The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Dark Rye with Raisins & Sunflower Seeds

Franko's picture

Dark Rye with Raisins & Sunflower Seeds

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through some pamphlets and brochures that my friend breadsong had picked up at the IBIE Expo in Las Vegas this past October and had thoughtfully sent on to me to have a look at. One of the brochures, put out by the California Raisin Marketing Board, had a number of interesting looking recipes in it, all having raisin paste as one of the ingredients in the mix, with a recipe submitted by Craig Ponsford looking particularly good. The bread, a Pumpernickel, used raisin paste, whole macerated raisins, rye sour (as well as instant yeast) along with the other usual ingredients one finds in a Pumpernickel type bread. Well OK, this sounds tasty, lets give it a try I thought. Other than the raisin paste, all the other ingredients I already had in stock but figured I could use my meat grinder to make a raisin paste with, instead of trying to track down a commercial product. With a pass through the coarse plate and another through the fine plate, the meat grinder did a fine job of rendering the raisins and in a few minutes I had a thick, dark mass of paste to use in the mix.

I followed Mr. Ponsford's formula, sticking to his percentages and procedure with the exception of including the instant yeast he calls for, wanting to use only a natural leaven for the mix. The loaf came out of the oven looking pretty good I thought but I wasn't thrilled with the texture or the flavour.

 I'm not sure if I made an error somewhere along the line or if this was the way the bread was meant to be. Whatever the case I decided to have another go at it but with a completely different approach from the original formula and procedure.

No doubt that in Ponsford's skillful hands this is a very good loaf of bread, but my first attempt at making it convinced me I needed to try another path to arrive at the flavour I expect from a Pumpernickel type bread. Still, I liked the idea of including raisin flavour in mix, feeling the sweet/sour combination held a lot of promise for the very complex and deep flavours I associate with Pumpernickel. Having made Jeffrey Hamelman's Horst Bandel Black Pumpernickel a few times in the past and enjoying the flavours that result from the long descending bake that he uses, that seemed like a good starting point for the next bake. 

With Ponsford's inspiration and the Hamelman/Bandel method in mind, along with a sponge technique for high rye breads that I picked up from Andy/ananda during my visit with him this past Summer, a formula started taking shape that I hoped would deliver the rich flavour of a slow baked rye bread with the added flavour factor of dried fruit. The percentage of raisin paste was increased from Ponsford's formula and sunflower seeds were added to the mix, as well as to top the loaf with. At the last minute I decided to macerate the whole raisins in amber rum instead of water to try and squeeze more flavour into the mix and jazz it up a bit.

When final mixing was complete, the dough/paste had a 40 minute bulk fermentation, then panned in a Pullman tin and on to a final rise of just around 2 hours. Total baking time was 13 hours, the first 4 hours of which were at relatively high temperatures starting at 400F and gradually descending to 340F where it stayed for 2 hours. Just before going to bed that night the temperature was dropped to 180F and the Pullman tin (lid on) was placed on a broiling rack over a shallow roasting pan partially filled with hot water. Then a deep roasting pan was placed over top of that to hold as much steam in as possible and off to bed I went. One of the things I like the most about these extended bakes is the lovely aroma that greets you when you wake up the next morning. It's difficult to describe the scent accurately but think caramel and fruit, and for anyone who's baked a similar type of bread they'll have a good idea of what I'm talking about. 

Once I'd removed the pan from the oven and slid the lid back I could tell immediately that the loaf was well baked as the sides had receded from the pan, and the colour was very dark but with no hint of the odour from over-baking. The loaf slid straight out of the pan with out any coaxing as well, and that's usually a pretty good sign that things have gone they way they should have.

 Next came the part I like least about making these breads and that's the long waiting period for the crumb to set up before taking the first slice, in this case more than 50 hours. What I found when I made the first cut however was ample reward for having waited so long.

