Sunday, February 09, 2014

Adventures in Pumpernickel Bread: The Stuff of Life

I haven't baked in a while, but this weekend* I decided to jump back into it by making my first batch of pumpernickel bread. Pumpernickel bread is pretty much the reason I bought this bread book to start with -- apparently, it's not really that popular in Alaska and I can't find it at the stores. However, it's kind of complicated and requires unusual ingredients so I haven't tried it before today.

The bread book I have is Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. Bernard Clayton smiles at you from the back of the book in a grandfatherly manner, as if to say "Anyone can make these breads! Even an old dude like me!" I should have known this was going to be trouble when the description of the recipe starts out "Caution: If you are about to launch a career in baking, don't begin with this loaf....It is a loaf for an advanced student..." Well, I thought, I'm no beginner. And I'm not starting a career in baking. So I'll give it a go.

Trouble sign number 2: I had some trouble with the ingredients. First of all, dark rye flour is not sold at Fred Meyers, so I had to get light rye flour. And then I forgot to buy the unsweetened chocolate. But the recipe calls for a crapload of molasses (yes, that's a technical term), so I figured I'd cut out the sugar and just add bittersweet chocolate chips.

I mix everything up, per the instructions, and go to knead the bread. "The dough will be stiff and sticky by hand or in the mixer" the book says. I sprinkle a "liberal" amount of flour onto my new baking mat and start to knead.

Only now, the dough takes over. It's not just sticky. It sucks my hands in and gloms them together. I am starting to resemble Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. But good old Bernard tells me "Be patient and presently the dough will respond and begin to clear the work surface, and your fingers". I try a little more, and add some flour. The dough starts to act like The Stuff.

Art is based in real life, you know.

I add a little more flour. The dough maintains its hold. I start to worry that someone will report me missing in three days, and the police will just find a giant mass of dough in my kitchen. I add even more flour, spilling some on the floor and the dog in the process.

Fievel auditioning for a role in Blow 2: To Say Nothing of the Dog
The kitchen starts to resemble a cocaine factory, except the workers are a lot less high on, uh, life. Finally, I realize the instructions should have read "Dump in a whole crapload of flour to match the crapload of molasses, because you're going to need it". So I dump in the rest of the bag of flour, and voila, the alien life force is beaten into submission and becomes an actual ball of dough.

At this point, I've added in so much flour I think "there's no way this is going to rise", which is pretty much exactly what Bernard has told me I would think. But after an hour, I check the bread, and holy pumpernickel, it has actually risen! So I throw it in the oven for the specified time at the designated temp, and...out comes pumpernickel rolls, almost exactly like I wanted!

"Haha! I'm Bernard Clayton, laughing all the way to the bank!"

Unfortunately, by this time I'm exhausted, and so I decided not to eat them right away with a delicious homemade soup -- instead, I throw them in the fridge, and make a rather plebeian "cheese quesadilla", a.k.a cheese in a tortilla nuked for 30 seconds.

Honestly, this was a big mistake, because I didn't make the delicious homemade soup until two weeks later (life stuff, blah blah blah), and microwaving the roll to heat it up turned it into a hockey puck. Will I make Bernard Clayton's wonderful pumpernickel bread again? Perhaps, but only when I've stopped having a semblance of a social life and have time to deal with it.

Homemade veggie stew and hockey puck: Dinner of Champions

*I started this post a while ago, but didn't get around to finishing it. See above re: life stuff.


Anonymous said...

Well, your bread "looks" good but I do have a question. Are the two "AA" batteries in the picture with your bread and soup a part of the process or are the batteries needed for cutting the bread? Just wondering! All I can say, you go girl!

Tennessee Jim

Anonymous said...

I have what I consider to be a good recipe - it takes a bunch of ingredients, but was a lot easier than yours sounds. I'll get it off to you as soon as I can.
Rye flour can be found on line, including on Amazon. (Is there anything they don't sell?)
Nuking bread of any kind tends to reward you with hockey pucks - I recommend a toaster oven or such.

L said...

Tennessee Jim, those are "decoration". A.k.a., laziness for not throwing them away.

Good call on the rye flour on Amazon, Mom. I didn't think of that.

Carlw4514 said...

I buy a lot of groceries at Amazon. Avoid anything heavy though.

Uncle C