I prefer to use three parts bread flour to one part coarse rye, a combination that provides enough gluten to yield a light loaf and enough rye to give the distinctive rye flavor. The coarser cut, sometimes packaged as pumpernickel flour, gives a heartier texture to the bread than fine ground rye flour, so I think of it as a country bread.
Mix all the dry ingredients, including the yeast (and caramel coloring if you are using that), together in a bowl. Then add the water, reserving some for final adjustments. Put all your caramel in at this stage. If you wait until later it will streak the bread. If you want the bread still darker, additional caramel can be put in until the dough is ready to be turned out onto the counter for kneading. After this point it is much harder to work it in.
Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. The dough should be soft yet firm, tacky but not sticky, and chocolate in color (unless you omitted the caramel). Return the dough to a clean bowl, cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, or slip the bowl into a plastic bag and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for about 1½ hours.
If you want loaf bread, form the loaves (following the directions) at this time. Pumpernickel, because of the low-gluten rye flour, will not spring in the oven as some breads do. It generally stays the size that it was at the beginning of the bake. For this reason you should allow it to come up higher in the pan, giving the loaves more proofing time than you give most other doughs, especially if you want sandwich-sized loaves, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.
If you are making freestanding French-style loaves, punch the dough down and allow a second rise in the bowl, for approximately 1 hour. Form the loaves according to the instructions for French bread.
Bake pan loaves at 350°F. (300°F. in a convection oven) for approximately 45 minutes. Bake free-standing loaves or rounds according to the instructions. Thwack the bottom of the loaves to test for doneness. Allow the bread to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing.
1 Caramel coloring is simply burnt sugar. It not only darkens the loaf but also adds a subtle flavor. You may omit it, however, if you want a lighter colored bread. Caramel comes in both liquid and powder form, or you can make your own in a skillet. A little goes a long way, so use it carefully, depending on how dark you like your bread.
Cocoa and carob powder will also work well and impart their own flavors to the bread. Use like caramel coloring.
© 1991 Peter Reinhart. All rights reserved.