It’s the weekend, so I must be cooking, right? Those who enjoy my blogs on bread making might find my latest experiment of some interest: sourdough pumpernickel.
I debated whether I should write this because frankly, I would say, sourdough pumpernickel may be an acquired taste. Think about it: pumpernickel bread already has a strong flavor; add the “tang” or sour flavor implicit in sourdough bread and what do you have? I can tell you: a very strong flavor! I haven’t decided if I like it or not.
If pressed, the closest flavor I can think of that approximates it is licorice.
I blame my friend Lisa for this! (Joking. Sort of. I’ll take her some and see what she thinks.)
Lisa asked if I was thinking about doing pumpernickel and, if so, to let her know so that we could compare notes. She said she wasn’t satisfied with how her’s came out. I told her that these days I just do sourdough (except for white bread for my grandson).
After we discussed it a bit, I got curious. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to make sourdough pumpernickel, since the ingredient that gives it the unique flavor is molasses, and sourdough is all about converting sugars. So, I thought, well, I guess I could try it.
I don’t have a recipe, per se. I just put the ingredients together how I thought they should go. I looked at a pumpernickel bread recipe but substituted sourdough starter and played it by ear from there.
I took my sourdough starter and poured out about a quarter cup into a separate jar three days before I started cooking. I fed the starter (which had been bred with organic all purpose flour) with organic rye flour: one quarter cup with an equal amount of filtered water twice a day. On the third day, I had bubbly starter from the rye flour. (If changing to a different type of flour for sourdough cooking, you need to allow time for your starter to get accustomed to it.)
Amounts are approximate: I mixed one and half cups of the starter and one cup of rye flour with one-half cup of molasses, half a cup of warm water, two tablespoons of olive oil (substituted for shortening), one tablespoon of salt, two tablespoons of caraway seeds. Stir and mix in one cup or so of bread flour judiciously to make it less sticky, and more for your kneading board. Knead thoroughly, then put in a covered, lightly oiled bowl. Let sit for 4 hours.
Take it out and knead and shape it, then put it back in the covered bowl for four more hours. Then put it in a dutch oven, in a heated oven at 400F, with the top on. After 30 minutes, take the top off, and back for another 15 minutes.
Put on a rack and let it cool.
Again, I’m not sure I would recommend this. I did not leave it overnight, which might improve it, since that’s how most sourdoughs are made, but I was a bit hesitant since I added so much molasses and wanted to keep an eye on it; also, leaving dough overnight normally makes the flavor stronger (which might not be a good thing with pumpernickel).
Next time, if I choose to make pumpernickel bread, I think I’ll just use the rye flour by itself and not sourdough starter. It’s just a bit too strong for my taste.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.