Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

READY IN: 48hrs 30mins
YIELD: 2 loaves


  • Rye Starter
  • 1
    cup sourdough starter
  • 1
    cup coarse whole-rye flour
  • 34
    cup water, room temperature
  • Final Dough
  • 2
    cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2
    tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1
    tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 12
    teaspoons salt
  • 1 14
    teaspoons instant yeast
  • 34 - 1
    cup breadcrumbs, preferably from rye bread (dry or fresh)
  • 2
    tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 14
    cup water, room temperature
  • For Dusting
  • semolina flour or coarse whole rye flour


  • The day before making the bread:
  • Mix proofed starter, rye flour, and water in a bowl.
  • This will make a wet, pasty barm (starter).
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours or until the the sponge becomes bubbly and foamy.
  • Immediately put it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Bread baking day:
  • Remove the rye barm (starter) from the refrigerator one hour prior to making the dough.
  • After chill is off the barm, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and yeast in large mixing bowl.
  • Add the rye barm, bread crumbs and oil and mix on low speed with paddle attachment until the ingredients form a ball.
  • Add additional water if the dough ball does not pick up all the flour, or more flour if the dough seems too wet.
  • With dough hook attachment mix on loaw speed for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add more flour as needed to make a smooth pliable dough ball. It should be tacky but not sticky.
  • Note: Rye bread will become gummy if you mix too long, so try to make all adjustments early and minimize the mixing and kneading process.
  • Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  • Sprinkle small amount of flour on the counter and carefully transfer the dough to the counter (try not to degas the dough).
  • Divide the dough in 2 equal pieces and shape them into boules or rectangle for sandwich bread.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment (or use proofing basket) and sprinkle with cornmeal, smolina flour or coarse whole-rye flour.
  • If making sandwich bread, lightly oil 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan(s).
  • Transfer the dough to the pans, mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel.
  • Proof at room temperature for approximately 90 minutes, or until the dough crests 1 inch above the lip of the bread pan at the center, or rises to 1 1/2 times it original size.
  • For Freestanding Loaves:
  • Preheat the oven to 450°F, placing a baking stone on the middle shelf and a broiler pan or cast-iron skillet on lower shelf (to provide steam).
  • Score the loaves to allow for expansion.
  • Transfer the dough to the baking stone.
  • Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and quickly close the door.
  • After 30 seconds open the door and spray the oven walls with water.
  • Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals.
  • After the final spray, lower the oven temperature to 400°F and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes. Checking the breads and rotating 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking.
  • When done, the bread should register 200°F in the center and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  • For Loaf Pans:
  • Place pans on baking sheet and place in the oven (middle rack).
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the sheet pan 180 degrees for even baking.
  • Continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes, or until loaves register 185-195°F in the center and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  • Remove finished loaves from the pan and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.