I think was intended in the first place; soft and smooth, but not exactly elastic.

After that, all went perfectly according to the recipe, and the bread was absolutely delicious, with a prominent pepper bite and the fennel a more subdued flavour beneath that. I couldn't actually taste the coffee and nor could The Main Squeeze. It definitely adds colour, obviously, but I'm not sure what else. This is a great bread for savoury sandwiches. As a basis for cream cheese and smoked salmon it was simply perfect.

As to the startling initial dryness of the dough, I'm going to be charitable and suggest that squishing the recipe into a single column meant that there was no space to explain how crucial it was not to overcook the flour and coffee. "[H]eat until thick and just boiling" does not, to me, indicate just how vital it is not to overdo things at this stage. On the forum, Dan explained that "once cooled, before adding the yeast, the rye mixture should be the consistency of thick pouring custard". Mine was more like soft mashed potato, or polenta. This could have been made clearer in the recipe, had space allowed.

No matter. It was delicious and will definitely join my small standard repertoire. Maybe even without the coffee.

  1. 24 December 2015: Alas, Yeastspotting seems to have been in suspended animation since about this time last year, but the archives are still there. 

  2. Also defunct. Still glad it existed back then. 

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