the-last-of-the-loafing Recipes, Tips

pumpernickel bread

At Sunday’s final bread class, I was a little slow-moving after Saturday night’s festivities and the cause of last week’s cupcake extravaganza. We focused on whole-grain breads: semolina, Swiss rye, seeded rye and pumpernickel, and though I was a little, um, dehydrated, I think I did all right, surprising myself by getting all four doughs together before noon. It was at this point that I realized I might just have achieved my goal in this class — which was not, by the way, to effectively knead bread with a margarita headache — but to get comfortable enough with the process that I could dive into recipes confidently and know instinctively what to do if things get off-course (or underslept). I’m almost there, and not a moment too soon, because the instructor dug up a recipe for Russian Black Bread for me with about 20 ingredients and it’s calling to me. No rest for the weary, or at least certifiably insane, I suppose.

swiss rye

As there are few things better on earth than a grilled cheese sandwich on seedless rye with a slice of tomato and arugula, I was pretty excited for my take-home bounty and while it did not disappoint, I have to confess that the next day, just the appearance of all those loaves of bread making it impossible to tightly shut our freezer made me feel a bloated, too. Is it possible to have a bread hangover? Fifteen hours of bread baking over three weeks is quite a bit, and while I wouldn’t trade the class or what I’ve learned for anything, those leafy greens and roasted squash are looking mightily more appealing these days. When this phase passes, as I am certain it will, I’m certain we have enough stashed away to get us through the long winter and then some.

unbaked semolina loaf

As promised last week, a summary of some odds and ends notes I had scribbled in the margins of the recipes, things I hope will come in handy for you, too in your doughy endeavors.

[Notes 1-11]

  1. Non-pan, free-form breads are slightly stiffer than their formed loaf siblings, so they need to be slashed to control their expansion. (I mentioned last time that for pan breads, the slashing is optional, and not very common.) The way you slash them and what tools you use are up to you; a traditional French one is called a lame but a good serrated knife works almost as well. Try to hold the knife at a 30-degree angle to the bread, and cut it quickly and confidently, just once on each slit, holding onto the parchment paper or pan the bread rests in case it budges.
  2. Free-form breads also benefit from having steam added in the beginning of their baking time to keep their crusts from setting before they are done expanding. Fancy-shmancy bread ovens have buttons you can push to do this, and then remove the moisture (you should do it once every five for the first fifteen) but at home, you can either use a spritzer of water or put a baking sheet in the bottom of the oven while it heats and add cold water to it when you put the bread in. Of course, then you will have to remove it after 15 minutes, which is not the easiest thing since it’s flat, wobbly and steaming hot. Suffice it to say I’ll just be using a spritzer.
  3. Free-form breads also benefit from being baked directly on a bread or pizza stone. If you buy one, don’t wash it, just brush the crumbs off. Should you (like, ahem, some people) end up with one with layers of old pizza stains on it, you can sand it to get a new surface.

semolina bread

  1. Often, when using commercial machines in bakeries to mix and knead dough (and you consider doing the same at home if you use a Kitchen Aid or Food Processor), it’s very easy to over-knead the bread because they are so vigorous. (With your own hands, it’s nearly impossible “unless you are He-Man or something,” Chef Loren says.) To compensate, a slightly cooler temperature is often used for the water the yeast goes into, more like 85 degrees instead of the standard 110.
  2. By hand, there are three methods to know if you are done kneading your bread. The first is resiliency, something you’ll come to recognize after you’ve made a few breads. The second is the windowpane method, in which a small piece is stretched thin between your two hands and it should have almost a windowpane appearance, where the light comes through. The third is temperature, as the bread dough’s temperature rises a bit when it’s properly kneaded, but here my notes fail us all as I did not write it down. I use method one. If you’re worried you haven’t kneaded enough, just do it a little longer. It won’t hurt it.
  3. Whole-grain flours don’t have the wheat glutens of all-purpose and bread flours that make for that fluffy white bread Americans like, so they’re usually used in combination with other flours. Each recipe varies in its ration of whole grain to regular flour according to the bakers preference, really.

