How to make pumper nickle for breakfast at home.

“Pumper nickel bread is dense, sweet rye bread made with sourdough starter and coarsely ground rye.” Sometimes people make it with a combination of rye flour and whole rye grains (“rye berries”). Pumper nickel bread was once peasant food, but later gained popularity among other classes through delis and supermarkets. The European and North American pumper nickel bread differ in leavening agents, added ingredients, and baking methods. The word pumper nickle supposedly comes from an Old Bavarian term for “hard,”

Pumper nickel’s name originates from an Old Bavarian word meaning ‘hard,’ possibly describing the flour-grinding process or bread density. According to Langenscheidt’s pocket dictionary (1956), it is a form of “pumping work”.

Johann Christoph Adelung (1732-1806), a philologist, states that the origin of the word “pumper nickel bread” comes from Germanic colloquialism. “Pumper nickel’s name has flatulence connotation with “pumper” and demonic association with “nickel”.” Thus, “pumper nickel” means “farting devil” or “devil’s fart.” Random House and some English-language dictionaries, including the Merriam-Webster dictionary, accept this definition.

“It is named ‘because it is difficult to digest,’ according to the American Heritage Dictionary.”


The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary gives the minimalistic definition that the term “Pumpernickel” comes from the German word for a noisy kobold, possibly because rye bread makes a sound like a pump when struck.

Pumpernickel bread was once peasant food, but later gained popularity among other classes through delis and supermarkets. The bread’s nickname “good for Nicol” is based on a satirical interpretation suggested by 17th-century satirist Johann Balthasar Schupp. Pumpernickel is popularly consumed in the Netherlands under the name Pommes Roggenbrot, and in Denmark as a staple of their diet.

German rye bread in small packages is often sold by supermarkets to be used for featuring expensive products such as caviar, smoked salmon, and sturgeon on a tray with appetizers, as found in traditional German rye breads.

Commercial production of Pumper nickel bread in North America

In modern commercial baking, it is common for commercial bakeries to add wheat flour to provide gluten structure and increase rise and commercial yeast to increase speed, compared to a traditional sourdough. They eliminate the slow baking process of German rye bread to increase production and profit, resulting in a bread that is indistinguishable from dark rye bread.

Some stores and boutique bakeries in America still use ancient recipes and often sell other German foods as well.

Pumper nickel bread is also a popular bagel flavor in New York. North American commercial bakeries mass-produce rye bread for wholesale trade, many American companies, businesses and families use traditional recipes and baking time . Mass-produced North American rye bread may contain natural coloring agents to mimic traditional German rye bread, and commercial bakeries often add wheat flour and commercial yeast to increase rise and speed compared to traditional sourdough.

Eliminating the slow baking of German rye bread results in a bread indistinguishable from dark rye bread, increasing production and profit. Some stores and boutique bakeries in America still use ancient recipes and often sell other German foods as well. Pumpernickel is also a popular bagel flavor in New York.


Pumpernickel bread” is a uniquely German bread, as true Westphalian rye bread can only be made in Germany under EU law.

While other countries may have healthy German-style whole meal bread today, they cannot produce the true Westphalian rye bread due to the EU regulation.”

The European Union’s Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) system regulates the commercial use of the term “Westfälischer Pumpernickel”.

The dark brown bread sold as rye bread in the US bears no resemblance to real bread. Commercial bakeries in the US do not bake rye bread in the traditional way, which involves baking at a low temperature for 12 to 16 hours. Instead, they add molasses to the dough to achieve its dark color.

In the authentic recipe, the sugar slowly caramelize during baking in the steamer. Traditional German rye bread pumper nickle must not contain any preservatives . It has a shelf life of several months in shrink wrap and up to two years in metal can.

The bakers make the genuine pumpernickel bread by using 90% coarse rye flour or whole grain rye, and adding water, salt, and yeast.

Optional ingredients in Pumper nickel bread

Pumper nickle bread optional ingredients are malt, beetroot or syrup . The baker sometimes adds a little old rye bread to the dough.

This intensifies the flavor and uses leftovers at the same time.
The world seems divided into lovers and haters of this traditional German bread ”pumper nickle bread”. I have several German friends who shudder at the mere me of course I belong to the first group. Since my mother’s family comes from Westphalia, it must be in my genes.
Regional desserts and snacks, such as Chocolate-Pumpernickel pudding, Apple-Pumpernickel Betty, and Westphalian treats, are also made using Pumpernickel bread.

You can find all of these dessert recipes included in my German regional cookbook, Spoonful of Germany.
Until recently, I always brought rye bread with me from trips to Germany or asked visitors to bring some.

Transatlantic trade and packaging of Pumpernickel bread

Its dense and filling nature leads to the packaging of pumpernickel bread in small sizes, which facilitates transatlantic trade. I’ve baked bread for years but never tried making it due to the difficulty of finding an oven-friendly recipe. I discovered a simple pumpernickel bread recipe on a German forum, posted by Ginger & Bread, a London-based blogger.

I followed the recipe and left the pumpernickel bread untouched for two days while I was at work. When I finally took a bite, I had to close my eyes in delight. This was the closest to the original rye bread that you can make at home, and it was wonderful.

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