Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mr. Pumpernickel

Even for someone who has eaten a lot of pumpernickel bread, this recipe has eluded me, hopefully only till now.  The problem has always been the color more than the flavor.  Even using dark rye flour, it seemed beyond me to replicate deli pumpernickel.  I would see on the back of packages that commercial bakeries used "caramel coloring", which I assumed was food coloring.

And so I tried molasses to color the pumpernickel.  I would not use coffee or cocoa powder to color (as prescribed by some internet recipes), as those tastes would do damage to the flavor of the final product.

Finally, I googled "caramel color" to find that caramel color was originally (prior to becoming a toxic industrial process) burnt sugar syrup.  To make your own, here is a recipe to get you going.  I hope the use of it in my test batch this weekend will result in the right color, along with a hint of the nutty sweet taste characteristic of good pumpernickel.

Bonus Question: What is the etymology of the word pumpernickel?

[As an addendum, I was reading Jeffrey Hammelman's Bread, wherein he states that true pumpernickel is traditionally bread that is left to bake in covered loaf pans overnight in a cooling hearth oven.  In this manner, the bread sugars actually break down and caramelize to the point that the whole loaf is black but not burnt when it comes out in the morning.  He states that the bread was fed to babies and the infirm for this reason because these sugars are easy to digest.  That may also help explain the etymology of the bread's name -- "Devil's Fart".]

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