Pumpernickel Bread – How to Make Homemade Black Bread

Homemade black bread, often called Pumpernickel, is so hearty and rich in flavor, with different notes and flavors coming through the crunchy crust. The texture is dense but not heavy, just perfect to enjoy with a bowl of soup or a smoked salmon sandwich.

Pumpernickel Bread

As a Slavic girl, black bread, aka Pumpernickel bread, holds a special place in my heart. Some soups don’t even taste right to me without a slice of flavorful black bread to go along with them, such as Borsch or Shchi. I’ve worked on this recipe, tweaking, making changes, and trying to make the perfect combination of flavors and texture and keeping it all as simple as possible too.

I wanted it to have a rich, hearty flavor, so I used unsweetened cocoa powder, coffee, molasses and ground caraway seeds to add both color and all sorts of great taste and smell throughout the loaf. The ingredients may sound a little strange, but they all marry so well together and give it the flavor that Pumpernickel bread is so well known for.

I really like the convenience of this recipe – mix up the dough, leave it overnight in the refrigerator, then shape and bake the next day. Making the dough is really easy, there is very little kneading involved – my little toddler boys help me make it. Even if you are new to bread making, I think this is a great recipe to start with. Get your butter out – I can never resist having a slice slathered with butter while the bread is still warm. Try this with a bowl of Borsch or top it with some salmon gravlax

What is Pumpernickel Bread?

Pumpernickel is a black bread, made with rye flour, it’s dense in texture and is popular in European countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, Poland, etc. It is often made with a sour dough started. To add more flavor, I also use unsweetened cocoa powder, a bit of coffee, caraway seeds and molasses. 

Making the Bread Dough

Pumpernickel Bread - how to make the bread dough tutorial

Instead of using a sourdough starter, I mix the bread dough and leave it overnight to rise in the refrigerator. This is a really easy bread dough to make, and the slow rise in the refrigerator will make it fluffier and also develop more gluten and flavor overnight.

What Flour Is Best For Pumpernickel Bread?

To get the perfect texture, hearty and chewy but not too dense and hard, I use a combination or rye, whole wheat and bread flour. If you would use only rye or whole wheat flour, the bread will be too dense, but using some bread flour helps to produce a better texture.

Caraway in Pumpernickel Bread

Caraway gives a distinct flavor to pumpernickel bread. I usually buy caraway seeds whole and then grind them up finely in my coffee grinder. You can even add some whole caraway seeds to the bread dough or sprinkle some on top of the bread before baking it.

grinding coriander in the coffee grinder

Mixing the Dough

You can use your hands to mix the dough or use a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. You don’t need to knead the dough very long at all, just enough so that the flour is all well incorporated into the dough. The dough will stick slightly to your hands; that is normal. Don’t add too much flour, or the bread will be very dense. After the dough rises and then chills, it will be much easier to handle and won’t stick to your hands as much.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Pumpernickel bread rising in a bowl

After the dough has risen for 2 hours, place it in the refrigerator overnight. You can even keep it in the refrigerator for a few days, but I think the best results are when you bake it the next day.

The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator. It will slowly continue fermenting and rising in the refrigerator and will before tender and fluffy.

Shaping the Bread

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a pizza stone in the oven to heat up while the oven is preheating. If you don’t have a pizza stone, place a large baking sheet upside down into the oven instead.

Use a large cutting board or a baking sheet and top it with parchment paper. Sprinkle some cornmeal in the center of the parchment paper, so that there is cornmeal area a bit bigger than the bread loaf will be.

With damp hand, take the dough out of the bowl and knead it very slightly, folding the dough underneath itself until you have an even ball, then shape it into an oval loaf.

shaping pumpernickel bread dough into a loaf

Place the bread loaf on top of the cornmeal. Set the bread loaf aside to rise at room temperature for about 40-50 minutes, or better yet, in a warm room. I actually put the bread in our hot Floridian garage to rise, which makes the rising time faster and more effective.

Slash the top of the bread with diagonal or straight cuts across the surface of the risen bread.

Baking the Bread

Baking Pumpernickel Bread - placing the bread on a pizza stone to bake

Use the parchment paper to pull the bread from the cutting board or baking sheet and transfer to the hot pizza stone in the preheated oven.

Place some sort of rimmed baking pan underneath the pizza stone. Pour in 1 1/2 – 2 cups of hot water into the baking pan. This will created steam in the oven as the bread is baking and will create a nice crust on the outside of the bread as it’s baking.

Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until browned and firm.

Take the bread out of the oven and let cool on a cooling rack before slicing.

Storing the Bread

A loaf of Pumpernickel Bread

Store the bread at room temperature, covered or in a bag or container, for a few days, then store in the refrigerator.

