How can I resist a recipe called ‘bread of the damned’? This simple rye bread with currants or raisins not only has a great story to its name, it’s also delicious in its own right. The recipe and its story come from Regula Ysewijn’s Dark Rye & Honey Cake, full of culinary history and intriguing baking recipes from the Low Countries.
Read more about the book in our indepth review of Dark Rye & Honey Cake by Regula Ysewijn.
Rogge Verdommeke | Bread of the damned | Rye Bread with Currants or Raisins
Rogge verdommeke translates freely to ‘damned rye’, but the actual meaning of this bread is ‘bread of the damned’. In the early 16th century there was a businessman in Antwerp with the name Pieter Pot. He built a chapel and an abbey, and he also had a large personal grain store full of precious rye. Because he was so charitable, he had bread made for the poor as alms. Legend goes that during festivities he would order the plain rye bread to be enriched with raisins for the prisoners – otherwise known as the damned – in the Steen (the fortress in the city centre of Antwerp). So goes the legend of the name rogge verdommeke.
Pieter Pot did indeed do great works for the poor and the damned of Antwerp, but whether the rogge verdommeke loaf received its name at that time is difficult to determine, since most of the city’s archives were burnt in 1576 during the sack of Antwerp, when mutinous Spanish soldiers burnt down the city hall. What is a fact is that this loaf is still a much-loved bread in Antwerp, especially from the oldest bakery in the city, Bakkerij Goossens, who have been keeping the rogge verdommeke tradition alive for generations.
Makes 1 loaf
- 150 g (5½ oz) raisins or currants
- 300 g (10½ oz) wholemeal rye
- flour, plus extra for dusting
- 200 g (7 oz) strong (bread) flour
- 20 g (¾ oz) unsalted butter or lard, softened
- 10 g (⅜ oz) instant dry yeast
- 300 ml (10½ fl oz) water
- 5 g ⅛ oz sea salt butter, to serve
In a small bowl, cover the raisins or currants with water and soak them for 1 hour, then drain.
Meanwhile, combine the flours, butter and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in half of the water and start kneading. When completely absorbed, pour in the remaining water and knead for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes more, scraping the dough off the dough hook and side of the bowl if needed, until the dough has come together in a smooth and elastic dough that is neither too dry nor terribly wet.
Cover the dough and set aside for 1 hour until it has doubled in size.
Knead the bread for 5 minutes by stretching parts of it inward as if you were trying to stuff a winter coat into your backpack. Finally, add the soaked raisins or currants and knead carefully to mix in the fruit without crushing it. Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking tray. Cover with a tea towel (dish towel) and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and place an oven tray, bread cloche or enamel cast-iron pot inside to get hot. Do not use the fan setting.
When you are ready to bake, lower the temperature to 200°C (400°F). Score the top of the bread to control how it will crack. Place the loaf on the hot tray or inside the cloche or cast-iron pot and bake for 40 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack and serve spread with butter.
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Kavey Eats was provided with a review copy of Dark Rye & Honey Cake from publisher Murdoch Books. This recipe and its photo are reproduced with permission from the publisher.