Borscht and Russian Black Bread

This weekend, we shared a Russian-themed meal with a couple of friends and we served freshly-baked Russian Black Bread and crimson borscht as part of our meal.  Jake chose the Russian theme and was determined to maintain it at any cost.

My plan to purchase rye bread from a local bakery was foiled when I discovered they were all closed on Sundays.  Jake enthusiastically located a Russian Black Bread recipe while we were in the midst of the grocery store, not realizing it was designed for a bread machine.

New to yeast bread making, I successfully adapted Mary’s Russian Black Bread Recipe posted on, sans bread machine or stand mixer, by following the Black Bread method as described by the author of Smitten Kitchen.  When I make this Russian Black Bread again, I will knead the dough longer to further develop the gluten, since my finished product was a tad crumbly.  Freshly pulled from the oven, the exterior was firm and crusty, though it softened a bit with cooling.

But the flavor was deep and intense with the essences of cocoa and coffee.  Perfect with a generous smear of soft butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Russian Black Bread


1.5 cups water
1 packet of quick rise, active dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar
2.5 cups of bread flour
1 cup rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and brown sugar.  Let it bloom for about 15 minutes or until foamy.

In a small pot, heat 1 cup of water, butter, dark corn syrup, and instant coffee until the butter is melted.  Set aside.

Sift the bread flour into a large bowl and combine with the rye flour, caraway seeds, and fennel.

Add the warm butter-chocolate mixture and yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until a dough forms.

Roll the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.  You will probably need to “knead” in a little bit more flour.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, grease the exposed surface of the dough, and cover with a towel, letting it rise in a warm location for about two hours.

After the dough has risen for the first time, punch it down and place it in a loaf pan or make a round to bake on a sheet pan.  Cover the dough and let it rise again for about an hour.

If you made a dough round, cut an “X” into the top of the dough.

In a preheated oven, bake the bread at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  The bread’s internal temperature should be 200-210 degrees Fahrenheit.  I started checking my bread’s temperature after 40 minutes because my oven runs tends to run hot.

When the bread is finished, cool on a rack.  If you do not own a cooling wrack, try creating a make-shift version like mine.

Having never seen borscht until recently, we can only wonder where this crimson soup, filled with tender root vegetables and silky strips of cabbage, has been all of our lives.

During a happy hour at Moscow on the Hill, St. Paul, MN, we savored their version of borscht.  I wanted to create a borscht similar to Moscow on the Hill’s and found this recipe from MN Food Blogger, Laurie Jesch-Kulseth on her blog Relishing It.  This borscht is as good as, if not better, than Moscow on the Hill’s.

Depending on the size of your vegetables, this will make a huge quantity of soup so use a large pot.  You will not ruin this recipe as long as you keep tasting your borscht, adjusting the salt, vinegar, and sugar balance to your liking.  As long as your liquid level just covers the vegetables by approximately an inch, you will be fine.

Laurie Jesch-Kulseth’s Borscht (with a couple of minor adaptations)
From her blog, Relishing It, used with permission

2-3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 diced tomatoes (I used small roma tomatoes)
4 beets, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped (I used green cabbage)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tablespoons of white vinegar ( I added an extra splash)
2 1/4 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
6 cups of water or stock (I used half water and half beef stock.  Decrease your salt level accordingly)
1 cup tomato juice
1 pinch of sugar

In a large pot, saute the chopped tomatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnip, and onion until slightly softened.  Season with salt and pepper.

My first turnip.  Hello, Mr. Turnip.

Add the cabbage and saute until its wilted.

Next, add the water or stock, tomato juice, bay leaf, vinegar, and pinch of sugar.

Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer.

Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Before serving, stir in the fresh, chopped dill.

Add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl and enjoy your perfect borscht.


  1. Julie Donnelly

    Hi! Jeni, this recipe looks a lot better than others on the internet. I can’t wait to try it this weekend! Thank you for posting, Julie

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you Julie-I hope all turns out well:)

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