Black Dahlia Pistachio Loaf #BreadBakers

 For our BreadBakers October bake, we have a theme of Halloween breads!  You would think coming up with ideas for a Halloween themed bread would be easier but it was actually quite a challenge for me this time.  I've done tons of pumpkin breads and although I considered decorated rolls and skulls, they weren't really thrilling me.  There was a front runner of a concha-esque bread for a day, then a recent impulse purchase at Costco came to the rescue.  I had been looking at swirled and colored breads in my Halloween rabbit hole and finally had a flash of inspiration.  I just crossed my fingers that it would work!  Baking pistachio filling smells amazing, by the way.

The winning choice was to take a favorite special occasion loaf and turn it into this more specifically thematic version!  What we ended up with was a black brioche, colored with activated charcoal, and a filling of green pistachio spread courtesy of my impulse buy.  Top it off with a pistachio cream cheese frosting, and we have our loaf!  Which can, of course, be decorated in a less Halloween-y way if so desired.  

If you are worried about grit from the activated charcoal, simply give it a little pass through a mortar and pestle, or whiz it in a spice grinder along with some of the flour.  The capsules I have on hand are a very fine powder already and you could probably get away with 3-4g and see how it looks.  But activated charcoal is good for you as a toxin binder and it was always my go to remedy to stop severe nausea or food poisoning in its tracks.

Either way, it's a very unique looking dough!  One little hack for thin nut butters, if you can't find a prepared filling or spread: take a nice, creamy nut butter and mix in a little honey.  It will increase the viscosity and make it much more firm.  This should work with any nut butter based on the interaction between the hygroscopic and oil based nut butter and the water based invert sugar solution that is honey.  Keep in mind that this is essentially causing the nut butter to seize, so start with just a small amount initially.  I personally love adding a touch of honey to my peanut butter on toast because not only does it taste good, it keeps the warmed PB from dripping off the edges!

Black Dahlia Pistachio Star Loaf
makes 1 loaf

For the sponge:
½ cup (63g) all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp instant yeast
½ cup (114g) whole milk, lukewarm (90-100º F)

For the dough:
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
5g activated charcoal powder (about 20-22 capsules or a heaping tbsp food grade)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp butter, melted
1-2 tsp milk, if necessary to form a smooth dough

For the filling and glaze:
pistachio cream spread or filling
1 tbsp milk plus 1 tbsp water for glaze

For the drizzle:
~½ cup  pistachio cream or creamy pistachio butter
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½  cups powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp  milk

To make the sponge, stir together the flour and yeast in a large bowl or stand mixer.  Pour in the milk and whisk or mix with the paddle until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment for 30-45 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and falls when you tap the bowl.

To make the dough, add the eggs to the sponge and whisk (or beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment) until smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add to the sponge mixture and stir (or continue mixing with the paddle on low speed for about 2 minutes) until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to let the flour hydrate and begin to develop the gluten. Then mix in the melted butter by hand, using a wooden spoon, Danish dough whisk or with the mixer on medium speed using the dough hook. Add in a couple teaspoons of milk or water if the dough is too dry.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. It shouldn't be too sticky to handle.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a clean bowl. The butter should keep the dough from sticking to the bowl. Let the dough proof in a warm place (70-75º F) for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To shape the flower, turn the dough out onto a surface, punch it down and knead for a minute. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a ball.

Roll a ball of dough out into a circle measuring about 25 cm (~10-11″) in diameter. The dough should be about 3-4 mm (1/8″) thick. 

Place the dough onto the baking paper and use an offset spatula to spread on a layer of pistachio cream, leaving a small gap at the edge.  Don’t make the layer too thick or it will ooze out, but be sure to evenly cover the dough.

Roll out a second ball of dough, place it on the first layer and spread with pistachio cream spread.  Repeat with the third and fourth balls of dough but do NOT spread filling on the final layer. 

Cut the brioche into 16 segments but leave a small (3 cm/1½”) area in the center of the dough uncut.  Use a small glass or ramekin to mark that area in the center to prevent cutting into it. 

I don't recommend trimming the edges with a filling
this thin.  It makes sealing them more difficult.

Take a pair of adjacent segments. Lift and twist them away from each other 180° so that the top is on the bottom.  Lift and twist through 180° again, then twist 90° to bring the ends together vertically. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process for all pairs of segments. 

Place the flower in a large plastic bag or cover with lightly oiled film. Leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours to rise.  You may wish to reseal the ends once or twice during this rise period, as they will inevitably try to separate and mar the desired flower petal or star shape.  I give the edges one final, firm pinch before popping in the oven and that has always held up the seams.

Brush with the milk glaze then bake at 160°C/320°F fan oven, 180°C/360°F conventional oven for 20-25 minutes.  I baked mine at 360ºF for 15 minutes, then turned it down to 325º and baked it another 5-10 minutes, tenting with foil to avoid browning the filling too much.  The loaf is done at an internal temperature of ~195ºF.

Place the bread on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, dust lightly with icing sugar, or drizzle with pistachio glaze if desired.  

For the glaze:

In a large bowl, beat the pistachio butter/cream and cream cheese together with a spoon.  Stir in and beat add the powdered sugar until mostly combined.  Add the milk 1 tbsp at a time until the glaze is of a thick pouring consistency.  Mix until there are no lumps.  Pipe or drizzle over cooled loaf in desired pattern before serving.  (My icing was a little thicker for the spider web than the standard drizzle.  For the spider, I simply piled up some of the icing and "painted" it with cocoa powder and a couple of mini chocolate chips for eyes.  I am not great artist, but it generally works.)

Be sure to check out the rest of our bakes:

 #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. 




  1. That is incredible. I've never baked with charcoal before!!!

  2. I love the colour you achieved here. Need to check out baking with activated charcoal.

  3. That's a awesome color bread, look so good!

  4. Kelly, your bread has such a lovely contrast. Love the decoration!

  5. Oh I so love the colour of this bread. Impressive

  6. Impressive and fun! I am skeptical using activated charcoal, but this post is kind of convincing me to try. I would definitely give a try. This is a wonderful bread for the theme.


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