pumpernickel, unbaked

  1. Go ahead and store your risen or not-yet-risen doughs in the freezer. Wrap it twice in well-sealed plastic, giving in a wee bit of room as it will expand slightly before it gets too cold to. It’s good in there for up to three months. When you want to use it, take it out and bring it to room temperature, letting it rise, and continue where you left off.
  2. There are all sorts of cooky things you can add to your bread doughs to make them lovelier. Vitamin C is one of them. You can actually crush a tablet into your dough. It’s supposed to preserve the flavor and deter mold. Another one is powdered ginger, which helps the yeast do its thing. You’d add about 1/4 tsp. per recipe of either. The flavor should not be detectable. There are also bread enhancers (not to be confused with bread flours, but I think I’ve told this story of my stupidity already) which have many of these extra in them, and can be bought at specialty food stores. How much you add to each cup of flour or dough depends, so just check the instructions.
  3. When sprinkling cornmeal on your baking surface or flour decoratively on the top of a loaf, don’t worry about putting too much on. In fact, be as generous as possible. The extra usually falls or can be brushed off, but you can’t compensate later for too little.

swiss rye

Update: Pumpernickel bread recipe added below.

Update, 9/08: This recipe is for a lightly-flavored pumpernickel bread. In the years since I have made it, I have found my dream recipe, so to speak, for a heavy, dark Russian Black Bread (a more flavorful cousin of Pumpernickel) and provided it for an article I did for NPR. That recipe is over here.

Pumpernickel Bread
Adapted from Techniques of Bread Baking 1 at the ICE

1 cup warm tap water, about 100 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole grain rye flour
1 tablespoon non-alkalized cocoa powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon unsulphered molasses

Cornmeal for bottom of loaf
Heavy cookie sheet, jelly roll pan or baking stone

1. Place water in a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast on surface and whisk, letting it stand for five minutes. Add molasses. Stir in flours and remaining ingredients. Knead dough by hand to form a smooth, elastic, soft dough.
2. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. If you wish to interrupt the process, let the dough begin to rise, then punch down, cover tightly and refrigerate. To proceed, bring dough back to room temperature until it begins rising again.
3. To shape loaf, turn risen dough out on to floured work surface (you may need the help of a scraper). Press dough with palms of hands to deflate. Gently knead, the shape dough into a sphere by tucking edges under and in toward the center all around the bottom. Invert the dough into a round basket lined with a heavily floured napkin or tea towel so ends are on top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled.
4. When loaf is almost doubled, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set rack at the middle level. Place baking pan or stone on rack.
5. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of loaf and invert it onto a cardboard round or peel. Use a razor blade held at a 30-degree angle to the loaf to slash across the top of the loaf. (Deb note: I made an X in the bread pictured here.) Slide risen loaf from the cardboard or peel onto the pan. Immediately lower oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes (Deb note: you’ll probably need much less time, or to lower the oven temperature to get it to finish baking) or until internal temperature of the loaf reaches 210 degrees. Cool the loaf on a rack and do not cut until it is completely cooled.

Variation: Raisin Pumpernickel Bread – Knead 1 cup dark raisins in by hand after the dough is risen the first time, and before shaping the loaf. Make sure you plump them first in very hot water for several minutes, as they are otherwise prone to burn in the oven.

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52 comments on pumpernickel bread

  1. Me Me Me! I want the recipe for Russian Black Bread. I am always experimenting and coming up with recipes for bread on my own but I have not been able to come close to any of the black breads from Russia or Germany.

    I love you 20 things I have learned about bread. There is stuff that I did not know like the Vitamin C tablet and ginger.

    Now I want to take a bread class. It’s just so far to the culinary institue.

