06 November 2012

Pumpernickel Bread and Dad's Sandwich ...

Pumpernickel Braid

When I was a little girl, sandwiches were one of the typical lunches that Mom would make us. During the week, a peanut butter, egg salad, tuna fish, or bologna and cheese sandwich always sat neatly wrapped in wax paper and nestled in my little tin lunch box. It would always have a small indentation from an apple or orange or a mis-shapen corner from being swung about in the lunch box on the way to school. Sandwiches were the staple of every school kid's midday meal and I was no exception. Unfortunately, mine were always made with a spongy white bread that came from a plastic bag. In my case, the store-brand or Nissen Bakery brand.

My Dad, though, would sometimes come home on a Saturday morning with a big round loaf of black bread that he called pumpernickel. While Mom worked on the sewing machine at whatever her current sewing project was, Dad and I would make ourselves lunch. He always offered me a pumpernickel sandwich, but it was too exotic for me. It had a crunchy crust and a strange earthy smell. It came home in a crisp paper bag. It wasn't pre-sliced. It was strange to my childish sensibilities. Don't get me wrong... I loved the word, 'pumpernickel' and Dad would joke sometimes and say," I'll give a nickel if you can spell it!", as he cut a couple slices of the dense dark bread. Then, he would open a jar of this fiercely spicy Medford's mustard and unwrap a mysterious paper-wrapped package that he got from the meat department at the Acme Market. He'd wave it under my nose, knowing that I would convulse, squeal, and pinch my nose .... "Eeewww! Smelly mud!" "Nah!", he'd say, "That's the finest liverwurst you will ever see ... or smell!" He'd proceed to smear a healthy amount on two slabs of that pumpernickel bread, slather on the mustard, rifle in the fridge for a jar of my Mom's homemade dill pickles, crack a cold beer and sit down to a lunch that he said reminded him of a Jewish deli in New York. I would get out the peanut butter and my lowly white bread and make up a pb&j. We'd munch away contentedly before heading back outside for whatever Saturday pursuits needed our attention.

Ahhh, the memories!

I've since developed a taste for pumpernickel bread, but liverwurst still smells like stinky mud ... instead, I pile egg salad on or perhaps pastrami and Swiss cheese. While I can't find Medford's mustard anywhere in my neck of the woods, I do have a great hot spicy Dijon made by Roland's. Whenever I make either sandwich on a good pumpernickel, I think of 'the old bear', Bing Miller, my Dad. Look, Dad! I even learned how to spell it!

This pumpernickel bread is another recipe from my Jewish cookbook. It has teased me many a time, as I leaf through looking for the next recipe. Thinking about Dad's pumpernickel bread and this egg salad sandwich is a result of last Saturday's mass production of sandwiches that I made for the campaign workers down at Fitzwilliam's Obama headquarters. While I was making those sandwiches with a store-bought loaf of pumpernickel, pastrami, and Swiss cheese I got to thinking about making my own loaf.

Today, I finally turned to that pumpernickel recipe in my cookbook ... there will be bread for lunches this week. Yum! Egg salad sandwiches coming right up! Maybe a good pastrami and cheese too! Oh! Smoked salmon and dilly sour cream also!


Pumpernickel Bread


2 ½ oz unsweetened baking chocolate
¼ c. water
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 ¾ c. rye flour
2 ¾ c. bread flour plus ¼ c. more for kneading
1 tsp salt
a generous ½ tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
7 tbsp. dark beer
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 tbsp. molasses or treacle
¾ c. warm water (109 ° F)
Coarse grind cornmeal for sprinkling

Making the Bread:

  1. Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Place the water, coffee flakes, and chunks of chocolate  in the bowl and heat gently until the chocolate has melted. Set it aside for a minute.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the rye flour, bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and caraway seeds.
  3. Make a well in the center and add the molasses, beer, oil, chocolate/coffee melt, and warm water.
  4. Stir together to make a very thick heavy dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a cooled lightly floured surface and knead briskly for ten minutes. The dough will get really stiff and smooth, but keep kneading. Sprinkle only enough flour onto the kneading surface as you need to keep it moving easily.
  6. Wash the dough bowl out, grease it generously, drop the dough ball in and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise for 2 hours, until doubled.
  7. Push the dough down, divide it into three equal amounts (I weigh them.). Roll them into snakes and braid a long loaf (about a foot and a half long. If you prefer round loaves, just divide the dough ball in half and form two rounds, slash them on top in whatever design you like.
  8. Place them on a cookie sheet that you have greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.
  9. Cover and let the loaf rise for a good hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 500 ° F one half hour before bake time.
  11. When the loaf (or loaves) is ready to bake, spritz the top with some vegetable oil or do an egg wash, pop it in the middle of the oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 365 ° F.
  12. Bake for 40 minutes, covering the loaf with foil after 30 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven when the loaf is firm and sounds hollow when rapped with a knuckle.
  14. Cool completely on a rack before cutting.

This post is linked to Heather's monthly Bake Your Own Bread recipe share at girlichef . Hop on over and see just what's been placed in the bread basket this month!





  1. Wow what a beautiful bread!!
    It looks so delicious!

  2. What a wonderful trip down memory lane. And a stunning loaf to go with an excellent post. Beautiful photos too. All in all I'm happy to move in any time!

  3. What a fantastic story, I felt like I was right there! I always had white bread sammiches in my lunch, too. But hey, I liked it. And I would eye my mom's pump or rye, as well. This is a fantastic loaf and I think it's high time I make another loaf for myself. And p.s... I didn't like liverwurst back then, either...but I love it now! ;)

  4. There was always something magical about being with our Dads in the kitchen when Mom was off doing something else. Thanks for sharing that story Susan, and for the memory of the Acme Market. That really brought a smile to my face.

  5. Pumpernickel is one of my favorite breads for toast. I can only imagine how good it would be with good old fatty red pastrami. Your braided loaf looks like it came out of a bakery.

  6. That is one seriously healthy bread. First time here and luving it. Happy to be a part. :-)


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