Horst Bandel’s Black Rye ‘Pumpernickel’

Horst Bandel Jeffrey HamelmanThis is one of the November breads that the Mellow Bakers are baking this month.

I baked this for the first time last year and these photos are from that bake. I am sure I can do better, but I don’t know if I will get round to it this month again so I thought you might like to see this early attempt.

If you remember the post about obscure objects of desire, then the experience of baking this bread definitely fits into that category. Why? Borrow the book and read the story about this bread and you will want to make it or maybe just dream about making it.  I fell in love with the whole magic of bread baking when I read this the first time,   I simply wanted to be there and watch the process, to see and smell the breads coming out of the oven, understand the way it was done and then try for myself.

Technically, this is not a pumpernickel as Germans know it, because it doesn’t have enough rye in it. German bread regulations are very clear on the subject.  Here in England and I guess on the other side of the Atlantic too, the rules about what you can name a bread are ‘fluffy’. The subject of another post maybe?

The Horst Bandel black rye bread and other similar breads are often baked in a pullman tin. One of the mysteries of the baking business in England is that loads of breads are baked in neat long flat topped shapes, you see them everywhere bagged up on the supermarket shelves, but for a home baker to get hold of one of these tins with its sliding top is not such an easy task.

pullman tin

In the end I bought the one on the left on Ebay – it came from Malaysia. And then this year I was brought one from France by lovely Mike, courtesy of Yolande.  They are expensive bits of kit for the very good quality ones,   so unless you are sure you really want to make lots of square flat topped breads, I wouldn’t put this tin at the top of your ‘must have’ list.  You could always put a baking sheet on top of an ordinary bread tin and weight it down in the oven with a casserole or something like that.

The formula asks for ‘rye chops’ and ‘rye meal’ . These are different cuts and grinds of rye. English supermarkets usually stock one variety of rye flour if you are lucky. No choice at all as to grind, you can’t usually even get light and dark rye.  My friend Mandy came to the rescue and brought me lots of bags of rye from Germany in different grinds, though we were both guessing what was required. Nils at Ye Olde Breade Blogge advised me too and took a picture to show me what coarse rye meal looks like in his Saftig Kerniges Roggenbrot post. Nils is brilliant on rye breads!

So rye meal, is very coarse ground rye, but it is ground. Rye chops, as I understand it, is the whole rye grain (or berry as some people call it) cut into three or four pieces, so the inside of the grain is exposed and can therefore take up moisture more easily I suspect.

Shipton Mill at one time had chopped rye for pumpernickel, but the last two times I have asked they didn’t have any. I think the answer is not to get to hung up on all this but to try and source some whole rye grain and some good fresh rye flour and just have a go if you want to try this one.

Old Bread SoakerThe formula also calls for one of my favourite ingredients ‘an old bread soaker’. Ugh, I hear, you say,  putting stale bread in a new bread, what is that about?  Trust me, it works, it’s delicious.

I posted one of my favourite bread recipes here which uses an old bread soaker if you want to try an easier bread than this one to see how it goes. Obviously don’t use mouldy bread, just next time you have a good sourdough going and you have got to the end of the loaf, put the end in the freezer, chopped up and then when you want to make a bread calling for an old bread soaker you will have it to hand. It adds buckets of flavour and is quite common in Germany, where once again there are rules about how much old bread can be added to a new dough.

I reckon I did OK on the mixing and the soaking and the cooking of the grains and so on. I came a little unstuck on the cooking of this bread. My oven couldn’t go cool enough I think. The bread when I finally took it out, was a little hard on the outside. I wrapped it up and left it for two days before cutting it, and the crust had softened a bit by then. It had the right taste, fragrant and sweet and dark and very substantial.

A bread to be sliced thinly and smeared with unsalted butter and topped with strongly flavoured sausage or herring, a little sourcream….a slice of egg, a sliver of radish….

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the others Mellow Bakers do with this recipe!

Edit: Ulrike, a very knowledgeable German baker, has made this bread today and from what she explains here I think one of the reasons that my bread went hard on the sides is because the pullman has holes in the bottom and allowed the steam to escape from the tin. So what is needed is a tin which has a much better seal than that ebay one. I am thinking of trying with my milk loaf tin. That is a lot smaller and has a clip that allows you to seal the bread tightly. And then I would have elegant round slices of pumpernickel….

