bread is usually made with a high proportion of rye flour
and a small amount of wheat flour. It's the rye flour
however that's of particular interest. Traditional Old
World black pumpernickel bread uses coarse rye flour that's
ground from the entire rye berry. This flour is sometimes
referred to as 'meal'. Rye meal can also be ground fine
or medium. Coarse rye meal is commonly called "pumpernickel"
flour, a German name that humorously refers to its occasional
effect on the digestive system. "Pumpern" is the German
word for "intestinal wind" and "nickel" is a word for
demon or sprite.
contrast to the flour used for pumpernickel, regular rye
flour is ground from the endosperm of the rye berry after
the outer layers of bran and the germ have been removed.
If we were talking about wheat instead of rye, this would
be the equivalent of "white" flour. The darker color of
rye flour is due its ash content, which varies according
to how each particular brand is milled.
Old recipes for pumpernickel bread call for baking in
steam at a low heat for 2 hours or more. During this time,
unparalleled flavors develop as long slow cooking causes
the natural sugar in rye flour to darken and sweeten the
bread. Chocolate, spices, orange peel and beer may be
added and potatoes are often included as they help keep
the bread moist. Rather than using very coarse rye meal
and lengthy cooking to develop flavor, many of today's
versions of pumpernickel contain a mixture of rye and
wheat flour and are darkened to look like the original
version, with cocoa or caramel coloring!
There is also apparently a version of pumpernickel that
does not contain yeast, and this can be found in the refrigerator
sections of some market and delicatessens.
Do hope this answers your questions about pumpernickel
and rye. Thanks for asking such an interesting question.