  2. Jenifer from Memphis

    Deb,

    I’ll be totally honest, I don’t want the recipe because I know that baking breads is not my thing. I’m a cake maker, cookie lover and can do candies out the wahzoo…but breads, they own me and they know it. As a happy compromise, I will eat them with a smile and allow you to bake them for me any time you feel the need to ship homemade loaves to the South.

  3. deb

    Chrispy – Heheh. Let me try it first because what if it’s terrible? What if I lead you astray? Let me guinea pig it out, as soon as I am not sick to death of bread again, and I’ll let you all know how it went.

    Jenifer from Memphis – No breads? Oh no! They ship terribly, I’m sorry to say. These non-preservative, whole grain all natural goodness ones get about one day of shelf-life, then it’s into the freezer or mold will appear by the end of the week. Yech. Hence, the over-stuffed freezer. So now, you have to try it on your own. :)

  4. Your bread looks AMAZING! And thanks for all the tips, I always struggle with yeast products. I made a recent foray into the world of bagels and ended up with one of the best results I’ve had with yeast.

  5. deb

    Brilynn – Ooh, bagels! I’d love to make them but all that boiling and then baking seems like it would be impossible to do in my single-counter-ed kitchen. Also on my list: I want to make soft pretzels.

    Christine – As you wish. I just added the Chocolate Orange Bread Recipe to the end of that entry. I know this probably goes without saying, but the bread is not cakey or really sweet at all. It just had a mild chocolately/orangy vibe. I just don’t want anyone to be disappointed. For an egregiously unhealthy orange/chocolate foray, I of course recommend this instead.

  6. Tim

    These breads look wonderful! The tips and guidance in the article is very useful too. Is it possible to have the recipe for the loaf in the top photo? Thanks.

  7. Deb–I’m a long-time lurker. A few years ago, a friend and I made the soft pretzels from Martha Stewart Living. Now I know Martha doesn’t always treat you right but these were pretty damn good. And suprisingly easy. We made them on a whim (with VERY limited counter space), for a holiday party and were expecting something epically disastrous, but our guests that night were blown away.

    And oh my god, that bread looks so good. Also, I am in awe of your picture-taking abilities.

  8. deb

    Tim – Yes. (I left it at work over the weekend, but I’ll put it up later today!) It’s a pumpernickel, and it tasted great, but it may not be as dark as some people are used to. I’m sure the coffee or molasses or cocoa could be bumped up for a deepened color.

    Denise – I hope you know what you have started. :) Ever since Alex read your comment, he’s had only one request: the pretzel. “Hey Alex, I think I’ll just make us a big salad for dinner.” “With pretzels?” “How about some eggs for breakfast?” “With pretzels?” Suffice it to say, I think I’ll be trying my hand at these VERY soon!

    Ari, Christine – Thank you!

  9. My goodness, Deb! The bread looks absolutely delicious! I want to bake some bread! That’s if I have the time, being a college student it’s pretty difficult to cut out time for baking even though it’s my biggest stress relief is bread baking.

    By the way, I would strongly suggest you not to eat at Marquet Patisserie, in Brooklyn, for croissants from my list. It’s not worth the trip if you don’t live close to there but every other place is fine. I’m still working on other places for croissants. :)

  10. deb

    Tina – Oh you should try it. The thing is, the actual time that you do things with the bread is very little (hence me being able to put together four doughs in an hour and a half), it’s the rising that draws out the process. But if you’re studying anyway, it could make for a much-needed break.

    We will totally check out Marquet, as we are exactly the kind of people who would go to Brooklyn just for that.

  11. Jelena

    Hi. I love your site… the pictures are great and so are the recipes. My mom and I were wondering how you made the concentric circles on your pumpernickel bread?

  12. deb

    Jelena – The bread was molded in a bread proofing basket called a banneton. They’re used to dry out the crust a little, as well as just to make that pretty shape. They come either oval or round, usually, and it’s really just a matter of personal taste which you go for. The ones we used were made out of cane and we heavily, heavily floured them to keep the bread from sticking as it rose. (Basically, if you have extra flour you can always brush it off or it will fall off on iit’s own. If you have too little, you’re stuck, literally and figuratively.) If you get one, you shouldn’t wash it, just brush it out when you’re done. They’re often lined with linen, which is really nice but kind of fussier to take care of.