This is easily the best tasting pumpernickel style bread I've made to date, no exceptions. The loaf is moist, but thoroughly baked out, leaving no smear on the knife when it's sliced other than from the whole raisins in the mix. The crust yields easily to the knife and the bread slices like a firm cheese, allowing very thin slices to be taken. The sweet/sour balance leans slightly towards the sweet side because of the raisins and needs a bit more sour next time I make it, but as it is the flavour profile is deep and complex. The initial texture is smooth but then it has some bite to it from the whole grains and sunflower seeds, giving it a variety of sensations and flavours as it's eaten, making for a very satisfying eating experience. The only two accompaniments I've had this bread with so far have been butter and a sharp old cheddar, but it's every bit as enjoyable just on it's own, the flavour is that good. Apparently a benefit to using raisins in a bread mix that I found on the California Raisin Marketing Board's website is their ability to inhibit the growth of mold because they “contain a naturally occurring organic acid called propionic acid”. This is good to know, but somehow doubt this loaf will be around long enough for mold to ever become an issue.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow bread-heads in the USA.



Link to Formula 

Link to Procedure


Dark Rye with Raisins and Sunflower Seeds%Kilos/Grams
Enter desired loaf weight in yellow cell.  
Pumpernickel Rye Meal20.00%8.56
Rye Flour -dark80.00%34.22
Mature Rye Starter-100%3.00%1.28
Total weight173.00%74
ripen for 12-15hrs at 75F  
Rye Meal Soaker  
Pumpernickel Rye Meal100.00%34
Soak overnight.  
Whole Rye Grain Soaker  
Whole Rye Grain100.00%69
Soak overnight, drain and simmer in enough fresh water to cover.  
Cook till soft. Drain and cool. The grains should be moist, not wet, and   
there will be extra left over that can be frozen for later use.  
Whole Wheat Flour100.00%102
Rye Meal Soaker72.72%74
Whole Rye Grain Soaker135.00%137
DDT 75F Bulk Ferment for 3 -4 hours at 75-78F.  
Final Dough 1350
Rye Flour -dark100.0%298
Raisin Paste33.0%98
Mixed Raisins32.0%95
Amber Rum *note* macerate raisins overnight with rum.11.1%33
Sunflower Seeds44.0%131
Sea Salt3.7%11
Total weight453.4%1350
DDT 78-82F Bulk Ferment for 30-45 minutes. Final proof for 1.5-2.0 hrs.  
See Procedure for baking times and temperatures.  
Overall Formula Kilos/Grams
Total Flour100.00%545
Whole Wheat Flour18.66%102
Pumpernickel Rye Meal7.74%42
Whole Rye Grain12.60%69
Rye Flour -dark60.88%332
Whole Grain Rye Flour-from starter0.12%1
Raisin Paste18.02%98
Mixed Raisins17.47%95
Amber Rum6.06%33
Sunflower Seeds24.03%131
Sea Salt2.02%11
Water 77.24%421
Total weight247.58%1350
Total Pre-fermented Flour45.39%247.52


dabrownman's picture

looks wonderful.  Have made a dark pumpernickel with double chocolate Stout and prunes but never raisins.  This is Lucy'e favorite oaf of bread and she will get it on the Christmas bake list for sure.   Amazing what we put through our grinding machines :-)   Well Done Franko!

Franko's picture

Thanks dab!

The meat grinder worked just great for making the raisin paste. Always nice when you have the right tools on hand when you need them. The paste is pretty versatile stuff and have already used it for adding body to certain types of sauces, and will try it out in a sausage or pate coming up shortly. I'll keep you posted on the results of that effort. Thanks again.


golgi70's picture

Really looks and sounds fantastic 

nice bake


Franko's picture

Thank you Josh,

Compliments on ones product from a fellow tradesmen are always super to receive, Many thanks!


varda's picture

Franko,  This looks fantastic.   Have never tried a bread with such a long bake time.   Is your pumpernickel rye simply coarsely ground rye - say that I could make by using the coarse setting of my mill?    I don't think I'll go straight to yours, but maybe retrace your steps and start with the Horst Bandel.   I've missed your innovative breads on the site recently but you've more than made up for it with this one.  -Varda

Franko's picture

Hi Varda and thank you!

The pumpernickel rye meal that I have is a Bob's Redmill product, but hopefully you could make your own meal using your mill. It's one of the main reasons I'm keen to get my own small mill since finding rye meal in my neck of the woods is difficult. Below are a couple of photos to give you an idea of the size of BR rye meal. Hope this helps.

