Easy Pumpernickel Bread

 

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.

You’ll Need:

  • 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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

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(Freshly Baked Pumpernickel Bread)

 

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Homemade Soft Pretzels

Pretzels are one of those things that look hard to make, but are actually really, really easy. And, to be honest, I don’t want to go to a shopping mall every time I want some warm soft pretzels. This recipe makes about 8 standard size pretzels.

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You’ll need: 1 1/2 cups warm water; 1 tbsp sugar; 2 tsp salt; 7 g dry yeast; 630 g flour; 50 g unsalted butter; 10 cups water; 2/3 cup baking soda; flaky salt

How to make this:

  1. Mix the 1 1/2 cups warm water and yeast to wake them up, then mix in the melted butter, flour, salt, and sugar, add more flour if the dough is too sticky
  2. Knead the dough by hand for 10 min, then let it sit for at least 1 hours
  3. Slice the dough into 8 equal pieces, stretch the dough into a 1 1/2 ft long rope, twist the two ends and fold it back to the center
  4. Mix the 10 cups of water and baking soda, then heat up the water to simmer, cook each pretzel for 1 min, then when it’s still wet, sprinkle on some salt
  5. Bake the pretzels for 10 min in a 205C/400F oven, brush on a layer of butter, then bake for another 5 min

Pain Perdu (French Toast) + Brioche Bread

This is going to be one of the heaviest recipes featured here, there’s going to be lots of sugar, butter & cream, and that usually results in a very, very high-calorie count. But don’t be afraid, we are going to do this properly, from scratch.

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First, the bread. Yes, you can just use normal sandwich bread, but those bread are bland & textureless, so, instead of that, we are going to use Brioche. It’s light and slightly puffy with a dark, golden, and flaky crust, which makes it perfect for this recipe, a bread that’s not too chewy, but can still hold its shape. I know that Brioche is often made with fruit or chocolate chip and served on its own, or served as a base for canapés, or soak it in syrup, and bake into a Bostock (which some claims to be better than French toast and they have a point), but trust me on this one, the result is worth the effort.

You’ll need these for the Brioche bread:

  • 500g flour
  • 3 eggs (2 eggs for bread & 1 egg for the egg wash)
  • 50g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 10g dry active yeast
  • 100g butter
  • 200mL milk

How to make this:

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in the sugar & salt, then cut the butter into small cubes & rub them into the flour, this will create the flaky crust on the outside
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, room temp milk, and yeast, then gradually add the liquid into the dry mixture, about 1/4 at a time. Then place the dough on a well-floured surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth, which takes about 5 to 7 min
  3. Place the dough in a sealed container and let it proof for about 2 hours or until it doubles in size, then punch it down, cut it into 3 equal portions, stretch them out and braid, and place it into a loaf tray. Cover it and let it proof again for another 45 min, or until the dough reaches the surface of the tray
  4. Brush on a layer of egg wash, then place it in a pre-heated 200C/390F degree oven for 20ish min, then let it cool for at least 20 min

 

So, 4 hours later, you have a loaf of the most beautiful bread among the 100+ types of bread out there, and your kitchen smells like what I imagine “happiness” is like, what are you going to do next? Well, the unfortunate truth is that you have to wait, about 6 hours to be exact. The reason why the French calls it “pain perdu” or “lost bread”, it’s because they used it as a way to reclaim stale or “lost” bread, let it absorb the egg and cream, pan-fried it in butter until it turns golden. So, just be patient, and wait until the loaf to slowly dry. And after 10 hours, let’s make some French toasts!

You’ll need these for the French Toasts:

  • about 10 slices 1-inch thick brioche bread
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cream
  • pinch of cinnamon & a tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp butter

How to make this:

  1. Whisk together the eggs & egg yolk with the sugar, vanilla extract, cream, cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt
  2. Place a butter in a pan over medium-low heat, soak the bread for about 2 sec then flip it and soak for another 2 sec
  3. Place the soaked bread on the pan, cook for about 2 min, flip and cook for another 2 min, sprinkle with some sugar, then repeat and cook each side for another 2 min, the total cook time should be around 8 to 10 min over medium-low heat
  4.  Serve it with powdered sugar, syrup or some fresh fruits

 

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(Brioche Bread)