Charcoal powder sourdough bread

The thing I like the most in sourdough baking is that every bread I make is different. Each bread holds its own story and each also reflects the energy I put in it. This energy can be seen through the decisiveness of the score, the stability of dough's shape and its power to rise fully  by seeing, feeling, and choosing the right moment to bake it.

My last sourdough breads have been inspired by a great bread story teller Malin Elmlid, the author of the Bread Exchange book. Charcoal powder sourdough bread brings an interesting twist to our daily food color palette and it's a perfect match with colorful jams and vibrant vegetables like tomatoes and radishes. And avocados!

Edible activated charcoal powder is otherwise well known for binding unwanted toxins of all kinds in our body and it is great when traveling and not being sure about the quality of the food.

I experimented with the quantity of the charcoal powder and the hydration level of the dough and both resulted in interesting outcomes and stories to be heard once again.

Charcoal sourdough bread

Charcoal sourdough bread
Yields: one big loaf

Baking schedule:
This bread was mixed in the evening, left to rise for 3 hours at the room temperature, shaped and then put in the fridge for 17 hours. It was baked in the afternoon of the following day.

400 g white wheat flour
300 g water (75 % hydration level)
100 g active rye or white wheat sourdough starter (100% hydration) - I fed it in the morning before mixing the dough
8 g fine sea salt
1 teaspoon charcoal powder


1. In the evening (day before baking), first dissolve 1 teaspoon of charcoal powder in 300 g of water. Add 100 g of sourdough starter and mix by hand. Next, add 400 of flour and mix all ingredients until they come together. Cover the bowl with the kitchen cloth and let the dough rest for 1 hour. This rest is called autolyse. Observe how the dough becomes more extensible after the rest. Letting your dough to rest after mixing it is a great option if you don't know how much water your flour absorbs. You can start with less water, let the dough rest and then see if you need to add more water.

2. After 1 hour, you will notice the dough has relaxed a little bit. Add 8 g of salt and knead the dough for 5 minutes so it becomes stretchy.

3. Leave the dough in the bowl for another 3 hours at the room temperature (if it's too cold, you might put the bowl in a slightly warm oven). Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out. In the meantime prepare the rising basket and flour it well. I lined my rising basket with a kitchen cloth and floured it with whole grain rye flour and white wheat flour.

​4. After 3 hours, the dough should look very alive, slightly risen, and stretchy. You might even see the bubbles on the dough surface. Take the dough out on a lightly floured working surface. Pinch the ends of the dough together in the middle, turn the dough upside down and let it rest for 10-15 minutes so that the final shaping will be easier as the gluten will relax. 

5. To shape the bread, turn it upside down, stretch a little bit with your fingers and then fold the bottom part over the center, left side over the center, right side over the center and also the upper side over the center. Transfer the dough to the rising basket fold-side up. Sprinkle some more flour on the top and cover it with the rest of the kitchen cloth. Put the basket in the fridge. Let it ferment until the volume of the dough has visibly increased (at least by a third) and when the indent you make with your finger springs back slowly and not all the way up.

6. The photo below shows how the dough looked like after 17 hours in the fridge. The baking schedule can be easily modified to fit your schedule, depending on when you would like to bake the bread. If you would like to bake it in the morning, add more sourdough starter and leave the dough at the room temperature longer before and after shaping. Or you can also let it rise overnight in the fridge and take it out in the morning and let it at the room temperature to fully ferment.

Proofed charcoal sourdough bread

Fully proofed charcoal sourdough bread ready to be put in the oven.

7. At least 30 minutes before baking preheat your oven to the maximum temperature of your oven along with dutch oven or a baking stone. I used dutch oven.

8. When the oven is preheated, take the loaf out of the rising basket and transfer it to dutch oven. Score the loaf and put your dutch oven into oven.

Charcoal sourdough bread

9. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on at 240°C/465F°F and 20-25 minutes with lid off at 230°C/445°F and until bread gets nice golden color. Cool on a cooling rack before cutting for at least 1 hour.

The crumb color of this bread is exceptional and its taste is not affected by the charcoal. If I had to choose, I would go for the middle path - half of the tablespoon of the charcoal powder. What you may experience with larger quantities of the charcoal powder is that it won't dissolve well and you would feel it in every bite. To dissolve the powder you can use smaller quantities of alcohol like rum or vodka (well, the quantities are not limited with the slice of this bread between the fingers ...).

Charcoal sourdough bread crumb

Left: 1 teaspoon of charcoal powder and 70% hydration. Right: 1 tablespoon of charcoal powder and 75% hydration.

Charcoal sourdough bread

Have you been experiencing with different colors of the bread crumb? What is your favorite?

