Horst Bandel’s Black Pumpernickel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Dough Yield: About


    pullman loaves at 4.4 lb each

Appears in


By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Old Bread has Been Used by Bakers in Europe for Centuries. When faced with the choice of throwing away the day’s leftovers or reusing them, the choice was simple. The practice of soaking old bread and then adding it into a new batch not only makes economic sense, it also gives a rich depth of flavor to the new breads. Far from being expended, the old bread contains much that is still fermentable, and is a worthy addition to many different breads. Using old bread in new bread is so widely practiced in Germany that there are laws on the books there regulating the maximum amount of old bread the baker can add to a new batch of dough.

Traditionally, this style of bread is baked in covered pans overnight in the receding heat of a wood-fired oven. It can also be loaded at the end of the day’s bake in other kinds of ovens and removed the next day—if the oven loses sufficient heat overnight. Many of the more substantial modern ovens (some steam tube ovens, for example) retain too much heat and can’t be used to produce this kind of bread. More’s the pity. The good news is that cyclothermic-style ovens, rotary ovens, and even home ovens can be used. Experimentation may be necessary before the parameters of the bake time are established; once they are, the baker can be confident of consistently producing one of the most remarkable breads in the world.

The hydration of this formula seems to be low at first glance. The rye berries and old bread add lots of moisture that does not appear in the overall formula’s water figure, and when all are combined, the dough is amply moist.

Blackstrap molasses is used in this formula to provide a slight bitter note and deeper color. If unavailable, leave it out entirely, or substitute malt syrup for the molasses. Don’t add sweet molasses, which would not balance well with the other flavors in the bread.

Pre-Fermented Flour: 28%


Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Rye Meal 6 lb 3 kg 9.6 oz 30 %
Rye Berries 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz 20 %
Rye Chops 5 lb 2.5 kg 8 oz 25 %
Bread Flour 5 lb 2.5 kg 8 oz 25 %
Old Bread 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz 20 %
Water 14 lb 7 kg 1 lb, 6.4 oz 70 %
Salt .4 lb .2 kg .6 oz 2 %
Yeast .4 lb, fresh .2 kg, fresh .21 oz, instant dry 2 %
Molasses, Blackstrap* .8 lb .4 kg 1.3 oz 4 %
Total Yield 39.6 lb 19.8 kg 3 lb, 14.9 oz 198 %

* Malt syrup can be substituted for the molasses. Although Horst used molasses, I personally prefer the subtler flavor of malt syrup.


Rye Meal 6 lb 3 kg 9.6 oz (2⅝ cups) 100 %
Water 6 lb 3 kg 9.6 oz ( cups) 100 %
Mature Sourdough Culture .3 lb .15 kg .5 oz (1 T + 1 tsp) 5 %
Total 12.3 lb 6.15 kg 1 lb, 3.7 oz

Rye-Berry Soaker

Rye Berries 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz (1 cup) 100 %
Water As needed
Total 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz

Old-Bread Soaker

Old Bread 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz (3⅝ cups)
Water As needed
Total 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz

Final Dough

Bread Flour 5 lb 2.5 kg 8 oz ( cups)
Rye Chops 5 lb 2.5 kg 8 oz ( cups)
Water 8 lb 4 kg 12.8 oz (1⅝ cups)
Salt .4 lb .2 kg .6 oz (1 T)
Yeast .4 lb, fresh .2 kg, fresh .21 oz, instant dry (2 tsp)
Molasses .8 lb .4 kg 1.3 oz ( T)
Rye-Berry Soaker (not including absorbed water) 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz (all of above)
Old Bread Soaker (not including absorbed water) 4 lb 2 kg 6.4 oz (all of above)
Sourdough 12 lb 6 kg 1 lb, 3.2 oz (all of above minus 1 T + 1 tsp)
Total 39.6 lb 19.8 kg 3 lb, 14.9 oz


  1. SOURDOUGH: Prepare the sourdough and ripen it for 14 to 16 hours at 70°F. Substitute whole-rye flour or pumpernickel if rye meal is unavailable.
  2. RYE-BERRY SOAKER: Soak whole rye berries overnight. The next day, boil them in about 3 times their volume of water until they are soft and pliable, about an hour or so. To save on fuel, I prefer to cover them thoroughly with water in a hotel pan and put them in the oven, which cooks them well without having to use the stovetop. Once the berries are soft and pliable, strain them and set aside. Discard any remaining cooking liquid.
  3. OLD-BREAD SOAKER: Using either a portion of the previous pumpernickel bake, or some other type of leftover bread (preferably a strong dark bread), soak the bread, crusts and all, in hot water and let stand for at least 4 hours. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible and reserve the water for use as needed in the final dough. For deeper flavor in the finished bread, slice old bread, lay it on sheet pans, bake again until dry and dark, and use that bread in the old-bread soaker.
  4. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the bowl, including the sourdough and both of the soakers, but do not add any of the final dough water reserved from squeezing the liquid from the old-bread soaker. The rye berries and old bread absorb varying amounts of water during their cooking and soaking, so wait until the dough comes together before adding any additional liquid. It is quite possible that no additional dough water will be required. The dough should be of medium consistency but not wet, and it will be slightly sticky. Add bread flour as needed if the mix is on the wet side. Mix on first speed only, for 10 minutes. Desired dough temperature: 82° to 84°F.
  5. BULK FERMENTATION: 30 minutes.
  6. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 4.4-pound pieces. Shape the pieces into logs and place them in pullman pans that have been lightly oiled and then coated with rye meal or whole-rye flour. The lids should also be oiled and coated with rye meal or whole-rye flour. This prevents the bread from sticking to the pan during the long bake. Slide the lids onto the tops of the pans.
  7. FINAL FERMENTATION: 50 to 60 minutes at 82°F.
  8. BAKING: When the dough is approximately ¾ inch from the top of the pan, it is sufficiently risen. Since the bread bakes for 12 to 16 hours, it is of vital importance that the oven temperature gradually recedes throughout the bake. The speed at which it recedes will partially determine the length of the bake. In any event, the bread should be loaded into an oven that is in the 350° to 375°F range. Ideally, it will stay in that range for upwards of an hour, then begin to decrease. In a commercial hearth deck oven that has moderate heat retention, the oven can be turned off. In the home oven, try lowering the oven temperature to 275°F after an hour, and then turning the oven off 3 or 4 hours later. Since there are so many variations in oven design, experimentation may be necessary until you find the baking method most suitable for your oven. You will know when this bread is baked: The aroma will fill the entire room. Due to the lengthy bake, a great amount of the natural sugars in the dough will have caramelized, and these will contribute greatly, not only to the aroma, but also to the deep, almost black, color of the baked bread. Remove the bread from the pans and let it cool completely. Resist any urge to slice it; it should rest at minimum for 24 hours, wrapped in baker’s linen, before the knife reveals the bread’s inner self.