Pumpernickel bread

German: Pumpernickel Bread–REVISED

Pumpernickel bread
Pumpernickel with caraway seeds –improved, 2018

JANUARY 2019: This post was originally written early in my experiments with bread, and I have since baked pumpernickel several times, and have added some techniques that I believe improves on the recipe I adapted from Smitten Kitchen, so I have deleted some of the description of my previous problems and gone straight to the new recipe.

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. 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.

The 2018 version of the bread turned out beautifully, following bread-making tips from KIng Arthur’s Flour.  (See photo at top of column.)

The First Attempt

Well, the bread I made the first time I tried 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.  I had not conquered the slash on the top technique.

What’s in a Name?

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 effect 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?

The Newest Attempt at Pumpernickel

By the way, you may notice that the bread from the newest recipe (FIrst picture) is darker and shinier than the pictures below (which was the first attempt).  That’s because I painted the top with a egg mixed with water before baking. The darkness in pumpernickel comes from adding cocoa powder. It works great.  Some people kick it up a notch by also adding coffee or instant coffee granules.

I’m sharing the recipe, enhanced in 2018 with additional specific directions that should help you succeed with pumpernickel–experienced baker or not.

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.


  • 2 cups water (warm--not hot (105-110 degrees))
  • 2 2/3 teaspoons active dry yeast ((2 packets) (If you use Instant yeast--see instructions below))
  • pinch sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups white bread 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
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons molasses


1. Warm the water in a pan or microwave until warm but not hot (105-110 degrees). 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, 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 rye flour a Tablespoon at a time, 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 gently 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. Make slashes in top of bread and brush with one egg mixed with 1 tsp water. Sprinkle Caraway seeds on top.
Put shallow pan (like broiler pan) on bottom rack of oven. When bread goes in oven, immediately pour 2-3 cups of hot water into pan and quickly shut door of oven.

Bake bread for 30-40 minutes until hollow sounding when tapped (190 degrees on thermometer).
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.


*If you are using INSTANT dry yeast, here are the instructions for substituting for ACTIVE dry yeast (taken from the King Arthur Flour's website.)

"In days gone by there was a significant difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast. Today, the difference is minimal, and the two can be used interchangeably—with slightly different results."

"ADY, compared to instant yeast, is considered more “moderate.” It gets going more slowly, but eventually catches up to instant—think of the tortoise and the hare. Many bread-bakers appreciate the longer rise times ADY encourages; it’s during fermentation of its dough that bread develops flavor."

*Use the same amount of Instant yeast as called for in the recipe.  Just mix it in with the dry ingredients.

*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

17 thoughts on “German: Pumpernickel Bread–REVISED

  1. Alissa

    Id love a couple of photos of how the new recipe turned out on the inside. The first ones look quite dense and dry to me. Thanks!

  2. Carol Pace

    In step 2 of directions, brown sugar is mentioned but I do not see brown sugar listed in the ingredients. Was it left out of the ingredient list?

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Thank you so much for catching that. It is 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. I have revised the recipe. It is a small amount, so hopefully if people have worked with the recipe, it did not make an enormous difference.

  3. Sharon

    I use instant yeast and looked for how to use it in this recipe. Were the directions for instant yeast left out ? Normally, instant yeast is stirred in with the other dry ingredients. Would it be the same for this recipe. Bread looks so good!

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to fix an oversight. I notice that I promised to explain how to use instant yeast, but then didn’t explain. So I have included instructions–simply mix with dry ingredients as you mentioned–and a link to the King Arthur Flour website where all things yeast are discussed.

  4. Linda

    Wow! This is seriously good! Very flavorful and nice texture. BTW, I live at 6,000 feet and made no changes. Thanks so much for posting this.

  5. Daelynn

    I just made this bread. First time making
    Rye bread and it looks, smells and tastes delicious. Great texture, the right amount of density, and great flavor.

    I did add 2 tsp instant coffee, and used 1 tbsp of dill instead of caraway (didn’t have).

    Looking forward to making Rueben Sandwiches.

  6. Jennifer Hires

    I made this recipe for my father and me a few days ago. I did add a tsp of expresso granules. It was delicious! As a matter of fact I have to make more today per his request. Thank you for sharing


Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.