Print

Pumpernickel Bread

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hours 45 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf 1x
  • Category: Miscellaneous

Description

Homemade black bread, often called Pumpernickel,  is so hearty and rich in flavor, with different notes and flavors coming through the crunchy crust. The texture is dense but not heavy, just perfect to enjoy with a bowl of soup or a smoked salmon sandwich.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground caraway seeds
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
  • cornmeal, to sprinkle on the bottom of the parchment paper

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl or a large measuring cup, combine the water, yeast, salt, molasses, instant coffee, cocoa powder, caraway seeds until everything is evenly mixed.
  2. In another large bowl, combine the whole wheat, rye and all purpose flours. Mix to combine. Pour in the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients until they come together.
  3. You can use your hands to mix the dough or use a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. You don’t need to knead the dough very long at all, just enough so that the flour is all well incorporated into the dough. The dough will stick slightly to your hands; that is normal. Don’t add too much flour, or the bread will be very dense. After the dough rises and then chills, it will be much easier to handle and won’t stick to your hands as much.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.
  5. After the dough has risen for 2 hours, place it in the refrigerator overnight. 
  6. The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator. It will slowly continue fermenting and rising in the refrigerator and will before tender and fluffy.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a pizza stone in the oven to heat up while the oven is preheating. If you don’t have a pizza stone, place a large baking sheet upside down into the oven instead.
  8. Use a large cutting board or a baking sheet and top it with parchment paper. Sprinkle some cornmeal in the center of the parchment paper, so that there is cornmeal area a bit bigger than the bread loaf will be.
  9. With damp hand, take the dough out of the bowl and knead it very slightly, folding the dough underneath itself until you have an even ball, then shape it into an oval loaf.
  10. Place the bread loaf on top of the cornmeal. Set the bread loaf aside to rise at room temperature for about 40-50 minutes, or better yet, in a warm room. I actually put the bread in our hot Floridian garage to rise, which makes the rising time faster and more effective.
  11. Slash the top of the bread with diagonal or straight cuts across the surface of the risen bread.
  12. Use the parchment paper to pull the bread from the cutting board or baking sheet and transfer to the hot pizza stone in the preheated oven. Place some sort of rimmed baking pan underneath the pizza stone. Pour in 1 1/2 – 2 cups of hot water into the baking pan. This will created steam in the oven as the bread is baking and will create a nice crust on the outside of the bread as it’s baking.
  13. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until browned and firm.
  14. Take the bread out of the oven and let cool on a cooling rack before slicing.
  15. Store the bread at room temperature, covered or in a bag or container, for a few days, then store in the refrigerator.

Keywords: pumpernickel bread, black bread, Russian black bread, how to make pumpernickel bread, how to make homemade black bread

Sliced pumpernickel black bread

23 Comments

  • Marina

    This looks wonderful! I’ll purchase some caraway seeds and bake it this week, I know it will be delicious!
    Olga, I have a question about step six: do I need to punch the dough down before placing it in the refrigerator? I want to make sure I understand all the steps before baking.
    Thank you for the recipe!

  • alla

    Ive been waiting for you to post the recipe. I baked it today. The aroma that filled our home was amazing and the flavor was so good. Thank you for your yummy posts/recipes

  • Liana

    Thank you for the great recipe. I have used my bread maker machine to make the dough using all the ingredients in your recipe. Then I followed your directions (overnight in the refrigerator, etc). It turned out beautiful and so tasty. The flavor, the texture – just like from the Russian store, even better!!! My husband told me that I should make the black bread using this recipe from now on, he loved it so much as well! I used different recipe before this one.

  • Rosemary Cagle

    Can this recipe be used in a bread machine?I am 71 have arthritis in my hands this recipe sounds yummy I bought a bread machine because it is easy for me does everything all in one;my favorite bread is pumpernickel. Thank you Rosemary Cagle

  • Oksana

    I really want to try this recipe. But I have a question. Can I substitute whole wheat flour with rye flour only? Thank you

      • Oksana

        So I finally baked it. I substituted a whole wheat flour with rye only. It turned out outrageously good. I think it is much denser and chewier than the bread on your pictures – and frankly speaking thats what I hoping.for. I dont like when bread is crumbly and soft. I must say that your recipe is the best of all the recipes I tried. I can confidently say – this recipe is what I was looking for for a long time now. Thank you very much for sharing it)

        • olgak7

          I’m so glad you were happy with the bread, Oksana! Thank you for taking the time to write and share your feedback.
          I love when Pumpernickel Bread is dense and chewy too:).

  • Michael

    You had an earlier version of Russian Black bread which I loved making but can’t find. Is there an archives link to it. All the best in 2019

  • Andrew

    Olga, I love your Shchi recipe! Can you PLEASE ( oh please ) give a recipe for Borodinskiy bread??
    Спасибо
    Russophile in NC
    Andrew

  • Sara

    I’ve made this once and loved it! To double the recipe, can I just double the ingredients and mix all together and then split the final dough in half before baking?

  • Sara

    You specify 3/4 Tablespoons of salt. How many teaspoons is that? I do wonder if you intended to write 3/4 teaspoons rather than Tablespoons. Sorry for so many questions!

      • Sara

        I feel so dumb for even asking as I simply did the arithmetic and found that 3/4 Tblsp = 2 1/4 tsp. So, I’ve noted that so I don’t have to re-calculate everytime I make this recipe!!

        I doubled the recipe today and baked it in loaf pans. Since I don’t use a mixer, I found that withholding about half a cup of the flour mix helps when I turn out the dough on the counter to knead. That way I don’t add more flour than the recipe calls for. This time, I kneaded the dough quite awhile till the gluten had formed using the reserved flour for dusting as it became sticky while kneading. I baked it in 2 loaf tins after letting it rest overnight in the fridge. It rose beautifully and had a much better texture from the extended kneading (since I don’t use a mixer) than last time when I didn’t knead as much. Next time, I’ll add twice the amount of caraway seeds.

        Thanks, Olga, for providing this and so many other wonderful recipes!!!

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