It’s been quite a while since I made any pumpernickel. The inspiration to bake some now came from a recent spur of the moment trip. One day a couple of weeks ago the cloudy, rainy weather got to us. We had a plan for things to accomplish that day but the rain changed all that, so we got in the car and drove 170 miles for lunch. And it was so worth it.
The Food Co-op in Saint Peter, Minnesota has probably been the model for several copycat co-ops. They have an impressive amount of ready to eat foods, store-baked breads and sweets as well as the deli. Saint Peter isn’t a big town – about 12,000 residents – but it’s home to Gustavus Adolphus college, and is the county seat of Nicollet County so there’s an active, engaged population. It’s only a 70-mile drive along the pretty Minnesota River to Minneapolis. A devastating tornado in 1998 caused major damage to much of the town, yet many historic houses and buildings remain.
Anyway, I was looking over that menu board in the deli that you see in the photo above, trying to decide on my lunch. I’ve had their chicken schwarma (delicious) but settled on the reuben. Believe it or not, I’ve never had one. Actually it’s rare to even see it on a menu around here. My husband ordered banh mi, which he thought was pretty good until he tasted my reuben. All the way home I was wondering if I could even get the corned beef at my local grocery, and when there would be time to make pumpernickel.
There are lots of variations on pumpernickel. While some call for cocoa powder, instead I use blackstrap molasses, extra strong coffee and espresso powder, and ground caraway seeds. A small amount of dark brown sugar helps the rise. Though most recipes advise against blackstrap molasses it is not overpowering in this recipe. Depending on how strong you make your coffee, use 1/2-1 teaspoon of espresso powder, or use all coffee instead of half coffee, half water. Use caraway seeds whole, or grind them in a small coffee mill or with mortar and pestle, but do use some for the distinctive flavor they contribute. For an authentic New York rye flavor you can add deli rye flavor, available from King Arthur Flour. It’s a powder, so just add the amount recommended on the package when you mix the salt and caraway seed with the rye flour.
This is not difficult to make and you’ll be rewarded with a moist, flavorful loaf far superior to dry supermarket pumpernickel. It’s great for sandwiches, especially that reuben, but also holding its own with other strong flavors like mustards, onion and garlic jam, or horseradish. I like pastrami, cheese, and pickles on a base of cream cheese and buffalo ranch sauce. This pumpernickel is a hit around here for toast too, or a thick slice (especially the heel, yum) generously buttered. This baker always gets the heel.
– Joan, 2 August 2019
- 1 cup (222 grams) warm water, or use 2 cups coffee instead of water and coffee
- 1 cup (222 grams) strong, hot, brewed coffee
- 1/2-1 tsp. espresso powder
- 1/3 cup (132 grams) blackstrap molasses
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) melted butter
- 2 tablespoons (26 grams) dark brown sugar
- 4¾ cups (570 grams) bread flour
- 2¾ cups (326 grams) whole rye or pumpernickel flour
- 1½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, ground fine or left whole
Stir espresso powder into hot coffee and water poured into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add molasses, melted butter and dark brown sugar and stir well to combine. Blend the yeast with the bread flour and add to the liquid, stirring thoroughly till all flour is incorporated. Cover and let this stand for 20-30 minutes.
Blend salt and caraway seeds with the rye flour and add to the bowl. Use the dough hook to mix on low speed till all the flour is incorporated, then increase speed to medium for 5 minutes. It will feel tacky but should have pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes, then fold as directed here, rest for another 20 minutes and fold again, then cover and let rise until doubled in size. Divide into 2 pieces and form each piece into loaf shape as desired. Cover and let rise again until doubled.
Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes. Turn out onto cooling race and let the loaves cool first on one side for about 15 minutes, then on the opposite side till completely cool. Store or freeze in freezer weight bags.