The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Your favorite pumpernickel recipe!!

DrPr's picture

Your favorite pumpernickel recipe!!

What is "real" pumpernickel? I don't just want to make brown-colored bread.  I want the rich, moist, authentic (whatever that is) pumpernickel I remember from my childhood. I'd like to make it without commercial yeast, if possible.  Do any of you have any favorite pumpernickel recipes? If you do, can you also tell me what is special about the recipe (I have a lot to learn so any information you have is very helpful).

xaipete's picture

I don't know what "real" pumpernickel is are even if there is something considered "real", but I think it is usually dark, dense and heavy with rye. Leader, Reinhart, and Hamelman all have such recipes in their books. Do you have any of their books?


DrPr's picture

Hi, xaipete. Yes, there is "real" pumpernickel. The American kind isn't the same at all, hence some of the strange ingredients I've seen. I've seen one recipe by Reinhart. I'm hoping to find others that readers have had success with.

SulaBlue's picture

and it failed miserably. I'm -hoping- it has something to do with my oven being off, but I'm just not sure. The internal temperature did reach 200, but it was still wet and gummy inside. I -may- give it another go at some later date, but it's way on the back burner.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, DrPr.

There are two very different types of pumpernickel. The dense German type is one, and the lighter Jewish type is the other. The former is baked in a loaf pan, very slowly for a very long time. The latter is baked as a hearth loaf, either round or as a long loaf. Reinhart's recipe is for this type. The one in Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" is my favorite.

Which type do you want to bake?


DrPr's picture

I'd like to bake the German kind, but I've read a couple of reports of soggy messes, like the comment in this thread.  I'm a little nervous now but I guess it doesn't hurt to try.

hansjoakim's picture

If by "real" you mean "German", I'd suggest either the recipe in Hamelman's book, or the recipe given here (look at the photo - it looks stellar! The link gives you a google translation of a German forum, so pardon the English ;) ).

DrPr's picture

Ha- the English is pretty amusing, but you're right, the results of the recipe look fantastic!

frelkins's picture

The important thing to remember about pumpernickel is that it began as a bread for the very poor. It was the cheapest bread, made of the coarsest possible flour (rye meal, rye chops), filled with left-over stale bread that had been re-soaked (free & saves on fresh water, as the bread usually doesn't require any added water beyond what the soaked bread holds after squeezing - it can even be soaked in leftover coffee), usually without sweetners of any kind (too expensive), made with sourdough (yeast being also expensive), and "steamed" in its own liquid in last heat of a cooling oven after everything else useful had been baked.

Looked at from a waste-nothing peasant perspective, pumpernickel is all good. That it tastes great, smells incredible, and marries perfectly with ham and blue cheese is a plus. Of course as time goes on, even Westphalian peasants become more affluent (go civilization!) and they can afford to add sweeteners (honey, molasses), some wheat flour, and even flavoring spices (caraway, coriander, cocoa, coffee). Over time they no longer treasure the pumpernickel for its cheapness but for its wonderful compatibility wth pork and strong farm cheeses. So how do we bake this today?

Findng high-quality rye meal is very difficult nowadays - even King Arthur has pretty much stopped selling it. And this is a pity, esp. as recent science (e.g. has shown that rye has unique properties that promote heart health, insulin regulation, and weight loss - just in case you always wondered how Germans and Scandinavians can eat so many high-fat pork products and yet remain relatively slender and healthy! Because they used to eat mainly whole grain rye breads of various types.

What's interesting is that rye has a lot of natural fructose (fruit sugar) of a type called fructans. Wheat has about 4% of these, but rye has almost double that, about 7%. It's these sugars that allow the distinctive crust and color of pumpernickel to emerge during the long steaming. Properly slow-steamed pumpernickel wlll turn very dark on its own, as the crust fructans caramelize (fructose caramelizes at 230F), and the crumb undergoes intense Maillard reactions.

To ensure this, the baking process should be anywhere from 16-24 hours. And because high-percentage rye breads will tend to gum up from the pentosans, a long maturation period of 24-36 hours before cutting will allow the crumb to equalize and develop.

With all this background, we can evaluate recipes more wisely. The Hamelman recipe is easy to make, no doubt, for an experienced rye-sourdough baker. The dough will be too hydrated to shape and sticky, so you'll just plop it in the pan.