I know I haven't been posting as often as I once was, but the breads I make most often I've posted on before and don't see the point in covering old ground. I'm always on the lookout for something new to me or a little different though and try to put it up on the blog if I have time between my work, chores and other interests. Very kind of you to say you've missed the breads and will do my best to contribute more often in the New Year. Great to hear from you Varda and all the very best.



Janetcook's picture

Hi Franko,

Beauty of a loaf.  Looks very 'healthy' and what I call a perfect winter time bread!

I have been baking a lot of these types of loaves lately too spurred on by Karin's whole grain challenge a couple of months ago.  Got me on a roll and I have been having a lot of fun experiment tin.  In fact, I had planned on adding raisins or cranberries to a loaf and now that I have seen yours I feel more confident in going ahead with my plan. 

I too use Andy's Borodinsky and Moscow Rye formulas as bases for my procedure but I have never tried such an extended bake as you have done.  

My sister just told me that the middle of the loaf that I sent her was a bit gummy and I suspected under baked but  now, after reading your comments above, I know that is correct. I still am not comfortable with gauging the doneness of these types of loaves on a temp. measurement alone, in the past, I know I have over baked them.  I will have to try your guidelines for baking.  FIrst I will have to see if my oven even goes down to that low of a temp. 

Another thing I noted in your process is that your do a bulk ferment prior to shaping.  I have not been doing that due the amount of sponge added to the final dough.  I have been shaping a proofing immediately….I do have a longer proof time than you have so now I am wondering if I should add a bulk ferment time too…..

Lots of new things to try : -)

Thanks for posting and your write up.  I will try to remember to let you know of the results I get when I get around to baking my next loaf like this..  I am now into holiday breads until Christmas so I am not quite sure when it will happen though I do find these types of breads easy ones to slip into my usual routine due to the ease of the mixing process.  

Take Care,


Franko's picture

Hi Janet,

I agree, this is a cold weather bread for sure. It's so nourishing that even very thin slices will satisfy me when I'm hungry. I wish I'd known about this bread back when I was hiking in the alpine regions of our Coastal range years (many) ago. It would have saved a lot of weight in my backpack :^).

re: under baking You're not alone in that regard, I've had my fair share as well, usually due to impatience or lack of time. These breads do require a fair amount of time, other than the mixing as you note, but the first 30 minutes of the bake are critical IMO, to get as much rise as possible under the high temps and establish some structure in the weak, wet paste that can then be dehydrated gradually over hours in the oven and then days wrapped in linen. A unique way of baking that can yield remarkable flavours. Time well spent in my estimation.

As for bulk ferment prior to shaping, I've always just followed Hamelman's procedure for the Horst Bandel Pumpernickel, but believe that getting the dough straight in to BF for 30-40 minutes helps keep the dough temp at optimum, and allows for better water take-up given the unstructured state of the dough. 

Looking forward to seeing your next loaves in the New Year Janet and thanks for your compliments and good questions on the loaf.

All the best,



Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Wow Franko.  These look amazing.  A bread that I would love, but a bread that I am not quite confident enough (or maybe have enough time) to bake.

You really have me jealous with this one!  Hope you enjoy it with a lot of cheese and wine!


Franko's picture

Hi John,

Glad you like the loaf and thanks for stopping by to comment. The time factor does sounds a bit daunting but most of it takes place while your sleeping, or at least that's how I do it. I'm not sure if you've made a high ratio rye yet but if you have you shouldn't have any problems with this one. If you haven't then perhaps it's time to have a go, nothing ventured...

Thanks John, all the best.


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

The highest ratio that I have tried is a Danish Rye Rugbrod formula.  It turned out great.  Love those breads.


Janetcook's picture

Hey John,

I don't mean to hijack here so I will keep my comment short.

I just baked your rendition of the Swedish Seeded Rye where you had stellar results.  If you can do that loaf you can do one of these as well.  There really isn't much different.  

I do know how you feel though.  I hesitated baking these breads for a couple of years but Karin's challenge came at a perfect time in my 'baking career' and now I am baking similar breads on almost a weekly basis.  

So, what I am saying, is don't underestimate your baking ability……jump  : - )


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

What a coincidence Janet...I currently have the sour souring and the soaker soaking for the Swedish Seeded Rye...baking one tomorrow for the first time in almost 6 months.

