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The History of Pumpernickel Bread

A slice of Pumpernickel


Westphalia is a State in Germany


Pumpernickel is a bread originated from the Westphalian region of Germany, the traditional is made of only rye flour, is square with coarse grain texture and slightly sweet.

Etymology :

Like many german words they put two or three together to make a new word. Like Hand = Hand and Schuh = shoe ...Handschuh becomes a word for a glove

The word "nickel" goes way back from the name Nicklolas which was a grand name meaning victory people. However , somewhere down the line the term 'Old Nick" became a name for a little devil ..or a bad spirit.

The German word "Pumper", can at best be nicely put, means flatulence.
So put the 2 words together and you get ....well you can guess yourself.

WHY THIS NAME for a nice tasty bread???

No one knows for sure and this fun name has been greatly studied as to it's origins. The Westphalians that developed this bread simply call it "Schwartz Brot or black bread, so it was probably named so when it was used for army rations and wasn't the best, especially because it is made from coarse cut grain,

As Ludwig Gleim, an 18th century German poet put it in his War Songs,
his invented character.....

"A man from Münster
filled with fear and hunger ,
took a prodigious
bite of Pumpernickel"

How is it made?

True Pumpernickel is made from Rye only.
Why Rye?

Rye is a grain that can survive a winter freeze. It is very nutritious, and you can almost live on it. This is perfect for the Northern German regions where it is hard to grow wheat. It can even grow in winter when the sun shines, even when there is general snow cover. Winter rye is a crop that can actually be planted in the Fall.

More about Rye

However Rye has very little gluten so it is very hard to get any structure in your bread, and even shape it.

Very few breads are made only with Rye flour.

The Traditional Pumpernickel is made from only coarse rye grains and dark rye flour , which is coarse ground rye. A substantial starter is needed so a sourdough taking a few days to rev up is used.

Pumpernickel made the Westphalian way is baked for 16 to 20 hours in a steam oven. This produces a very dark color, and a soft crust.

Many recipes create the dark color of the pumpernickel by adding cocoa powder, molasses or other browning agents but true pumpernickel creates this on it's own due to the Maillard reaction


Here is an easier pumpernickel that isn't baked so long and can be done in a traditional oven.


Bavarian Pumpernickel Bread

Come into the kitchen and let's make
Bavarian Pumpernickel with Step by Step Pictures

Some of the things you will need.

Medium Rye Flour


Rye Berries

This is what rye flour looks like before it is ground.

Look for it in natural food stores or you can buy it online at Amazon very inexpensive.

Organic Rye Berries, 28 oz (793 g)  



 Bob's Red Mill Organic Pumpernickel Dark Rye Meal -- 24 oz


Want to Buy Bread Made in Germany?
very similar to this recipe I provided, using a 3 stage starter.

if you have never tried it you really should. I know that you usually don't spend 8 1/2 dollars on a loaf of bread but you will get many many meals out of this loaf and it will last a loooong time and stay nice.

This is deep frozen and shipped, and just as Rye is a hearty grain
so is this loaf and it arrives from across the ocean in great shape!
I have even refrozen half of the loaf , wrapping it in plastic wrap and then
foil and it was preserved just fine!

Go here to purchase some

Brinker Roggenbrot!
German Rye Bread


I know the shipping charges are good sized
but if you order several other things
like a nice
Bratwurst Grill Fest package on sale now as a Super Bowl special

It cuts spreads out those charges and
I think you will feel it is worth it!





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Culinaria Germany  


Organic Rye Berries, 28 oz (793 g)  




 Bob's Red Mill Organic Pumpernickel Dark Rye Meal -- 24 oz





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Last updated January 29, 2012