Friday, November 7, 2008

Pumpernickel bread

Something a little different this week--more different than I expected, really. There's a fair range in pumpernickel recipes on-line. I think that's part due to the variation between bakers you usually find and part due to variation across Europe. Most agree that the central components that make bread pumpernickel are molasses, cocoa and caraway seed which, frankly, seems just a wierd as the white-chocolate and salmon recipe I made a few days ago but it's been around long enough to become traditional so nobody argues with it.

The recipe I settled on is German and has an interesting technique. First you make a batter and then add extra flour to turn it into a dough. I really don't see what's to be gained by it, but I'm willing to try it to find out.

To start, here's the basic recipe. It's for two loaves but I halved it to make just one fairly small one.

2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa
2 T. sugar
1 T. caraway seed
1 1/2 t. salt
3 C. rye flour
2 C. water
1/4 C. molasses
1/4 C. butter
3 C. sifted all-purpose flour
Shortening (or Pam spray)

In large bowl, stir together yeast, cocoa, sugar, caraway seed, salt and 2 cups rye flour; set aside.

In 2 quart saucepan over low heat, heat water, molasses and butter until very warm.

Using mixer at low speed, gradually beat molasses mixture into yeast mixture until well blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup rye flour. Increase speed to high; beat 2 more minutes.

Stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.

Place into greased large bowl, turning over dough so that top is greased. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down dough. Divide in half. Cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Shape each half into a round loaf. Place 4 inches apart on greased large baking sheet.

Cover and let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.

Diagonally slash each loaf, crosswise, 3 times.

Bake in 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with foil; bake 15 minutes more or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Immediately remove from baking sheet. Brush tops of hot loaves with shortening. Cool on racks.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves

Following the instructions left me with a rather dense stiff dough so I added a bit more water and gave it ten minutes to absorb before kneading.

Usually I let the machine knead for ten minutes, but I've begun to suspect I've been overkneading and the tight gluten strands are keeping my doughs from forming the large irregular holes that I've been trying for. I don't actually want that in a pumpernickel, but overkneading is overkneading so I left it at five minutes. Anyway, it had started climbing the dough hook at that point so it was probably time to quit.

The result was still pretty dense but that's probably right for pumpernickel, too. I had reduced the yeast from a full packet since I'm using "highly active" instead of just plain "active", but the first rise was very slow so kneaded in another teaspoon for the second rise. I also added a bit more water as the recipe called for a "soft" dough which it really wasn't. Still, kind of a wierd-looking dough.

The next issue was what to do about the baking. The recipe calls for a short time at a low temperature, but I've been having so much success with the high-temperature dutch oven method I think I'm going to stick with it and see what happens. It involves checking in after a half hour so I should be able to modify it as I go along if necessary.

I checked it after a half hour and the thermometer made a wet squishing noise as it went in so not quite done yet. After twenty more minutes it had started burning on the top but the center was barely above 200 degrees. I gave it another seven minutes, the temperature was above 205 and the aroma had started to get a bit carbony so it was time to take it out.

That's not the prettiest loaf around.

At a closer examination, the exposed grain looks more like cake than bread. I'm rather curious what I'm going to see when I cut it open.

I'm relieved to see that's it's pretty normal inside. A fine tender crust; not chewy at all, as you'd expect from the large percentage of low gluten rye flour and the short knead time. The flavor is quite a respectable pumpernickel: the scent of the caraway drifting over a sweet richness that the cocoa and molasses contribute to without coming quite to the for. My immediate impression is a good quality restaurant dinner roll.

That's after cutting away the unfortunately burnt crust, though. That result explains why most recipes call for using a loaf pan. I wonder if I could heat my dutch oven and then drop a loaf pan into it. I wonder if there would be any point. The purpose of the enclosed baking is primarily to improve the crust so probably not. I'll have to remember that next time I'm making a non-crust-centric loaf.

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