    By the way, I’m fairly certain that my ability to recite stuff like this is the reason I can’t remember what errand I absolutely must run tomorrow or else.

  13. Anne

    I am so glad that you were willing to share what you learned in your baking class. The “what-I-learned” hints are great! Good practical info that you learn my doing.

    I made this glorious pumpernikel bread today and it is wonderful. We are lucky to live driving distance from an old water-powered grain mill. I just happened to have fresh ground flours and corn meal in my freezer.

    A pot of chicken and vegetable soup and a freshly baked loaf of this wonderful bread – that’s good eating!

    Thanks again.

  14. robin

    did you ever get around to making the Russian Black Bread? i’m quite curious to see what sort of recipe you’ve got for it.

  15. deb

    Hi Dave — Just cleaned those marks up, an unfortunate result of not using clean HTML when one does a server migration!

    I added a note at the end with a link to a Russian Black Bread recipe I have made since that might be worth your consideration. This recipe is for a lightly-flavored pumpernickel, that one is for an abundantly flavorful darker bread, one I do admit is my current favorite. Happy choosing!

  16. vera

    Two years ago in past eastern Germany (Liepzig) I bought a bread at a local bakery. I asked for a good bread and I got a brownish bread, not too dark and not white. It was a huge loaf, soft but dense, which lasted for a whole week feeding two hungry people twice a day. I kept it on the kitchen table in brown paper and every day it tasted better (at least for the first five days). It was no doubt the best bread I have ever eaten, and I have visited all of Europe and in the USA.I am sure it was some kind of rye bread. Do you have any reciep of a bread like this?
    Iwill be so greatful to get it.
    vera

  17. caffeinatedfrog

    Hi! Seeing as this is my first time posting, I’ve got to say that your website is fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing all your recipes and know-how.
    The actual question is as to whether or not buckwheat flour could be used (1:1) in this recipe in place of the rye. Thank you!

    1. deb

      Buckwheat flour has almost no gluten in it, so it really works differently from other flours in bread. I’d recommend being cautious. If you’re feeling experimental, give it a try knowing that you might not have gluten’s bendiness to help you along (you can also use a gluten additive to compensate, but it may not be exactly the same). You might also try a smaller portion swapped the first time.

  18. caffeinatedfrog

    Thank you very much! I’ve just been trying to use this bag of it we have lying around, it’s proving to be difficult to find buckwheat recipes.

  19. Hi Deb! Thanks for this recipe, just wondering about a few substitutions I made and how they might affect the outcome of the loaf (it’s rising right now).

    I think I know that my AP flour, instead of unbleached AP flour will change the texture somewhat, and I used “Dark Rye” flour instead of “whole grain rye flour,” which I am assuming will be a difference in flavour and texture.

    However, since I just wanted to get this loaf made, I also used Blackstrap Molasses, and in the ingredients it said it sulphites in brackets. AND my cocoa powder said it “may contain” Alkali or salt.

    If you do have any insight into what those last 2 changes may yield, I’d love to learn. Thanks!

  20. Not having any whole wheat flour, I used 2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole grain rye flours (and Blackstrap Molasses). It was fantastic – thanks!

  21. Chris

    Deb,
    I’m new to bread making but I made several loafs of this over the weekend and had it come out a little too dense. I’m letting my mixer do the first knead but doing the second one by hand. Any suggestions?

    1. deb

      It might be a yeast issue or it might be that the loaves needed to rise longer. Sometimes — especially in a cooler kitchen, house or season — breads can take longer than they did when tested in, say, an overly warm restaurant kitchen. Maybe a little more “poofing” time will help next time?

