Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

2013-11-03 12.23.47I got a hankering for pumpernickel bread the other day. To be honest, I’d been thinking about it on and off since I started baking regularly, but had not yet tried to make any. The itch hit me again earlier this week – and my sourdough starter jar was full – so off a-searching for a recipe I went.

I didn’t find any decent sourdough pumpernickel recipes, but did find many non-sourdough ones. Most were pretty standard, but one stood out .

If you visited the link, you saw that the recipe was chocked full of goodness: coffee, chocolate, rye, bulgur (“burghul” in the recipe), molasses (“treacle”). Oh yeah. Since it was a small recipe I decided to double it and then adjust for the sourdough. The prospect of the taste of sourdough combined with intense flavors from the molasses, caraway, chocolate and coffee made my mouth water. This would not be a bread for the faint of heart.

I modified from the hip and didn’t take notes, but this is what I made, more or less.

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
3 tbs molasses
1 1/2 tbs dried yeast
2 tsp dried instant coffee
2 tsp gluten
1 cup plain flour
2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (polenta)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp salt
Cornmeal, extra, to sprinkle
Caraway seeds, extra, to sprinkle

You’ll note that I used yeast. I often do since leaving the leavening job to the sourdough starter means much longer rise times. (Perhaps 8 hours for the first rise and 2-3 for the second.) If you have the time or are a purist about these things, leave out the yeast and let it rise the old-fashioned wait. Either will result in excellent bread.

The directions are little changed from the original.

Mix the water and starter. If you keep your extra starter in the fridge like I do, either measure it out beforehand to let it warm or put it in the microwave on defrost for a minute or two. (Using the defrost mode should give you more even heading.) Check the temperature every 15-20 seconds. It only needs to be lukewarm and if it gets too hot it will have to be allowed to cool or the heat could kill the yeast. Once it is warmed, mix in the molasses, yeast, and coffee. Let it sit for a few minutes until bubbly.

While waiting for the bubbliness, mix the gluten, 1 cup of the rye flour, the cornmeal, cocoa, caraway seeds and salt. Mix it with the yeast mixture. Then start adding the rest of the rye flour and white flour until you have slightly sticky dough. Turn that out onto a lightly floured (or oiled if you prefer) surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. I usually just scrape the bowl I mixed the dough in and reuse it – one less dish to wash later. Cover and let it rise until doubled, which took about an hour for me. Punch down the dough then let it rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough in half, form it into loaves. Dust the bottom of your baking sheet/pan with cornmeal and place the loaves on it. I did two longish loaves, but, whatever floats your boat should be fine. Naturally, if you make smaller loaves lower the baking time.

Let the loaves rise until doubled, which should take another hour or so. Start the oven preheating to 200C/400F about halfway through the rise. Once doubled, brush the loaves with egg or water and sprinkle with caraway seeds and cornmeal. Score them a few times with a knife. How many cuts and in what direction to make them depends on what shape loaves you made and your creative whimsy. Toss them in the oven for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180C/350F and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when you tap with your finger.

In my family, during the autumn and winter holidays, we served pumpernickel with a creamy spinach dip, but this bread is delicious alone, with butter, or even as a sandwich too. Enjoy it however you wish!


  • Keep the bulgur that’s in the original recipe. I wasn’t able to locate any, so omitted it.
  • Adjust the amounts of coffee, molasses and cocoa.
  • Add some dried fruit; raisins or figs or example.
  • And, as mentioned, leave out the dried yeast and let the starter do the leavening work.

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