My Citizens, your beloved leader – The Omniscient TFD! – is on a mission to preserve the finest old bread recipes and this is one of the oldest and the best! 🙂
Pumpernickel is a typically heavy, slightly sweet rye bread traditionally made with sourdough starter and coarsely ground rye. It is often made today with a combination of rye flour and whole rye berries.
At one time it was traditional peasant fare, but largely during the 20th century various forms became popular through delicatessens and supermarkets. Present-day European and North American pumpernickel differ in several characteristics, including the use of additional leaveners, and, in North America, coloring and flavoring agents, the addition of wheat flour, higher baking temperature, and a dramatically shortened baking time.
Pumpernickel has been long associated with the Westphalia region of Germany, first referred to in print in 1450. Although it is not known whether this and other early references refer to precisely the bread that came to be known as Pumpernickel, Westphalian pumpernickel is distinguished by use of coarse rye meal and a very long baking period, which gives the bread its characteristic dark color. Like most traditional all-rye breads, pumpernickel is traditionally made with an acidic sourdough starter, which preserves dough structure by counteracting highly active rye amylases. That method is sometimes augmented or replaced in commercial baking by adding citric acid or lactic acid along with commercial yeast.
Traditional German Pumpernickel contains no coloring agents, instead relying on the Maillard reaction to produce its characteristic deep brown color, sweet, dark chocolate, coffee flavor, and earthy aroma. To achieve this, loaves are baked in long narrow lidded pans 16 to 24 hours in a low-temperature (about 120 °C or 250 °F), steam-filled oven. Like the French pain de mie, Westphalian pumpernickel has little or no crust. It is very similar to rye Vollkornbrot, a dense rye bread with large amounts of whole grains added.
While true Pumpernickel is produced primarily in Germany, versions are popular in the Netherlands, under the name roggebrood, where it has been a common part of the diet for centuries, and in Denmark where rugbrød is a staple. German pumpernickel is often sold sliced in small packets in supermarkets, where it may be paired with caviar, smoked salmon, sturgeon, and other expensive products on an hors d’oeuvres tray.
A separate pumpernickel tradition has developed in North America, however, where coloring and flavoring agents such as molasses, coffee, and cocoa powder are added to approximate the shades and taste of traditional German pumpernickel. Bakers there often add wheat flour to provide gluten structure and increase rising and commercial yeast to quicken the rise compared to a traditional sourdough. As a result, and for economic reasons, they tend to eschew the long, slow baking characteristic of German pumpernickel, resulting in a loaf that but for color otherwise resembles commercial North American rye bread.
The philologist Johann Christoph Adelung states that the word has an origin in the Germanic vernacular where “pumpern” was a New High German synonym for being flatulent, and “Nickel” was a form of the name Nicholas, commonly associated with a goblin or devil (e.g. “Old Nick”, a familiar name for Satan), or more generally for a malevolent spirit or demon.
Hence, pumpernickel means “devil’s fart”, a definition accepted by the publisher Random House, and by some English language dictionaries, including the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary adds “so named from being hard to digest”. A variant of this explanation is also given by the German etymological dictionary Kluge that says the word pumpernickel is older than its usage for the particular type of bread, and may have been used as a mocking name for a person of unrefined manners (“farting Nick”) first. The change of meaning may have been caused by its use as a mocking expression for the (in the eyes of outsiders) unrefined rye bread produced by the Westphalian population.
Citizens, you will delight in this rustic loaf and it makes for a spectacular deli sandwich – I truly hope you will try this unmatched recipe, which includes the European baking tradition of using “Altus”, actual bread mixed in the dough to aid in texture and flavor.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- Warm water – 1 cup – 240 gms
- Yeast – 1 pkg active dry – 7.5 gms instant
- Rye sour – 1 cup – 250 gms
- Altus – 1 cup
- Pumpernickel color – 1 tablespoon caramel color
- Common (First Clear) flour – 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups – 350-400 gms
- Pumpernickel flour – 1 cup – 115 gms
- Salt – 1 tablespoon – 8 gms
- Cornstarch solution (see below)
- Rye Sour: DMSnyder’s adaptation of Greenstein’s Rye Sour:
- Stage 1:
- 50 gms of Rye sour refreshed with 100 gms water and 75 gms rye flour
- Stage 2:
- All of the Stage 1 starter
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup rye flour
- Stage 3:
- All of the Stage 1 starter
- ½ cup of water
- 1 cup of rye flour
- Mixing (by hand. See Note below for mixing with a stand mixer.)