Another Edit:  I have a poor memory!  I now remember this thread on the Fresh Loaf worth looking through before you start.  I not only read the early part of it,  I even commented about  maybe using a fish kettle to cook it in.  It looks like the discussion on how to bake this bread got quite intense later on.  This is a bread that arouses strong passions and feelings !

18 thoughts on “Horst Bandel’s Black Rye ‘Pumpernickel’

  1. Ulrike

    My pumpernickel-style black bread is just rising now. Unfortunately I don’t own pullman pans, but I have two with lid. Hope that will do it.

    And the purpose of a pumpernickel is to be dense and moist, not fluffy ;-) And it’s not only the rye content also the baking time, that makes this bread not a pumpernickel

    Your’s look great

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I am looking forward to seeing yours Ulrike!

      I meant ‘fluffy’ with regard to the way they name breads in the shops. As in vague, or imprecise. Zb a loaf is called a ‘spelt’ loaf, but when you ask for the ingredient list it only has 15% spelt. I personally think it is very misleading, particularly when people have allergies and so on. I would rather we had German bread labelling style rules here :) How long should an ‘echt’ pumpernickel bake for? This one as I remember when I made it sat in the oven overnight.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          May I ask if that time rule is for any weight of dough Ulrike? If I made a smaller loaf, say 600 grams in my milk loaf tin, which was going to be my next experiment, would it still need such a long bake? I think that’s where it gets a bit tricky, trying to figure out how to adjust the bake time for a smaller quantity of dough or would making a smaller loaf cause problems and one should really just make a big loaf and give some away?

          1. Ulrike

            I made the home baker version and ended with 2 loaves of 900 g. I gave one away, my workmate loves my breads.

            No idea what happens to a 600 g dough, but I would make one big loaf it’s better for that kind of bread …

  2. cityhippyfarmgirl

    I was looking at those tins recently, before deciding that I really didn’t need/want that many square shaped loaves. They do look good though, it was a close call.
    When I lived in Germany pumpernickel was eaten every morning, I loved it! Yours look great Joanna, and I’d happily be eating that one right now. ( I read once that Germans had the most sustaining breakfast in the world…)

  3. heidiannie

    Your breads always make my mouth water.
    And I feel rather lazy only making bread once or twice a week.
    But I keep comng back-
    Thanks for sharing – I wish I had a pullman tin.
    But I like free and artisan bread shapes just as well.

  4. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Wow, Jo, I’ve learnt so much reading your post, thank you! I never actually got my head around the old bread soaker, and we can get pullman tins here, but they’re very expensive, so I’ve never bought one, despite my desire to buy an old fashioned jaffle maker which would need me to bake square bread. Maybe I just won’t get either. :)

    We can get light and dark rye flour, but not rye chops, although I think you can get the equivalent in oats, called oat groats. I used to adore pumperknickel bread growing up – little rounds of them with interesting toppings. Maybe I need to give this a go! Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

    PS. Love your Witterings today! Will look up Dan’s new article.

  5. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    @ Brydie Pumpernickel for breakfast! My first reaction is to say uh uh, but on second thoughts, why not? ;) I know one’s supposed to eat lots at breakfast, but I don’t tend to. Habits, habits.

    Morning Heidi! I only bake one or two times a week as well. The freezer is full and we are a two person household. So unless someone asks me for something in particular I nearly always give my experiments away. And, shh, I much prefer free standing or banetton proved loaves. :)

    Celia, thanks for the lovely comment :) I suspect this bread won’t be to the family’s taste, it isn’t to Brian’s at all! I wonder if one could try an old bread soaker though in a regular soudough just to see if it intensified the flavour of the bread?

  6. drfugawe

    I think I’ll do this one as my first Mellow Bakers loaf – and all of us who will do so owe you much for your wonderful explanations and instructions that pick up where Jeffery left off. Thanks Jo.

