Is there any scent more enticing than that of freshly baked bread that’s still warm from the oven? It’s no wonder people recommend it as a way to sell your house! Our scrumptious and fluffy charcoal bread revamps the classic roll into a striking and wholesome bake you’re sure to love.
Ancient bakers: bread through the ages
At its heart, bread is quite simple. It’s a mixture of flour and water that’s baked until edible. Yet, despite this, it may have played a key role in the development of human society. The process of making flour is rather labour intensive. It requires grinding grain into a powder, for example by using a mortar and pestle, millstone, or modern machinery. So it might surprise you to learn that bread is one of the oldest prepared foods in the world. Recent archaeological findings suggest that our ancestors first made bread at least 14,000 years ago.(1) This may have then led to the cultivation of cereals as crops, enabling ancient humans to farm as well as hunt and gather. In turn, this could have prompted people to leave behind their nomadic lifestyles and settle down in fixed communities. The early versions of bread were most likely flatbreads, with leavened bread developing later. It’s unclear exactly when yeast-risen bread was first baked. However, it may have been a form of sourdough created in Egypt between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. Fast-forwarding a little, it’s believed that Ancient Rome was home to the first commercial bakeries and bakers’ guild.(2) Bread continued to be an important food source in Europe, and many new varieties developed over the years. In the Middle Ages, people even used thick slices of stale bread as plates. Known as trenchers, you could either eat them along with the meal or give them to the poor afterwards. Today, there are more styles of bread available than most of us could name! From fluffy focaccia to chewy ciabatta and striking black charcoal bread, each one has its own unique taste and texture. This brings us to the classic bread roll.
What do you call yours?
Charcoal bread is a relatively recent addition to the baking world. Yet whether accompanying a restaurant meal or sliced open for sandwiches, bread rolls are a familiar sight on our plates. Moreover, how you refer to yours might reveal quite a lot about where you’re from. For example, although ‘roll’ is the most frequent term used in England, it’s not the only one. In parts of the Midlands, ‘cob’ is more common, whereas in areas of the North East ‘bun’ is the favoured term.(3) Other regional names include bap, barm, batch, teacake and breadcake.(4) Naming aside, bread rolls come in all different varieties these days. Besides the standard white bread roll, you can find wholewheat versions, mini ciabattas, seeded styles and everything in between. It’s also possible to bake your rolls in diverse shapes by manipulating the dough before it goes in the oven. Some of the most prevalent designs include plaits, swirls and knots. With the growth of the health food movement, more nutritious breads such as flax, whole grain, oat and rye are becoming increasingly popular. This includes the oh-so-photogenic charcoal bread. Interestingly, for many years white bread was the preference of the upper classes, while those who were less well-off ate darker breads. Nowadays, the superior nutritional value of darker breads means those varieties are often more expensive and held in higher regard. And this jet-black charcoal bread is a prime example of a wellness-boosting dark roll! No matter what you call it or how you shape it, our charcoal bread is both mouth-wateringly tasty and good for your gut.
The perfect bake: our charcoal bread roll recipe
One of the great things about making bread is how versatile it is – and how simple. It’s easy to create all sorts of delicious breads with just a few tweaks to the basic underlying recipe. For example, you’ll notice that our charcoal bread ingredients are essentially the same as normal bread ingredients. All it really requires is the addition of our activated charcoal powder. You’ll see that the recipe calls for a teaspoon of light brown sugar. It might sound strange to add sugar to a savoury bread, but what this does is help feed the yeast. This jump-starts the fermentation process and ensures that the bread rises. Adding sugar can also give your bread a softer texture. If you’d prefer not to use sugar, you can opt for a tiny dash of honey or agave nectar instead. Doing so may require you to use slightly less water in the bake to compensate for the extra liquid. When baking charcoal bread, be sure to knead the dough for at least 10-15 minutes. This both helps to ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed and enables the gluten in the dough to develop. Kneading warms up the strands of gluten, allowing the proteins in the flour to expand during fermentation. This encourages the molecules to bond, giving the dough greater structure and elasticity. The result is a beautifully fluffy finished bread with air pockets that help it to rise. At the same time, be careful not to over-knead your dough. The best way to check if you’ve kneaded it enough is with the ‘windowpane test’. Break off a small piece and stretch it out with your fingers. If you can see through it, it’s done. If it breaks, keep kneading.
