German: Pumpernickel Bread–The Good and the Ugly

Mmmmm, what represents our grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s culinary skills more than baking bread? The house fills with a yeasty smell. The family gobbles down the warm, soft pieces of heaven. For our ancestors in aprons it was not an “artisan” event–baking bread was just one of those chores that came around every week.

And for my German ancestors, if they had a bit of rye in their fields–or their neighbors did–they would certainly be making rye bread. And probably the queen of rye breads–dark, dense, sweet and fruity Pumpernickel.

There are two kinds of German Pumpernickel–the kind with yeast and the kind without. The kind without we’ll try another day, but this week I’ve been making pumpernickel. Although I cook and bake a lot–I generally shy away from things with yeast, but I had such good luck with those Welsh recipes, that I felt emboldened to try my husband’s favorite bread–pumpernickel. And my foray into replicating my ancestors in aprons made me wonder about something I had never thought about before. What did Great-Grandmother do with her mistakes? Surely not everything that came out of a wood-fired stove or a fireplace was a guaranteed success.

Well, the bread I made (the second time) was absolutely delicious, particularly with a little of that Ohio Smucker’s apple butter smeared on top.

Pumpernickel Bread

Dark Pumpernickel bread slices with Smucker’s apple butter.

Delicious? Yes.  But pull the camera back a bit…

Pumpernickel bread--the whole story.

Pumpernickel bread–the whole story.

What is that blob in the background?  Sorry to burst your bubble–but that is what the loaf of pumpernickel bread looked like.

And this was my SECOND try. Here’s the first…

Pumpernickel Bread

Pumpernickel Bread, First attempt.

Now, it is absolutely no excuse if I explain to you the root of the name Pumpernickel.  Believe it or not pumpernickel was named for the affect that some foods have on the digestive system making you—-well, in polite company we would say, “break wind.” This comes about because of people who looked down on the rough rye bread made by the Westphalians in what is now Germany, saying it , uh, caused flatulence.  And the Nickel has been explained as a reference to Old Nick–the Devil.  So (cover your ears if you’re sensitive)–doesn’t my bread look like it has been blown apart by the Devil’s fart?

Like I said, that is no excuse.  And I’ll try again to attempt to get a loaf as attractive as it is delicious.

By the way, you may notice that the 2nd effort (the pictures on top) is darker than the pictures below (which was the first attempt).  That’s because I decided to follow a recipe that adds cocoa to increase the rich taste and dark color. It works great.  Some people kick it up a notch by also adding coffee or instant coffee granules.

I’m sharing the recipe, which should not be blamed for my ugly loaves, but should get full credit for the deliciousness.

Let me know how it turns out for you.

Pumpernickel Bread

Prep time 4 hours
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable
Region German
Website Smitten Kitchen
Pumpernickel Bread is moist and dense. To get the dark color you love, add some cocoa powder.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water (warm--not hot)
  • 2 2/3 teaspoons active dry yeast ((2 packets))
  • pinch sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups white flour
  • 1 1/3 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 or 2 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 2/3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons molasses

Directions

1. Warm the water in a pan or microwave until just above room temperature. Whisk in yeast and pinch of sugar. Set aside for five minutes.
2. While the yeast is getting high on its sugar treat, combine the flours (using 2 1/2 C of the white flour), corn meal, salt, cocoa powder, caraway seeds and brown sugar in large bowl. Whisk them together, then stir in the yeast mixture, vegetable oil and molasses, by hand, or using the dough hook on a mixer. Add more of the white flour as needed to get the dough to the point where it pulls away from the bowl.
3. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes until elastic and no longer sticking to the board.
4. Lightly oil another large bowl. Put the dough in the bowl, turn it to get oil on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set aside in a draft-free spot to rise for one hour--or until about double in size.
5. Punch down and let rise another 30 minutes.
6. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or two 9" square baking pans. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and form two balls. Pinch together the underside seam. place on pans. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake bread for 30-40 minutes until hollow sounding when tapped.
8. Transfer hot loaves to a wire rack and let cool before slicing.
9. To serve slice as thin as possible. This is a heavy bread, so thin slices are best.

Note

The oil is listed before the molasses for a reason. If you measure the oil first, then use the same spoon to use the molasses, the molasses will not stick to the spoon. (The downside is you don't get to scoop it out with your finger and lick your finger--not that I would do that.)

Some recipes double up on the darkness factor by adding a couple of teaspoons of powdered instant coffee.

Pros use some moisture in the oven for the first 5-10 minutes of baking. Put a shallow pan of water on a shelf below the bread or spritz the oven with water a couple of times after it is warmed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge