The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Westfalian Pumpernickel

gutschke's picture

Westfalian Pumpernickel

I grew up in Westfalia and miss eating "proper" Pumpernickel bread every once in a while. I finally hunted down a recipe that comes really close to what I want. And by the standards of this website, it turns out to quite easy to make. Given that it is an all-rye dough, it doesn't even require kneading. It's almost a quick-bread, if it wasn't for the long soaking times.

The only real challenge is the long baking time; in order to make that practical and economical, it makes sense to bake a big loaf -- and that requires both a big loaf pan and a big mixer. Or you could work in batches. As far as baking forms goes, you can always improvise. Due to the low temperatures, almost any ceramic, glass or metal container works, as long as it can be covered. And it is critical that all steam is trapped while baking.

I translated the German recipe to English and made a couple of minor adjustments for American ingredients. I also included links for some of the harder-to-find ingredients/tools. If you want to print the recipe, feel free to download the PDF or HTML version.


350grye meal
50gsourdough culture
200grye berries
350gcracked rye
350grye meal
120gsunflower seeds
3 Tbsprolled rye
1 Tbspwater

Combine rye meal, water and sourdough culture and let rest at room temperature for 16 to 18 hours.

Combine rye berries with 200ml boiling water and let rest over night. The next day, add another 600ml of water, bring to a boil, and simmer at low heat for about one our. Discard excess water.

Combine cracked rye with water and let stand over night.

Combine all ingredients, except for the rolled rye and mix thoroughly. Then let rest for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle 13" Pullman bread pan with rolled rye and transfer dough to pan. Push dough to the side and sprinkle rolled rye on sides or loaf; then firmly pat down dough. Brush top of dough with water and sprinkle remaining rolled rye on top of loaf. Cover and let rest for another two to three hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Seal bread pan in an oven bag and bake for 14 hours. After the first hour, reduce heat to 250°F.

Let rest inside of covered bread pan for at least 24 hours before serving.

Slice thinly. Can be frozen for up to six months.

dabrownman's picture

You made my German apprentice's day - she wants to pumperize everything!

Well done and happy baking

tea berries's picture
tea berries

I sure would love to taste this - it looks fantastic! Well done :)

clazar123's picture

That is a substantial bread and with that amount of molasses it is very high in iron and other blood building nutrients! I used to have an elderly German neighbor  the chided us for eating white bread-she would love this one. She used to say, "The whiter the bread, the sooner your dead". This was in 1960 and she was 85! She was healthy and had all her teeth. Of course to eat this lovely, toothsome bread she would have to !

Thank you for sharing the recipe and a few questions.

Are the sunflower seeds raw or roasted?

Does the sourdough culture need to be a rye based or can it be wheat based?

Should the Pullman pan be covered and will that contain enough steam without the baking bag? That is a long bake!

 Does this dough rise to double at all?( A covered Pullman pan consideration as to how much dough to put in the pan.)

mycroft's picture

"The whiter the bread, the sooner your dead".

that's going into my  books of bread quotes! :D

and that wonderful loaf of pumpernickel is just absolutely gorgeous! 14 hours! hats off to you! :D


gutschke's picture

I used sprouted and roasted sun flower seeds, because I happened to have those at hand. But I suspect it probably doesn't make much of a difference. The bread turns a rich dark color due to the slow baking process. And it acquires quite a bit of flavor during that time. As always, toasting the seeds can't hurt, but it probably doesn't result in a noticeably different flavor. The long baking time is (almost) equivalent to roasting.

The final loaf weighs just over 6 lbs. Out of all these ingredients, the 50g sour dough culture is a relatively small amount. While the purist in me says that you should be using a rye starter, in practice it doesn't make any difference. And in fact, on my last bake, I used a normal white starter culture. Within a few hours of adding it to the rye meal, it was bubbling vigorously. My starter loves all that tasty rye.

The dough rises a little bit during proofing, but nowhere close to doubling. Without any gluten and with all those heavy whole grains, there really isn't any potential for that much gain. This works out nicely, because it means my loaf pan fits perfectly. Before proofing, there is just shy of an inch of space at the top. After proofing, it doesn't quite spill out of the pan yet. So, the lid still fits nicely.

I suspect there probably is some amount of initial oven spring. But I wouldn't be able to tell, as I baked with the lid covering the pan. In any case, after baking for more than half a day, the loaf actually shrinks a little bit. Something on the order of a quarter or maybe half an inch is lost in each dimension. This means, the loaf comes out of the pan very easily after it has rested.

It also explains why some people decide to bake pumpernickel in pickling jars. As long as the top of the jar is roughly the same dimension as the rest, the loaf easily slides out later. You can leave the lid on the jar to trap the steam; just don't seal it until the end of the baking time, so that you don't build up a dangerous amount of pressure. If after baking you seal the jar while it is still hot, it forms a vacuum and you can store the bread for a long time. I have never tried this, but apparently, the low baking times are even compatible with the rubber seals, so you can leave them in during baking.

The original German recipe suggests tightly wrapping the loaf pan in aluminum foil. I tried this and found that I still lost too much steam. I now use the covered loaf pan which I slide into an oven bag. The results are much better. I would strongly suggest doing that, if at all possible. Also, while it is hard to resist trying a slice or two after the bake is finished, it'll not do the bread justice. At this time, the inside is a little too moist, and the outside is a little too tough and rubbery. But after resting inside of the covered pan for 24h, moisture spreads evenly and the bread is ready to eat. During this time, it is OK to remove the oven bag; the bag is not needed once the bread has started cooling down.

Oh, and oven bags are a little on the pricey side; so, feel free to reuse them.

Not all recipes seem to add molasses, as theoretically the browning of the seeds makes it unnecessary. I find that more than 100g of molasses is a little over-powering. But up to 100g does a really good job of rounding out the flavor profile. And it is definitely a traditional ingredient in Westfalia, where it is referred to as "Rübenkraut" and often used as a spread on bread.



gerhard's picture

Rübenkraut and molasses look the same but have a much different flavour, Rübenkraut seems sweeter to me and has a much more subtle taste.  I like Pumpernickel with either cheese, Pflaumenmus or Rübenkraut as a topping.  I think traditionally the Pumpernickel was baked in wooden boxes.


gutschke's picture

I have to concede that point. Gerhard, you are of course right, American molasses isn't exactly the same as Rübenkraut. I suspect, with genuine Rübenkraut, you could go higher than 100g and still not notice any bitter overtones. With molasses it's a bit of a trade-off. You want the caramelized flavors, but you don't want the harsher flavors that come with it. Unfortunately, I don't have a good source for the "real" stuff, so I need to carefully balance the amount of molasses. In the end, it works out pretty well, though.

Talking to my parents, they tell me that they still remember buying traditionally-made pumpernickel at the bakers. These days, that's unfortunately difficult to find. Most pumpernickel is industrially made, even in the heart of Westfalia (i.e. in Münster and its neighboring towns and villages).

They don't remember wooden boxes, but I am not at all surprised hearing about those. That certainly makes sense in light of the fact that my parents said traditional loaves were often at least three feet (1 meter) long. They also said that baking temperatures were quite low, often using residual or waste heat from the main baking process. And they do remember that a lot of steam was involved. I vaguely recall seeing pumpernickel-shaped holes in traditional wood burning ovens at farm houses, but I wish I knew more about the traditional process. In particular, I am still puzzled by how the high amount of steam was maintained. But maybe, it really was as simple as having tightly fitting boxes.

If anybody here has details, please chime in. I am quite curious. Next time I am in Germany, maybe I'll visit some old farms and see if I can find out more.

gerhard's picture

I just did a quick search and found this link of a Pumpernickel loaf being loaded into an oven, it doesn't say that the form is made of wood but it does look wooden to me.


eatalready's picture

This looks amazing. My first (and so far the only) attempt at genuine Pumpernickel resulted in very rich, dark chocolate quality bread, but it kept falling apart and that drove me insane. I have to try your version. It looks fantastic!

Where do you get rolled rye? Is there a way to make it at home?

gutschke's picture

Rolled rye is the one ingredient that is in principle completely optional. It doesn't really contribute to the flavor, but it IMHO just looks nicer. So, if you can buy it from your usual baking supply resource, go for it; but if you can't easily find it, you can leave it out.

I usually just place an order with every couple of months. They have a couple of specialty flours and grains that are otherwise hard to find. Prices are OK'ish and quality is fine too, but shipping is expensive. And of course, their selection is somewhat random; I can find some things that I need, but not everything.

I usually place a bulk order of a couple of different items. Among other things, I find, some of the multi-grain cereals make excellent additions to my sourdough breads. And I always need semolina flour for various things.

As for making rolled rye yourself, I am sure there is some way to do so. But unless you have a regular need for fresh-made rolled grains, it is likely more cost effective to just buy the occasional ready-made product. As far as I can tell, you won't be able to roll grains, unless you invest in a roller mill -- and those all look quite expensive.


clazar123's picture

If you have a large organic grocery store in your area they have a multitude of rolled grains in the bulk bins.

Melesine's picture

Thank you for posting the recipe, it's just what I've been looking for. I can't wait to try it once I get some rye berries.