Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

This bread, made without the help of commercial yeast, is a great accompaniment to borscht or any other hearty soup. It's made with whole grain rye flour, a.k.a. pumpernickel. Rye flour has less gluten-forming protein than wheat, and so creates a denser bread. For an even heartier loaf, substitute a cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of the all-purpose.

After you've put the dough together and shaped it, it'll need to rise for 2 or 3 hours. If you make one loaf, it'll need to bake for about 45 minutes. Two loaves will each take about 35 minutes. Take this timing into consideration before you start.

25 mins
40 to 45 mins
4 hrs 10 mins
24 servings
Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread


  1. To make the sponge: Measure the starter into a bowl. Add the coffee or potato water, pumpernickel, and onion. Stir together, cover, and let bubble away at room temperature overnight.

  2. To make the dough: The next day, stir the oil, salt and molasses into the sponge. Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time, until the dough comes together.

  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding only enough additional flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.

  4. There are a number of ways to shape this dough. Make one large round loaf, which you'll place on a pumpernickel-sprinkled baking sheet. Or make two smaller versions of the same thing. Or place the entire amount of dough into a large (10" x 5") loaf pan. Or divide it in half, and use two smaller (8 1/2" x 4 1/2") loaf pans.

  5. Cover the loaves with a piece of lightly greased plastic wrap. Let them rise in a draft-free spot. You can predict the amount of rise somewhat by the temperature of the space where they're rising: at 55°F to 60°F, they'll probably take 3 to 5 hours to rise; at 65°F to 70°F, 2 to 4 hours.

  6. A short time before the loaves have doubled in size, place them in a preheated 350°F oven; they'll continue to rise during the first 15 minutes of baking.

  7. Bake two smaller loaves for about 35 minutes; one large loaf will bake for about 45 minutes.

  8. The loaves are done when the centers measure 200°F when measured with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and put on a rack to cool before slicing.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Don’t have any starter? Here’s a recipe for homemade sourdough starter. If you're making it from scratch, you'll need to feed it for 5 to 7 days before it’s ready for baking. Want a head start? Purchase our classic fresh sourdough starter – it’ll be ready for baking about 24 hours after it arrives at your door. Looking for tips, techniques, and all kinds of great information about sourdough baking? Find what you need in our sourdough baking guide.

  • Using potato water yields a slightly stickier dough, and bread with enhanced keeping qualities. Using coffee tightens the dough a bit, making it easier to handle; and results in a slightly taller loaf than bread made with potato water.
  • When you knead dough that contains rye flour, it will never completely lose its tacky feel. Instead of adding extra flour, which would make the loaves dry heavy, oil your hands and work surface to prevent sticking.