Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

I decided to experiment with making pumpernickel bread. I first made a recipe many years ago after Gene and I first met and he bought me a beautiful Jenn-Air stove.  This fancy appliance came with a nice cookbook and a recipe for pumpernickel bread was in it. It turned out great as far as I can remember and we served it with all of the fixins of a good German meal for Christmas that year.

However, I really wanted to use my sourdough starter and found a recipe in KAF’s (King Arthur Flour) files. I made it once with some changes and was not happy with the results. Why? See below for comments.

So, I was not going to be discouraged  and the next week I made it again. It was absolutely delicious and I was extremely happy with the results especially when I served it with my Honey Butter.

Before I give you the recipe I would like to quote a couple of paragraphs within KAF’s recipe which gives you a little history of pumpernickel.

“Pumpernickel is an affectionate German name given in fun, both to the meal and the hearty breads made with it, to describe their effect on the digestive system. (“Pumpern” is the German word for “intestinal wind” and “nickel” is a word for demon or sprite.)

Pumpernickel flour is made with a coarse rye meal called pumpernickel, which is ground from the whole rye berry. This means it contains both the bran or outer covering of the rye berry and the germ or the oil-rich embryo which would have produced a new seedling had the rye berry been planted.

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread, Adapted

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

The Sponge:

Make your sponge the night before you want to serve your bread. Those of us who make bread know how good this extra step gives to the final outcome. I usually put it all together after dinner, place in a large bowl, cover it, turn on the light in my cool oven and put the bread in there to rise overnight. Some time the next morning I’ll continue on with the recipe.

  • 1-1/3 cups sourdough starter (did you notice my sourdough starter container with Rosebud’s name on it?)
  • 1 cup black coffee (or water you’ve boiled potatoes in)
  • 2 cups pumpernickel flour
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced very fine

Add the starter to a bowl, then add the cooled coffee, flour and onion. Stir together, cover and let it bubble away overnight.

The Dough:

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 dark, unsulphured molasses
  • 4 cups (more or less) of unbleached APF (both times I made it I only needed 3 cups of flour)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. cocoa (I used Callebaut’s cocoa) I added this ingredient for a darker loaf in my second attempt

Stir the oil, salt and molasses into the sponge. Add the cocoa (if you want a darker loaf) and the flour one cup at a time until you have a dough you can knead. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding only enough more flour to keep it from being sticky. This step does not take very long. You want to knead it enough so you can take your hands away from it without bits of dough sticking to them. Don’t keep adding flour as a dough with rye flour in it never completely loses its tacky feel.

I greased my nice artisan pot, placed the dough inside it, covered it, turned the oven light on, and placed the bread inside the oven to rise. Usually if your home is about 65° to 70°F it can take 2 to 4 hours for the second rising.  Do not hurry this rising – I let my dough rise for about 3 hours.

Bake in a 350°F oven for about 45 minutes if you are making a big loaf which is what I did. Two smaller loaves you probably would only need to bake them for 30 minutes.

The crust was a little crackly and would have benefited with a squirt or two of water on top before baking.  

To go along with my honey butter I am sharing a new sourdough bread I just made. Please come and join the fun with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living.

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If I did not know better the picture on the right looks like chocolate mousse!

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My first attempt and the mistakes I made:

1) I did not let it rise enough on the second rising; 2) used a lame – the dough was too sloppy to make some  slashes on top; 3) I changed the cooking directions (temperature and time) 4) onions were not minced fine enough and 5) KAF’s directions were not real clear (written before 2008 and never updated) as was expressed by other bloggers and myself. I retyped it before I made my second loaf in my own words. I should have done that prior to making my first loaf. It was dense, rather chewy in the middle and overcooked on the outside!!!

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24 thoughts on “Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

  1. I really love that you went through the changes that you made to the recipe, and I can see why Gene was the love of your life, a stove! My husband bought me a Kitchenaid mixer over 32 years ago and we could barely afford it. It still works like a champ, and John says he’s been the beneficiary of that gift. I’m including this recipe in my arsenal of recipes!


  2. We have smart men don’t we Julie? Gene never minded spending money on anything for my kitchen as he knew he would get many benefits by doing so. I did want to upgrade my kitchen counter tops but we ran out of time. Your Kitchen-Aid is still going – I had to replace mine a few years ago – bought a pretty yellow one. Have a great week 🙂


  3. I’ve never been great at making breads. I always over-knead or my dough is too sticky or too dry. This bread looks so good though, I may have to give it another try 🙂


  4. Your first fail at this is one of the reasons I never bake bread! I’m awful at following directions in recipes that need to be exact, even if they weren’t missing anything! 😛 Great job on your second attempt!


  5. Wish I could taste your pumpernickel bread! Did you know that both sourdough and pumpernickel are purported to have several health benefits and therefore is one of the best breads ( among breads) to eat. Thanks for bringing it to FF! It makes a perfect accompaniment to the honey butter! Have a great weekend!


  6. I love how fearless you are trying new uses for your sourdough starter, Judi! This pumpernickel bread looks fabulous. Being I had never even looked at a pumpernickel recipe, I was shocked it had coffee in it…I assume that and the cocoa is where the darker color of the bread comes from?? Also, does the spritz of water prevent cracking? If so, thanks for the lesson. 😀


    • Thanks Nancy – fearless no I just enjoy using my sourdough starter. Sourdough was Gene’s favorite bread and the sourer the better. Yes, more cocoa would make it darker but I did not want to change the flavor. Yes, I believe the water would have helped – it was on the soft side. But heck Linda (above) liked it and you know how good she makes her bread 🙂


  7. I’ve been divorced for 23 years; I never got a stove or a mixer, so now I know what the problem was, haha! 🙂 I think I must marry any man who gifts me with a kitchen appliance…:)

    The bread looks gorge!! 🙂


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