What better to do while we had our brief taste (so far) of winter than to bake some bread–the oven adding warmth to the kitchen and the smell of rising and baking bread adding some warmth for the soul as well.
My encounters with pumpernickel bread have been with deli sandwiches–and I cannot recall ever having had pumpernickel without the caraway seeds. Rationally, I knew that a large part of what I tasted as “pumpernickel” was the caraway which, although I like it, is a pretty strong, defining flavor.
I’ve never had freshly baked pumpernickel bread so that seemed like a good thing to do. I have always associated pumpernickel and rye breads with caraway seeds, so I wasn’t surprised to see caraway seeds in the list of ingredients. Since I’ve been so pleased with the results of the “no knead” technique, I went to the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (p. 67) for my pumpernickel bread. I knew that I had all the unusual ingredients necessary for the recipe since I’ve been planning to try it for some time now and just hadn’t gotten around to it. I had the unsweetened cocoa powder, caramel coloring, espresso powder, molasses, and caraway seeds.
After my bread had risen nicely I slashed the top, popped it into the oven and generated some steam by spraying water into the oven several times for the first couple minutes, and sat back to await the aroma of baking bread. Wonderful! About the time that I really began to smell it was when I realized that I had not sprinkled it with the caraway seeds–but, too late now.
It’s a very happy “oops” from my point of view. When I tasted the warm bread with some unsalted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, it was an absolutely wonderful surprise–without the caraway seeds I was tasting this wonderful dark, slightly sweetish, slightly bitter (pleasantly, mind you) bread. I loved it. I’ve been making sandwiches with it for the last several days. I’ll be making more of it without adding the seeds.
But I couldn’t get away from the fact that I’d never tasted it without caraway seeds before. I started looking at recipes for pumpernickel bread in all my cookbooks, and online as well. I wasn’t really surprised when I found that almost all of them included caraway seeds as part of the recipe. I looked at the recipe for pumpernickel bread in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (“Bavarian-Style Whole Grain Pumpernickel Bread”, p. 115) and found that caraway seeds were called for in that recipe too.
Further searching lead me to a recipe for the “traditional” Westphalian pumpernickel–the unleavened version, and to other dark/black breads like peasant black bread, Russian black bread. Some had caraway seeds, some had fennel or anise seeds, and some had none. While I used supermarket medium rye flour rather than darker rye or pumpernickel flour (rye with bran left in), this sample has left me wanting to sample other “black” breads for which I found recipes while browsing through Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads–like onion rye, sour cream rye, Russian black bread….
My online browsing lead me to the Smitten Kitchen for a recipe for black bread that sounds so intriguing–reading the list of ingredients trying to imagine the overall taste of this bread. I’m so “addicted” to the no-knead technique, but I may have to give this one a try just to get a gestalt for the taste–and then maybe I can have a no-knead version. This recipe calls for seeds–caraway, and fennel, as well as shallots, cider vinegar, molasses and the chocolate/cocoa of the recipe that I just made.
I think that my next attempt at pumpernickel will be the recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day since that is a whole-grain bread, quite possibly without the seeds! That may well be one to try to modify it to approximate the Russian black bread recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.
Though I want to try other recipes with other ingredients, I will certainly make pumpernickel again, both with and without the seeds. I have visions of a wonderful hors d’oeuvre of crispy French radishes, unsalted butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, on unseeded pumpernickel or black bread of some sort, with a glass of champagne!
It’s good that I’ve remedied my cultural deprivation and discovered black breads to bake at home…Still have enough dough for 2 more loaves in the fridge.