Pumpernickel Bread

Pumpernickel bread (1)

Hans was a young German man with long blond hair who was a key person at the bakery its first year.  He had come in the bakery one day in the fall and we began talking.  I learned he was traveling in the United States for an extended period of time and had no pressing obligations.  After we talked for a while, he offered to help me in the bakery, but I told him I had no money to pay him.  He said this was unimportant, as I was doing something worthwhile.  Hans brought his sleeping bag and camped out on the office floor at the bakery.  Hans, Randy, and I would rise early in the morning to bake bread, and for breakfast and lunch all we had to eat was largely bread.  We became very good friends.

This dense, dark rye bread is similar to what Hans ate in Germany.  The use of an over-night pre-ferment produces a slight tanginess which complements the flavor of the rye and caraway.


Twelve Hour (overnight) Pre-ferment                                  Next Morning

1 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water                                      1 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1 cp. whole rye flour                                                              1-1/2 tsp. dry yeast

Pinch dry active yeast                                                            1/4 cp. dark molasses


1/2 cp. rye flour

3-1/2-4 cps. whole wheat flour

1 cp. cooked rye flakes or berries

2-1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. carob or cocoa powder

3 Tbs. oil

2 tsp. caraway seeds


Note:  To cook rye flakes, place 3/8 cup uncooked flakes in a saucepan with 1 cup of water and boil 20 minutes.  Let cool.  To cook rye berries, place ¼ cup uncooked berries in a bowl with ¼ cup hot water, cover, and let soak overnight.  The next morning, place berries and soaking water and 1 cup more water into a saucepan and boil or 1-1¼ hours until tender.


  1. Creating a Pre-ferment: To develop pre-ferment, combine rye flour, yeast, and water in a bowl, mix and cover overnight.0


  1. Proofing the Yeast: The next morning, place additional lukewarm water in a bowl, add molasses and yeast, and mix thoroughly.  Let it sit for 8-10 minutes for the yeast to become active.


  1. Mixing the Dough: Add the remaining rye flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl.  Place salt, caraway seeds, carob powder, and oil on the flour and mix thoroughly.  Add cooled rye flakes/berries and pre-ferment, and mix.  Add the rest of wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup for kneading.


  1. Kneading the Dough: Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.


  1. The First Rise: Clean the bowl and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of oil on bottom of bowl.  Place dough in bowl, flip bottom side up, and cover dough with a damp cloth.  Let rise 2 hours.


  1. The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl, gently deflate the dough, flip it over so the bottom of the dough is on top, and re-cover the bowl. Let rise 1-1/2 hours in a warm place until soft, puffy, and about double in size.


  1. Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently deflate the dough, and place it on the work surface.  Cut the dough into two equal pieces, form each into a ball, and let rest for the next 10 minutes.

Shape doughs into a smooth ball by cupping both hands around the dough and pulling down on exterior surface of dough, while rotating the ball slightly clockwise.  Place the two round loaves on a flat metal pan which has been sprinkled with cornmeal or oiled.

Cover the loaves with a damp towel, place pan in a warm, non-drafty place, and let rise about ½ hour for loaves to soften and expand in size, but not flatten excessively.  Pre-heat the oven to 375oF.

  1. Baking the Loaves: Remove the towel from the loaves and spray with water from a spray bottle if available.  Loaves can be sprinkled with poppy seeds and slashed.  Place pan on the center of the middle shelf.  Spray the loaves with water after 20 minutes and 40 minutes.  Bake loaves for 55-60 minutes until evenly brown on all sides and bottom and thumping on the loaf makes a hollow sound.  Remove the pan from the oven and place loaves on wire racks to cool.


For a darker, slightly sweeter loaf, omit the caraway seeds and add 1/2 cup of raisins in the mixing of the dough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s