Squid Ink & Sesame Baguettes with Homemade Harissa Butter

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squid_ink_bread

Charcoal coloured bread is offset by a pat of bright harissa-spiked butter

Black. Not a colour we necessarily associate with wonderful food. Especially those of us who are keen bakers where, unless you’re talking black treacle, black bottomed cupcakes or black cherries (of which I’d argue the latter are really brown and purple respectively), black tends to signify something that has been in the oven too long; in other words burnt.

Try to think of a black food and you’re likely to conjure one of two ends of the culinary spectrum. In the losing category come the burnt items; over baked bread, lasagne left in the oven too long, black bits of onion in a pan that should be caramelized or the singed tips of an otherwise snow-white meringue. At the other end of the scale, black seems to signify something altogether more luxurious; tiny pearls of caviar, dusky black truffle, exotic black garlic or the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of a stick of licorice.  

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Crusty slices of black bread scattered with toasted sesame seeds

In the Bocca di Lupo cookbook, Jacob Kennedy goes one step further and suggests that ‘there is something dangerous and sexual about black food’ as ‘without colour we are blindfolded’. While I’m not going to go quite as far as Jacob – we’re talking basic bread here, not the seductively silky, jet-black  risotto that resides in his restaurant or recipe pages – I definitely agree that changing the colour of what you’re eating confounds the senses.

Black bread, in its most recognized form, is a Russian pumpernickel. Made with upwards of ten ingredients including rye, molasses, brown sugar, caraway and cocoa, it tastes exactly as you’d expect from such ingredients – earthy, rich, coarse and wintry, best enjoyed with a scrape of butter, a sprinkling of caviar and a shot of vodka. In contrast, the squid ink baguettes below are an altogether lighter, crisper experience. Apart (of course) from colour, the squid ink imparts little flavour (as you’ll find with dried pastas made with squid ink, spinach or beetroot), lending only a slight softness to the crumb which could, in fact, be because of the olive oil I mixed with the ink at first.

The lack of any huge distinction in flavour from a normal baguette is confusing. And while I wasn’t sure these baguettes would lend themselves especially well to some of the ingredients you’d pair with a nutty dark rye – smoked salmon for example – I was aware that the charcoal black colour needed something bright and full of flavour to lift it off the plate. Thinking of both heat and colour, I opted for a chilli butter.

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A crisp crust reveals a soft, slightly chewy crumb

Recently I’ve been enjoying watching The Fabulous Baker Brothers on TV.  For all its flaws – the brothers’ constant chipper chat, some seriously over-staged challenges and their attempts be just that little bit cooler than they actually are – the programme is definitely a good thing. It makes cooking feel accessible and exciting; interesting enough to offer something new, yet easy enough to give it a go at home. And the brothers are clearly both talented and passionate about what they do. So, when I saw them make homemade butter to accompany some bread on the series, I decided to give it a go.

To be completely honest, unless you’ve got the most luscious cream, fresh from the cow and full of flavour, this exercise is a bit of a gimmick. I can’t imagine the cost of cream compared with butter in your average supermarket has very much in it, and in a blind taste test with no additional added flavours, it’d be pretty hard to tell the difference between this kind of homemade butter and something shop bought. But it’s fun. It’s something new. And it gets people excited about food again, experimenting in the kitchen and enjoying what they eat. Which I guess sums up the whole ethos of the Baker Brothers series really.

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Two lovely little loaves

So here you have it, squid ink and sesame baguettes with a slightly salty harissa butter. The baguettes aren’t quite as dark as I’d hoped because I only had a small sack of squid ink, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below to include a more suitable quantity. I freeloaded mine from the local fishmonger who keeps the slightly scary and gelatinous little sacks of ink in her freezer, but you can also buy sachets of the stuff online which would make it easier to weigh and is probably slightly more appealing to those of a squeamish disposition.

One final word of warning – make sure the bowl of your stand mixer is firmly locked in place when churning your butter. When making mine I somehow managed to leave it slightly loose, meaning that at around the four minute mark my butter began to swirl at an alarming rate, slopping buttermilk all down the sides of my kitchen cabinets. Not very pretty, or fun to tidy up, but I guess at least it wasn’t squid ink . . .

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Crusty black baguette spread thickly with spicy harissa butter

Squid Ink & Sesame Baguettes with Homemade Harissa Butter

For the baguettes

Ingredients:

500g strong white bread flour
10g fresh yeast
10g sea salt
20ml olive oil
12g squid ink
300ml tepid water
A handful of sesame seeds

Method:

Put your flour in a bowl and crumble in the yeast followed by the salt.

In a separate small bowl, mix together your squid ink and olive oil to form a shiny black paste. Mix your paste, plus the water, into your flour and bring together into a sticky dough. Knead by hand or in a stand mixer until your dough is stretchy, elastic and no longer sticky. Cover and leave for about one hour, or until doubled in size.

For details on how to shape your baguettes, see my previous post here. When ready for the oven, slash the tops then wet slightly and scatter with your sesame seeds.