22 thoughts on “Charcoal powder sourdough bread

  1. Well, isn’t this a post with the wow factor! :o I love this post (and your entire blog, for that matter)! I have sourdough proofing in the oven right now!
    You know, in Italy we have this kind of wheat that is called ‘grano riarso’, which means ‘burnt wheat’, and that’s exactly what it is. The whole wheat kernel is ground to flour, so it’s whole grain, and what you get is this super dark flour with the slightest smoky flavor and so, so tasty! I love it. It is still a little difficult to source though. I imagine that this loaf would have a similar taste.
    thanks for sharing :)

    1. Dear Valentina, thank you so much! :) And I just love it when people share the information and stories about their local grains, there is such a diversity out there. I just googled it and the color really looks like bread with one teaspoon of charcoal powder. For me, it was really interesting to see how other people reacted to the darker bread (with one tablespoon of charcoal) – we are just not used to eat black bread :)

      Proofing sourdough bread is always a great choice – even if it is just for therapeutic purposes :)

      Have a nice Sunday, Natasa

    2. I just got back from Italy where I had charcoal bread for the first time. I liked it and want to make it, but I had no idea the source of charcoal the Italians used ( a good reason to learn Italian, is to learn how they do things!) So somewhere along the line it is roasted right?, do they roast the wheat in a oven or how is it done. I’m very curious.

      1. Thomas, this must have been a great experience!

        In this recipe I used this activated charcoal powder made from coconut shells:
        Those capsules are edible and very handy when travelling.

        Usually, non-activated charcoal is made from wood (also from coconut shells, bamboo, olive pits). They put the wood in a can and heat the can – it’s basically cooking the wood without oxygen and leaving the wood to burn. You are left with carbon (charcoal). You can find some videos on you tube (how to make homemade charcoal) or detailed instructions here:

        Both activated and non-activated have the power to remove different odors or chemicals from liquids. However, activated charcoal is far more efficient at removing toxins as it is more porous due to the added oxygen and it has larger surface to bind the toxins. Different methods are used to make activated charcoal, but as I’ve read none of them is recommended to be used at home.

        However, I couldn’t find any information about getting charcoal from grains. Do you know more about this?

        1. Maybe Valentina@Hortus who commented above will come back to help elucidate. Her description does not seem to include actually ‘burning’ the wheat, but here is a description of that for making pasta:

          Also, I could not find ‘riarso’ via Google, but plenty of hits on ‘arso’ so maybe there is a local dialect difference using this spelling. Regardless, I think it is made from burnt wheat kernels (that are then ground-described here: ), or the flour(durum in this case) as described in the former link .

          There doesn’t seem to be a LOT of info on the internet (amazing) but I think you could make your own charcoal as opposed to buying it, which seems rather expensive.

    1. I am very happy to hear that you like the look – one of the few people :) We are just not used to eat black bread :)

      Let me know how it went! I’ve never tried pumpernickel (although I live quite near to pumpernickel eating countries :)), so thank you for your idea.

  2. Oh man. Doesn’t that look just so awesome. I know it would taste delicious (I love sourdough bread), but I would make it for the black factor alone! Such a cool idea!

    1. Oh, thank you so much and I totally understand you :) For me too this was a color experiment, there is something magical in that black.
      Hope it works :)

    1. Thank you, Lynn! Yes, it is really special looking kind of bread. I’ve heard the story about the balance – in everything we do in life.

    1. SO wonderful! I’ve always loved black bread :) and, while I would never use charcoal out of capsules and prefer U.S. hardwood charcoal that is FOOD GRADE, I would make this in a heartbeat for my love if I had my old kitchen!

  3. Dear Natasa I will get some charcoal powder from a mill here in Switzerland. I was lucky to get it because normally they only sell to bakeries – not micro-bakeries like me. They name it bakersnight flour 😊. I will first try some yeast-based recipes. I have some ideas in my mind. I also like the color of beetroot. Your loafs look fabulous!!! Greetings Katharina

  4. Here in USA our local Savory Spice Shop sells powdered charcoal. I wondered how it would be used – will have to check if it’s activated. And I will try this out. It looks spooky – husband would love it!

  5. I had pizza at the weekend which had a charcoal sour dough base, which was fab. I would really like to make you sour dough recipe but don’t have a Dutch over, I do have a flat baking stone, will this work? I don’t want to burn the crust without covering for the first bake.

  6. Nice to know this unique combination of activated charcoal on sourdough bread recipe. I have well aware of the activated charcoal as it is a strong adsorbent and therefore used in the medicinal formulation such as in skincare formulation and gastric formulation. I am suffering from acne vulgaris due to my oily skin and recently as per doctor’s advice I have started to use Activated Charcoal Drink Recipes for treatment of acne. After reading this article I am excited to use charcoal added sourdough bread.

  7. My first taste of charcoal bread was in Edinburgh Scotland. We have made this recipe several times and it is very close to that delicious first bite! It is a very wet dough and with gentle handling, results in a lovely crispy crust and soft interior with a slightly earthy nutty taste. Thank you for the recipe!

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