  22. Chris

    Could be. My house runs about 68 but I’m heating my mixing bowl with warm water and keeping the bowl in water while the yeast proofs. I’m letting the bread rise in the oven with the light on. Maybe too much flour? Maybe my dough isn’t sticky enough.

    1. deb

      Chris — Too much flour could make it tough. It’s hard to feel comfortable with sticky doughs but if you can keep a hold on the mass, the stickier doughs do make more moist breads. Good luck. And oh, have you checked out the Black Bread? A tooon of ingredients but a very intense, flavorful and ridiculously delicious pumpernickel. Easily my favorite bread.

  23. Mike B

    A New Year’s Day success; the dough really came toghether nicely and the finished loaf’s texture was good – dense but not heavy. Mine was avec raisins and, relying upon “hand spritzing” (flicking water into the inferno with my fingers) during the first quarter hour of baking, the loaf sported an acceptably crisp but not overdone crust. The loaf, upon close inspection, more resembled a giant mushroom than a sphere as the bottom seemed to form a “foot;” it might be that I need a bit more work on the final shaping for the oven – I dunno.

  24. Rick Rasmussen

    Your work is a delight! I baked my second loaf of your Pumpernickel (w/raisins) recipe today with the following substitutions: Bread instead of all purpose flour; add 1/2 tsp ground ginger; increase cocoa to 1.5 TB; add 1.5 tsp. instant espresso; increase molasses to 3 TB. I found that cooking at 450 for 30 minutes brought the internal temp to 110-120, which was perfect.

    The result: I love your bread!

  25. Josh

    I just started cooking a couple of months ago for me and my friends (we’re all guys in our mid-20s) and for this coming cooking night we are doing a German theme. I decided I was going to try making my first bread ever!

    I just finished kneading in all the flour and the rest of the ingredients by hand, since I don’t have a Kitchenaid or a bread machine (took about 40 minutes) and it’s rising in the kitchen as I speak. I didn’t know bread making was such hard work! I hope it turns out well, thanks for this tasty looking recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out once it’s all said & done.

  26. I LOVE this bread. I only made it because someone gave me an imported bag of Bob’s Red Mill pumpernickle flour and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I’d never had a dark/rye bread that I liked. But I loved this bread SO much that I made it twice in a row and then decided its cute shape would be perfect for bread bowls! Back when my family-like close friends visited from another province a year and a half ago, I made a 2.5 batch and split it into 5 large soup bowls to rise. Home from an excursion on the town we made potato soup while they baked and it was PERFECTION on a frigid February day.

    I’m making the meal again today (despite the heat) for friends whose premie baby is still in the NICU – out of danger, but they’ve hardly seen or held her in the week since she was born :( Hopefully she can come home soon! Meanwhile I’m starting on my second bag of pumpernickle flour, and hoping a homecooked meal gives them a little spot of sunshine as they wait.

  27. Yup, it’s still great bread! This time it didn’t hold its structure as well as I’d hoped/remembered, so the bread-bowls deflated a lot when I flipped them them out of the soup bowls and onto the cutting board from which I could slide them into the oven. Maybe it’s because I used an extra half-cup of pumpernickel flour in my double-batch in place of some of the all-purpose flour? But they were still yummy and held soup, just a shallower dish of it. And yay, the baby should be able to come home in just a few more days, and her grandma arrived today from the States to help and get to know her! I’m so happy for them (and happy I packed an extra big serving of soup, and that the two loaves I brought were plenty of bread for 3 people if they don’t mind sharing). :D

  28. nika

    Hello. Thanks a lot for sharing nice recipes. I made bread yesterday and didn’t get so good one. I used even half a cup all-purpose flour less and dough still was too stiff. May be you have an idea how to help me to make my bread more “lively” )))Also in you bread recipes your never sift the flour that I thought oxygenate flour and help in rising process?

