Word of Mouth: Pumpernickel

updated May 2, 2019
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Pumpernickel, noun – An incredibly dense and strongly flavored dark bread made with a blend of coarse and fine rye flour originating in Germany.

We love the heartiness and deep, almost bitter flavor of pumpernickel bread, especially with a little sharp cheese melted over the top! Making an authentic loaf of pumpernickel is one of our winter goals, plus we think it would look lovely on our Thanksgiving table!

Do you like pumpernickel bread? Ever made it yourself?

Authentic pumpernickel bread is made using a rye sourdough starter and very little or no additional yeast. Loaves are then baked at a very low temperature until they turn dark dark brown – sometimes even up to 24 hours! This long cooking slowly caramelizes all the sugars and gives the loaves their distinct earthy, bittersweet flavor. This is the maillard reaction at its best!

But if we don’t quite feel like hovering near our ovens for an entire day, there are a few shortcuts. Many modernized recipes use ingredients like molasses, brewed coffee, and cocoa powder to approximate the color and flavor of the slow-baked loaves.

Nothing quite duplicates the tang of real sourdough, though. One of our favorite bread books, Local Breads by Daniel Leader, has a great recipe for rye sourdough starter that we think we’ll attempt.

And do you know where the name “pumpernickel” comes from? Apparently the heartiness of this bread used to cause quite a bit of intestinal distress because from what we understand, the name comes from the German words pumpern, referring to “intestinal wind,” and nickel, meaning “demon or sprite.”

Have you ever made pumpernickel bread? Any advice?