Bake until the crust is nice and crispy – you’ll need to use your smell and touch for this one as these baguettes don’t really take on your standard golden baked baguette colouring!

For the butter (adapted from The Fabulous Baker Brothers book)

Ingredients:

900ml double cream
Sea salt flakes, to taste
Harissa paste, to taste

Method:

Beat the cream fast in an electric stand mixer until the sound changes and it separates into curds of butter and buttermilk This will take between 5 – 7 minutes and will be very obvious when it’s ready – the butter forms into a big lump round the mixing attachment.

Sieve the curds over a big bowl then plunge into very cold water to draw any remaining milk out. Firmly squeeze the curds together underwater to make a rough ball of butter.

The amount of salt you need to add varies slightly depending on the final weight of your butter – a good guide is to weigh your butter then add 2% of this weight in salt. I used a good handful of sea salt flakes and a few big teaspoons of harissa. Simply mash together with the butter in a bowl until evenly distributed, then shape the butter into little pats, wrap in greaseproof paper and the job is done.

This recipe makes a fair bit of butter but do feel free to freeze it. You could also make a variety of different flavours – garlic and parsley, tarragon, rosemary, fresh chilli and ginger all spring to mind.

Enjoy you baguettes fresh from the oven, the crispy crust and warm crumb spread with a thick smear of melting harissa butter. We ate ours to accompany dinner with my parents. As there were some leftovers, I sent my Mum away with a couple of baguettes in her handbag, which they assure me were delicious reheated the next day for breakfast with some soft goat’s cheese, avocado and tomatoes.

42 RESPONSES TO Squid Ink & Sesame Baguettes with Homemade Harissa Butter

  1. Looks very sexy! Have you tried toasting it? So happy to have discovered your blog, I love your style of writing.

  2. Skye -

    What an immaginative combination of flavours. I love squid ink in risotto and pasta, but have never had it in bread. It looks amazing.

    And love your review of the Baker Brothers too – spot on.

  3. I only watched one of the Baker Brothers programmes so far as I’m not often home from work in time but it definitely felt like it was trying a bit too hard!

    I find it quite hard to imagine actually eating black bread like this – it feels wrong somehow, like eating blue food – but I bet it tastes absolutely delicious. Once I had my first bite, I think I’d get over it!

  4. These look awesome! Although I do agree that there is something weird about black food. Particularly bread – it does look a bit like it’s spent an hour too long in the oven! Bet it was delicious though. I’m curious about homemade butter but as you say I think life might be a bit too short to give it a go. Great post!

    • Emmy – thanks!

      Milli – ah, thank you. Yep, it does work toasted although you’d probably want to slice lengthways as the tiny rounds of baguette might get stuck in a toasted!

      Skye – thank you. I like watching The Baker Bros, but they do make me cringe :-)

      Kathryn – haha, I promise these are better than blue raspberry sweets :-)

      Elly – thank you. It’s odd – it doesn’t really taste that different from a normal baguette – unlike something cooked with squid ink (rather than baked) you don’t get that extra fishy flavour. Homemade butter is fun, but probably only really worth it if you’ve just returned from a farm where you milked the cow yourself… :-)

  5. Just wonderful! I love that you’ve made something do different and daring. Where did you find squid ink? Such beautiful photos too! Oh and I was just looking at how to make butter last night as well… :) x

  6. What a sensory experience just looking at those pics. Regarding the butter making, I agree, it is not something that turns out to be convenient on a daily basis but I made some (and posted about making it) before Thanksgiving with my daughter (we simply made it in a jar, shaking it) and it was fun. I was surprised about how easy it actually is and my leftover cream never goes to waste now.

  7. Wow… those baguettes look stunning, exotic, and slightly other-worldly! Paired with that harissa butter, though, they’re delightfully demonic. Really intriguing combination!

  8. Amy -

    Oh wow, really interesting to read about this. I think I’ve only had squid ink once in a pasta in Italy, and I’m not even sure if I could make up my mind about it. This sounds really interesting, and it sounds awesome with the harissa butter. By the way… do you have a recipe for black bread? Your description of it sounds awesome and now I want to try that out, haha.

    • Elaina – I got the squid ink from my local fishmonger, but you can also order it online in little sachets.

      While he was out – I think so :-)

      Nuts About Food – because I make so much ice cream I’ve always got a pot of cream on the go, so it’s good to know I can use up any leftovers that don’t go into a custard by making butter!

      Mr. North – haha, you’re right – they do look slightly spooky!

      Amy – I’ve not made black bread in ages but there’s a great recipe on Heidi Swanson’s website here http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/black-bread-recipe.html

  9. What an imaginative combination!!! I’ve never heard of squid ink baguettes, but when you think about squid ink pasta it’s not such a strange idea.

    I love the sound of your harissa butter too. I’ have somewhat of an obsession with harissa at the moment. It’s so delicious and versatile.