- In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water to soften; stir to dissolve. (If using instant yeast, mix it with the flour, don’t dissolve it. Add the water to the rye sour and mix.) Add the rye sour, altus (if desired), pumpernickel color, pumpernickel flour, 2 ½ cups of common flour, and salt. Mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed. Make the dough a bit stiffer than normal, since this dough softens as it is kneaded. Knead the dough until it feels smooth and silky (5-8 minutes).
- Note: I mix in a KitchenAid mixer. I put all the ingredients in the bowl and, using the paddle, mix well at Speed 1. Scrape the dough off the paddle and replace it with the dough hook. Knead at Speed 2 for about 8-10 minutes. If you do not use altus, the dough should form a ball on the hook and clean the sides of the bowl. With altus, even when an additional 50 gms of flour is added, the dough does not clean the bowl. I then hand knead until the dough is smooth and silky.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
- Shaping & Proofing
- Punch out all the air, cut in half and shape into rounds, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Shape into round loaves, long loaves or pan loaves. If baking free form, place the two loaves on a baking sheet sprinkled with coarse cornmeal. (Or on parchment paper if baking on a stone, which I prefer.) Cover and proof until doubled in size. (About 90 minutes, or more depending on room temperature). Brush with cornstarch solution. Score the loaves across if long dock them if round. If using caraway, sprinkle seeds on the top of the loaves.
- Bake with steam in a preheated 375F oven until tapping the bottom of the loaf produces a hollow sound (30-45 minutes). The internal temperature should be at least 190F. If the crust seems soft, bake 5-10 minutes more. (The crust should be very firm when you take the loaves out of the oven. It will soften as the bread cools.)
- Note: I use a pizza stone for baking free form loaves. I heat it at least 1 hour before baking. I produce steam by preheating a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks in the oven along with the stone and, right after putting my loaves in, pouring 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet. Be careful you don’t scald yourself with the steam!
- After baking, place on a rack to cool and brush again with the cornstarch solution. Let cool thoroughly before slicing and eating.
- This type of pumpernickel is one of the breads we always had in the house when I was a child. I usually ate it un-toasted, spread with cream cheese. My grandmother ate it spread with sour cream. I think this pumpernickel is especially good with smoked fish or herring, and it is my favorite bread to eat with scrambled eggs.
- Notes on ingredients:
- Rye sour: This is a rye sourdough starter. You can make it from scratch. You also can easily convert a wheat flour sourdough starter to a rye sour by feeding a small amount of your existing starter with rye flour and refreshing it a couple of times.
- Altus: This is “old” rye bread cut into small pieces, soaked in water until saturated and wrung out. It was originally a way for bakers to re-use bread they hadn’t sold. “Waste not. Want not.” However, it does make for a more tender and flavorful bread and has become traditional. It is optional. I keep hunks of leftover rye bread in a plastic bag in my freezer to use as altus.
- Pumpernickel color: This is really optional but is necessary to give the “black” color expected of pumpernickel. It also gives the bread a subtle bitter undertone without which it just doesn’t taste “right.” You can use 1 tablespoon of powdered caramel color, instant espresso coffee or cocoa powder. I use powdered caramel coloring from King Arthur’s Baker’s Catalogue.
- Pumpernickel flour: This is whole grain, coarsely ground rye flour. You can use dark rye flour, but it won’t be quite the same. I get pumpernickel flour from King Arthur’s Baker’s Catalogue. Like other whole grains, it will spoil in time. I keep it in my freezer in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag.
- Common flour: This is also known as first clear flour. Its definition gets into esoteric grain milling stuff, but it is necessary for authentic Jewish rye breads, including pumpernickel. It also makes wonderful sourdough breads as a substitute for bread flour or a mix of white and whole wheat flours. I get First Clear flour from King Arthur’s Baker’s Catalogue.
- Cornstarch solution: Mix 1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch in ¼ cup cold water. Pour this into 1 cup of gently boiling water in a sauce pan, whisking constantly. Boil until slightly thickened. Set aside. It can be kept refrigerated for a few days in a sealed jar or covered bowl.
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