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Pumpernickel Sour Rye

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Try it and tell me what you think.

(Yield: Two 1-1/2 lb, “1 pound” loaves)

Note: The starter takes at least a day to develop.

This is a pumpernickel rye in Mitteleuropa style. It uses a preferment starter which is as wet as a poolish, aged like a biga, and is typical of the preferment used to start Jewish sour rye breads. It takes a little time to develop, the more time the more sour. This particular version is mild as to both sour and rye. Using the altus will make it a bit more sour.

You can bake as a boule, or as a typical freeform loaf. In my opinion, it’s best baked in loaf pans so it can be sliced and used for sandwiches and toast. Got creamcheese?

Preferment (Sour Rye Starter)

2 cups water, divided
1-1/2 cups rye flour, divided
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp yeast
2 tbs altus, optional (Altus is a bit of sour dough bread, without crust, soaked in water and squeezed out and shredded to bits. It’s used to shorten the time needed to develop a sour starter, and to stabilize the level of sourness.)


All of the starter
4 cups unbleached AP flour, or 2 cups unbleached AP + 2 cups strong flour
1-1/2 cup water, divided
5 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup (4 tbs) molasses
1 Double shot espresso, or 2 tsp instant coffee mixed with 2 - 3 oz water
1-1/2 tbs instant yeast
1 tbs salt
1 tsp toasted fennel seed, ground

1 egg yolk, beaten
corn meal or rolled oats (uncooked oat meal) for topping


Afternoon of the day before: In a ceramic or glass bowl, mix the yeast with 1 cup water, and 1 cup rye flour. Cover with cling wrap and let sit on the counter until late evening.

Late evening of the day before: Assuming the starter shows signs of life, add the remaining 1/2 cup of rye flour mixed with 1/2 cup white flour, the altus, and another cup of water. Mix, cover with cling wrap and leave until morning.

Baking day morning: Dump the starter into your mixing bowl, or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Add the other ingredients except for the water, and mix together. Add half the water and mix again. Continue adding water until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky.

The dough will be very stiff and difficult to knead. Knead the dough in the usual way. If kneading by hand, knead in the usual way. If using a KA or other stand-mixer, expect it to stall, and finish the knead by hand. Don’t let the heavy texture defeat you. Knead until bread passes, or at least almost passes, the window-pane test.

Allow to rise in a greased bowl, doubling, about 1 hour. Punch down, form loaves, place into loaf pans, press loaves down to fit the bottom of the pan. Allow to rise again, doubling. Press loaves down leaving a slight indentation in the center. Allow to proof until doubled in volume and nicely crested.

Preheat oven to 375. Do not allow bread to rise to more than double. If bread over-rises, push down slightly and allow to rise again before baking.

Make an egg wash with the yolk of one egg, and brush the tops of the loaves just firmly enough to heal any imperfections on the surface. Sprinkle the tops with corn or oat meal. Let your preferred appearance dictate quantities.

Bake at 375 for approximately 50 minutes. Remove the loaves from their pans as soon as they are cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes after removing from oven. Finish cooling loaves on racks for at least 2 hours before breaking or slicing.
post #2 of 11
Rye flour, Dark ~ Med ~ light???

Looks great, will try!
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
The recipe was posted with a very important omission, and a lesser change, which I subsequently corrected. I just hope I can catch anyone who printed it out with hopes of baking it soon.

Please note the second addition of yeast in the "Ingredients: Bread" section. The recipe previous appeared to be written with the starter as the only leavening, but that was a mistake. Not that the starter can't take the bread all the way, but the first rise would take something like four or five hours; and the bread would be quite sour.

Also, I reduced the baking time in the recipe by 5 minutes. 55 minutes was a typo. This wouldn't be a big deal, but even 50 minutes may still be too long. Keep an eye out for a tough crust, and let me know if you have any problems.

I specified three rises, but like most breads this one improves if the last rise is retarded -- that is, if it is delayed by a few hours or a night in the refrigerator. A fourth rise is another possibility, but you run the risk of exhausting the yeast.
post #5 of 11
I was wondering about the small amount of yeast. I was planning on giving it a try, so I am glad I checked back in. I'll let you know how I fare.
Just to clairify, that's teaspoons of yeast in the starter and tablespoons in the bread?
post #6 of 11
Hello board d laze!

My husband and I are tasting your delicious bread right now!
I did not use Altus. Let it rise tree times and also added a little bit more of salt (1/2 tsp). Baked at 375F for almost 50 minutes. Next time I will add one more spoon of fennel seed. We like that!
Slices very well, nice crust and texture. Two nice loafs, two pounds each. Perfect with cream cheese or butter.
My husband is saying that the world should have more pepople like you!
Thank you so much for sharing this tasty recipe! :talk: I will be baking it again! :talk:

A house is not beautiful because of its walls, but because of its cakes
- Old Russian proverb
A house is not beautiful because of its walls, but because of its cakes
- Old Russian proverb
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
I've edited the recipe a little more, adding an egg wash and making some changes in suggested loaf pan technique. The recipe is very much where it should be now. The bread is good for sandwiches, toasting, breadbasket, or rolls. The chocolate, coffee and fennel give it enough interest to keep it out of the humdrum -- but without going too far from it's nice sour rye roots.

I've baked this bread quite a few times over the last couple of months, making numerous improvisations and adjustments, and am still delighted with the basic recipe. It's my best "original" bread.

Try it,
post #8 of 11
boar d laze
Is there a reason you don't use bread flour in the rye bread recipe? Looks like
its a very good bread. will try it when i get some time thanks
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

I thought the rye was hard enough, and didn't want the structure too open. I wanted some density. I did suggest 50/50 AP/strong flour -- "strong flour" is another name for bread flour. Go ahead and try all bread flour as the white component, please let me know your results. I'm thinking it will open up the crumb some.

Actually, let me know your results no matter what you do!

post #10 of 11
Added to my recipe collection. I love rye, especially for grilled sandwiches. A nice thick reuben with lots of kraut and I am in heaven!:D
post #11 of 11

boar_d_laze and all,

Love your recipe - hope to try it soon.

I love to cook rye bread.  Although it has a great spongy texture as I knead,

it rarely rises much.  What can I do to improve this? I typically use about  1:5 ratio

of rye flour to white.  Thanks for your help! - Connie

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