I love thick, hearty breads.
Long gone are the days when I daydreamed about the pillowy white cloud that is Sunbeam white bread. Or Wonder bread. Any of those cheap, soft, unhealthy breads.
As a child, I used to hate wheat bread. I was very confused and a bit reluctant to admit I enjoyed this bread that my parents bought very rarely. It was wheat bread…but I liked it. How could this be? I assumed the nuts and seeds in the bread must be outweighing the general dullness of wheat bread.
While the nuts and seeds definitely played a part, the real answer is simple. My parents frequently bought cheaper wheat bread–usually this kind or something similar–that was trying too hard to be like Sunbeam white bread. The problem was that it was never as soft and moist as white bread, and in its pursuit of Sunbeam-esqueness, it lost the wonderful hearty, nutty flavour of whole grains.
This is where a trip to the local farmer’s market comes into the story. My boyfriend and I were browsing while enjoying the warm sunny day, when we came to a stall that was selling a billion different forms of grainy carbs. They had white, potato, Italian, poppy seed, whole wheat, honey wheat, sourdough, ciabatta, focaccia, 12 grain, oat, Italian cheese, and a million more breads. My boyfriend wanted to buy one…until he saw the price. $7 for a small loaf of bread? No amount of poppy seeds was going to induce two college students to buy that. I comforted him by promising to bake him some delicious homemade bread that would cost much less. The first task was to decide what kind of bread to make without resorting to plain French or Italian bread that I have made several times. Challah is also lovely, but mine is never up to making sandwiches because it is too [amazingly, deliciously] soft.
That reminds me, I really need to make challah again, so I can take some proper pictures of it. Mine are pathetic and do the bread no justice.
Pumpernickel’s dark colour (and fun-to-say name) has intrigued me for years now. When I happened upon a recipe for whole wheat pumpernickel rye bread, I pounced on it. I am very glad that I did. The only minor changes I made were that I used white whole wheat flour in place of the whole wheat flour (which likely led to the lighter colour of my loaf), I used instant decaf coffee, and I kneaded by hand the whole time.
I have to say that the initial kneading of the bread will likely leave you with sore biceps/triceps/whatever-other-muscles-are-in-your-arms the next day. It is quite a workout. I have never kneaded a bread for so long. I was a bit apprehensive, because my dough was not quite at the level of elasticity that I like to achieve, but it turned out lovely. This bread smells very sweet while it is rising, so the second and third [shorter] rounds of kneading are quite enjoyable.
The crust on this bread is amazing. It is crusty without being hard to cut through or chew. The center is so soft and moist, and the flavour is hearty and lightly sweet. My boyfriend and I used it while it was still warm to make ham, muenster cheese, cucumber, and tomato sandwiches. It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch.