Pumpernickel bread is made from a type of rye flour, but it is much darker and denser than rye bread. While regular rye flour is sourced from the center of the rye berry, separated from the germ, bran and outer seed coat, pumpernickel flour is made from grinding all the parts of the rye berry together to create a darker, denser flour. Pumpernickel bread may also include crumbs from other types of rye bread that have been saved and added for texture.
Rye and Pumpernickel Flavor
Rye flour makes a bread with less intense flavor than breads made from pumpernickel flour, just as white wheat flour imparts a less intense flavor than hearty whole wheat. The flavors of rye flour and pumpernickel flour are fundamentally similar, both being sour and earthy, but pumpernickel flour intensifies the taste elements that make rye flour unique. Both rye and pumpernickel flours go well with caraway seeds, whose sweetness and bitterness balances the sourness of these different forms of rye.
Rye and Pumpernickel Texture
Pumpernickel flour makes a dense, moist bread while breads made from refined rye flour can be almost as light as white breads. However, many rye breads are made from mixtures of white and rye flours, so light rye breads can't always attribute their relative fluffiness solely to light rye flour. Traditional Westphalian breads made solely from pumpernickel flour are steamed as well as baked, and they are so dense and moist that pre-cut slices stick together. These breads are heavier than most other loaves of comparable size and are usually sliced extremely thinly.
Rye and Pumpernickel Traditions
Rye flour is easier to grow than wheat flour, the standard traditional European bread flour. Because it is easier to grow, it was less expensive than wheat and during the Middle Ages became associated with hard times and the tables of the poor. Because it uses commonly discarded parts of the rye berry such as the hull and the germ, pumpernickel flour traditionally suggested an even deeper level of austerity than rye. However, as healthy, unrefined foods have grown increasingly mainstream, even artisan bakers have begun crafting artisan pumpernickel breads from coarsely ground pumpernickel flour.
Nomenclature Gray Areas
According to the Whole Grains Council, the difference between rye and pumpernickel flours is hardly black and white, so to speak. Rye flour is traditionally ground in a range of coarseness, and it may include varying amounts of the parts of the grain that make the flour appear dark, such as the hull and the endosperm. In addition, some dark rye bread is made from dark rye flour, while other dark ryes are darkened by adding molasses to lighter rye flours.
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