This Peanut Butter on Charcoal Bread Got Us Like…

16 November, 2018

The two-man operation that is Steam Engine Coffee serves an array of tempting breakfast items. There’s a maxi croissant filled with smashed banana, chia and cacao; a must-try kimchi jaffle; and a quinoa bowl of adobo-spiced portobello, avo, tomato and smoky chipotle mayo.

If you’re sensing a wellness theme here, you wouldn’t be wrong. The owners, Roland Davies and Samuel Werrett, are all for mindful eating and living, as passionate about engaging with customers as they are the single-estate specialty coffee they serve. The two met at high school and had a long-held dream to open a café together, which they proudly realised in 2014. By all accounts, the café’s a hit ­– perhaps largely due to their immense love for what they do, and their ability to remember customer orders and names.

But it’s the activated charcoal toast topped with peanut butter, flaked almonds and cacao (vegan, sans gluten) that caught our eye. We’re happy to report that the bread is wonderfully dense and satisfying, its outer crust studded with crispy quinoa beads. The PB is rich, sticky and smooth, offering a welcome contrast to the raw flaked almonds on top. If you’re a member of the Chatswood workforce, you’d do well to try it for yourself.

So, why black bread? Charcoal has long been used as a medication in hospitals to treat poisoning as it helps prevent the poison from being absorbed into the body. These days, it’s enjoying a second life on the menus of wellness cafes and is being touted as a detoxifier. The Steam Engine Coffee founders met gluten-free artisan baker Noni Dwyer at a trade show and immediately wanted her activated charcoal and quinoa bread on their menu.


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Noni, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease at the age of 10, first encountered charcoal as an ash coating on goat’s cheese. She didn’t start playing with it in her baking until three or four years ago.

“First of all, it’s important to state the difference between the type of charcoal that you would put on a barbecue, or when you burn your toast, to medicinal or food-grade charcoal,” says Noni. She uses a coconut charcoal that’s steam-activated. “From a bread-making perspective, it holds a lot of liquid, which is great for gluten-free baking.”

The charcoal itself doesn’t really taste of anything – but that’s not the point. “I was fascinated with making a truly black bread! I also wanted to use an ingredient that was vegan and low-allergen and, if possible, had some healthy benefits. Activated charcoal ticked all those boxes for me.”

Best of all, says Noni, the bread works just as well with savoury as sweet. “I love the way it pops on the plate with gorgeous rich yellow scrambled eggs on the weekend, or goat’s curd with honey and thyme, or the perennial favourite – smashed avocado,” she says. “That’s probably my favourite: smashed avocado with a little garlic, ferment juices, coriander, chilli and lemon, with maybe a little cured salmon on the side… now I’m hungry!”

Try Noni’s activated charcoal bread at Steam Engine Coffee.