This gorgeous loaf is based on one of Dan Lepard’s recipes in his new book “Short and Sweet” and at his weekly column, “How To Bake” on The Guardian’s website. I have a copy of Dan’s “Handmade Loaf”, which is one of my favourite cookery books on baking bread. I hope to soon also own a copy of his new “Short and Sweet” book. Perhaps for Christmas, if Santa is reading this… (ahem).
As with most of Dan’s bread recipes, it is an inspired creation. It’s dead easy and does something that most bread recipes never manage to do – it builds confidence and makes you smile when everyone who sees this marvellously rich brown loaf sprinkled with poppy seeds says, “WOW! That’s beautiful.” Just follow Dan’s recipe step-by-step, and you won’t go wrong.
And I did just that. Well…for the most part. I made a few minor adjustments to his recipe, and I hope that Dan doesn’t mind when he reads this. If he reads this.
I wanted to come as close as possible to that ‘Oh-I’m-so-homesick’ familiar flavour of bakery-fresh Danish rye bread from the southern region of Fyn (an island in Denmark). I achieved this, according to my husband, with the addition of a dessertspoon, rounded and spilling over, of black treacle. I added this to very strong brewed coffee while it was hot, and stirred until it was incorporated. I also chose caraway seeds as my preferred whole spice; fennel paired with more subtly flavoured foods can often be overpowering (like smoked, soft cream cheese). Caraway is also more commonly used in Danish rye bread than fennel. I didn’t bother to crush the seeds — I just tossed them in whole.
I also used fine ground Malabar pepper instead of normal or fresh course ground. The result is sutble heat following the fennel flavour, lingering on your tongue, and then building. It’s a real tease, I’ll tell you for sure, and it has bite.
And finally, I had Nigella seeds from my friend at Zeb Bakes but I decided to follow Danish tradition this time with poppy seeds. Nigella will get her pride of place on top of the next loaf.
Mr. Misk and I are so pleased with the flavour of this bread that we’re apt never again to buy imported stale Germany rye bread in little clear crinkly plastic packaging. My local supermarket can order two less of that product each week because I’m baking proper rye at home from now on.
Dan Lepard’s Black Pepper Rye Bread is easy-peasy to slash. I’m new to baking bread, and I’m the first to admit that my dough slashing skills are not always up to standard. Sometimes I make a right piggy’s ear of it! This loaf however made my technique seem professional and proficient. Well, except that I dipped my slashing knife into flour so the dough wouldn’t stick – the result was a bit of white flour stuck on the poppy seeds, which wasn’t very ‘professional’ of me. I won’t powder my knife with flour next time. This recipe is well worth giving a try!