  10. These look amazing! OK bookmarking this for Halloween although to be honest, I think I’d enjoy these any time of the year :)

  11. I am so happy to see this post about something a little different. I loved a squid ink risotto several years ago at a favoured restaurant so know this bread would be divine! Thanks for sharing this idea!

  12. I’ve been dying to see these since you tweeted about them. I think they look amazing!

    I’m also interested to hear what you think about the homemade butter. I was going to make some tomorrow with some cream I bought for something else and then didn’t need and was expecting miracles. Thanks for bringing me down to earth!

    • Jennifer – my mum introduced me to harissa and I’m never without a pot of it in the fridge. It adds such flavour to so many different dishes.

      Lorraine – haha, someone else said they looked really spooky too. Definitely one to make on Halloween :-)

      Anna – my pleasure! Do let me know how you get on if you make it.

      Miss South – homemade butter is lovely, but I wouldn’t say in a blind taste test that I could tell the difference. It is nice being able to choose the amount of salt you add though, and adding different flavours.

  13. erin -

    So interesting! It’s amazing the way color makes us feel about food.

  14. Im honestly a bit of a bread addict … but this particular baguette will forever require me to attend addiction meetings ;) lol such a splendid recipe!!

  15. Terra -

    I am so happy we have connected, your blog is wonderful! I love love this recipe, and really look forward to trying squid ink:-) So interesting that you cannot taste squid ink in the baguettes, but wow it really makes each loaf look amazing! Hugs, Terra

  16. Dang!!! That baguette looks dangerous!! Would make excellent conversation over the dinner table. I love the contrast of the black case holding a bright orange centre! Funny, I just posted about Harissa! Have to try this sometime :-)

  17. I’m fascinated that you played with your sense of taste and perception with those squid ink loaves. It’s puzzling to think that one wants to eat things depending on color. You gave me a lot to think about:)
    -Erin

  18. I think the loaf looks gorgeous! Black goes with everything!

  19. Wow I love squid ink in a risotto or pasta but never would have thought of using it in bread -very brave! It looks intriguing.

  20. Lisa -

    I agree with Cara, I’ve never even entertained the idea of squid ink in a bread, but your creativity explodes again! It looks so cool, and with the harissa butter, I can only imagine how delicious it is! I’m totally blown away!

  21. Whenever i go to an italian restaurant, I look at the squid ink pasta in the menu and consider for 7 minutes before moving on. I’ve never dared to order one. Intriguing, this bread, intriguing..

  22. Wow! Love the idea! Never imagined squid ink baguette! Very unique!

    • Erin – I know, it really does challenge your senses when food is a different colour.

      Living the Sweet Life – haha, I’m sure a bread addiction is one of the best kinds of addictions…

      Terra – thank you!

      The Patterned Plate – do give it a go!

      Erin – glad to have posted something that challenges expectations :-)

      Cake Brain – haha yep, black baguette is the new…black :-)

      Cara – thank you.

      Lisa – the harissa butter is amazing – definitely one to try.

      Ines – ah yes, this is very different from traditional black bread, but both are delicious!

      Jesica – squid ink pasta is lovely, but you wouldn’t want to eat it all the time. I guess the same goes for this bread…

      Baker St – thank you!

      Anna – thanks :-)

  23. ahhh – Louis and I made butter for our 3 year anniversary (yep – stayed in and made butter. way cool… but we DID go out for a cocktail first!)

    Anyhow totally agree with you – fun venture – but not totally WORTH it, in any traditional sense.

    I love black squid pasta – I can guess this would be fabulous – must get over my making bread fear soon!! Its just hard when you get such amazing bread locally too… xox

  24. Just glorious. Have had squid ink stained mashed potato before; an interesting foil for it. But this looks stunning.

    • Em – haha, rock and roll! Nothing wrong with making butter together – cooking with my boyfriend is one of my favourite things to do :-)

      Tori – ooh, I’ve had squid ink polenta but never mashed potato. Must try!

      The Caked Crusader – thank you!

      Meister – haha, that comment is cropping up a lot. They do look rather spooky…

  25. Kavey -

    I don’t know how I missed this post as I have been catching up with my RSS feed these last 2 days, now I can tolerate time on my PC…
    How amazing does that black bread look??? Totally weird but cool!

  26. LOVE the squid ink baguettes! I think I had squid ink melba toast in a restaurant once (maybe Club Gascon?) but the whole black baguette is just so spectacular. Clever!

  27. Thanks for taking some time to visit my blog and so happy you found me! I’m loving your recipes!! Squid Ink baguettes, so genius. Thanks for the love you’ve been showing! sb.

    • Kavey – haha, yep it does look pretty weird, but it’s so much fun!

      Jeanne – thank you :-) Can imagine it would work well as melba toast too, maybe with a little crab and chilli?

      Lemon Fire Brigade – thank you and my pleasure, your blog is beautiful :-)

  28. Pingback: Squid Ink Tagliatelle | thelittleloaf

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