PUMPERNICKEL SOUR RYE
(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.