Don't add flour, and you shouldn't need to add water if the old bread and grain berries have been soaked long enough. I didn't think it necessary to mix for 10 mins. by stand mixer, despite what Hamelman said - it looked great to me after 8 mins with the Kitchen Aid.

A baking stone makes his turn-the-oven off method pretty much foolproof, since it retains heat so well. I found that of course if you have dark steel pans you need to lower the temperatures and the overall time.

For example, the first time I made this bread in my dark steel pans, the bread was done (reached an internal temperature of 202F) in 10 hours when they sat on the baking stone. I didn't have proper Pullman pans, so I used a Danish baking technique and just wrapped the pans in 3 layers of parchment and tied them up tight with cooking twine, like a beef roast! 

Altho' I had blocked off the day for baking, of course life caught up with me, and it was 11:30pm before loaded the fully-proofed and mummy-wrapped loaves into the oven. By the time I was finished lowering the oven as Hamelman suggests, it was like 1:30am. I crashed in exhaustion.

So there I was totally conked out, when I was startled awake by the most intense, delicious smell, which saturated the entire house to the second floor. This is just as Hamelman describes - he says you'll know the bread is done when it completely and overwhelming fills your space.

It smells amazingly like the most delicious caramel candy with a hint of licorice (from the molasses). You will have to open your windows to get rid of it, and then your neighbors will notice. I have never baked such a wonderful and intensely perfumed bread. It was 9:30am on Sunday morning.

I let them mature for 24 hrs (I think another 8 would have been better actually) before slicing. This resulted in a mahogany-brown loaf ( If I had lighter-colored pans, they could have baked more slowly and become darker from even more Maillard.

Note that with Hamelman's method, the bread spends plenty of time above 230F, so the crust can get a nice color even in a proper light-n-shiny Pullman pan. My crust was harder and thicker than it would have been in a proper Pullman, too.

Experimentation is necessary to get the maximum bake time for the darkest color without overbaking or drying out the loaves. Nonetheless, the Hamelman method gave me delicious pumpernickel on the first try.

Tastewise I thought the Hamelman recipe had too much molasses, resulting in a strong black licorice flavor my Scandinavian boyfriend loved, but which I thought made the bread suitable only for ham.

The next time I used a Danish recipe by a popular chef named Claus Meyer, who put out a great bread book of Scandinavian and other breads in 2009. His recipe calls for honey and cocoa, not for color, but flavor. Being Danish, he also adds coriander, caraway, fennel and anise. These additions are not "cheats," they are traditional Scandinavian tastes.

Meyer's baking method is interesting - he calls for a full 24-hour bake. Unlike the Hamelman method, he begins with the oven at 140C (about 280F) for 2 hours, and then reduces the heat to 100C (212F) for 22 hours. I was skeptical about this method - he also advocates light-colored pans with the mummy-wrap - but after reading several Danish websites that said this Meyer method worked, I tried it.

This will give you espresso-dark bread with sweet and spicy flavors that I'd prefer to the Hamelman recipe now - altho as my boyfriend loves the licorice taste, we will next time marry the two together and use blackstrap molasses, but less of it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I went over there and ended up helping out with their translation.  So I hope some of the translations will get better soon. 

It is interesting to point out that the next day, after the loaves had cooled they are unwrapped and placed again in a warm oven to dry out.  That would contribute greatly to the darker caramel color and dryer texture so desired and sought after. 


Davo's picture

There's a 100% rye recipe here - not claiming to be "pumpernickel" and a bit of discussion in the thread about pumpernickel. The recipe doesn't give a prove time but I used 2-3 hours, and it worked.

benjaminfrey's picture

Please try this link for a real Geraman Pumpernickel.

Katherine Kelly's picture
Katherine Kelly

I'm trying to figure out how much is a Danish speck.  One website says "a pinch" another says 2/3 of a teaspoon another says 1/32 of a teaspoon!  the recipe calls for both wet and dry, it is hard for me to picture a pinch of honey or syrup, or, for that matter, 1/32 of a teaspoon of either of them. 

2 spsk.   salt / Salt
3 spsk. honning / Honey
2 spsk. mørk sirup / Dark   syrup


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven