Princeton Cooks… Pumpernickel Bread

You can only work on a cookbook for so long before you want to try every single recipe in the book! To spare our blog editor the effort and calories, we invited our  Princeton colleagues to try their hand at cooking and baking the delicious treats found in Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition by Merry “Corky” White. This guest post is from Terri O’Prey, Associate Managing Editor at Princeton University Press, who was brave enough to try Corky’s surprising pumpernickel bread recipe. This pumpernickel actually features in the story of the smoked borscht/Julia Child rescue we posted about earlier, so I thought this was a a particularly opportune time to post this cooking demo.

Pumpernickel Bread

Terri O’Prey


This recipe intrigued me from the start of production. I love to bake, and I really wanted to see how the surprising (to me) ingredients—chocolate and mashed potatoes!—would play out in pumpernickel bread. I began by gathering ingredients, most of which I normally stock in my pantry (caraway seeds and rye flour were the only outliers). I usually pile everything I’ll need for a recipe haphazardly on the counter, but for this baking experiment I decided to organize myself cooking show style and premeasured everything. I enjoyed moving efficiently through the steps with each ingredient ready to go, so in the end I didn’t mind the extra dirty dishes.


First I melted the chocolate in a homemade double boiler. It became smooth and glossy, just the way melted chocolate should.



Next I combined most of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. The result was not beautiful, but knowing that baking transforms mixtures helped me remain optimistic.


When I first decided to try this recipe, I wondered what to use for the very large bowl required for the next step. I don’t have a 5-gallon kettle, but my gigantic stainless steel mixing bowl stood in perfectly. (Until now, I’d never had a good reason to use it. Many thanks to my good friend Alex “All Things Kitchen” for knowing I’d need this bowl someday!) With the warm water and yeast activated, I was ready for the dough stage.


First I stirred in the cornmeal mixture and rye flour and then added 3 cups of all-purpose flour until I had a soft dough.

06_WetDough 07_AddFlour 08_AddMoreFlour


Next came my favorite step, kneading the dough. I didn’t end up using all of the remaining flour because my dough reached the smooth, elastic stage after about 4 cups. One thing I’d change about my approach next time: use more finely mashed potatoes. Mine were on the chunky side, and while kneading I discovered some unsightly lumps (which I discarded).

10_Kneading1 11_Kneading2

I greased my clean and dry bowl with butter and readied the dough for rising.


I let the dough rise in the covered bowl on my sunny kitchen table. I resisted peeking because I like surprises.


After an hour the dough had indeed changed.


So I punched it down and let it rise again.


After a half hour, I got to work dividing the dough into 3 loaves. I doubted my oven could accommodate loaves on 3 sheet pans, so I decided to make 1 large loaf and 2 smaller ones on a shared pan. The dough smelled great and was the perfect consistency for dividing. I had no trouble forming it into rustic rounds.

16_ReadyToSPlit 17_3Loaves

I let the loaves rise on covered baking sheets before brushing them with the egg wash. (Note my dog Hazel in the background. She tried assisting me but really just got in the way.)


Next I placed the pans in the preheated oven. Knowing my oven is not precise, I set the temperature at 375°, which worked well. (I probably should invest in an in-oven gauge.) I tried not to think about the heat I was letting escape while I snapped a photo.


I checked the loaves at 50 minutes (in case my oven tinkering had gone wrong) and they weren’t quite ready. After 10 more minutes tapping produced that hollow sound, and I moved the loaves to the cooling rack.


I wasn’t too concerned about slicing neatly so tasted the smallest loaf when it had cooled a bit. The pumpernickel flavor was very nice, and the caraway seeds seemed to have dissolved into the dough. Wanting to stay true to the recipe recommendations, I wrapped and refrigerated the completely cooled loaves. The next day I proudly shared my cooking with the PUP crowd by setting out hearty pumpernickel slices with butter in the office kitchen.




Pumpernickel Bread

Pumpernickel is a bread with a secret. Some say it is prunes that distinguish it; this recipe claims it is chocolate. It will make three round loaves, which, thinly sliced, should provide appetizer portions (with chopped chicken livers, for instance) for 50.

unsweetened chocolate squares (1 oz each) 2
yellow cornmeal ¾ c
cold mashed potatoes 2 c
warm water, 115° 3½ c
molasses ¼ c
salt 2 tbs
butter or margarine 1 tbs
caraway seeds 2 tsp
active-dry-yeast packages 2
rye flour 3 c
all-purpose flour 8 c
egg yolk 1
water 3 tbs

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Then, in a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, potatoes, 3 cups of the warm water, chocolate, molasses, salt, butter or margarine, and caraway seeds.

In a very large bowl (I use a 5-gallon kettle) place the remaining . cup of warm water and sprinkle on the yeast, then stir to dissolve.

Stir in the cornmeal mixture and rye flour and beat hard until well mixed. Stir in 3 cups of the all-purpose flour to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured board or tabletop and knead in additional flour, to 5 or more cups, to make a smooth, elastic dough. This will take about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl—or wash out the kettle and dry and grease it—then turn the dough to grease the top, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Punch down, then let rise again for 30 minutes.

Punch the dough down and turn onto a lightly floured board or table. Divide into three equal parts, shape into round loaves, and place on greased baking sheets. Cover with tea towels and let rise until double—about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix the water and egg yolk for glaze and brush the loaves with the egg-yolk

liquid. Bake loaves for 1 hour, or until tapping on the bottom of the loaves produces a hollow sound. Cool thoroughly on racks, then wrap well and refrigerate. This recipe makes 3 round loaves.

NOTE: This bread slices best when one day old. It can also be successfully frozen.

This recipe is taken from:


Cooking for Crowds
40th Anniversary Edition
Merry White
With a new foreword by Darra Goldstein and a new introduction by the author

“[Merry White’s] book, made up of recipes she collected as the caterer for the Harvard Center for European Studies, suggested a new way of entertaining, with self-serve spanakopita, petite shrimp quiche and that savior of the anxious cook, the casserole that can be made a day ahead. Edward Koren’s woolly illustrations set the tone: vegetables are our friends, and food tastes best in groups. Even though pesto and vindaloo are no longer exotic, during the holidays her attitude (and her meatballs) may be what every stressed-out host needs.”–Alexandra Lange, New York Times