    As you note, there is not much of this type of Pumpernickel in the U.S., which is a little strange, given the strong German immigration, and the depth with which the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions especially have influenced American food culture. Our popular Pumpernickel -which is pretty damn good stuff as well- has come down from the Jewish Deli/Bakery influence, and is a lighter, free form loaf. Early in his book, Hamelman suggests that American bakers choose an easier, tasteless version of Pumpernickel out of laziness, but I’d be willing to bet that the fact that commercial wood burning ovens were in transition to gas, coal, and electric was the prime reason why the classic German Pumpernickel, done in the receding heat of a wood oven, fell victim to an adaption that better fit into a modern U.S. bakery.

    Daniel Leader includes a worthy raisin version, which BTW has lots of good taste, in his “Bread Alone”, p. 137. It may not be recognized as Pumpernickel by the Germans, but around this house, it’s a favorite.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I think I raise more questions than I answer but thanks Doc :) I’ve put a link to one of the many threads on this bread on The Fresh Loaf in an edit to the post above.

      I have got Local Breads by Leader not the Bread Alone book. On the naming of breads; I studied languages at school and I remember that the hardest words to figure and the most annoying ones were the ones which appeared to translate the same but carried a different meaning or sense. French to English is full of them, German has a few and American English – UK English has several. I have come across many of these terms while exploring baking traditions. I keep meaning to write a translation page and stick it on the blog somewhere, along with one for cups and sticks and spoons to grams, Maybe I’ll get round to it soon … ;) I’m sure I saw something along those lines started on the Fresh Loaf, does it ring any bells with you?

      I remember my Scandinavian mother serving pumpernickel style breads at home for lunch (bought not made!) and little friends from school weeping because they thought it was so horrible. It is a little more familiar here now, thanks to Ikea. plus there is a large group of people who don’t eat wheat for various reasons; many of them have turned to ryes so they are a bit more commonplace in shops these days.

      1. drfugawe

        Hummm … well Jo, a name is a name is a name – is it not?

        I went over to your link on Fresh Loaf and read through it (they really can be a contentious lot, can’t they!). I really don’t quite get all this “steaming” talk! Seems pretty obvious to me that the major reason why any home baker would have trouble with this loaf is the falling oven issue. Actually, I kinda agree with the guy at the end of the discussion on FL who says that Black Pumpernickel should be black (they blew him away, didn’t they!) – but without the right oven environment, this will be difficult. But then – who am I? I haven’t even done this one yet – and the lack of a pullman pan is scaring me a bit.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          The name thing for me is only about buying bread, not about what a baker who writes up bread recipes calls their bread in a book, does that make sense? In a book I can read what the recipe writer puts in the bread and decide whether or not it is similar to something I am familiar with. In a shop, however it’s not always so easy to tell what’s in the bread from the descriptive name, a case of not judging a book by its cover ;)

          Anyway, Doc, I am having another go today, it’s eighteen months since I made the one in this post, I have found a couple of milk loaf tins with clips on the side and I have put the dough in there. If it works I will have round slices of pinkl. If it doesn’t I will have some great bread to re-use in another rye bread! I looked at my pullman tins again and they both have holes, basically to let the steam out, so I’ve put them back on the shelf. We’ll see. It’s only a loaf of bread at the end of the day with a bit of a reputation.

          Maybe a visit to the garden shed to create a lid for a tin you own and some nifty clips to clamp it down? ;)

  7. Choclette

    Your pumpernickel looks lovely Joanna and as I do like pumpernickel and rye bread is my weekly bake anyway, I think I really ought to try this out. Will start looking out for whole rye grains.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thanks Choclette :) if you like vollkorn breads then this is a good example of one. I made it again this weekend and it looks a bit different. I will try and post quickly about it after supper.

  8. theinversecook

    Lovely crumb shot. Great bread as always. But I will not bake this again…last one was not too bad but definitely not a pumpernickel, which is moist like dried fruit and pitch-black. My problem is keeping to such a long baking time without drying it out.

  9. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Nils, have you seen the Frisian rye that Weekendbakery do? Something different again, no yeast, no sourdough and then they bake it at a really low temperature. I am guessing because there is no ‘live’ part to the mix then the temperature can be low all the way through. I am really curious to try it and see how different it is from a leavened bread….

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