Making charcoal bread gluten free
To make this charcoal bread gluten free, all you have to do is switch up the flour you use. The recipe lists all-purpose flour, but you’re able to substitute this for any number of gluten-free options. Some of the best gluten-free flours include rice, almond and walnut – or ideally a blend of several types. You may need to adjust the amount you use to achieve the perfect bread texture. Alternatively, you can opt for a gluten-free all-purpose flour and follow our recipe exactly.
The proof is in the proofing
Our charcoal bread recipe calls for three separate periods of proofing time. This basically means leaving the dough to rise. It might seem tempting to skip this, but it’s crucial if you want your bread to have a gorgeous fluffy texture. Proofing activates the yeast inside your charcoal bread dough, enabling it to ferment. This is when the yeast consumes sugars and carbohydrates, releasing tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. That’s what causes dough to expand or rise, and gives your finished bread that all-important airy quality. Your first proof will be fairly short – at least 10 minutes – whereas the second one is much longer at 1.5 hours. Ideally, you want the dough to double in volume during the second proof. So make sure you place it in a container that has plenty of room! Your third proof takes place after you’ve divided up the dough into balls, and will last about 20 minutes. Both under- and over-proofing your charcoal bread dough can negatively affect its structure, so keep an eye on the time. The best temperature for proofing is around 24-30°C, and no hotter than about 45°C. Alternatively, you can do a cold proof at around 10°C. This will slow down the rise of the bread and help to further develop the flavours.
Why on earth would you want to eat charcoal?
Charcoal bread is still a fairly new concept for many people. If you’ve never used activated charcoal in baking before, you might find the idea of eating it a little confusing! Yet it’s actually a growing food trend thanks to the ingredient’s unique colouring and range of health benefits. Charcoal is basically what’s left of plant materials after they’ve been intensely heated without oxygen. You can use it for all sorts of purposes, from cooking to sketching. Once activated, however, charcoal becomes highly porous – and useful in the human body. For example, the increased surface area of activated charcoal helps it soak up toxins and remove them from the body. This cleansing power is why it’s on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines as an antidote for poisonings.(5) Interestingly, activated charcoal is what’s used in many water filters to improve the taste and quality of tap water. Tucking into charcoal bread benefits us in several possible ways. Firstly, it may support the function of the kidneys by reducing the number of waste products they need to filter.(6) In addition, activated charcoal can be a fantastic digestion aid. Research suggests it may help with excessive intestinal gas and abdominal pain, although further studies are necessary to confirm this.(7)(8) Finally, activated charcoal may have a positive effect on our cholesterol levels.(9) However, the studies in this area are mostly from the 1980s. As such, more up-to-date research is needed to clarify the findings. It’s important to note that as well as sucking up toxins, activated charcoal can bind to certain medicines too. Therefore, if you are taking any medication, check with your doctor before consuming activated charcoal bread or supplements.
Introducing our organic activated charcoal powder
The easiest way to include activated charcoal in your diet is with a powder. It’s tasteless and odourless, which means you can add it to pretty much anything you like! This includes simply mixing one or two teaspoons into a cup of water for a quick digestive aid. However, here at Erbology, we think using it to bake charcoal bread is a far more delicious option! We make our Organic Activated Charcoal Powder entirely from natural, sustainably sourced coconut shells. Our team processes these in Italy, at which point we activate the charcoal. Once ready, we ship the powder out to you in environmentally friendly amber glass jars. You can then reuse or recycle these once they’re empty. As scrumptious as our charcoal bread is, eating activated charcoal is not the only way to enjoy its benefits. For instance, you can also sprinkle a pinch of it onto your toothpaste to help remove tooth stains. In addition, its slightly gritty texture makes activated charcoal a fantastic skin exfoliant. Mix a few teaspoons into a face mask or body scrub, and softly rub the treatment onto your skin. This will help to gently remove any dead or dry skin cells, revealing