Unusual ingredients and technique resulted in tasty Pumpernickel Loaves. Dark, rich and chewy, the slices were delicious smeared in butter.
Looking at the ingredient list for pumpernickel loaves made me wonder who the heck came up with this combination! Prune butter, espresso, molasses and unsweetened chocolate? Prunes, apparently, are a natural preservative…plus all 4 help give the rich, dark color of the classic pumpernickel loaf. And as, Lauren Groveman, the contributing baker for this week’s Baking with Julia recipe stated, they also provide a dimension of flavor. And then hanging the loaves in a sling for the last rise? Definitely an odd bread making technique. This was going to get interesting.
Tips for Making an Authentic Pumpernickel Bread
I made the pumpernickel bread dough as directed, using my professional KitchenAid for the kneading. I left out the caraway, hoping that the hubby would at least sample more than one bite. During the first of three proofing periods, I hunted down the video of the PBS episode where Lauren demonstrates her method to Julia. It helped immensely. I made one loaf her way and braided the second. What I didn’t count on was forgetting to turn down the oven after 20 minutes…the timer went off, but I was fiddling with making apple turnovers and just reset the timer, but not the temperature.
Since I’ve finally graduated from the self taught Blog Photography 101 class, I was able to disguise a slightly blackened loaf in my photos. The insides tasted lovely with a creamy pat of butter, but the crust wasn’t especially edible. I don’t think I would have ever baked this variety of bread if not for the Tuesdays with Dorie group…it was good, and tasted exactly as pumpernickel should, but it’s not a bread I crave or have a desire to recreate again. And if you’re wondering, Bill just looked at the bread, but didn’t take the bait.
Curious about the sling? View the video on how to shape and bake these loaves here.
More Homemade Bread Recipes.
- 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing
- 2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature or, as a substitute, use tepid water (warm to the touch)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup prune lekvar (also called prune butter: available in most well-stocked supermarkets with jams and preserves)
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 1/2 squares (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, broken
- 2 tablespoons ground caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon fine table salt
- 2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- Pinch of sugar
- 3 1/2 cups coarse rye meal (if unavailable, substitute medium rye flour)
- Up to 6 cups high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting and shaping
- Glaze: 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- Topping: sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds (optional)
- Cornmeal (medium ground), for bakers peel
Brush an 8-quart bowl with melted butter and set aside to rise dough. Take out your pastry scraper, another large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, cubed butter, shortening, lekvar and molasses. Dissolve instant espresso in 1 cup boiling water and pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Add broken chocolate and melt chocolate in espresso over very low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Add to mixing bowl with powdered and whole caraway seeds and salt. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar until creamy and pour into mixing bowl along with the rye meal. Stir to combine well.
Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir in enough bread flour, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, until you create a mass that’s not easily stirred, but not dry. Turn the mass out onto a floured wooden board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface and hands.
In the beginning of the kneading process, this dough will feel quite “pasty” because of the rye flour. As always, use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off the board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.
When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in the buttered rising bowl. Cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough with several swift swats from the back of your hand to deflate dough totally. Turn over dough, cover and let rise again for 1 1/2 hours.
Turn out fully risen dough onto a lightly floured board and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the other half covered. Lay two clean kitchen towels on your counter and sprinkle them with bread flour. Roll dough half into a 7×10-inch rectangle. Starting at the short end farthest from you, roll dough toward you, pinching to seal as you go.
*Pinch to seal the ends and tuck under to attach to the bottom seam. Rotate and plump dough to finish shaping and place shaped loaf (seam side up) diagonally on a prepared towel. Form a sling by joining the corners of the towel farthest from the loaf. Secure the joined towel points within a closed drawer (in a quiet area) so the loaves hang undisturbed in their slings for 45 minutes.
While bread is rising, position the rack in the second or third lowest shelf in the oven and, if using a sheet of quarry tiles or a pizza stone, place it on the rack. On the rack below this, place a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan, which will preheat along with the tiles. Sprinkle a baker’s peel or a flat cookie sheet with cornmeal. Thirty minutes before the end of the rise, preheat oven to 450 degrees.
If not using tiles or a stone, brush or spray 1 or 2 large (preferably dark steel) shallow baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle interior with cornmeal. After mixing egg white and water, pour into a small medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove excess coagulation and any bubbles created while mixing. Place glaze next to your work surface.
Working with one loaf at a time, carefully release slings and gently turn out loaves from towels (smooth side up) onto the prepared baker’s peel or baking sheet at least 3 inches apart. Use your hands gently to plump loaf into a neat shape. Using a sharp serrated knife or a razor, slash tops of each loaf three times horizontally, going 1/3 inch deep into the dough. Using a pastry brush, paint tops and sides of loaves (excluding slashes) generously with glaze.
Just before inserting the dough into the hot oven, carefully pour ¾ cup warm water into the pan beneath the rack used to bake the loaves, then shut the door while you go get the loaves. If baking with tiles, insert the peel all the way to the back of the oven and with one swift jerk pull out the peel, leaving loaves on the hot tiles (preferably with three inches between them). If not using tiles or a stone, place loaves into the hot oven on their baking sheets as directed. Bake loaves at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool thoroughly before slicing, 2 to 3 hours.
Recipe from Baking with Julia.
Total time does not include proofing time.
*I shaped one loaf as written and for the second, I made 3 ropes from each half of the dough and braided them like a challah.