I think with Franko's wonderful post and your encouragement, I may just try this one soon.

Take care.


ananda's picture

Hi Franko.

original reply didn't load, so trying again.

I think the increased rye content, and the use of wholegrain/meal/flour makes your formula so much more interesting than the original.   Mini may well like to see 100% rye however??!

And the falling oven baking is really showcased.   When I do this in the wood-fired oven overnight, I use a blast of intense heat from the electric oven first.   I am glad you re-inforce the importance of this in order to protect that delicate wet paste in your reply to Janet.

Awesome baking

Very best wishes


Franko's picture

Hi Andy,

Funny, I did get your first reply in my email notification. Thanks for both of your comments on the formula and as well the for the sponge technique you showed me this Summer :^)

I hemmed and hawed about going 100% rye, eventually deciding to get some small portion of wheat in there for insurance. My success rate with 100% rye is still a bit spotty for my liking, and with a few exceptions I'm usually not taken with most of the all rye breads I've had anyhow, mine or others. I agree with Mini, and believe you do as well, that a traditional Pumpernickel is 100% rye, which is why I call this a dark rye loaf, or pumpernickel style bread. One day I may try it as 100% but wonder what significant difference the wee bit of extra rye would make to the the flavour.

All the best my friend, take care.


yozzause's picture

Hi Frank

i'm most impressed with your post  and also the bread it certainly seems like a marathon but what a great result at the finishing line. We can get Uncle Bob's here in AUS in a few stores, and Rye meal is fairly readily available generally. I must say its not something i've contemplated making but i do know we have a lot of people that do like this type of bread, and as you say it is a good challenge and keeps the grey matter active.Unfortunately we are moving to Hotter weather so it may well have to wait a little while. I would like to try an english style Malt loaf as my mother in law is from the North of England and a fan of this bread. I think that this style of bread will also be a long and cooler oven bake.

Anyway Frank keep up the good work inspiring post as usual thankyou

regards Derek

Franko's picture

Hi Derek,

Very pleased to hear you liked the post and the loaf and thank you for letting me know!

The organic shop where I buy most of my flours and grains were really good about tracking the Bob's Redmill product down for me. The stores buyer initially couldn't find it through her regular supplier but she kept at it and eventually found it a few weeks later and called me at home to let me know. Now who says that good customer service is a thing of the past? I must remember to take her a loaf of some kind as a thank you. I'm not familiar with the English Malt Loaf you mention but I'll have to check Elizabeth David's "English Bread" to see if it's in there. Hope that you make it sometime Derek and post it on your blog as I'd love to see your take on it.

Cheers Derek and many thanks for your generous comments.


ananda's picture

Hi Franko, Yozza,

This particular brand is a mass-produced malt loaf still available in the UK.   I think it's fairly typical of what Derek is describing, although it is very mainstream.

There's a bit about it on wiki here: But the Soreen website isn't much to look at

Made in Manchester

Best wishes


Franko's picture

Hi Andy, Derek,

I found this interpretation of the Soreen Malt Loaf submitted by TFL member Kiint back in April 2011. Not something that I'd likely make, but now at least I have a good idea what a Malt Loaf is supposed to be like.


yozzause's picture

Thanks for that Frank i remember seeing a post on Malt loaf but hadn't got around to searching yet, saved me a job thankyou very much and i will post when i have a go at it. kind regards Derek

Mebake's picture

Oh, you've beat me to it, Franko. I, too, wanted to try this recipe  ever since Breadsong posted a link to it. I have no coarse rye meal, but once i do i will give you perfect recipe a try. It must be , without doubt, a gorgeous rye.

However, i didn't get the steam part. Do you leave the loaf to bake overnight with lid on? If so, why do you use hot water in a roasting pan?

Anyways, this is an excellent loaf, Franko! I love it.


Franko's picture

Hi Khalid,

Hope you find the course rye meal because this is a bread I'm sure you'd like. One, for all the whole grains contained in the formula, and two, for the amazing flavour it has.

Regarding the steam part. The first time I made the Horst Bandel Pumpernickel from "Bread" I baked the loaf (lid on) straight on top of the stone on low heat for 8-9 hours. Well the bottom crust was so tough I could barely saw through it. Next time I baked it I decided to try the steam method hoping a buffer of gentle, moist and even heat surrounding the tin would give the bread a more even bake over the long haul. It worked well, and no more tough crust, bottom, top or sides since.