  29. Bridget

    Hi Deb!
    I tried to make this bread, twice & both times it hasn’t worked out. :,( I figured out that my first attempt failed because i misread the recipe and put in too much salt and too much flour. I tried it a second time and everything was working beautifully but when I took it out of the oven and tried it it was overly salty, very dense, and had a bitter after taste. What am I doing wrong?
    I did substitute regular cocoa for the non-alkalized stuff but I saw another commenter say that they did that with no problems…. help!?
    thanks,
    Bridget

  30. deb

    Hi Bridget — Ah, the salt. This recipe, like most baking recipes, presumes you’re using Kosher salt, which is something I specify clearly in recipes these days but didn’t when I shared this in 2006. If you used table salt (which is very fine), that would have made it way too salty. It definitely could benefit from more clarification. If it wasn’t the salt variety, you probably just want to halve it next time so its closer to your tastes. As for density, that can come from overrising (i.e. it proofed and then collapsed a bit) or underrising. Underrising could be the result of yeast that’s past its prime, or just needing longer than usual (which can happen in a colder kitchen).

    FWIW, I added a note on top of the recipe in 2008 and that while I like this one, I moved onto a Black Bread (i.e. extra-flavorful pumpernickel) in the years since that’s my favorite. It may be worth trying, if you’re too frustrated to try this one again.

  31. Bridget

    Thank you Deb!! I was not using kosher salt-I’m determined to make this bread turn out right so I’m going to try it once more with the right salt & more rise time. My husband has been anxiously awaiting this bread (by the way he’s Russian and name is ALSO Alex. LOL!)
    Thanks again!

  32. I can’t remember if I’ve posted this before, but this makes great* bread bowls! I made a triple batch today into 6 smaller loaves that I then hollowed out into bowls for myself and my dinner guests, with some homemade potato soup in them, and the cut-out scraps for dipping. Perfect!

    (*Just a little trickier to get into the oven – I use a non-preheated baking sheet because it’s just too dangerous/difficult to get all 6 onto a 500-degree piece of metal without them sliding too far and sticking to the side of the oven or scattering cornmeal all over the bottom of the oven or burning myself or possibly all three at once.)

  33. Janina

    Hey!
    I’m from Germany and Pumpernickel is german. It’s a bread grannies made when we were kids and when my parents were kids. It’s really traditional in the western and northern parts of Germany (I am from North-Germany) and nobody here would ever call a “white” bread Pumpernickel. It has to be black, black, black with whole grains in it and you only use rye – nothing else…

    More information:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpernickel

    A german recipe:
    http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/1036001208758578/Pumpernickel-wie-ich-ihn-mag.html

  34. Hi Deb,
    I made this bread yesterday. Everyone loved did, however, I was a little disappointed with my result. The bread was very dense (which I like), but did not get too big, it ended up being a boule of 6 inches x 5 inches high, is it the final size?
    I normally use a scale when measuring ingredients so I might have been heavy handed when using a measuring cup. Anyway here is what I did, and maybe you can figure out what happened.
    I dissolved the molasses in the water, then I added 7 gr of dried, recently purchased, yeast into it. I stirred it, and left it to start “activating”, for about 5 minutes or so.
    I poured it in my kitchen aid bowl, added the rest of ingredients. With the bread hook, I knead it for 5 minutes on low. It was cleared that it needed more water?? The boule looked like a brain. Anyway I left it as is, covered it and put it away to rise in a warmer area, hoping for the best. It never doubled in size. I followed step 3 and again it never really doubled.
    Any ideas…
    I love your recipes, and I will try your Dark Russian bread for sure.
    Thank you

  35. deb

    Hi Anita — Since you said that it was both dense and small, it sounds like it may not have fully proofed. Did it seem like it had doubled? Sometimes if your kitchen is cooler or the yeast is older/more sluggish, it can take longer. Rising times are mostly estimates. I must admit, though, that it’s been several years since I made this. I’ve since become taken with the other pumpernickel black bread I mention above the recipe, over here. It’s got a lot more flavor and a wonderful texture.