Pumpernickel is a heavy, slightly sweet bread made with rye. It’s soft and tender, and perfect for winter weather. Even though traditional German style Pumpernickel contains no coloring agents, and during baking, a process known as the Maillard reaction produces the deep brown color, sweet, dark chocolate, coffee flavor, and earthy aroma that Pumpernickel is known for. But in order to achieve this, the loaves have to be baked in long narrow covered pans for 16 to 24 hours in a super low-temperature (about 120 °C or 250 °F) and allow the steam to slowly cook it in the oven. If you want to check it out, the Youtube channel Great Big Story made a video called Baking Bread with Lava in Iceland, talking about a similar tradition in Iceland. However, what we are making today is a much easier version of it with almost a very similar flavor and texture profile, with the addition of wheat flour, at a higher baking temperature, and a dramatically shortened baking time.
- 360 g (or 3 cups) bread flour
- 160 g (or 1.5 cups) dark rye flour
- 50 g (or 0.5 cup) cornmeal
- 25 g (or 0.25 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 470 mL (or 2 cups) whole milk
- 60 mL (or 0.25 cup) molasses
- 3 g (or 1 tsp) kosher salt
- 20 g (or 1.5 tbsp) dark brown sugar
- 10 g (or 1 tbsp) active dry yeast
- 45 g (or 3 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened (plus more for greasing)
How to make this:
- In a large glass bowl, whisk together the bread flour with the rye flour, cornmeal, cocoa powder, and salt. (This is the dry mix, notice we didn’t add the sugar to the mixture because in baking, sugar is usually considered to be apart of wet mix)
- Heat up the whole milk in a cream pan until it reaches about 40 °C or 204 °F. Mix the brown sugar and the yeast into the full milk and let it stand at room temperature until it gets a little foamy, which takes about 5 minutes. (In this process, we add the sugar to the warm milk so that we can provide an ideal environment for the yeast to do its thing)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast mixture with the molasses until it mixes together evenly at low speed. Then add the dry ingredients to the bowl and continue mixing at moderately low speed until the dough begins to clean the sides of the bowl, which takes about 6 minutes. And finally, add the softened butter and increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the butter is incorporated and the dough is sticking to the hook, about 6 minutes more. (The dough at this point will look kinda greasy)
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and it springs back to the touch, it takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Then transfer the dough to a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1.5 hour.
- Pat the dough down, then place it in a lightly butter a loaf pan, and cover it an let it rises for another 3o min. When the dough is at its final rise, preheat the oven to 190°C or 375°F. Then bake the pumpernickel bread for about 35 minutes, until the crust is dark brown. Let the bread sit for more 10 minutes outside the oven in the loaf pan, then carefully remove the bread from the loaf pan and let cool completely (1 hour or longer).
- Optional: I like to sprinkle on some rolled oats before baking to add a nice crunch on the crust. You can add almost any crushed nuts into the dough but always soak them in water before adding them, to the dough.
(Freshly Baked Pumpernickel Bread)