Glad you like the loaf my friend and thanks so much for your comments. Sorry I haven't commented on your own recent and excellent post yet. It was posted right at the time I was getting this one ready but will correct that very soon. 

All the best Khalid,


breadsong's picture

Hi Franko,
I was happy to share the information I was able to pick up at IBIE – so glad you were able to find inspiration in Mr. Ponsford’s formula.
The flavors must have been spectacular in this bread, with the different components, the sponge,
and the rum-soaked-raisins! :^)
I recently made my first Horst Bandel (loved the complex flavor), and remember really enjoying the flavor of a high% raisin-rye I made a couple of years see it all be skillfully brought together in this loaf of yours...needless to say I am bookmarking your post so I can give this a try!
Thank you for providing the details regarding the baking and steaming, and for sharing a way to make raisin paste. 
I like how you altered the relative percentages of raisin paste and whole raisins, so more raisin paste is in the mix – perhaps releasing more sugar, and helping to create the wonderfully dark color of this loaf!
All in all a fabulous bread and thanks for sharing your creation!
:^) breadsong

Franko's picture

Thanks so much breadsong, not only for your very generous comments but for sending the info pamphlets as well. I've really been enjoying playing around with this raisin paste in various baked items in addition to using it in some cooking. I'd like to try it in a BBQ sauce or a stuffed rolled pork shoulder sometime in the New Year. It's a great addition to the pantry and adds a lovely flavour dimension to everything I've tried it in so far. When you do get around to trying this bread just a small heads up on the raisin paste before you use it in your mix. It gets quite hard after a day or so, even wrapped in plastic and at room temp, so use some of the water (hot) from your final mix and let the paste soak in that for 20 minutes then mash it up so there aren't any large lumps of paste left. You might even be able to microwave it on low to soften it, not sure, haven't tried it.

Thanks again for everything breadsong, greatly appreciated! :^)


jkandell's picture

What is the purpose of the sponge?

Franko's picture

Hi jkandell,

Sorry for the late reply but just returned from vacation late on Thursday evening.  Below a few thoughts on sponge and a reply to your other question on rye paste from "Baking with Andy/Ananda"

Since I began using a sponge quite often when making rye breads, paricularly high ratio rye, I've noticed that the final leaven is much more lively than one made from a typical single stage sour leaven,resulting in an improved bulk and final fermentation. The initial rise when it hits the oven has been higher, the crumb of the final product has been more open and uniform, and the flavour characteristics more complex than I've achieved previously using a one stage leaven. Having a large portion of the flour/grains prefermented and hydrated well in advance of final mixing has made a significant improvement to almost all of the rye breads I've made over the last year.
To try and answer your question from Baking with Ananada/Andy] regarding what I learned about rye paste consistency and handling, I realized I'd been mixing the paste too wet, often, but not always causing the loaf to slump in the middle during or after what should have been sufficient time and temp in the oven. With the consistency of the paste I had been making I was just able to mold it on the counter before placing it in the loaf tin. To make things easier, more often than not I would deposit the paste straight into the tin and use a plastic scraper to form it into the corners and sides of the tin. What I discovered with the paste that Andy had made was that although it was just slightly less hydrated than what I'd been making, it wasn't so sloppy that it couldn't be formed into a (wet) log before going in the tin. Well hydrated, but with sufficient structure to it to form and hold a uniform shape during baking. It's a bit of a fine line to gauge given the absorption rates of various flours and harder still to describe the feel of the paste but a slight decrease of 3-4% in hydration made all the difference and I'd put it at a ballpark percentage of 80-82% +/- hydration. What it came down to in the end was that I'd stubbornly been trying to push the hydration level past it's optimum and having the opportunity for some hands on experience with an expert rye baker like Andy I was able to get a much better idea of where I needed to be with my own rye mixes for the kind of results that I wanted.

Best wishes,


jkandell's picture

Thanks Franco. Ironically that sponge method is very same one I've used for many years, which I first learned from auerman's and bolgov's old borodinsky recipes!   I even posted it here on FL, though I called it a "levain sponge":

 (Not that my ryes are as good Andy's.  )