Pumpernickel is a hearty, dense bread that originated in Germany. The rye bread is baked at a very low temperature for an extended period of time which gives it a unique flavor and texture by allowing the sugar to caramelize. Plus, it will stay fresh for several weeks despite having no preservatives in it!
For the Starter:
- 7 ounces rye berries
- 3 1/2 cups dark rye flour
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons fed sourdough starter
For the Dough:
- 12.5 ounces dark rye pumpernickel meal
- 12.5 ounces cracked rye
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/3-1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 6 2/3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 1/4 cups dry roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
To Make the Prep:
- Put the berries in a small saucepan and pour boiling water over them to cover by at least 1 inch.
- Cover and set aside to soak overnight.
- Add enough water to the soaked rye berries so that there is about three times as much water as berries. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the berries are soft. Check for water once in a while to make sure the berries are always covered with plenty of water, and add more water if necessary.
- Drain the cooked berries and set aside to cool.
- For the starter, mix the rye flour, water, and sourdough starter in a small bowl until well combined. Cover and let it rest overnight in a warm place.
To Make the Bread:
- In a large bowl mix the dark rye pumpernickel meal, cracked rye, and salt.
- Add the starter and 1 1/3 cups water.
- Mix until well combined and no traces of flour remain. Add the cooked berries, syrup and sunflower seeds.
- Knead the dough using the dough hook of an electric mixer or your hands until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl.
- Add the rest of the water during kneading, as needed. The dough should be moist and slightly sticky. Dust it with rye flour and cover.
- Let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Grease five 16-ounce straight-sided mason jars or two loaf tins.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface to remove any excess air. The dough should be slightly sticky.
- Divide the dough into equal portions and place it into your baking pans or jars. Leave about 1 inch in the jars to allow for the bread to rise. Only fill the pans to two-thirds to make smaller loaves.
- Grease small pieces of aluminum foil and cover the jars/baking pans, greased side down. Let them rest in a warm place for 2-3 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Remove the aluminum foil from the jars/baking pans and lightly spray the surface of the dough with water.
- Place the aluminum foil back on the jars/baking pans, greased side down. Make sure that the jars/baking pans are tightly covered.
- Adjust the oven rack to the lowest setting. Place the jars/baking pans in the casserole and place it on the oven rack. Pour about 1 inch hot water into the casserole. Place the lid on the casserole.
- Bake them for 1 hour at 300°F. Reduce the heat to 212°F and bake the bread for 13 more hours.
- Add hot water to the casserole every few hours to maintain the water level. If you bake the bread overnight, pour more water into the casserole before you go to bed. A higher water level of 1 1/2 to 2 inches does not harm the bread but an empty dry casserole may cause the jars to crack and should be avoided by all means.
- At the end of the baking time, turn off the oven and leave the casserole in the oven for 1 hour. Then take the casserole with the jars/baking pans out of the oven and let everything cool on the counter for another 30 minutes, or until the jars are cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, keep the oven door closed to trap the residual heat. remove the breads and place them in the warm oven for a couple of hours to dry. Promptly removing them is important, otherwise you will have trouble removing them later.
- Remove the bread from the oven. Let them cool completely, then wrap them in wax paper or parchment paper and either place them in freezer bags right away, or let the bread sit in a cool place for another two days before cutting it.
- Store the pumpernickel in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Pumpernickel recipe and photo © Spoonfuls of Germany by Nadia Hassani