Dark Communion Bread

By Susan Roach
Updated April 27, 2019

Note: the recipe below makes 5 x 10 ounce loaves plus a smaller loaf, ~8 ounces.

Ingredients

Yeast mixture:
1 tablespoon dry active yeast (not the kind for bread machines)
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons molasses

Dry mixture:
5 cups white bread flour
3 cups dark rye flour
2 teaspoons salt

1 square unsweetened chocolate

Liquid mixture:
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon coffee crystals
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon of flour to coat the rising surfaces (whole wheat flour works best)

Directions
Stir together the yeast mixture in a 1-cup measure and let the yeast prove for five minutes.  If it doesn’t begin to foam after you have finished measuring the other ingredients, stop.  Go to the store to get fresh yeast.

Stir together the dry mixture in the mixer’s bowl.

Microwave the chocolate in a ramekin for two minutes.

Stir together the liquid mixture in the larger Pyrex measure.  Stir in the melted chocolate and the yeast mixture.

Put the mixing bowl on the mixer stand, with the dough hook attachment.  Gradually add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, running the mixer on speed 1 until the dough is scraping the sides of the mixing bowl clean. When most of the flour is absorbed, turn the dough and remaining flour onto a board and knead in the rest of the flour.  (This prevents over-kneading in the mixer.)  Put dough into the stoneware bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot, such as in an oven, proof setting 80º F.  I’ve also set the bowl on top of a toaster oven set to 100º F, covered with kitchen towels.

Punch the down down.  Form into five 10 oz balls and a smaller loaf, and place on lightly floured chopping boards.  Cover with dry kitchen towels.  Let rise for another 60 minutes in a warm place.

Flatten each ball gently, and let rise for 15 minutes more, while you preheat the pizza stone and the oven to 375°F.   Be sure that the oven rack is in the center shelf of the oven, not up or down.

Before putting the balls in the oven, use a very sharp knife to slice a large cross (+) shape into each loaf — not too deeply.  First, slice a center line, then do the crossing line as two separate cuts from the center line, i.e. don’t cut across the center line.

Bake the loaves on the pizza stone for 20 minutes.

Cool on wire racks, covered with the kitchen towels, for about an hour, and put into freezer bags labeled with the date they should be used.


Notes

Timing Note:   It takes about 5 hours to make the bread.  Here’s a typical schedule:

  • 7:30am  – Start making the dough.
  • 8:00am  – Do something else for 90 minutes.
  • 9:30am  – Make the loaves and start the second rise.
  • 9:45am  – Do something else for an hour.
  • 10:45am – Cross the loaves and bake, in one or two batches.
  • ~11:30am – Do something else for an hour.
  • ~12:30pm – Bag the cooled loaves and take them to the church freezer.

Bread Stamp Note:  To use a bread stamp, instead of cutting a cross into the loaf, lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour, and press the stamp into the loaf.  Use the heels of both hands, and press down very hard.  Flour the stamp after each loaf, tapping off any extra flour.  Stamp them immediately before baking.  While pretty, using a stamp rather than a cross makes the bread more difficult to break cleanly.

Acknowledgements:  Ingredients and techniques were derived from recipes in Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cook Book and The Laurel Kitchen’s Bread Book. Thanks to former St. John’s rector Father Steve Ellis and former Altar Guild leader, Nancy Young, for supporting the initial “experiment” for using dark bread for Lent.  Due to its popularity, it is now used year-round.  Thanks also to current Altar Guild leader Eileen Fernald and Mother Tracy Wells Miller, for their patience during my failed (too crumbly) attempts to modify this recipe to use whole wheat flour.


Equipment
large ceramic or stoneware mixing bowl
plastic wrap to cover the bowl
waxed paper for measuring the rye flour
2 or 4-cup Pyrex measure
1-cup Pyrex measure
ramekin
Kitchenaid mixer with dough hook and mixing bowl
Pizza stone
Kitchen scale
chopping boards  (two sized 12×18 inches, or equivalent)
kitchen towels (smooth, not terry, and big enough to drape over the boards and loaves)
very sharp knife, or a bread stamp
cooling racks