“Pumpkin”nickel Bread

You all know how obsessed I am with pumpkin.  This recipe was birthed years ago for one of my legendary Fall Dinner Parties where I wanted to marry the dark autumn flavors of pumpernickel bread with my favorite ingredient: pumpkin.  The first incarnation was not a success, I have to say.  Recently, for our all-pumpkin FRANK dinner, I decided to revisit the concept, using the increasingly popular no-knead method, which relies on a small amount of yeast, and an extended overnight fermentation to develop flavor, texture, and incredible crust.

After 3 trial runs, it’s good enough to post!  Like a true pumpernickel bread, this bread is dense, moist, and hearty…slightly sweet, a twinge of bitterness from chocolate and coffee, and nothing can surpass it when enjoyed warm with some salted butter.

The day before you want to eat this bread, you need to start it.  Good bread can’t be rushed.  I try to start the bread around noon, but if you get it started by 6pm, you can still be eating it at a late dinner the next day.  It’s a bit more complex than my regular go-to no-knead recipe, but still involves a lot less effort than most bread recipes developed in the 20th century.  You’re going to spend about 15 minutes putting it together, then you’re going to leave it alone to rise for 12-20 hours, then you’re going to spend about 5 minutes forming it into a loaf and let it rise another 2-3 hours.  Then you’re going to bake it.  All-in-all, you’ll be interacting with this bread for about 40 minutes total…which is pretty darn cool.

This recipe calls for both rye flour and whole wheat flour.  If you don’t regularly bake with these flours, buy small bags of them and keep any unused flour in the freezer.  These whole-grain flours are much more perishable than processed flours because they contain volatile oils which can stale and oxidize.

In a large bowl, combine:

3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tsp instant dry yeast (NOT rapid rise yeast)
3 tsp Kosher salt
4 Tbsp cocoa
6 Tbsp sugar

Stir these together.  Then get a liquid measuring cup and add to it:

1/2 cup bottled or filtered water (NOT tap water, which contains chlorine which can kill yeast)
1 generous Tbsp instant coffee

Microwave this for 20 seconds to warm it.  Then stir to thoroughly dissolve the instant coffee.  Then add:

1/2 cup buttermilk

Stir the mixture well, and pour it into a bowl along with:

1/2 c molasses
1 c pumpkin (canned is okay, or make your own by cutting a pumpkin in half, place it face down on a baking sheet and bake at 350F until it is soft, or microwave until soft.  Let it cool fully, then puree thoroughly in a food processor or blender until smooth.  If the puree is very watery, spread it out on a bath towel and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Then use the towel to “fold” up the puree into a pile.  Hold the towel over a large bowl and shake it to drop the puree into the bowl.)

Stir to thoroughly combine.  Then add to the dry ingredients and stir well.  This dough doesn’t come together as easily as other bread recipes because the wet ingredients are so thick.  So while this is technically a no-knead recipe, you ARE going to have to get your hands in that bowl to press and fold the dough around to get all the dry ingredients absorbed.  The dough will be VERY stiff, don’t worry.  When most of the dry flour has been incorporated into the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out on your countertop for a minimum of 12 hours, or a maximum of about 20-22 hours.  The longer it sits, the better the flavor will be.

The next day, dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather it together into a round loaf.  Again, the dough is shaggy and will tear rather than stretch smooth…that’s because of the large sharp particles from the rye and whole wheat.  Don’t worry.  Get the loaf shaped.  Take a smaller bowl about the size of your Dutch oven, and line it with a dish towel.  (I use soft flour sack towels, but any will work.)  Liberally sprinkle corn meal, polenta, or flour onto the towel and set the loaf into the bowl.  Sprinkle more corn meal onto the top of the loaf.  Cover with the towel and set on the countertop to rise for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475F and place a cast iron or enameled Dutch oven into the oven to preheat for about 30 minutes.  (Make sure the Dutch oven is oven safe to those temperatures…any plastic handles need to be heat tolerant so they don’t melt!)

Uncover the bread and cut 3 deep scores about 1″ deep into the loaf of bread.  This will let the crumb open up as it bakes.  When the oven is preheated, open the oven door and pull out the rack with the Dutch oven on it.  Remove the lid and set it to the side.  Carefully dump the loaf into one hand, then gently dump it into the hot Dutch oven.  Cover it and push the rack back into the oven.  Reduce the oven temp to 450F and bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Then remove the lid and bake an additional 13 minutes.  Remove from the oven, dump onto a cooling rack, and let the loaf cool fully before attempting to slice.  Once it is sliced, it can be re-warmed in the oven or microwave before serving.



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